Like A Boss: Motilal Oswal on why learning on the job is like cricket in the nets, the business lead

Motilal Oswal is a man used to charting his course. Born in a village in the Barmer district of Rajasthan, he left home in 1980 to complete his chartered accountancy, choosing education over family trade. He started an eponymous sub-broking business in Mumbai in 1987 that has today grown into a diversified financial services business that caters to 25 lakh customers and has a market cap of around Rs 10,000 crore.

With his feet firmly on the ground, the 58-year-old Oswal values trust the most—people in his core team have been with Motilal Oswal Financial Services Limited for years and his huge circle of friends goes back to his student days. But he is as ambitious as he is genial. He is open to new things and perhaps that explains why he tells his management to be “a learning machine”. In a chat with Moneycontrol, Oswal speaks about why he rather be respected than feared and why the emotional quotient is as important as the knowledge quotient. Edited excerpts:

What time do you like to be at your desk?

I am an early riser. As a practice, I always ensure that I reach office half an hour before the start of office hours or even earlier—that gives me a head start to scan and respond to emails and developments around the organisation.

Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: business school or on the job?

The best place is on the job. It’s like a batsman, you need to practice and improve your game in the nets. This helps you with your technique, ironing out flaws, gauging how you performed earlier and improve.

Describe your management style.

As a manager of people, it is important to combine the knowledge quotient with the emotional quotient. This means while we need to be hungry for knowledge and building a knowledge-based culture, one also needs to build a bond with the people you manage on a personal level.

Are tough decisions best taken by one person or collectively?At times, it is best that ‘tough decisions’ are taken by one person but it will be preferable to take inputs or feedbacks from all persons concerned.

Do you want to be liked, feared or respected?Fear induces mistrust, incorrect actions and hastiness, misappropriations, etc. I would prefer to be respected.


What does your support team look like?

My support team has well-qualified and experienced members of our industry. All of them have been in the organisation for a while now. Most importantly, all of them imbibe similar values and culture. This helps in giving the right direction to my business.

A business outside of the stock market or a business leader that you draw inspiration from?

JRD Tata, Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji and Jack Welch have always inspired me.

Which management book has influenced you the most?

Ultimate Sales Machine and Good to Great.

Do you socialise with your team outside of work?

Mostly in office, over lunch, coffee.

What would your key management advice be?

My advice to my management team is:

Be a learning machineFollow business ethicsRight and timely decision-making

Compassion towards workforce

Note to readers: How ​do corporate India’s leaders manage their businesses? Where do they draw inspiration from? What is their management style? Like A Boss is a new series of interviews aimed to offer readers lessons from corporate bosses on how they run their companies.

Follow the entire Like A Boss series here.

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