The tall and strapping Utsav Seth, CEO & MD, Pavers England, has plenty to be happy about. Apart from being the first international retail chain to receive FDI clearance for single-brand entry into India, the brand is also winning the hearts of Indians with its stylish product range. The plan for the near term includes taking the store count from 30 exclusive outlets in India to 60 by March 2014.
Apart from spearheading the growth of the UK-based footwear brand in India, Seth is unlike many CEOs. Passionate about studying, he is pursuing an Executive Graduation at Harvard Business School and is eyeing a spot on the board of at least one Fortune 500 company in the next 10 years. Excerpts from an encounter with Utsav Seth.
The devaluation of the rupee has weakened consumer sentiment in India. What makes Pavers so positive about India?
The season for good shoes never ends!
You have been in the footwear business for 21 years. Are you a 'shoeaholic'?
My love for the footwear business is powered by an absolute passion for the product and its collaboration with life at large. I love my shoes and most of what I wear are now Pavers England. My wife says I have a few dozen but I still cannot compete with her. She has a wardrobe full of shoes!
You have lived and worked in London for six years. Do you miss it now?
London is perhaps my most admired city to live and work in. I have been visiting London a few times a year for the last 17 years. Of course I miss being there. The city has a unique mix of heritage, culture and the power of being a centre of the financial and commercial world. It is a true global village, with people from various walks of life working, socialising and bringing synergies together. And, of course, the great summers, beautiful autumn and snowy winters connect you with nature very closely.
Let's rewind a little… Where did you study?
I schooled in Agra and did a B Tech in footwear from Southfield College in Leicester, UK. For me, learning is a continuous process and I would love to study and learn for as long as I live. Currently, I am completing a three-year course, an Executive MBA, at Harvard Business School in the US and will take the Finance Programme at Wharton in 2015.
What was your first job? How much were you paid then and what did you learn from the experience?
I started as a Production Supervisor at Texon International Plc in Leicester and earned 500 pounds a month. Here, I learnt the true meaning of labour, hard work, commitment. I also learnt that if you put your heart and soul into your work, the sky is the limit and you will reap success at the least expected moment.
What do you love most about your job?
Leading development and exponential growth of a global premium brand from concept to a successful reality; building a sustained organisation in one of the world's most powerful consumer markets; being able to experience the transition of concept into working module; and touching the lives of several hundred thousand consumers and employees is a terrific feeling.
Is there something about the job that you could do without?
Wasting hours in chaotic traffic jams in India and dealing with the logistical complexities.
You have achieved so much at such a young age. What motivates you?
I am learning all the time and it's a long way to go before I achieve excellence. Being able to synergise the capabilities of individuals to create an organisation driven by values; powered by passion to offer products and services that touch the hearts of millions; and being able to transform that organisation into a perpetual institution that will continue to grow for generations drives my adrenaline and given me the energy to work every single day of my life.
Utsav Seth, CEO & MD, Pavers England
Who is that someone you look up to? What have you learnt from that person?
There are quite a few:
Dhirubhai Ambani -- have a dream -- dream big -- think big and pursue your dream with determination and you will find ways to overcome obstacles and adversity. Stay humble.
Warren Buffet -- Smartness, intelligence, humble and being simple
Narayana Murthy -- passion, excellence, commitment, discipline, integrity, trust and simplicity are key pillars of being a leader and creating an organisation.
Ravi Kumar Mehrotra -- CBE -- Our Group Founder Chairman -- If you can conceive it, you can achieve it, provided you have the fire in your belly to really aspire and achieve.
What's your favorite pastime?
Reading and spending as much time as I can get with my wife and children.
How do you keep abreast of what's happening in your field?
We are a global organisation and over the last 21 years, I have developed a world-wide network or friends, associates, partners and well-wishers. I am connected to my world 24x7x365 days. I also travel extensively and meet, engage and interact with a lot of people.
What's your morning ritual?
I spend the first 30 minutes of my morning, when I am at home, with my children. I have some of the most interesting discussions as they prepare for school. Following that, it's a 60-90 minute cardio workout, either at the gym or a run along the sea-side.
What are you currently reading?
Win in India… Win Everywhere -- Conquering the Chaos
What's your favorite movie?
Most James Bond Movies. But my all-time favorite is Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
What's playing on your iPod?
Loads of Genius mixes…. Self control is cool…
What do you like to splurge on?
Family holidays and time together as a family is the most precious and important in my life.
Are you a foodie? What's your favorite cuisine?
Though I love to enjoy and explore, I am fairly selective. Japanese and Thai are my favourites.
What's your favourite drink?
Water is my main companion. I also love double espresso and the amchi Mumbai cutting chai at the corner shop on the street.
When was the last time you took a vacation?
It was in March this year and we went to Srinagar. I had the most amazing time in Gulmarg on a snow-scooter with my wife and children.
What do you admire most in people?
Honesty, integrity, humility and simplicity.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Pavers England Ltd as a US$ 1-billion enterprise. I would also like to be on the board of at least one Fortune 500 company.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Increase the speed of multi-location execution and speed of recruiting talent.
What's that one thing we don't know about you?
I love driving and I am also a die-hard traveller.
As told you Nivedita Jayaram Pawar
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