Amit Lohia is only 34 years old, but he taken the global manufacturing industry by storm. In only four years, the Wharton graduate has helped the Indorama Group, a global manufacturer of diversified industrial products, grow fivefold, to the tune of US$ 3 billion. About five-and-a-half years ago, the company only operated in three countries, but under his guidance, its operations have expanded into 11 countries.
He said the company, headquartered in Jl. Rasuna Said in South Jakarta owed its success to its human resource drive policies and practices. It began with his belief, the role of Human Resources, or HR, in the company was very instrumental because, in order to grow, the company must have good people. Quoting management guru Peter Drucker, he said people represented the last bastion of competitive advantage for organisations.
Nowadays, companies have equipment, technology; but if they dont have good people to help the company grow, then the company will achieve nothing,â€ Amit said. Indorama's human resource practices have helped reduce company's turnover to a mere 2 per cent a year, with the industry standards averaging more than 7 per cent. â€œSome attrition is healthy but losing talented people is a loss of your competitive edge and future growth potential,â€ he said.
His achievements were rewarded at the 2008 Asian HRD Congress in Jakarta recently. He was bestowed an award in the category â€“ Contribution to the organisation. And he was the youngest of 13 recipients from across the continent who were awarded trophies in 4 categories. Award committee member R Palan said Amit had been singled out for creating value for his company.
â€œThe company has shown very strong human resource practices after he took over. They have ensured a succession plan, continued to develop people internally rather than hire people from outside and looked after their people as indicated by their efforts in carrying out employee engagement drives, including carrying out an annual employee satisfaction survey,â€ said Palan who is also group chairman and CEO of human resource consultancy, SMR Group based in the United States.
Amit reiterated the key behind successful HR implementation was the recognition of human values. â€œGood human resource practices begins with good human values, and it's the beginning of Indorama as well. Good human values mean you must employees the same way you want to be treated. That makes so many things smoother. That's the basic,â€ he said.
Next, he argues, company executives should build trust, make workplace more enjoyable, promote inspirational leadership and role models and never make a commitment the company could not honour.
And last but not least, the top management must be accessible to employees. Amit said people usually contacted him by email, appointments or in passing. â€œEmployees should be free to access top management for problems and ideas,â€ he said, adding 500 out of 15,000 Indorama employees had direct access to him.
With operations the world over, Amit has to divide his time over the company's branches. He visits each location three to four times a year, or hosts executives at the company headquarters, or just emails them. â€œWe will soon start making it a habit to have annual meetings, because we operate in so many countries and to see other is not so easy,â€ he said.
Founded in 1976 in Indonesia with a small spun yarn manufacturing plant, the Indorama Group has gone global. It now employs more than 15,000 people from 14 different nationalities with more than 1000 senior managers and 15 industry domains. Its products ranging from polyester, spun yarns to medical gloves.
Good human resource practice and expansion has been the company's trademark since Amit took over the helm of the company, with the company operating as far afield as Nigeria.
â€œMy father has been a powerful source behind the company's success,â€ Amit said. His father, Sri Prakash Lohia, now chairman of the Group, has encourages company executives to be aggressive in growing the company by pushing them to have the attitude and desire to grow and grab a bigger markets share. Although the elder Lohia remains active in charting the right path for the organisation's growth, he still allows Amit plenty of freedom to guide the company's operations.
â€œHe believes in giving space and freedom, not just for me but everybody. He gives ideas, guidelines, but never interferes in the small things,â€ he said.
Born in India in 1974, Amit studies economics and finance at the Wharton School of Business. After completing his degree in 1995, he joined Indorama in 1996 and went on to work in various roles. In 2004, at the age of 30, he took charge as the group's managing director.
Amit, who is married and has a daughter, admitted as the son of the company's founder, it is always challenging to gain the respect of people within the company. Not only did he have to exhibit superb job performance, but he also had to win people's hearts and minds. â€œIt is our job to win their respect and not their job to give you the respect. If we are reasonable, fair and open-minded, they will respect you,â€ said Amit who has a younger sister.
Managing human resources has been a daunting task for the company. There have been ups and downs, but for Amit, the most hurtful time is when good talent leaves the company. â€œWhen somebody good leaves the company, it is always disappointing. We feel we have failed to keep them, but then you try to learn the lesson from that. Then we have to work again to fix the problem and correct what's wrong,â€ he said.
He shared his final caveat for human resource professionals: Pay attention to the small things, especially in relation to people. â€œSmall things can become big things in human resource practice, especially when emotion comes into play,â€ he said.