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Chellarams Plc is a leading Nigerian conglomerate with capabilities that span a diverse array of industries including manufacturing (Real milk, oldenburger, regal etc), retail, distribution, marketing, and power generation. Its success story has been remarkable over the years, having operated in Nigeria for almost 90 years, providing all Nigerians with access to the highest quality goods and services across multiple categories. In this exclusive interview with African Leadership’s Eruke Ojuederie, the Chief Executive and Director of Technology Chellaram Plc. Aditya Chellaram, gives an overview of the experiences he has had while doing business in Nigeria. Excerpt:

Having observed that your Chellarams Plc started operation in Nigeria since 1923, we would like to know the motivation behind the choice of Nigeria as your business hub?

Our company has built up incredible good will after 90 years of operations in Nigeria.  The market has always been significant and relevant to our business and, looking forward, the growth potential for the country is undoubtedly strong.

You have served in Chellarams Plc for 10 years. How do you see the Nigerian market?

I consider the Nigerian market as challenging yet rewarding. With dedicated and focused efforts, one can enjoy the benefits of a vast and discerning market.

Being the CEO of a conglomerate must be very tasking. Can you share some of your experiences, challenges and how you where able to manage the initial hurdles?

When I joined the company, my experience was very limited. However the learning curve is steep as I found myself engaged in all areas of the value chain of our business.  I engaged, and continue to engage, at all levels of the business and tried my best to ensure that each member of the organisation is clear about their role and impact to the greater goal of the organisation.  The more I empowered my colleagues to take decisions and make step-wise improvements to our processes the easier I found it to be a stakeholder and not just an owner-operator.

We would like to know some of the successes recorded by the Murli T. Chellaram Foundation (MTC Foundation)?

The MTC Foundation started as an initiative to support employees of the group, as we feel that charity and assistance starts at home.  The foundation has a threefold approach to assistance, namely, in the areas of education, housing and medical care.  Lately, we have skewed more focus into education and we love to support staff, who elect to further their skills and education with accredited coursework.

We have also embarked on a project to impart entrepreneurial know-how to students and staff at the University of Lagos.  This intervention is a pilot project that we hope to expand to other Federal Universities.

As a young man in a leadership position, how were you able to handle dealings with older subordinates?

This is an area of my leadership path that I will always learn from as we have incredible loyalty and low staff-turn in our organisation, so that the majority of my colleagues, especially in senior management roles, are older than me.  I try to stay humble, to always listen to others’ perspectives and remain respectful.  Hopefully they will treat me in the same way.

YPO(Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for profit, global network of young Chief Executives connected through the shared mission of becoming better leaders through education and idea exchange. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.

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