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'People must want to continuously develop'

By Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
September 30, 2008 14:01 IST
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The careers of 25 more Indian executives will witness a course correction as the Class of 2008 graduates from GE's Experienced Commercial Leadership Porgramme, or ECLP, which is completing five years.

The programme in India takes in 25-odd executives who have already worked for a few years. Upon passing out, they are expected to be future 'growth' leaders at GE, which earns about $2.6 billion (Rs 12,135 crore) in India a year and employs over 14,500 people across the country.

With over 700 alumni globally and a current class of over 130 spread over every continent in the world, ECLP is GE's premier leadership programme for experienced, high-potential sales and marketing talent.

ECLP participants are either selected from the executive educational courses of top-ranked MBA programmes, or from among the employees nominated by a GE business.

The programme is structured as four six-month rotational assignments within the commercial function of a GE business, coupled with intensive training modules comprising classroom and distance learning.

The class comes together every six months at global seminars in the US and Europe to interact with the senior GE leadership and to develop a global network.

The graduates are given assignments in marketing and sales that range from market forecasting, lead generation and strategic marketing plan development to actual sales assignments.

Beth Comstock, GE's senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, made her maiden visit to India recently during which, apart from other things, she took stock of ECLP. Suveen K Sinha caught up with her to unravel some of it.

Edited excerpts:

Is this your first time in India?

Yes, this is my first visit.

How is it going?

I saw what I expected. I saw a diversity of opportunity. The growing consumer classes here are more than what I had imagined. I have been meeting with our business leaders.

We are bringing marketers from different businesses together to see how we grow, and look at new markets. I have also talked to Nokia. They have done really well here.

Really? Did Nokia open up?

Companies often talk to one another and share their experiences.

What brought you to India?

I am here for a couple of reasons. I have been travelling around visiting various markets for GE to meet partners, teams, and see if we have the right resources.

India is an important market for us. I also need to look at whether we need to hire more people. I have spent a lot of time this week talking to teams about their sales plans, making sure we have the right people at the right places.

Do you?

Yes. Five years ago, we started ECLP, under which we hire marketing and some sales executives, people with eight-10 years experience. We will take them throughout India for two-year assignments and place them in senior marketing and sales positions.

What is special about ECLP?

It is a great group of people. It is bringing more outside expertise into the company.

I am looking at whether they are getting put in the right jobs, senior enough jobs.

ECLP is for senior positions. We look at executives with eight-10 years in other industries.

We give them two-year rotations. For instance, some may be put in healthcare when they come out, in senior marketing positions. But GE is good at moving people from business to business. We can later move them to aviation.

This programme brings new marketing and sales leaders into the company.

Someone can come from Johnson & Johnson, or Tata. They help in refining and developing our sales and marketing capabilities. That is the primary reason.

At the same time, we can help develop people. We offer them the opportunity to learn the GE culture and

What is the kind of people that you look to bring into ECLP?

People must want to continuously develop. We expect them to be good at what they do, but they must want to get better. people who are business strategists. They have to help us find new business opportunities, and in market development.

They must help us go to a new part of the Indian market where we are not there. They can be our pioneers.
Are you happy with the way ECLP is going in India?

They are such a smart group of people. ECLP started in India in 2005 or 2006. That was when we put real emphasis on hiring in India for India. When we first started the programme, we took a broad view.

Can those coming out of ECLP in India be posted abroad?

As they build their careers, they can go anywhere. But they are primarily for India. I hope one of the things that will attract a marketing or sales person to GE will be aviation or healthcare, but also to build a career in a company that has so many different parts.

So, one can move from healthcare to commercial finance. GE is pretty good at this.

So ECLP is about lateral hiring. What about fresh minds?

For that, there is CLP. It is for people who have just graduated from college or worked for not more than a year or two. We do active recruiting, mostly campus hires.

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Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
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