Is the grass always greener for F&B job aspirants?

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted labour markets globally in 2020. Millions of people were furloughed or lost jobs, and others rapidly adjusted to working from home as offices closed. Before COVID-19, the largest disruptions to work involved new technologies and growing trade links. COVID-19 has, for the first time, elevated the importance of the physical dimension of work. 

In view of disordered job statuses and organisations losing their talent pools, COVID-19 prompted a huge number of professionals to rethink their career paths. According to the findings of the Amazon Job Seeker Insight survey in 2021, Indian professionals are looking for new and different types of work, with 59 per cent of them actively searching for a job and 90 per cent saying they are interested in learning new skills.

‘The Great X’ report, launched recently by Michael Page, a professional recruitment consultancy, has revealed that there has been a wave of resignations in Asia Pacific as almost half of the respondents (47 per cent) have only been at their current jobs for not more than two years.

The research also found that 73 per cent of respondents were planning to look for new career prospects over the second half of 2022. A whopping 86 per cent of employees in India were planning to resign in the second half of the year. Gen Z employees contribute most to this percentage followed by millennials and Gen X employees. 

Another observation is that candidates are increasingly less interested in moving within the same industry and more interested in new ideas and going beyond their current role, department, and industry even. 

Talent jump 

In the FMCG sector of the APAC region, as per ‘The Great X’ report, around 77 per cent of employees expressed their desire to change and progress in their roles, career, and also industry. While there is much talk about companies’ work arrangements (hybrid, working from home, etc.) and COVID-related policies causing unhappiness amongst employees, only 11 per cent of respondents who have resigned or plan to resign reported this as a reason for resignation.

On the other hand, the FMCG sector in India continues to be the most sought after sector by job-seekers, as per a study by the human resources services firm CIEL HR Services. If we look at the job switches taking place in the Indian food and beverage (F&B) industry, this is true not only at fresher or mid-level employees level, but at the top tier as well.

For instance, after having served in the marketing division at ITC Foods for 9 years (since 2011), Rahul Gandhi joined iD Fresh Food in 2020. Interestingly, Gandhi had been working with ITC Foods before 2011 when he made a short exit and joined HT Media between 2010 and 2011.

Another recent example comes in the form of Navin Gurnaney who stepped in as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tim Hortons India, an iconic coffee brand, in 2021. Prior to this, he was the CEO of Reliance Brands Limited for 3 months in 2021 and led TATA Starbucks India briefly for 2 years between 2019 and 2021. 

With an experience of 13+ years at a leading consumer goods company, Unilever, Deepika Bhan joined Tata Consumer Products in May 2021 as the President of the packaged foods division.She has had varied stints in Sales, Customer Marketing, Media, Brand and Category/ P&L roles in her career during which she has led large teams across brands and portfolios. 

Then there is Richa Singh who served as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Mars India briefly for 10 months last year before moving on to Pernod Ricard India with the same designation in May 2022. Richa comes with a global experience of over two decades across consumer durables and FMCG companies, leading business acceleration and transformations, process optimizations, among others. 

In October 2022, Laxman Narasimhan, the former CEO of Reckitt, joined Starbucks Corp as a CEO. Prior to his 3 year career at Reckitt, Narasimhan held various senior roles at PepsiCo from 2012 to 2019. He also worked for McKinsey for 19 years. 

Rajneet Kohli joined Britannia Industries in September 2022 as CEO & Executive Director. He was previously working with Jubilant FoodWorks (JFL) as the President & Chief Business Officer for Domino’s Pizza. He has also served in various roles at The Coca-Cola company for 13+ years. 

Replacing Kohli, Sameer Khetarpal who has over 25 years of experience working in companies at senior leadership positions in industries such as e-commerce and management consulting, joined JFL, India’s largest food service company as its CEO and Managing Director (MD) from Amazon, where he created, established, and expanded several businesses at Amazon over the previous 6.5 years, including Amazon Fresh, Amazon Food, and Amazon Pharmacy.

In October, Piyush Patnaik joined McCain Foods as the MD and will be managing end-to-end India operations which will include manufacturing, supply chain, sales, and distribution for McCain. He will spearhead sustainability and innovation for the frozen foods brand across key geographies nationally.

With more than 20 years of expertise in the field, Rohit Kapoor who held several executive positions in finance and sales at prestigious firms, including Max India and McKinsey & Co., OYO joined Swiggy as its CEO and will oversee the food delivery industry and be in charge of creating policies that will promote growth and innovation.

Although a lot of F&B companies have experienced a shift in leaders and various managerial officials, there are still certain positions in the companies that have remained stable and played crucial roles during the pandemic, as well as the challenging post-pandemic period. For example, Nitin Paranjape (35+ years), Sanjiv Mehta (30+ years), and Ritesh Tiwari (20+ years) have been working with Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) for a longer period. Nitin is currently leading the company as a Chief People & Transformation Officer, whereas Sanjiv and Ritesh hold the position of CEO & Managing Director (MD), and Executive Director – Finance (also CFO, South Asia) respectively. HUL owns various such leaders who have been with the firm for more than a decade or two. 

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd’s CEO Neeraj Garg (26+ years), Amway India’s Chief Marketing Officer Ajay Khanna (24 years), KFC’s (META, Pakistan, India and CIS) MD Tarun Lal (20+ years), Bacardi Global Travel Retail’s MD Vinay Golikeri (19 years), etc. are more such names to mention. All of these people have climbed the management hierarchy and most of them hold higher positions in the firm. 

Where is the gap? 

Senior leaders and HR teams cannot ignore the importance that candidates increasingly place on company culture and having a sense of purpose in their roles. These factors will be vital to attracting top talent in what is shaping up to be a tight labour market.

Employees usually know good company culture when they experience it. For companies to attract, retain and grow the talent that will bring them long-term success, they will need to tweak — or even completely overhaul — their culture to meet the expectations of professionals to be seen as human beings, and not just cogs in the machine. Creating a people-first culture can bring about huge payoffs for companies. 65 per cent of candidates surveyed by Michael Page said they would sacrifice money for more happiness, better well-being, and work-life balance. 

There is no arguing that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) gives companies a competitive advantage. With the cultural and economic diversity in the region, there will not be a one-size-fits-all model for APAC. Each market needs to account for its own differences to build DE&I policies that work for them, based on factors like gender, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, education, age, and people with disabilities.

As economies improve, organisations should take this opportunity to redesign their work models. With the pandemic, employees and candidates are looking at how companies manage their policies around flexible work arrangements, COVID-19 vaccination policies, remuneration, and career development opportunities. As employers rethink business models, demand for white-collar temporary and contracting solutions is increasing. The demand outstrips candidate supply and companies could consider alternative sourcing strategies to attract sought-after contract talent.

The surge in resignations is being driven by candidates searching for the right job at the right company with the right values and culture, and many would rather remain unemployed until they have found the right match. Salary will always be a top motivator for job seekers to join a company, but it is insufficient. In a world where money is no longer the sole motivator for employees, organisations need to move towards creating a positive and meaningful company culture and employee experience to retain the best and brightest. 

Mansi Jamsudkar


Image credit- shutterstock

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