Subhasri Sriram,
CFO,
TAKE Solutions Limited

Subhasri Sriram talks about what makes her journey worthwhile

A well-rounded CFO is more capable of assuming the CEO's mantle.

Today’s CFOs are challenging the stereotype of being an introverted, analytical, number-crunching expert. Moreover, the CFO’s agenda is getting more closely aligned to business strategy – and that of the CEO – especially in terms of driving business growth and managing complexity while controlling costs. Subhasri Sriam, CFO of TAKE Solutions,

strongly believes that the mandate of every CFO is to support the CEO and senior management in their journey towards growth and success, and in all facets of their mission. Her three decades of rich experience, including 19 years in the Shriram Group’s Financial Services businesses, equips her to make a difference in the high growth life sciences space, where TAKE is the only player with end-toend capability in the life sciences supply chain, from clinical trials and regulatory submissions, to pharmacovigilance. With strong tailwinds in the pharmaceuticals sector, and its strong technology capability, domain knowledge and consultancy support, TAKE is confident of becoming a USD 500 million company by 2021.

To be successful, it is critical to take risks and be responsible for their consequences, while never getting demotivated by failures or setbacks.

On learning from past successes…

Starting her career at the young age of 22, Ms Sriram’s biggest learning has been to move from being a ‘perfectionist’ to a team player, finally emerging as a ‘corporate leader’ who prioritises team goals over personal objectives. Her first stint with the public sector made her realise that she was better aligned to private enterprise, where she has so far spent over 27 years. Ms Sriram has had the privilege of working in multiple functions and entities, often moving into new types of roles. Looking back, her career growth may not appear well-metered, given that she has moved swiftly between roles – from Accounts Officer to Assistant General Manager, and then on to Vice President and Executive Director – but she is deeply satisfied with her career trajectory. To her, interesting and challenging assignments are more appealing than fancy designations – and along the way, she has learned several valuable lessons.

Understand the big picture

In today’s VUCA environment, it is important for CFOs to have a thorough understanding of the entire organisation, in addition to the landscape in which the business operates. A well-rounded CFO is more capable of assuming the CEO’s mantle. This means building a solid understanding of how other teams in the business operate on a day-to-day basis, and looking for opportunities to support and collaborate with other top executives within the organisation.

Take risks

To be a successful leader, it is critical to take risks and be responsible for their consequences, while never getting demotivated by failures or setbacks. All through her career, Ms Sriram has ventured into unchartered territory, taking up complex tasks with huge expectations attached to them. She may not always have succeeded in these experiments, but the courage she demonstrated helped her gain the trust of senior management. This infused in her the confidence that fuelled her growth, and enabled her to handle dissimilar roles and responsibilities.

Value your team

Ms Sriram attributes a big part of her success to her team members, and believes that it is critical for leaders to both trust their team members and instil trust in them. Without a good team – one that is driven, motivated, honest, and capable – any task becomes more difficult. Her personal mantra is, ‘Learn to ask for help; it is not I but WE’. Her biggest moment of pride was when, in her absence, her team delivered a huge project without any interruption. Ms Sriram also takes pride in being able to mentor a large set of people.

Never compromise on performance

Personally, Ms Sriram has never faced discrimination for being a woman in the corporate world. In fact, she feels that being a woman makes her better at multitasking, building strong professional relationships, and collaborating with stakeholders to deliver results. Her advice for other executive women is not to expect any specific dispensations – which usually come with a hidden price – and to never hide behind the status of being a woman.

Keep learning

One should never stop learning, and always seek to imbibe knowledge, whether domain-related or otherwise. Ms Shriram makes it a point to keeps abreast with technological developments in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly those with relevance to TAKE.

…and diverse experiences

Prior to her current role, Ms Shriram has held multiple responsibilities, including implementing new organisational structures, improving business processes, and raising several rounds of debt (including ECBs) and equity from marquee investors across the globe. She has always been fortunate to have great bosses and teams, and each of these roles has shaped her in different ways. An important takeaway from the early stage of her career was the exposure she received in different roles. This gave her much-needed confidence, and was a cornerstone in driving her career growth.

Unlike a ‘traditional CFO’, whose remit is to handle only the Finance and Accounts portfolios, Ms Sriram has had the privilege to work in close association with business teams. This has strengthened her business acumen, and enabled close collaboration with top management in focusing on key business transactions. One of Ms Sriram’s greatest blessings was the opportunity to work with industry stalwarts like R Vasudevan, from whom she learnt the art of being a ‘perfectionist’, and R Thyagarajan, who mentored her on entrepreneurship and risk management.

Throughout her career, Ms Sriram has been a steady learner, driven by the tenacity to step in and contribute quickly, without necessarily being a subject matter expert. She believes that learning is a continuous process, and that one should learn from every situation.

Current mandate and key milestones

When Ms Shriram joined TAKE Solutions as its CFO, the organisation was seen mainly as a technology company. There were serious gaps in perception of the work it did in the pharma sector, and specifically, the tremendous work it had executed in the R&D space. For Ms Sriram, awareness creation was the single most important task – and a key milestone involved ‘reclassifying’ the company as a pioneer in the pharma space. This meant rebuilding certain priorities from scratch, but the reward for all this work was that bank financing became more accessible, and that many new opportunities opened up for TAKE. Today, her main area of focus is building the next generation of leaders at the firm.

Collaboration: A management strategy that matters

Having the right team is one part of the equation. The other, crucial part is ensuring that the team comes together as a single unit to deliver. One of Ms Sriram’s toughest assignments as CFO was implementing a major change management exercise, which involved centralising and standardising all functions, including Finance. What made this possible was strong collaboration across the firm’s functional heads, who managed any (temporary) disruptions and ensured a seamless transition. Within her team, Ms Shriram had to push people out of their ‘comfort zone’, getting them to take on new challenges, including working in areas where they had little or no exposure.

Seeking inspiration…

Ms Sriram admires people who are capable of taking on varied roles and responsibilities. She especially looks up to Nandan Nilekani for his entrepreneurial spirit, which couples strongly with a deep social commitment.

…and unwinding

At the end of the day, few things help Ms Shriram unwind from a frenetic work life than getting back home and spending time with family.

Source - CFO Connect

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