“Early bird catches the flight.”
“The flight may not take us where we intend it to, but it will take us somewhere good. To keep moving forward in life, to stay relevant in changing times, it is this journey that we must take continuously,” Gulshan Kumar Bindra, Founder and Director of NKG Advisory shares and beautifully defines these action oriented inspiring words, which are his all-weather favourite words.
At 50, Gulshan Kuman Bindra became the living example of classic entrepreneurial spirit that pivoted an employee to become an entrepreneur and a consulting partner with the former employer on the same day. It was back in 2005, when he started the journey towards greater heights of achievements after working for 27 years, starting 1977, in regulatory affairs while working with the German Pharmaceutical giant in India.
Gulshan is a visionary with self-belief, a positive mindset, a how to make things work attitude, admirable work ethic. His brainchild NKG Advisory Business & Consulting Services is rooted from the inner desire to do more and be more, a classic trait of an entrepreneur.
Having experienced the industry change in three decades, and the frantic pace it had taken in the 2000s given the Indian regulators were becoming more proactive, he endeavoured to see and fill the gaps rather than changing nothing. Indeed, a must know man of vision for our readers of the CEO Magazine, here’s our insightful dialogue with Gulshan Kumar Bindra:
The CEO: Gulshan, let us start with how did you find your first client?
Gulshan: In 2005, I had a very candid discussion with my employers, who, very sportingly agreed to relieve me as an employee and, to my happiness, appointed me as their consulting firm the same day. This association as a consulting agency with my first and only employers continues to date. The support and confidence from my past employers pushed me to believe in my decision and keep moving forward.
The CEO: Recently, how do you stay connected with the target audience?
Gulshan: Today, we choose effective and transparent communication through which we aim to build relationships, not only business. We are asking questions. While answering those questions, we are discussing gaps and setting expectations right concerning the processes and requirements required to meet client objectives.
With this intention, we remain active in industry forums, associations, business chambers and embassies and any other avenue where stakeholders converge. We use the same philosophy through our company website, blogs, and the LinkedIn channel.
All of our team members including me, our core team and our associates, are always looking to build relationships and have conversations. We believe the business we do comes as a by-product of a healthy relationship we develop with our target audience.
The CEO: In your entrepreneurial journey, how did you overcome the challenge of acceptance?
Gulshan: I am of the strong belief that the most important thing for any business is identifying who you are and what kind of a company you want to build. I started this firm at 50. By then I had earned my name in the healthcare industry in India and I had a reputation at stake when I was starting out on my own.
In the quest of setting up a business, I didn’t want to lose what I had achieved in the past. So, it was critically important for me to visualise how I wanted my company to be looked at in the future. From the point of view of acceptance in the industry, it was important to communicate who we were and what were/are our ground values.
It was this inner knowledge of who we are that determined how I worked and later on my sons and everyone in NKG works that helped us communicate our identity. This “identity” of NKG helped us to overcome the challenge of acceptance.
The CEO: What do you think your firm’s mission and vision are? How does your firm differ from the biggest competitors?
Gulshan: We work with the vision of moving forward and becoming a one-stop shop for regulatory compliances. We will work with regulators, stakeholders and consumers to ensure the following of good regulatory practices which lead to a better business environment. Our mission with NKG is to act an asset for our clients so that clients can focus on their core activities and delegate the smooth and timely achievement of compliances to us.
Be it competence through subject matter experts, hands-on approach & deep on the ground knowledge, a problem-solving attitude, reliability, trust, transparency, focus on establishing a relationship which leads to business, experience & subject matter experts, NKG as a Big – Small – Global- Local company has a strong set of values.
The CEO: In this journey, what were the failures the team rebounded and learned from?
Gulshan: Our failures defined us; prompted us to take a mild pause, learn more about ourselves, our processes; and educated us more. We love failures that clear the haze for us and help us see things more clearly. There are times we purposefully venture out in some directions to figure out where that direction takes us.
Sometimes such directions pivot us to areas which turn out to be blue oceans for us while at some other times such adventures highlight our shortcomings in knowledge, expertise, processes bandwidth etc. We willingly indulge in these exercises or drills to keep moving forward. I am a positive person at heart. We love to explore areas unknown to us with a student’s mindset with the hope of facing and crossing obstacles. This is necessary to grow for us in business and our personal lives.
The CEO: How would you define success for the firm? What are the recognitions it has earned over the years?
Gulshan: The first aspect in my definition of success are numbers (like profits, number of clients, number of submissions) but more importantly the issues which lead to these numbers (like existing offerings, exploring newer pastures, improving offerings, processes, upgrading team, etc).
I believe, for success to be defined, we need to take care of our internal as well as external stakeholders. Internally, we look out on how we can make people come to work with a happy mind so that when they work, they know they are cared for.
In the COVID times, we made it a point to not relieve any employee irrespective of their role and release salaries on time. So, there were no deductions in salaries, whether there was work to be done or not, whether there was an off day or not, full salaries were rolled out from March 2020 till date.
We added it up with medical insurances for all, even contractual team members. All this showed our team that we were together in easy as well as challenging times. This allowed our people to consider all of us as one unified team. In fact, due to the nature of our work, we had to add manpower. This, for me, remains very important.
Externally, the longevity of our relationship with clients is the paramount element. Not only we are catering to clients who are with us since our inception, along the way, but we were also fortunate enough to keep adding an illustrious list of Indian and global feathers to our cap and people have stuck on.
It is indeed a success, when someone you worked with a decade ago, recommend you to someone else. It asserts that we are doing something right. The Industry remembers us, they depend on us, and treat us as their assets. When our clients recollect that we have been working for 5 or 7 or 10 years, that for me defines success.
The CEO: Over the years, in which areas have you witnessed the transformation in the industry?
Gulshan: It has been quite a journey ; being born in the ’50s, having dedicated more than four decades to regulatory affairs and witnessing the Indian economy, healthcare, science, and technology take its unique course and even a pandemic. My entire life has revolved around the “3 R’s” including The regulator, The regulated, and The regulations.
Especially over the last 10 to 15 years with the increase in regulations and compliances expected by the Indian regulators, from the past to today, there has been an ocean change in the way different industry functions in India. With changing times, needs, and technology, the change is occurring daily in a gradual way but over two different points of time, the transformation seems massive.
The CEO: How has the firm technologically adopted to the latest needs of the market?
Gulshan: As a company of honest and transparent work ethic with a service-based approach and values, delivering around the globe and in India, we had to be an early adopter with regards to technology. Manual data is now on secured cloud servers with additional back-ups, clients are welcome to our office in the national capital, Delhi but not required to visit for some work. We have aligned our work to work remotely and yet maintain security and efficiency and complete transparency.
When COVID 19 hit India, our transition to working from home was seamless. Roles within the company are well defined if not demarcated and are evolving as NKG evolves with time. Our people are happy to upgrade themselves to technology in the interest of improving efficiency.
The CEO: 2020 has created hostile situations for many brands, what are the challenges you are facing and how do aim to overcome them?
Gulshan: For the pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer good, electronics, Footwear and toys covered under BIS, or the cosmetic industry, 2020 was less about being hostile and more about improvisation. Many products areas were/are considered essential and thus the markets for such products have been more or less the same if not better.
While the initial lockdown of March 2020 caused a temporary and absolute hold up, gradually, it was business as usual, but, with a different approach. So, 2020 was more about learning to be efficient and operational in an entirely different way, communicating in entirely different ways with internal and external staakeholders.
I have seen brands and manufacturers locally and from overseas using 2020 as a forced opportunity to seek entirely new opportunities. So yes, in a way 2020 was hostile but the response from the industry as well as us has been outstanding.
The CEO: What does the future hold for the company in the next five years?
Gulshan: I believe that the future of NKG will be shining high and being grounded to our core values. Our core team is competent, qualified, and ready to help our clients with their evolving needs.
We humbly believe that, at present, there are certain areas where NKG leads Pan India in terms of the sheer volume of work we do in such categories. Over the next 5 years, we intend to retain and grow these areas. Also, we will be looking to have this same leadership in a few other areas where we already do quality work but there is still some ground to be covered when we look at volume and scale.
Our team will have to grow qualitatively and quantitatively. Our current Executives will become part of our executive teams, then some of them from these internal teams will grow to be team leaders and someone will grow to lead all such internal teams. We are focused on growth of the above to ensure that we have subject matter experts and deep-rooted working knowledge that permeate within our company across layers. All this will benefit our clients with a seamless experience and knowledge which will benefit them when they appoint NKG as their time tested and long term regulatory partner.