“Winning does not always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve done before”.-Bonnie Blair
These words effectively steer motivation for Suparna Mullick, Chairperson, Asian Consulting Engineers Pvt. Ltd., a revolutionary name in the consulting services and sustainable solutions industry for infrastructure projects, industrial projects, and social development projects.
Today, the New Delhi headquartered seasoned company is tantamount to quality work, effective project execution, and management skills orchestrating services and strategies in sync with the recent projects and with the mindset of continual improvement and achieving them without fail.
Personifying an unpretentious, honest, organized, spiritual, independent, optimistic, and self-motivated individual who diligently transverses the path to achieving, Suparna enjoys the reputation of chairing a front-runner in the industry with a name that has ripened since she rooted it decades ago.
In the last 18 years of leadership, Suparna managed to navigate through a journey of new experiences working with different professionals to achieve a common goal of yielding efficient and realistic results while overriding the varied challenges with the determination and an inspiration to play a vital role in delivering high-quality work at par with the world leaders. We wrapped various such parts of her journey in our exclusive interview with Suparna. Edited Excerpts:
The CEO: In the journey, did you deal with the challenge of acceptance?
Suparna: I would like to highlight the fact that from my upbringing to my married life, I have been in homes where gender did not become a decision-making factor. However, in my professional life, despite being equally qualified, gender-related disparity created a hindrance in getting equal importance and position at the workplace. But in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.
While I became stronger and secured about myself, I also became calmer and more articulated to handle a situation with experience and practicing “Vipassana Meditation”. I must thank my husband, Abhaye for supporting me in every aspect. While my biological child and brainchild are almost of the same age, in this journey, both needed my equal attention, time, and involvement at the same time, I did face an ethical dilemma.
In my professional journey, I would confess that the greatest challenge is to keep the team motivated and confident. We overcame our initial financial challenges, without any external source and with proper financial planning and focused project execution which allowed us to ensure continued salaries.
The CEO: What are the mistakes you wish you could have avoided as an entrepreneur?
Suparna: At the onset of our venture, we learned the lesson of building the team with the right candidates by committing the mistake of hiring young candidates who were not capable of understanding/handling the challenges of their designated projects and assignments. While this delayed efficiency and discouraged our teams, we learned and grew by hiring mature candidates for those roles.
The CEO: Tell us about the feathers in the cap?
Suparna: As a water and environmental consultancy firm engaged in high quality and challenging assignments, our comprehensive assistance to ensure quality output and efficiency in the project allows us to bag appreciation, positive feedback, and retained clientele.
On 15 February 2021, scoring above 90 out of 100 in all parameters, we were recognized as Great Place To Work. This is the most definitive ‘Employer-of-Choice’ recognition given by the Great Place To Work Institute (GPTI). As a CEO, I proudly cherish this achievement which is inspirational for the top management and rewarding for every team member in our organization. We have been ranked 4th among India’s Top Performing MSMEs by ETRise in 2020, an award instituted for the businesses that have excelled and raised the bar high in terms of growth, innovation, and job creation.
We, as a team, had some proud moments when we won three Green Tech Asia awards 2020 at MSME Global Conference Exhibition & Awards on Sustainability 2020 in the categories of ‘Air Pollution’, ‘Water Recycling’, and ‘Women Entrepreneur of the Year’, which has encouraged me towards leading more productive, result-oriented, and monetarily stabilized organization.
The CEO: How did you build your team?
Suparna: In my view, the first step towards team building is securing trust and loyalty among the team rather than fear of power or positions. While members should freely express their views recognizing and respecting the boundaries of the positions, I believe, a leader should establish a sense of leadership in each team member.
Our exclusive team personifies a qualitative approach which makes our company’s interview process, a very rigorous one aimed at selecting the best candidate. We explore each candidate on their technical knowledge, rational thinking, good communication skills, interest to work in different cultures, and desire to grow and excel. We believe anyone possessing these traits can be shaped into their better self with the best opportunities and guidance we offer.
Our human resource department crafted KPIs’ allow members to become more productive. They target measures of recognizing the value of each team member, learning how to enhance the skills, protecting and supporting the team, allowing team members to take risks, communicating effectively and exactly to eliminate confusion, and appreciating team effort.
The CEO: What are the activities that allow you to keep your team motivated?
Suparna: It is my robust belief, leaders lead as examples for team members. Thus, they should be equipped with all attributes members search for in their role model, technical and emotional abilities to work on complex assignments and inspire them to push their boundaries.
The Asian Consulting Engineers policies streamline member’s ability with proper output by stating proper procedure and methods. With a pleasant place to work, best opportunities for self-development, our team enjoys assistance in learning advanced planning of work, increasing efficiency, and encouraging happiness.
The CEO: How did you handle adversity and doubt?
Suparna: In the face of adversity, I calmly choose to understand the root of the problem and plan how to resolve it. I act to make rational and justified solutions over an emotionally influenced judgment. In my leadership, I have always strived to avoid any one-party favoring decisions and ensured straightforward discussions focused on hearing and understanding the other party’s views. It paves a clear road to easing tension and building mutual trust.
The CEO: How do you plan on growing your business in the upcoming years?
Suparna: Growth, for me, is not only synonymous with turnover. Growth is multidimensional which includes taking up new assignments, enhancing the quality of work and services to meet the world-class benchmarks, the satisfaction of employees and clients, and of course, increased turnover.
To achieve this, we dedicate efforts to offer the best customer service, more efficiently and professionally, nurture existing customers, and search for new opportunities. While looking for talented, efficient, and honest professionals, we aim at giving back to our society, environment, and community.
The CEO: What does success look like in the current role and for the company?
Suparna: Meeting goals in both the professional and personal universe, by me and my team members, is how I define and evaluate success today. I value a consistent level of productivity and taking both successes and failures in stride. The latter sources my knowledge to deal with future personal and professional situations.
Personally, in this 18 years journey, the constant back and forth between setting goals and achieving them successfully has motivated me and allowed us to transition into more effective leaders, professionals, and employees as a whole. In my view, this is an auto-process to achieve greater growth in the future.
The CEO: What are the questions you ask after each breakthrough?
Suparna: With a mindset striving for something meaningful, useful, and unique, some questions that we naturally contemplate are- “Is my decision, right?”, “What can be the best way to do this?”, “Will it be feasible to implement?”, and the greatest concern, “Are my team members synced with my vision and ready to act?”
Currently, I believe and reinforce that our thoughts and rooted convictions create our reality.
The CEO: What would you answer to a young female executive’s question of “How can I be a good leader?”
Suparna: I would ask her to be involved and attain a better understanding of the assignment/work. In the water and environmental field, along with the deep knowledge of the subject, participating in the fieldwork /site visit is indispensable. Apart from that, be faithful, passionate, and devoted to your work. Never be afraid of failures, keep moving ahead with positivity and hard work.
The CEO: Do you believe in giving back to society, if yes, how?
Suparna: Certainly. I believe everyone holds a social responsibility that should be fulfilled irrespective of the means. We support local shelters and street dwellers through food and blanket distributions on coldest winter nights and arrange drinking water for schools in the rural areas along with other study aids.
“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth,”- Suparna handed our readers with a W.B. Yeats’ quote to take away from the interview.