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My First Job: Sumit Mitra,CEO, Tesco Global Business Services

Job experiences teach you many things beyond polishing your skill-sets. These learnings tend to be your guidelines for the coming times in personal and professional life.

The 'My First Job' section captures this essence from the industry leaders. 

Here is an account from Dr. Sumit Mitra, CEO , Tesco Business Services & Tesco Bengaluru

My First Job was 
My first corporate job was at British Telecom in the UK as a Business Consultant. 

My experience 
I worked 16 years at BT, it was a wonderful journey. My first job was to work on the NHS (National Health Services) account and identify business opportunities. Soon after, my job was to run a top insurance account in our Global division, which eventually led to running contract management for the retail sector. The hands-on experience in dealing with irate customers, understanding how real life operations work, managing stakeholders through a difficult journey and converting concerns into opportunities and most importantly managing global P&L – all of this laid a solid foundation for my future which led to strategising and running the Global Business Services division of BT as the managing director across 9 countries. 

Things I learnt 
I had almost 8 different roles in 16 years in BT which included, sales, marketing, contract & commercial management, strategy, operations management. Most valuable thing of all was the art of handling customers, understanding their needs and championing their cause in the business but keeping a fine balance between customer experience & profitability. These are invaluable ingredients to becoming a CEO. This also helped me immensely to connect to my present organisation’s purpose, which is “serving our shoppers little better every day”. 

Skills I acquired 
There were some invaluable skills I picked up which included, working across geographical boundaries and cross functional teams. Being a large global organisation matrix management was a key skill you have to build in your repertoire. Teamwork, ethics, compliance and governance were some of the key skills that I also picked up. 

My manager’s teaching 
I worked with a number of managers some were good, some average, and some bad. Best ones always taught me about discipline, ethics and that there is no alternative to hard work. 

My journey so far 
Currently I am the CEO of Tesco Business Services and Tesco Bengaluru running Tesco’s key customer, colleague and finance operations across different countries. It been a great journey so far. From a Business Consultant to a CEO in 17 years. It hasn’t come without its fair share of ups and down. I managed to pull myself up very quickly when I had my failures and also managed not to be too complacent through success. I had some wonderful mentors during different times of my career who helped me and gave me that little edge that I needed to succeed. I always believed that success was never the destination, it’s a journey, a journey to continuously improve yourself and be a leader who inspires the entire organisation to achieve business objectives. 

Turning point in my career 
My biggest break happened when I was part of the strategy and turnaround team in BT’s Global services division during their $2bn wright down. I conceptualised a solution to the root cause of the issue, which was executing our corporate contracts in a standardised environment through a shared services model. This helped improve our P&L significantly and added the much required governance and control to deliver world-class service to BT’s customers. 

My most crucial step/assignment 
It is never easy leaving an organisation where you have worked for 16 years. You build relationships, where your colleagues become friends. The challenge at Tesco was unique. At BT I set up a brand new organisation from scratch, whereas Tesco it was about driving change and rejuvenating an existing 14 year old shared services organisation to build the next generation of business services for Tesco that is global. It was also important to prove myself whether I could work in a different sector, different culture and with different priorities. At Tesco we have a clear plan on how we create Business Services as a competitive advantage for Tesco in the retail space and that’s exciting! 

My advice 
My advice is very simple. Life’s battles are not won by the cleverest, smarted or bravest; the battles are always won by people who want to win the most. It’s the attitude, which is the most important ingredient. Also the harder work, luckier you get! 

Where I see myself 5 years from here 
My success is very much linked to my company’s success. I see business services playing a huge part in Tesco to improve, market share, cash, profitability and shareholder value. On a personal front I would love to pick up some non-executive director role in FTSE or a large multinational.