Vishakha RM has helmed IndiaFirst Life as its MD & CEO since March 2015. Under her strong leadership, the company has recorded a significant growth rate and steadily risen in industry ranking. Leading from the front, Vishakha spearheaded the seamless transition of shareholding from former partner, Legal and General to Warburg Pincus.
Vishakha has ranked among the Top 50 of Fortune India’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ in business three times in a row (2017, 2018 and 2019). She has also been bestowed with ‘Most Influential Woman’ by the Business World magazine. Recognising her achievements, ICAI bestowed Vishakha with the prestigious award of CA Business Leader – Women (2017). Vishakha has been enlisted as a trailblazer amongst contemporaries across industries by prestigious publications such as Forbes India and Business Today.
A thought leader, Vishakha co-chairs the Pension and Insurance committee of CII. She is also an esteemed member of National Council on Insurance (ASSOCHAM), a committee member of FICCI, and a Charter Member of Exqualifi by AIWMI. She is an independent Director on the board of NRB Bearings Private Limited. She also has been on the executive committee of Life Insurance Council.
Vishakha continues to guide and mentor the upcoming generation of thinkers and leaders. Some of her prestigious mentorship associations include International Insurance Society (IIS) Mentor program, WWB Leadership and Diversity for Innovation Program, RGA Leaders for Tomorrow and WILL Forum.
A Chartered Accountant equipped with a Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Systems, Vishakha is also a Fellow of the Insurance Institute of India.
Our Exclusive Interview:
1. What does Leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is to Enable, Empower, Encourage, and have people’s back in case of adversity.
2. How do you keep your team motivated?
I keep my team motivated by allowing them “to be” i.e., to bring 100% of themselves to work within the values of the organisation.
3.What is the incident/ case study that comes to your mind when it was crucial to you to take the lead in solving it? How did you solve it? How did you ensure that it was implemented?
A face-off between two of my senior team members is an incident that comes to my mind. I resolved it by looking at the optimum solution in the interest of the organisation. I ensured implementation by making sure there was acceptance and ownership of the proposed solution.
4. It is said that a leader is as good or as bad as his/ her team. Do you agree? Why?
Totally!!! Birds of a feather flock together! There cannot be a disconnect between the capability of the leader and the team. Neither the leader nor the team can disconnect themselves from the results of a poor strategy or poor execution! That’s what we mean by saying a leader is as good or as bad as his/her team.
5. How do you delegate responsibility? What is your mantra for making your team accountable?
Responsibility is delegated through a clear definition of objective and the conditions within which the objective needs to be achieved. The team is enabled, and empowered, and clear discussions are held to understand and own the objective.
I am a firm believer of setting in-line goals and periodically validating the actions with the objectives to ensure there is no digression from goals. This facilitates holding teams accountable for the results and for the path followed to achieve those results
6. How do you define your vision for your organisation?
My vision is to build an organisation that will last for generations, balance all stakeholders, and contribute positively to the economy.
7. What are you most proud of in your organisation? How did you go about achieving it and ensuring it sustainability?
I’m proud of my organisation’s work culture. We define work culture as a common alignment to the values of the company and being “Happy, Passionate, and Connected”.
At IndiaFirst Life, we have inculcated an ethos of seamless communication by encouraging 1:1s and regular skip level meetings. We also conduct regular townhalls and invite “Questions for Your Leaders” that are addressed and shared on our employee engagement platform – “Yammer”. We have built a well-connected network where employees share their learnings and celebrate their achievements!
Through the pandemic, we ensured employees remain connected by launching several employee engagement activities and encouraging focus on “control the controllable”.
8.What matters to you the most – loyalty of your employees or loyalty to your customers/ clients?
There can be no long-term strategy for a successful organisation that is built at the cost of the customers. Therefore, this is not incongruous but harmonious. I want the loyalty of employees who serve the interest of the customers and therefore, ensure loyalty of customers.
Know the person
1. Money to you
is a means to an end!
2. Your favourite film
Good Will Hunting
3. Your favourite food
Tomato Onion subzi with Rice
4. Your favourite film star (male)
5. Your favourite film star (female)
6. Your favourite holiday destination
being home with my children
7. Friendship to you
is for lifetime and beyond!
8. Your best kept secret
None. My life is an open book!