NUS BBA 04 September 2019

Standing Out in the Corporate World: A Dialogue with Kimberly Clark’s Asia Pacific President

Year 4 undergraduate Ganesh Muthupalani, shares more about an exclusive dialogue session his fellow NUS BBAs and he had with Kimberly Clark’s APAC President.

A few minutes in and Mr. Achal Agarwal said “I knew how to unlock China, that was my differentiator.” That was when I knew this calm and confident Indian man in front of me deserved every ounce of my attention. And what followed was not just career advice, but insightful and memorable stories that he gathered throughout his life.

Here a few of my takeaways from Mr Agarwal’s sharing!

Mr Achal Agarwal (Left) with NUS BBA students at Kimberly Clark, Singapore.

Seek unique experiences and you will easily differentiate yourself.

Early on in his career, Mr Agarwal asked to be put in the toughest locations and most shunned jobs. He told himself “experience comes first, I can always earn money later.” His inquisitive mind and courage led him to being the General Manager of Pepsi in China after 12 years of being rotated all over India.

Mr Agarwal entered China in 1995 when few international companies knew how to succeed there. In 20 years, Mr Agarwal propelled Pepsi to be a strong rival against Coke and other local beverage giants in a foreign market. Unlocking China was Mr Agarwal’s differentiator. Under his current leadership, Kimberly Clark’s market share in China ballooned from 5th to 2nd place.

The BBA students at the dialogue session

Destroy bureaucracy: always question why you do what you do

Mr. Agarwal is hell-bent on destroying bureaucracy. He refuses to have meetings longer than 45 minutes; emails should fit within the monitor screen height; important decisions are made quickly over the phone. He brazenly dismisses any new process that slows down decision-making or operations. Kimberly Clark as an organization is simpler, leaner and faster because of this mindset. When Bryan Kio, a fellow Year 4 BBA student, asked how junior staff can destroy bureaucracy Mr Agarwal simply replied, “by logic.”

Leaders think beyond themselves and empower others

Mr. Agarwal truly cherishes helping others grow and realize their potential. He often has chats with both former and current staff about their career paths. With the wealth of experience he has accumulated, he takes time off to advise them objectively on their strengths, areas for improvements and when to jump ship. Through his sharing of interactions with his staff, I realized the importance of finding a caring leader and an experienced mentor.

Ms Jacqueline See, Head, Strategic Relations presenting Mr Achal Agarwal with a token of Appreciation

I am really grateful to have had an opportunity to interact with Mr Agarwal, a leader who has had an illustrious corporate life. Such interactions expose student like me to what lies on the other side and let us dream about what we want to become. I always look forward to forums, dialogue sessions and talks organized by NUS BBA which exposes us to corporate leaders because “You can’t be what you can’t see.”