Sometimes, life comes a full circle. Neeraj Sharma who returns to Wärtsilä as India’s new Managing Director, after 20 years, will agree. Meet the multitasker who manages overall operations in India for the company, travels the world, and makes time for his family. Alongside, he also works on improving his golf handicap.
When Neeraj Sharma walked through the doors of Wärtsilä’s Navi Mumbai office in India, in April this year, he had a sense of déjà vu. He had entered the same doors, two decades ago, when he first worked for Wärtsilä in India. Except this time, he’s sitting in the Managing Director’s chair. Coming back to Wärtsilä, he acknowledges, has hints of nostalgia, but it has also been about adapting to change.
“The way Wärtsilä was in the ‘90’s and the way it is now is very, very different, so the last two months have been learning and getting to understand the business, as well as getting to know my colleagues in India, and abroad,” he says.
Sharma is well aware of the fact that Indian economy is growing and its ever-increasing population provides a clear growth opportunity. A large part of Sharma’s vision is to ensure that India is on the map as a prominent player in the energy & marine sectors.
“Renewables and clean energy will soon have a large role to play in this country. So, as long-term goals, the aim will be to help develop a strategy to provide most efficient energy solutions in India,” he says.
As for marine solutions, Wärtsilä India has been doing a lot of work with the Indian Navy. With India’s large untapped coastline, it provides huge potential for shipping as well. Sharma plans to rely on his work experience of over 30 years to pave the way forward for the company.
Having worked in several large global companies such as Alstom and GE has not only given him insights in varied fields, but has also helped develop his leadership style.
“The advantage of having worked at several companies is that it helps you adapt to different situations and challenges you to try different things,” Sharma says.
According to him, it was at Wärtsilä and then Alstom where he started learning and understanding the energy business. It set the base for everything he picked up thereafter. At GE, besides insights about operations in a large company, there were other learnings on leadership, thanks to the company’s extensive talent development programs.
His leadership mantra today is – “the best leadership is based on persuasion.” Sharma likes to have a hands-on approach, but says it is important to prioritise things and set a clear direction.
Sharma’s professional outlook draws inspiration from his childhood. Being the son of an army officer, his family travelled a lot in his early childhood, and relocated to army bases that cover the length and breadth of the country. These experiences, he believes, helped him develop the ability to adapt very quickly to new environments, situations, and cultures.
Soon after, he went to a boarding school, a tough decision his parents had to take, so that the constant shifting wouldn’t impact his education. The biggest lesson he learnt from boarding school was independence and self-confidence – skills that have played a large role in his career.
But since he spent a lot of time away from his family, he values his time spent with his family and has managed to create a good balance between his work and personal life.
“I think it’s really important how you as a family progress together, and while professional fulfilment is great, it’s always important to maintain personal relationships as well,” he says.
Thinking ahead, Sharma has also planned his life after retirement.
“When one decides to retire, one should always have hobbies to pursue, because you will need to find something meaningful to do with your time,” Sharma says.
So in case you’re wondering what Neeraj Sharma will be doing once he retires? He will most probably be exploring different parts of the world with his family, and playing a lot of golf – his target is to bring his golf handicap down.