Sharad Mahendra - Ability to Take “Calculated Risks” Coupled With a Mindset of “Learning Never Ends” and to “Look Beyond” Enabled Me Being a CEO (CEO JSW Steel CPL)

My advice to my friends is work with sincerity, honesty and dedication. It is important to get the desired work opportunity with desired role. But this is not enough, with the role also comes the responsibility and accountability. One should be ready to accept the accountability which enables individual’s mind for a goal oriented approach rather than being generic.

1. Tell us about your upbringing, and early career days.

I am from a place full of traditions and heritage, Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh, North India. I belong to a family of Doctors, Father & both brothers have pursued their career in Medical line. After doing schooling from Lucknow, I left my home town for pursuing my higher studies. After finishing my Engineering studies, option was for MBA or for job. Got an opportunity through campus interview and decided to pursue my career with MNC Yamaha Motors in Sales & Marketing Department. It had been a wonderful experience when Indian economy had opened up and Multinationals had started their entry into Indian market. 

Started with a humble beginning as Sales Officer and continued with Yamaha for almost 14 years enriching myself with a great exposure to both rural and urban India, two different world altogether during that time. The biggest take away was knowing varying needs and expectations from urban and rural consumer. I reached position of Zonal Head with Yamaha.

After being in complete brand selling and working with highest level of systems and process driven by Japanese work culture, got an opportunity to head Domestic Sales & Marketing of one of the fastest growing Steel Company JSW Steel Ltd. Venturing into totally unexplored industry from a stable Japanese MNC to an organization which had just started its growth journey was not an easy decision to make. This was a big challenge for me to accept this offer or not. 

The challenges to overcome were viz. completely different work culture, more individual driven rather than systems oriented approach, Brand selling to Commodity selling, to be an outsider in a then well guarded industry traditionally hiring senior positions only with steel veterans. I took this an opportunity for myself as well as for the organization to bring in new practices and processes and to expand my horizon by gaining experience in different work culture and varying people mindset.

I continued as Sales head for domestic market for three years and then was given the charge of Global Sales & Marketing for JSW Steel. Company was and is on fast growth path and needed to establish strong global footprint. We were successful in our journey with a sustainable approach which has made JSW Steel as the largest and one on the preferred supplier globally with presence in more than 65 countries on a consistent basis. In domestic market, implanted Branded Sales Channel concept like in FMCG, Auto or Appliance industries by the name JSW Shoppe. 

This was from my learning in automobile industry and was the first ever such initiative in the Global Steel Industry. JSW Shoppe enabled the company to provide customized, value added steel directly to the end user rather than going through intermediaries

This work on JSW Shoppe was published as a case study in Harvard Business School and still being pursued in most of the top Indian Management Institute.

I was rewarded for this unique initiative and was honored with Hall of Fame Awards in London which I consider as one of the high points in my life.

2. How did you rise to becoming the CEO? What advice do you have for our readers who wish to do the same?

Ability to take “Calculated Risks” coupled with a mindset of “Learning never Ends” and to “Look Beyond” enabled me being a CEO of JSW Steel Coated Products Ltd., largest value added steel company in the country and also among the largest globally.

My advice to my friends is work with sincerity, honesty and dedication. It is important to get the desired work opportunity with desired role. But this is not enough, with the role also comes the responsibility and accountability. One should be ready to accept the accountability which enables individual’s mind for a goal oriented approach rather than being generic.

3. What has been the greatest challenge for you in your career and how did you overcome the same?

Further accepting the challenge for further learning, I ventured into Chemical Industry for a period of two years and headed the business with one of the leading organization in the country, largest supplier to Indian Automobile industry with global footprint. After a gap of two years, I came back to JSW group in the energy sector heading the operations and other business verticals in thermal and hydro power generation. 

During this tenure, my learnings towards plant operations, HR practices, People Management, Cost optimization and Manpower Productivity were the key takeaways which made me future ready for even higher responsibilities in JSW Group.

4. How do you think the steel industry will evolve in the future and how are you preparing for that leap?

A brief about the Steel Industry: Steel is an intrinsic element for economic growth for any country. In advance economies, steel demand is driven mostly by the consumption, while in emerging economies like India demand is linked to development. 

India is now the second largest steel producer in the world and is adding significant new capacities to take care of the fast growing demand driven by Urbanisation. Whether it is Infrastructure, Automobiles, White Goods or Engineering industries, all are contributing to the country’s growth. We at JSW are expanding our capacities through brownfield expansions to contribute to the economic growth. Today, JSW Steel is the largest steel producer in the country by capacity.

5. What are your thoughts for sponsoring ads during IPL? How do brands measure ROI?

To have a strong customer connect, it is extremely important to understand the customer needs and expectations. This enables us to have customized offerings in the market place meeting customer requirements. Branding plays an important role in this, it enables to establish an emotional bonding with end consumer by fulfilling their needs beyond expectations. Advertising and promotion is an integral part of this. Without any doubts, IPL is one of the most preferred platform to reach nearer to the target audience and we have been actively promoting our brands JSW Colouron+ (Pre painted Steel Sheets)and JSW Neosteel (Rebars)in IPL on TV and digital platform. 

Brands engage with research agencies to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. ROI is measured on the basis of Top of the Mind Brand Recall (both aided as well as unaided recall), Measuring the level of intended message content understood by the target audience. Apart from these, there are various other factors which are measured to arrive at the ROI. Apart from this, we also do the Brand Health Tracking on yearly basis before finessing the Brand Promotion plan.

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6. What would be that one thing that you would do differently now than before?

What has made me reach here will not take me where I want to be going forward. Hence, it is important to constantly evolve and look for new and better ways to do the same thing. One of the examples is Digitalisation and Automation. This is the key to have an integrated approach for uniformity and sustainability.

7. What are your future plans?

In my plans in coming years, few things on priority are :

  • Build an Organisation for future
  • Have ready leadership pipeline for sustainability
  • Special focus with clear targets on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) and People Safety

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

My favorite book is “Good to Great”. I will advise all leaders and future leaders to definitely read this book. This book nicely explains various levels of leadership and has been extremely useful in identifying the areas to work on to reach an aspirational LEVEL 5 leadership.


Mr. Mahendra is CEO of JSWSCPL, India’s largest coated steel manufacturer.

In his previous assignment, Mr. Mahendra was working as Director & COO and was on the board of JSW Energy Limited and its subsidiaries. He has also been on the Board APL Apollo Tubes Limited and was responsible for the overall sales and marketing functions as well as for organization building. He has worked with Phillips Carbon Black Limited, JSW Steel Limited and Yamaha Motors Limited in various capacities. In his previous stint at JSW Steel Limited, he was responsible for both domestic and international sales as well as for the marketing functions for all flat products.

Mr. Mahendra has been a recipient of "Hall of Fames Award, London" for Best Marketing & Communication globally.

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