Many years ago, around 2007-2008, I remember a neat and soberly dressed young man working diligently and quietly at his desk in an inconspicuous corner on the 3rd floor of the D.N. Road Office, Mumbai. He was then General Manager- Finance.
Today he sits in an airy well-lit cabin in the upper echelons of Marathon Futurex along with the other Execom members of the company, as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Thomas Cook India. He has come a long way, literally, to reach the top!
He is Brijesh Modi.
Brijesh re-joined Thomas Cook (India) Limited in June 2017 as Chief Financial Officer which means he is responsible for the financial, accounting and commercial functions of the Company.
A Chartered Accountant, who has completed a General Management Programme at IIM-Calcutta, Brijesh was earlier with SOTC Travel Services (formerly Kuoni India) as CFO, leading its Finance, Administration, Secretarial and compliance functions. He was responsible for the strategic business and commercial planning, and was instrumental in establishing and monitoring corporate financial policies, procedures and controls. Prior to that, Brijesh had worked with Thomas Cook (India) Limited, and Tata Motors.
In his career spanning 19 years, Brijesh, has worked across industries like automobile, travel and financial services, which has given him valuable experience in diverse functions, including strategy, commercial, controlling, risk management, governance, business planning and accounting functions.
He strongly believes in team work and displays exceptional skills in executing complex tasks, involving people from across functions.
We cornered him for an Interview to tell us a bit more about him.
We give you Brijesh!
How would you define your role as Chief Financial Officer — Thomas Cook India Limited? What are your responsibilities, and what positive contribution do you think you can make to the organisation in your new position?
I have a role to play in the growth of this company. This includes business partnering, strategy, ensuring liquidity, stewardship, risk management, catalyst and creating a highly engaged finance team. Enabling faster decisions, bringing insights and customer-centricity are some of the areas where a lot can also be contributed.
You have been with Thomas Cook India for several years now. Can you remember any significant milestones in your career with the company?
This is my second stint in Thomas Cook India. In my total 13 years career with the organisation, I have worked in 5 different roles including the current one. I also completed a company sponsored General Management Programme from IIM Calcutta, which changed my perspective towards my role. I had an opportunity to work with various shareholders having different cultures which enriched my knowledge.
What do you feel are the significant changes the Company has gone through after the acquisitions in recent times? How do you think the Thomas Cook Group is going to adapt to, and cope with, these changes?
Change is good. That’s the one thing we should anticipate at all times. With all these acquisitions, we have people from different cultures, and we have a lot of opportunities to grow together. With these acquisitions, Thomas Cook has become very significant in the travel sector and with a presence in 21 countries. I believe that CEC formula – Collaboration, Empathy & Communication — will be the key to navigate through these changes. Governance mechanism and technology are vital to these changes. We need to be open to absorb good practices from this process.
What would you consider the best thing about your job with this organisation?
Well, there are several things. This job gives a helicopter view of the company and its operations, and in turn, it helps one to become effective. This job can influence a lot of things for a larger good, and last but not the least, it revolves around people and their behaviour, which is most interesting to deal with!
And the worst?!
It can be overwhelming sometimes!
Can you mention one or two influences in your life that have shaped your career and guided some of the major decisions you have taken?
My Class 7 teacher, Mrs. Dalal, encouraged me to become a Chartered Accountant when I was only 12 years old. Moreover, the aptitude test which I took the same year clearly highlighted that I could do better in the accounting field. By the time I was in Class 10, I was determined to be a CA. During my college days, I had made up my mind to become a CFO someday. Consequently, all my decisions were driven towards that, the change of companies, change of roles, doing the management programme etc. They were all part of this journey.
How did you earn your first pay check, and what did you do with the money?
My first pay check was received when I started working in a CA firm post my standard 12. I hardly spent this money for anyone — it went straight into the investment pool !
Now on a personal level and in lighter vein!
Your family comprises of —-My parents –Krishnaben and Sureshchandra, my wife Hemali, son Aadit, and a daughter Maitri. These individuals have shaped me and they still influence me greatly. A lot of my steps revolve around them.
You kick-start your day with — Checking mails and WhatsApp messages, but I am hoping to change that!
When you are not thinking of Thomas Cook you chill out by — listening to Bollywood music, reading newspapers, facebook surfing.
On your bedside table one would find — my phone!
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? — Honesty. This should come naturally and be innate in one’s self. It cannot be flaunted as something extraordinary.
What is the trait you deplore most in yourself? — Hemali says I need to express my emotions more !
And in others? Lack of respect for one another.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? – “Eventually”; “At the end of the day”; “ life..”!
Your idea of an ideal holiday? Mountains, a river, a cup of tea and talking about life with my wife!
Your work mantra? Do the right things; truth will prevail.