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Most Powerful HR Professionals of India
HR Professionals of India   2013   2012
A Thirunavukkarasu
President, Group HR
Vedanta Resources plc
Mr Aiyasaamy Thirunavukkarasu, popularly known as "Thiru ", currently the President - Group HR of Vedanta Resources Plc, based at Mumbai. He has a total work experience of 25 plus years in the field of HRM.

A 1984 batch of Social Work (PM & IR) of Loyola College, Chennai, Thiru's first assignment was that of Asst. Professor in the same department teaching Personnel Management and Organizational Behavior to his immediate juniors which was a unique experience, he re-calls where students were involved in selection of their teacher, a unique 360 degree selection process, pioneered quarter century ago.

Thiru's next assignment was at English Electric Company of India Limited at their HO and Pallavaram Works near Chennai where he joined them as the first ever Management Trainee (P & A) and quickly groomed to handle key multi - disciplinary roles including labour relations wherein his sincere home work brought a few cases concluded in favour of management which was unheard in EE's history. During his stint of 5 years and a few people related issues which were handled by the HR team members in the most righteous manner has turned around the future of the company. Thiru proudly recollects his initial grooming under the then legends like M M Rao and Anto Vincent at English Electric as the strong foundation.

Attracted to designation such as Dy Personnel Manager / Dy Manager - HRD, Thiru moved to Wimco followed by brief stints in export oriented Chinese and Korean start ups wherein he could establish basic rules of the game, aptly balancing tremendous pressure to improve production numbers and securing fair wages and welfare measures, especially the women who were engaged in large numbers at MEPZ. The production incentive scheme introduced in a simple and transparent manner helped employees to realize their dream - namely saving a substantial portion of monthly wages for their marriage, which Thiru recalls as a significant contribution impacting their lives.

Hindustan Lever Limited (currently HUL) was setting up a green field whool on sheep skin tannery as part of their Exports division near Neyveli, Tamil Nadu in 1993 and when they were looking out for a Personnel Professional, the natural choice zeroed down to Thiru who by then was ready to head HR function of an upcoming manufacturing facility. Thiru worked closely with the expats from Sawyer of Nepa, California and recruited students from Gandhigram Institute , near Madurai ( who are trained in traditional tanning methods ) and trained them in modern tanning methodology and achieved dream ramp up of the project - global productivity and quality standards in record time. The unit was under external pressure always being a tannery and Thiru managed the external relations well, projecting the image of the company in the right perspective without compromising the ethical values of the company. He became the obvious choice when HLL was establishing its green field Detergents, Personal Products and Beverages factories in Pondicherry, to head HR functions for these new units and provide support to existing Foot Wear and Chemical units besides units acquired through Pond's merger. From 1995 - 2002, Thiru was actively involved in establishing these new units, achieved record productivity levels, introduced TPM, signed productivity linked settlements besides effectively managing the external pressures on the company including land-grab. These units had their own learning curve when young leaders were mis-guided by vested interests and ultimately Thiru could bring them back on track, due to his straight forward, fair and firm and humane approach in handling the people related issues. Even today, after a decade, employees and the union members of HUL, Pondicherry keep sharing their achievement whether they built their own homes or children joining in professional colleges and getting employed in reputed firms. Integrating TOMCO units and Modern Foods and closure of erstwhile Pond's unit were some of the experiences which further sharpened his skill sets. Needless to mention that Thiru got couple of Chairman's awards and promotions during this period. Nearly a decade tenure in HLL, made Thiru transforming from a young Personnel Professional to a all rounder in the sphere of HRM. Thiru claims proudly HLL always stood behind his decisions when it comes to establishing principles and never compromised for short term gains.

Thiru moved to Chennai and joined TVS Electonics as its Head - Employee Relations in 2002 and worked for two years till 2004. Customer orientation, quality focus and welfare orientation were key learning during this stint for Thiru, who never hesitated to sit along with Contract Labour in the canteen, meticulously plan family events, sitting on the floor during meetings or cleaning the toilets on the May day as a mark of respect for the dignity of labour.

During 2004, when Sterlite Industries India Limited advertised for the position of GM-HR for their Copper Smelter at Tuticorin - the inner voice directed Thiru to apply for the same. No doubt after a brief meeting with the consultant at Chennai, Thiru was advised to meet the top brass of Sterlite at Mumbai. The high powered panel met him for an hour or so and Thiru was astonished of the size and scale of projects and investments in the pipe line. He was asked to meet the Vice Chairman, Mr Navin Agarwal on the same day. The Bhagavat Gita which was kept in the VC's table created the right impact and Thiru joined the group and there is no looking back. During 2004 - 2007, Thiru served Sterlite Copper at Tuticorin , started initially as GM-HR and had risen to VP / Sr VP within a short span of time, providing leadership to HR, TQM, PR, Security and Admin, CSR functions. During his tenure Sterlite Copper figured as one of the Top Ten companies in BT survey in HR metrics and several accolades in TQM and CSR at National / International levels, besides local communities including women and youth experienced a "new Sterlite ", impacting their life more positively. The competency based assessment and the global leadership program piloted in the Copper business became the model across group companies.

Thiru moved to Mumbai in 2007 as Head - Corporate HR for Vedanta Group through an internal selection process and became member of the prestigious "Executive Committee "of Vedanta Resources Plc. He was subsequently elevated as President - Group HR, driving strategic HR initiatives such as leadership hiring, revitalizing performance pay schemes, implementing HR score card across group, covering young talents in Vedanta's Long Term Incentive Plans, senior management compensation and brand building at campuses. He also co ordinates Chairman Anil Agarwal's employee workshops which is a unique feature being carried out religiously. He is very keen to improve the diversity at Vedanta and has formulated policies to prefer women professionals, hire young talents from remote locations and minority institutions. One of the group companies, HZL emerged as one among the top three companies in Hewitt's best employer survey in the recent past and Thiru encourages all his group companies to apply for such or similar awards just to get a feel, where we stand and evolve action agenda to where we want to be.

As a global HR head for Vedanta, Thiru provides support to HR counterparts at KCM- Zambia and the Zinc International's facilities in South Africa, Ireland and Namibia besides Sterlite's copper mine in Australia. Post merger integration excites him but he does it quietly influencing the" vital few " and leaving the rest to the operating companies whether it is KCM at Zambia or Sesa Goa in India, Anglo Zinc Assets in South Africa, Ireland and Namibia or the new member of Vedanta family namely the oil and gas vertical - Cairn India Limited.

Being humble and firm where required, always available for the core management team of operating companies to bounce concerns and ideas, ability to connect at all levels, understanding ground realities and providing practicable solutions seems to be the hall mark of Thiru. Aligning the HR function with the company's vision of emerging as the most respected natural resources major is the top most agenda for him and his HR team. Given Vedanta's Chief Anil Agarwal's relentless focus best practices and his renewed thrust on Safety, Governance, Innovation and Technology, the day is not too far for Thiru and his team to rejoice such a moment.

On the personal front, Thiru is a gold medalist of Loyola College, Chennai and is married to M. Poonkuzhali an Electronics and Instrumentation Engineer. The couple recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They are blessed with a only child, A T Kaarthik, who is currently undergoing his MBA - HR (2012-2014 ) at NMIMS, Mumbai, in parallel completing courses in Six Sigma, Competency Framework and a project on Management Capability Index.
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