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CEOs must pick teams with the right skill sets: KPMG India CEO


Arun M Kumar, 64, chairman & CEO of KPMG India, has had a chequered career. He co-founded three tech ventures in Silicon Valley and mentored many more. He led the trade and investment efforts of the Obama administration in the US as its assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the US and foreign commercial service. An expert in finance, he has worked to advance business practices in financial management. He has also authored Plain Truths, a book of poetry, and co-edited another, Kerala’s Economy: Crouching Tiger, Sacred Cows. The global consultancy firm is banking on his diverse experience to take its business in India forward. In an interview with Forbes India, he talks about Indian companies, its CEOs and what KPMG’s annual Global CEO Outlook survey has thrown up this time around. Edited excerpts:

Q. You’ve been here for four months. How do you see Indian CEOs and corporations faring in the current environment?
In the last four months, I’ve had a chance to meet a number of [Indian] CEOs and I am impressed by their global outlook and fluency. That’s been a reconfirmation of my previous impressions. When I was in the US government, I was quite involved with the US-India CEO forums and had a chance to meet many CEOs and was constantly impressed by how thoughtful they were of matters relating to India and the world at large. The survey, in some sense, confirms some of these things with really good data. You see that CEOs in India are quite cognisant of the geopolitical issues in the world today, more than they were in the past. That could lead to some interesting new trends.

Q. One thing which strikes us in the survey is that the threat from innovation still seems to be a bit lower down in the list of perceived threats for Indian CEOs. It’s an innovation-driven world today. Do you think that’s a little out of sync with what’s happening these days?
If you look at innovation and the customer and put those two things together and see them as a source of disruption, they [the CEOs] see that as quite important. In fact, I thought a big theme of it is awareness of disruption—from the customer, whether it is ecommerce, the millennials or things of that kind.

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