White Ladder Consulting: Service with pride, lead with confidence, inspire to impact others
The Roman playwright of the Old Latin period, Plautus said ‘No man is wise enough by himself.’ Everyone be it in a business or personal life, needs the advice from some astucious friend or professional to deal with the affairs of life or business. Undoubtedly consulting as a profession is not a new phenomenon. Biblical Kings had their prophets and Greeks had Oracles. Consulting began with its developments when management appeared as a unique field of enterprise in the late 19th Century, subsequent to the Industrial Revolution. In the last decade of the twentieth century, factors like a strong global economy, increasing computing power, penetration of emerging markets, privatization, globalization, and the new Information Technology Consulting practice effloresce the consulting industry into a dynamic and growing sector.
Inception, Outreach, and Offerings
An amalgamation of the efforts employed by Viraj Kalra and Luv Jasuja resulted in the establishment of White Ladder Consulting in 2011. ‘People’ & ‘Culture’ are at the heart of organization and brand success has been the belief of both its co-founders. They witnessed many of their clients challenged on this account which resulted in both of them coming together.
Currently, White Ladder is 27 employees strong and a consortium of 50+ coaches, trainers, strategy, research, project, and client servicing specialists based out of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Singapore, Dubai and across the globe. The firm provides a gamut of services to its clients – Soft skills & behavioral skills training, Leadership Coaching, End-to-end development and management of Offsites & Corporate retreats, Brand Strategy, HR Strategy & Organization Development, Change Management, Culture Building, including EVP, Values, Vision & Mission, Employee Engagement, Innovation Capability & Capacity services.
We caught up with Viraj (Co-founder) of White Ladder over a conversation. Edited excerpts.
Parameters of success and its secret ingredient
I am reminded of an incident when the CEO of a client brand asked me to conduct a 1-day ‘executive excellence’ workshop at an offsite in Dubai. When asked about the reference, he replied that we had met 15 years ago at a workshop I had conducted for another client organization, and he (then) was an intern with them, and he was part of that workshop. He added that learnings from that workshop have stayed with him all through his professional journey from intern to CEO. For me personally, such instances are the true measure of success, when a 1-day training/workshop/ keynote causes not just an initial euphoria but a lasting impact.
Working through Existential crisis and views on leadership
As an earthling, I believe it is our responsibility to positively impact our next generation such that they become better inhabitants of the planet than us. I am cognizant of the fact that I have very limited time to make this impact, hence, ‘so much to do and so little time’ is the motivating factor that gives me a sense of purpose that is larger than just self-serving.
As an organization, we try to align our decisions with our values and vision. So long as we prioritize that, all else will fall in place in the medium-long run.
I coach a lot of youngsters – my own employees as well as first-time-leaders, hi-pots and young leaders who are full of energy, have enigmatic ideas and confidence in abundance to find their own style of leadership. I prefer servant leadership and democratic leadership while trying my best to consciously add directional, emotional, developmental, transformational, strategic, knowledge, skill, insight, support – value with all my professional as well as personal stakeholders.
There is always scope for improvement (as a leader) and my current strive is in trying to find a balance between logic and emotion. Apart from that, I am trying to be more disciplined (more self-control) overall and less diplomatic in my interpersonal equations.
A typical day
I travel on assignments 150 days of the year; therefore, I don’t have an atypical itinerary that describes my ‘usual’ day. Having said that, I try to make sure that I run for 5 KM in the outdoors, complete 50-60 pages of the book I am reading at that point in time, and tuck my nine-year-old son Veer with a bed-time story. So, the dichotomy is that on the one hand I am trying to discipline myself to develop a certain consistency, on the other hand the element of an unexpected challenge excites me.
Changes brought to the organization
I coach leaders that how by focusing more on the development and less on delivery will automatically make delivery of a higher standard. So, even at White Ladder we are consciously building a culture of ‘EQ driven leadership at all levels’ and an emotionally intelligent organization with emotionally intelligent professionals. I believe this has brought an overall improvement in the positive impact we are creating in the marketplace.
Strength and weakness
Being highly aware and sensitive of the said & unsaid intentions, motivations, perceptions, mindset and belief systems of people helps me become much more relevant in offering very highly contextual solutions as a coach, trainer, and consultant but also in being more forgiving, patient, adaptive and collaborative in my approach and behavior.
I am not very ROI oriented. I often devote way more bandwidth than the situation, assignment, project or the person expects or deserves. My business-partner Luv keeps check on this ‘giving’ attitude of mine as it works in the long run but it may often in the short-run it may not equate as favorable ROI.
Favorite threes and Auto-biography
My three current favorite books are The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck (Mark Manson), Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari), Born to run (Christopher McDougall).
My favorite places on the globe are Hardangerfjord (Norway), Maldives and San Francisco.
I would name my autobiography, ‘Learner for life.’
Prior to entering the entrepreneurial waters, Viraj started his professional journey in 1997 as a PR executive in a leading PR agency while pursuing graduation. In a matter of three years, he rose to the height of heading the agency’s ‘media insights’ division which gave him a promising start. His stint with a Japanese Fortune 500 company honed his skills for building and leading Greenfield projects while working on the launch of a first-time TPA service aimed at the auto sector. Post his MBA (Marketing & HR) he worked ten straight years for a multi-faceted group, where as a core member he developed, and led global start-ups in higher-education, media, motion pictures, ITES, consulting and training and learned brand-building & entrepreneurship. So, when he co-founded White Ladder (in 2011) he already had 15+ years of pan-India and global strong consulting, brand, HR, training, media, entrepreneurial and Greenfield experience at hand.
A piece of advice for the budding entrepreneurs and future plans
Let your personal and organizational values guide your decisions. Be the server and not the leader in order to be a good leader – encourage, enable, empower, communicate, coach, mentor and facilitate. Take risks, experiment and allow your people to do the same – don’t become a slave to a rhythm, routine, and a zone – push the limits, challenge yourself and motivate your team to do the same.
Our immediate next agenda is to launch our ‘digital micro-learning platform.’ Due to the diminishing attention spans of young adults, it is pertinent to make learning bite-sized, engaging, interactive and accessible at will. We are aggressively populating our digital content library and actively seeking partners for this venture. Also, over and above engaging with our Fortune 500 variety of clients, a deeper engagement with SMEs and start-ups is on the cards this year.