“Respect And Care Are A Two-Way Street”: Neeraj Balani, Managing Director, International SOS, India

Neeraj Balani is managing director of International SOS, India, a medical and healthcare assistance provider based out of Bengaluru, Mumbai and Noida. With over 20 years of experience in business management and sales management, Mr Balani has worked both in India and the USA. He has built, nurtured and led teams across functions and geographies to deliver superior customers’ experience and financial performance.

Prior to working with International SOS, Mr Balani was vice-president for sales, solution design and implementation in Mahindra Logistics, where he was instrumental in driving the organisational transformation across the above functions since 2015. Before joining Mahindra Logistics, Mr Balani was vice-president and global sales officer (India and the Middle East) of Capgemini, where he was instrumental in driving sales across consulting, technology and outsourcing lines of business across verticals. Mr Balani has also worked with HCL Technologies between 2006 and 2008, where he was responsible for driving ERP business (application and infrastructure) across government and corporate customers in India.

A chemical engineer from University of Mumbai, Mr Balani has done his MBA from University of Georgia, USA. He is based out of Mumbai and enjoys travelling and reading. Highly passionate about sports, the International SOS managing director is also an amateur antique collector, with an interest in collecting Hindi film posters from the 1940s to the 1960s period and one rupee silver coins of India from the 18th century. In an insightful interview with Sharmila Chand, Mr Balani shares his management principles and practices that have helped him succeed in his businesses over the past two decades.


What are the five management mantras according to you?

*Be passionate about what you can learn and what you choose to do.

*Transparency is the best policy.

*Delivering customer experience should be the cornerstone of every employee action in the organisation.

*Respect and care are a two-way street.

*Nurture a hobby. It helps you discover yourself as you set sail to lead and make a difference.


Do you play any game which helps you in your work? What are the lessons the game teaches for life?

I love to play Cricket and Badminton and go for long runs. Sport is a form of meditation which gives one an opportunity to get the body and mind in sync.

Some important lessons from my play which I use every day at work are: Transparent communication drives team alignment, and what happens on the field, stays on the field.


What is the secret of your success?

Throughout my life, my parents have taught me the values of hard work, honesty, hygiene (of the body and the mind) and humility. These foundations are very important for the pursuit of success and happiness.


Please share with us the turning point in your life related to your career.

If I have to speak of one turning point in my career, it will be when I got this opportunity to head International SOS in India. After a career of over 20 years in sales and solutions, the opportunity to lead an organisation with P&L responsibility was enormous. The learning has been immense, and I continue to be challenged every day in lieu of the new normal! The hard work to lead this amazing set of people in India has also been very rewarding. I have grown multifold as a leader in terms of experience. To deliver medical assistance to our customers globally with a team of over 12,000 people present in over 120 countries available 24x7 and who leverage a network of 88,000 hospitals and service providers over an industrial IT platform is literally a miracle. And the blessings we get from our customers when we help protect their employees and dependents cannot be quantified!


What are your favourite books, and why so?

I like reading on a variety of topics. I would like to believe of myself as a rational human being who thinks analytically. Of late, I have enjoyed reading Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0. I am reading up Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture, and I recently read Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus and Sapiens. Reading books helps you form logical perspectives, and in today’s world, which is plagued by infodemic (from various social channels), it is very important that you remain logical in your actions and reactions.


What is your fitness regime, and how do you keep yourself fit?

Since the onset of the pandemic, most of my physical activities have gone for a toss. What helps me are my morning walks and occasional evening playtime with my little daughter.


What message would you like to give on management to youngsters?

Always have an open mind to learn, and look out for the right people who can guide you. There is no place for politics in an organisation’s management. Transparency is the best policy.


Lastly, would you define yourself in one sentence?

A doting father, a loving husband, a caring child, a reliable friend and a learning professional who aspires to make a difference.

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