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Lift Off – Transforming Conzerv

Hema Hattangady shares her life’s journey on Lumiere Learning Monday. She is a Mentor, Author, Independent Director, and Former CEO of Conzerv systems Pvt. Ltd., acquired by Schneider Electric. Hema has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management PGDM from the premier Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata. She also has a post-graduate diploma in French from Karnataka University. She has co-authored a book with Ashish Sen titled Lift Off – Transforming Conzerv.

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

Milton Berle

Turning Points

Hema shares three specific turning points in her journey in building the most significant energy management company in our country.

Culture Shift – The First Turning Point

At 13, Hema’s father retired from his Government job in Delhi, and the family shifted to Dharwad. She had to leave behind her city lifestyle, friends, and school and move to small-town life. Hema excelled in eighth, ninth, and tenth grades and got into the habit of winning in academics.

Grief – The Second Turning Point

Hema’s father passed away when she was 20. She was away in a hostel studying for her final year of BCom. Friends, family, and professors encouraged her to move on and focus on her studies. She was angry when her Principal advised her to concentrate on her studies and forget her grief, but the outcome was remarkable. She excelled at academics, which helped her come out of the bereavement phase.

Staying back – The Third Turning Point

After her graduation, Hema Benegal married a family friend from Delhi, Ashok Hattangady. After marriage, Ashok left for the University of Texas in Austin, US, to complete his Master’s. Hema could not accompany him because of visa issues. Her in-laws encouraged her to pursue an MBA in India, and she got admission to IIM Kolkata. 

The Conzerv Journey

Hema worked in an advertising agency before joining her husband’s family business. She did not directly jump to a management position. When there were disputes with the Company’s marketing partner, Hema, took a stand, fired by a sense of fair play. With the termination of the partnership, Hema assumed responsibility for sales and marketing. She studied all about their engineering products, a new subject to her. Hema displayed grit in standing up to mocking retailers who were unwilling to trust a non-engineer. Mr. T. Thomas, “guardian angel to the family,” ex-Chairman of Hindustan Unilever, invested in their company.  He saw potential, and in the next year, Ashok Hattangady was named the Managing Director of the Company. Ashok instead was interested in research and suggested Hema become CEO of Conzerv. 

Hema and Ashok

Becoming an Author

T. Thomas suggested that Hema write a book on the Conserv turnaround and acquisition. The Conzerv story is a case study at Harvard and Babson College, but people in India were not aware of it. Her friend urged her to write the book. Hema finally co-authored it with Ashish Sen. Hema is in the process of making a film based on the book.

While writing her second book on women leaders, Hema’s interests involve philanthropy and impact investing. She mentors young people and advises start-ups in the energy efficiency sector, teaming up with Ashok’s husband. 

Hema advises, “when you feel that things are not going as planned, understand the situation, change your perspective, and find new ways to deal with them. Any conversation or incident can inspire you to change or provide different perspectives.”

A few lessons:

  1. Make your brand your own if you want to make your brand successful and sustainable; 
  2. Always be thoroughly prepared and aware of the business or work you do; and 
  3. A mentor is crucial because they have more experience and knowledge – get a mentor!
Hema with her co-author, Ashish Sen

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