RAJESH NELLORE is proud of his multi-culturalism. The native of India has lived in eight countries - India, Africa, the UK, the USA, Sweden, France, Belgium and, currently, Italy.
In his new job, Nellore heads Fiat Auto's alternative fuel vehicles platform team. Until recently he was director of telematics and in-car entertainment at Fiat.
He's just 32, but Nellore has already been a project leader at Saab; a procurement manager at Scania; and a purchasing manager at General Motors in the USA. After GM he moved to the Swedish appliance maker Electrolux as head of all e-business activities.
Nellore is also an avid writer on management topics. His work has appeared in 26 different publications.
In late 2000, Nellore was lured to Fiat to head the telematics team. He was recently given his alternative fuel vehicles assignment. He doesn't expect to stop there.
Name: Rajesh Nellore.
Title: Director, alternative fuel vehicles platform, Fiat Auto.
Previous job: Director, telematics and in-car entertainment, Fiat Auto.
Lives in: Turin, but I have a flat in London. Everyone needs a base and mine is London.
Languages: English, Swedish, Italian and four Indian languages.
Education: Bachelors degree in electronics engineering from Bangelore University in India; MBA from the University of Wales; and a doctorate from the University of Newcastle in product development. The doctorate was sponsored by Saab.
First car: Audi A6.
What CDs are in your car? Various, but I like Neil Diamond and Roy Orbison.
What's your favorite food? Vegetarian.
Favorite movie? The Shawshank Redemption. It has lessons for the industry. A guy going up the ladder goes to prison for murder and has to learn how to get along with criminals. I'm not saying the auto industry is made up of criminals, but the ability to make people your friends even though they are not - that's something we all need to learn. Sometimes you might not like a person, but why show it?
Favorite hero in fiction? Sherlock Holmes.
First job in the car business: Assistant project leader at Saab. I was responsible for the new ignition key project, which involved developing both the mechanical and the electronic part of the key for the Saab 9-5.
How much do you work? Thirteen or 14 hours a day.
Weekends? I work every other weekend.
What is the most fun you had lately that had nothing to do with your job?
Publishing my book, which came out in April. It's called Managing Buyer-Supplier Relations: The Winning Edge to Specification Management.
How do you find time to write books?
Weekends and nights. It's the same kind of discipline needed to learn a language. You have to force yourself to do something if you really want to do it.
If you could work in another industry, what would it be?
Aerospace. The complexity of product development is much higher. The challenge would be doubled. But that's not what I want to do.
Why did you get into the car business?
I didn't want to remain an academic. You need to dirty your hands.
Saab sponsored your doctorate, so you took classes in a Swedish university, worked at Saab and learned Swedish all at the same time. How
Learning the language was very difficult. I didn't speak a word of Swedish. I had to learn it in about a year. I took one course, but mostly I learned from the people who worked for me.
How important is it to be multi-cultural?
It is essential. The car doesn't appeal to a particular culture, it appeals to all cultures. If you are not multi-cultural you are not going to make a car that will sell. And you need to manage people who come from different backgrounds.
How is working at Fiat different from Saab?
The way priorities are set and decisions are made - very different. I better not say more.
Aren't all auto companies pretty much the same?
No. Each company is very culturally oriented. That is very apparent in the vehicle styling, in the way the job is done, in the decision-making structure. Everything is different.
What's your idea of perfect happiness?
A perfect balance between personal life and business life - which I don't have.
I have dedicated myself to my job - not only to my specific job today, but toward a job that would lead into the future.
What's your ambition?
In the immediate future, to head product development. To make exciting cars that customers want to buy.
Are you a car guy?
No, but I like the industry. I don't think it's important to be a car guy because you manage in one industry the way you manage in another.
What trait do you most deplore in yourself?
I have no patience. I need everything done instantaneously. Sometimes it's not possible.
What trait do you most dislike in others?
Inability to make decisions.
What word do you overuse?
Deliver. I'm always telling people to deliver.
What's your greatest fear?
Not achieving my objective of leading product development one day.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I'd love to be able to draw. You see styling guys in different companies sitting in meetings and drawing cars. But the consumer might have a
completely different perspective. Otherwise all the cars made today would sell. The ability to draw and visualize instead of having somebody else visualize for you would be nice.
Who do you admire?
Jac Nasser [former Ford CEO], but now that he is gone I don't know. Maybe some of his things failed, but I really thought that he had done a great job.
Who do you admire most outside the auto business?
Michael Treshchow, the ex-head of Electrolux, who is the current chairman of Ericsson.
How do you manage people who are so much older than you?
It's not difficult if you show you can deliver. The important thing is the ability to drive management by favor, because most times people aren't under your direct control. You need to convince people.
A person not directly working for you might have 10 priorities. Your ability to convince him to do your job before the other nine is management by favor. You have to show that he'll be known and recognized for what he does.
Do you expect to lead a car company someday?
My immediate ambition is to be head of product development. The long-term ambition would be to lead all the functions, whatever the title. The ability to integrate all the different functions - that's what I'd like.