The HR Speaks team had an opportunity to interview Mr. Karun Prakash, the State HR Head at Reliance Retail Ltd. He is an experienced Human Resource Leader with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications and retail industry. He is highly skilled in making effective HR Policy, attendance & leave, Payroll, selection & recruitment, performance management, team building, employee engagement etc. He is an MBA in Human Resources Management and has proven expertise in working with both established and new organizations.
We started the conversation by asking Karun when he started his journey as an HR professional. He was happy to take this question and revealed that he intended to become a doctor and his mother also had the same dream for him. He studied his 12th in Medical & passed in the first division after studying lengthy science books in English medium, despite having his study background from a hind medium village school. While pursuing his studies, his parents had met an unfortunate accident, and his mother had sustained some serious cervical injury. She was bedridden for a long time, so he had to drop his studies for one year.
After that, he couldn’t continue with his medical studies, so he took up a BA course. After completing his BA, he had done MBA in HR from Sikkim Manipal University through distance education. He opted for the distance mode of learning as he wanted to take care of his mother simultaneously. After seven years from the accident, his mother passed away in 2012. Due to this, his MBA was also not completed. Previously, he was preparing for civil services, and his mother encouraged him to succeed in that exam, but as he lost his mother, he was broken. He did not have any further interest in accomplishing any career goal. Finally, after a while, he decided to look for a job in HR and joined as a Senior Associate at Aparajita Corporate Services Limited, a Compliance Services Company. He was posted in Himachal Pradesh and was responsible for handling the HR operations in the state.
Karun feels that there are a few similarities between the profession of a doctor and an HR professional. In both professions, the professional has to take care of people and play a major role in making them stronger. This is one of the reasons that motivated him to opt for a career in the HR field.
We were really surprised to hear the ups and downs in Karun’s early life, and we are motivated by the way he has struggled so much to find his career path ultimately.
Moving forward, we asked Karun how he manages to strike the right balance between his work & personal life. He replied that he always tries to dedicate the required time to his professional and personal life. While he is at home, on holiday or on leaves, he dedicates most of his time to his family.
When we enquired about Karun’s experiences with diverse roles and his transformative projects, he stated that he has a wide experience in different industries like telecom, hydropower, textile, HR services and Retail – CDIT.
He said that he joined Vivo Smartphone Company in Himachal Pradesh in 2015 and was responsible for this very young organization’s HR & Admin function. He had to start from scratch here as there was nothing, not even a company office. Vivo just started its operations in India, and we had to hire and develop the team, set up different functions, processes, policies and take care of the government compliances. They also had to develop the entire HR infra and put a lot of effort into making the new business run. Karun played a key role in this time and also had to face many challenges as most Indians do not want to join a company of Chinese origin, and also Indians are not keen to purchase a Chinese brand’s products. However, they managed despite all the challenges and got the way out of developing a very strong team. Now, within a passage of just a few years, Vivo has become one of the top-selling smartphone brands in India.
Next, he worked as an HR Manager with Oppo Mobiles for Punjab. In his new role, he had the challenge to make the functioning of the HR department effective and smooth. This role was more focused on training and development, better employee policies and good employee relations. Karun introduced policies like Employee loyalty program, Great Idea Award, Star Performer etc., for employee recognition & participation.
At present, Karun is working with Reliance Retail Ltd. as State HR Head. Also, in this project, they are at the initial startup level regarding Jio mart, and there are several miles to go.
We were also keen on knowing about Karun’s biggest challenges as an HR professional. Karun replied that the biggest challenge he faces is balancing the expectations of employees and the management. Especially, it became even tougher to handle the situation during the COVID times, when there was no business, but they had to take every employee along. Karun said that he had to implement certain tough decisions that impacted the thousands of employees and their families. Karun also revealed that the company had managed to come out of such a tough situation in a good way by managing things in a balanced way without letting any employee lose their income/job. The company also helped the COVID +ve employees to a large extent.
Our next question to Karun was how the pandemic has affected him positively and negatively and how has he decided to cope with the same. Karun replied that there are several good messages from the pandemic. Everybody, including him, understood the significance of spending time with their family as the future was uncertain and being healthy is something that he and several others emphasized. Also, he realized that it is not wise to depend on a single source of income; it is crucial to help each other and respect each other. The world has learnt how to fight with the situation with a never give up attitude in such a tough time. Besides all these learnings, Karun was unhappy about so many people losing their lives and the economic activities getting severely affected during the pandemic.
Before we conclude the discussion, we were keen to know Karun’s personal stories or vivid experiences that he wanted to share with us to inspire or motivate our readers, especially those who are part of the HR industry. Karun was happy to take this question and said that life is a great journey that is full of challenges. He prioritizes this in mind always to move on anyway. He always feels that he should be a good human being first and everything comes later. Similarly, an HR career is full of challenges that professionals need to face to move forward. For a true HR leader, it is very crucial to be a good human, which, in turn, is a prerequisite for understanding other people’s minds in a better manner.
Karun added that he had faced several odds in his life. He was a Hindi medium student from a village and was not good at English when he started his career. He aspired to become a doctor and studied several lengthy English books. His mother met a terrible accident and was bedridden for seven long years. He had to leave his Medical studies and did not join college for one year. After that gap of one year, that college refused him admission as he could not make the required attendance. He chose to study from home, and he had done his MBA through Correspondence.
The irony was that after 4-5 years when he visited the same University (where he was denied admission) for a placement drive interviewing MBA MT, the University authorities were honoring him.
So, Karun wants to bring out this message that people should always keep their efforts on. If one way is not working, it is wise to find other options. He also feels that believing in God and the blessings of your parents will bring a lot of confidence in you.
Hoping you enjoyed reading Karun Prakash’s interesting story. We will be back with another interesting story of a path-breaking HR professional soon. You can write to us with your views, feedback and queries in the comment box below.