Newly appointed president and CEO of MDI Novare Maulik Parekh delivered a keynote speech titled “Sent to Teach. Stayed to Learn” to share some of the valuable lessons he learned from other CEOs and mentors during his stay in the Philippines at the Asia CEO Awards recently held at the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay City.
For more than a decade, the Asia CEO Awards has been the largest business awards event in the Philippines and one of the largest events of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia CEO Awards aims to promote the Philippines as the premier business destination for global enterprises.
A previous Asia CEO Awards winner, Parekh was the recipient of the Jones Lang LaSalle Expatriate Executive of the Year award at the Asia CEO Awards 2011 for his contributions as the CEO of IT company SPi Global Solutions (currently known as Straive). Parekh is the keynote speaker of the Asia CEO Awards 2022.
Leading with ‘malasakit’
Parekh started his speech by looking back at when he first arrived in the country as TeleTech Executive Vice President for Asia in 2006.
“I was a bit full of myself,” he said. “My bosses at TeleTech sent me to the Philippines to teach the local team. Starting day one, I wasted no time showing them how much I knew and describing in detail what they needed to do.”
In the following weeks, however, Parekh realized that local team members were not following his directions despite agreeing with him up front, with some of them actually doing the opposite. “The more I push, the more they resist,” he added.
“So I knew I was in trouble. Then I started to get a local perspective from the only Filipino leader whom I knew back then–Rose Montenegro (incumbent president and CEO of the Makati Medical Center). I told her my concern and she said, “you are no longer in the Philippines; your team members want to know how much you care about them first before they hear how much you know. You have to open your heart to your team members before they open their minds to you.'”
Montenegro then introduced Parekh to the Filipino term “malasakit”, which has become one of his favorite local words. “If you lead with ‘malasakit’, your team will move mountains for you,” Montenegro told him.
Since then, “malasakit” has been the foundational value of TeleTech and the resisting team started to show support. Eventually, between 2006 and 2009, TeleTech grew from 6,000 to 22,000 employees.
Embracing the spirit of ‘bayanihan’
Parekh eventually left TeleTech and went to various countries in Asia for a vacation. During that time, a recruiter representing Manny Pangilinan invited Parekh to join as the CEO of SPi Global Solutions. Parekh cut his vacation short, returned to the Philippines, and accepted the job offer.
“MVP taught me my second big lesson in the country,” Parekh continued. “Before I came to the Philippines, I lived in the United States for 14 years, and in all my professional career, I had only worked for companies where individual achievements are valued more than team achievements.”
“When I moved to the MVP Group of Companies, I started focusing only on my little empire that was SPi and did not take any time or effort to get to know any of my peers within the group. In a group that promotes harmony, camaraderie, and teamwork, I stood out as a sore thumb and my peers often noticed. I was eventually called to the principal’s office.”
At that time, Parekh was expecting a sandwich method, wherein his superior would start giving positive feedback, followed by a long monologue about his negative side, and end the session with suggestions on what should be done to improve.
“I was expecting an hour-long meeting session but that did not happen. While my boss was busy reviewing and signing a pile of documents, he finally stopped, looked up at me, and said straight to the point, ‘Maulik, do not be an island.’ MVP did not say anything on top of that after a few seconds of awkward silence. He then pressed the buzzer for the next visitor2, and I knew he had already delivered his message to me,” Parekh narrated.
Parekh tried to decode what Pangilinan said until a colleague told him that the boss wanted him to embrace one of the most important values among Filipinos, which is “bayanihan”, to support, collaborate, and partner with peers and other senior executives in the group. “The boss wants you to be there when they need your help and you seek out their help when you need it,” Parekh continued.
For the next few months, Parekh focused on getting to know all of the key executives and powerful, influential people in the group like Ray Espinosa (President & CEO of Meralco), Al Panlilio (President & CEO of PLDT), Anabelle Lim-Chua (CFO of PLDT), and many others in the group. “These folks began to become ardent supporters and champions of SPi Global, giving us so much business that we were able to grow rapidly. In return, SPi Global delivered stellar performance to the group and helped in transforming customer experience.”
“’Malasakit’ and ‘bayanihan’. Let us infuse these two timeless Filipino values in our boardrooms, meeting halls, Zoom calls, and Google Meet sessions. If we do that, without a doubt, the Philippines will continue to become the real deal,” Parekh concluded.