BS Shantharaju, CEO of Indus Towers Limited

B. S Shantharaju, Ex-CEO, Indus Towers Ltd

In this episode, Ashutosh Garg engages in a conversation with B. S Shantharaju, Ex-CEO, Indus Towers Ltd. Shantharaju, an alumnus of London Business School,  is a qualified accountant and a senior professional.



“Authenticity is really important. Don’t wear a façade.”- B. S Shantharaju

In this episode, Ashutosh Garg engages in a conversation with B. S Shantharaju, Ex-CEO, Indus Towers Ltd. Shantharaju, an alumnus of London Business School,  is a qualified accountant and a senior professional.

  1. S Shantharaju’s inspirational life story has been inspiring people and would inspire generations to come. He tells the story of how he started his career as a porter boy in a vegetable market at the age of 12 and how he became the CEO of a highly successful company. He talks about the three key milestones in his life.

“I failed in 9th standard”, he says with a smile. He shares the most important qualities a CEO should have. “As long as your intentions are right, the people around will forget about your weaknesses and work along with you”- he comments.

Shantharaju defines his leadership style and methods. He shares what he looks for while hiring an employee. He defines success in a peculiar way. Before concluding, the self-made corporate virtuoso leaves a treasure for the viewers- he gives invaluable insights for aspiring entrepreneurs.


I am a qualified accountant and MBA, alumni of London Business School. I have 37 years of experience comprising 9 years as CFO of Blue Chip Listed MNC SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals and 17 years as CEO for four diverse set of companies, namely Country Head of Bangladesh for SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, MD of listed company Gujarat Gas Company Limited (majority controlled by then British Gas), CEO of Delhi International Airports Limited (GMR Owned) and last 7 years as CEO of Indus Towers Limited, the world’s largest telecom tower company owned by Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and IDEA. Growth Focussed Strategy – Both as CFO and CEO, my focus is always to grow business both organically and inorganically. I led some brand acquisitions like Augmentine and Crocin (both are Market Leaders in their Category), involved in buying Hydrocarbon asset for US$350 mn, completed acquisition of Bangladesh business, etc. Organically, major growths have been spearheaded for SB in Bangladesh (new brand launches and focus on key brands) Gujarat Gas (Volume led and new verticals), Delhi Airports (Retail led) and Indus Towers (more towers and more tenants on the same towers). All the businesses added tremendous shareholder value during my tenure in excess of higher teens CAGR both in profit and shareholder value. Indus Towers is valued in excess of US$15 Billion.

Culture Focus – My Focus is always to build culture – Core Purpose, Core Values and Vision. My belief is Culture transforms Company into an an enduring Institution. The Culture should bring a strong alignment of three pillars of organisation – Employees, Customers and Business Partners. The major measurements are Engagement Scores. Indus has been amongst Gallup’s Worldwide Best Place to Work awardees, becoming the youngest company in the world to win this award ( 6 years old), and only second company of Indian Origin to have been awarded for three successive years other being Taj Hotels. Customer Satisfaction score is 91 on 100 points (100th percentile) amongst B2B operators and Business Partners Engagement score 4.7 on 5 scale. Delhi Airport ranked amongst top airports in the world in its category and 4th amongst all categories. GGCL also scored high on these cultural index.

Build Team – I have an immense satisfaction of creating career for people. My pride stems from the fact that there are 14 CEOs in various companies who worked for me at some point of times. I always had successor when I stepped down as CFO and CEO in all 4 organisations. At Indus, more than 75% of 42 key executives are with the company for more than 6 years and almost all of them were recruited by me. Focus on Process – Both as Career CFO and CEO, I ensured the organisation is built on strong processes which include Daily Work Management, Financial Processes, Business Processes, Customer Facing Processes, Innovation Management,etc. Indus Towers is on its way for Deming Award and already has undergone an assessment by the committee. Realistically, it may get Deming in next 2 years. Delhi Airport and Indus Towers have one of the best automated process by industry standard. Governance Standard – I am part of Audit Committees and Board since 1992 for the best of MNCs and well managed companies. I have also managed many JVs since 1995. I strongly believe in the governance standard.

My Future Plan – I would like to bring my experience in Advisory Capacity to PEs, and work with CEOs & their teams to build strong businesses in which PEs have invested. I would like to make these Key Executives successful so that their businesses are successful and sustainable. I would like to be on a few Boards and Advisory Boards of the reputed companies who believe in strong Governance Standard.

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