What can Corporate learn from the Army Navy & the Airforce.

In present times we cannot but help notice a strong presence of qualified and competent Services officers in key positions in the business world. It is not the paper qualifications alone but perhaps a lot more that the corporate have begun to acknowledge. Do you agree? If yes then what exactly are the value-adds that the ex-serviceman can provide?


About dilipnaidu

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

23 responses »

  1. dilipnaidu says:

    Manik. Your analysis is very insightful and comprehensive. The equation between corporate and the defense is articulated so well. Thank you for your response.


  2. Manik Garg says:

    Hello Sir,
    The point put forward in fact brings lots of thoughts to my mind. Being from Merchant Navy background I may not be much equipped to capture the thoughts of defense personnel but still what I feel the self confidence which this segment has is incomparable. Going to the battle field, facing the life-death situation, the attitude, the training, the discipline, an officer’s mindset (thinking all plausible situations), an attitude of just “Go n win it” is recommendable. What the Corporates want? They want the bottom line. All the actions converge to that. To achieve that they want a positive energy in the system, a balanced and cost effective process in place. What do the defense personnel do when they are on borders and have limited bunkers and sometimes no meals, they manage, that’s what the corporates do, they manage their costs, manage their vendors, their customer segment etc.To manage the limited capital that the corporates have, they plan their thoughts and design their vision, their mission and objectives and rest all the things flow into that. The segment is trained for that and is used to fight back in times of crisis. Just see the economic turmoil which happened right now, only the best and planned systems remained. Banks like Barclays, Cholamandalam had done away with their unsecured portfolio and squeezed (being defensive). Again like a chess game where sometimes u have to attack and sometimes defend. The main target is to save the king (Country in case of Defense, Company in case of Corporates) and u have to plan ur moves to fight the battle out. Isn’t it a battle mechanism? All these things highly correlate to each other.
    Today in Corporates we are taking of FCF and EVA. Again comes the utility of economic efficiency. The attitude of corporates to reduce waste and increase cash flows. But how to reduce wastes? Is it by downsizing? No. This adds to another economic crisis of unemployment. A Mother (Country) never says to her child (Defense Personnel), you go out of the house (Services) when he is earning (Battle) nothing. Instead they invest in the training to groom his latent talent and the FCF is promised. Then how to enhance EVA? Multiskilling, Cross-Selling, Proper allocation of the costs/Manpower are the probable answers to this. Are these employees’ assets or liabilities for the organization? Re-defining business model (strategy formulation), re-visit the target customer segment, review of mission statement in times of crisis, pricing policy, observe for delinquent debtors etc are the mechanisms which will enhance FCF and EVA. This is also fight back attitude (Defense Personnel). But why just to fire. It’s the easiest option available. This is my recommendation for the corporates that they can learn from the Defense Services.


  3. dilipnaidu says:

    Hi Praveen … thank you so much for your response…I have read your reply with great interest and it truly is very insightful & knowledgeable … you have brought up issues that are highly relevant … it took me back to the time when I made an entry into the consultancy & academic world and through them to the corporate .. one of our brother officers Nikhi Diwanji suggested that in view of the number & quality of comments received on this topic an article could be written .. I am inspired & encouraged by his suggestion and aim to attempt this … I may need to respectfully solicit views from thinkers like you and also our other wonderful friends whose names appear on this blog … regards … Dilip


  4. Capt Praveen Dahiya says:

    Dear Sir

    Once we have landed in the corporate, our service in the defence forces and the rank which we carry with ourselves is considered as a “brand”.

    When consumers select a brand, they select it based on the supposed value it offers them.

    “Brand equity” is influenced over time by more than just the manufacturers and marketers; others in the distribution chain also impact this perception of value, not least the end users’ exposure to the brand.

    A strong brand often (but not always) makes for a low risk purchase. A consumer deluged with alternatives, spares much individual research and experimentation by relying on a proven brand.

    Human Resources professionals and hiring managers are not exceptions. An HR manager with 500 résumés and one open position will also rely on brands as a short cut to a decision.


    Having Capt, Col or Brig before your name means little to an HR manger lacking sufficient “brand awareness” to understand these acronyms. Most HR managers are not so informed of what we do in the forces and what all we go through while in the service, thus they resort to their existing understanding of well known brands. “MBAs,CAs,Analysists etc etc…” These brands suggest core competencies which minimize risk for HR and hiring managers when screening the applicants.


    For an HR manager, there is a measure of objectivity in a defence brand. A person with a Capt before his name has a minimum of five years in the managerial position ( As a leader not just follower), some basic professional degrees or training and has earned a college degree. When taking the exam, during the training and his entire service, no résumés and references accompanies a defence personnel. They are either able to accomplish the task or fail.

    Knowing this about the defence personnel brand is a useful short cut in evaluating the experience of an applicant.


    The influence of DGR’s( Directorate General of Resettlement) efforts for its defence personnel (brands) appears to be limited in some context.

    A steady consumer base is sustained by marketing to existing consumers. However, this is not always the best way for a company to expand market share or substantially increase revenue.

    To improve value to its stockholders, a company might appeal to new markets, or consider related acquisitions.

    DGR can do this by marketing its brands not only to those in the operations industry, but also to those who require its services; and by partnering with organizations that can benefit from its several brands.

    Is DGR marketing directly to HR personnel and recruiters? Is DGR effectively making the case for the increased qualifications and hiring due diligence associated with selecting its brands from an applicant pool?

    Whether DGR has been successful in demonstrating this to a wider audience is less certain. In my view, I have not noticed an appreciable increase in the number of job postings listing the defence personnel as a prerequisite; nor are there many Requests for Proposals which specify one or more of these designations as a requirement.

    This will not only help the defence personnel but might motivate more and more people to pursue these acrreditions ( Defence personnel) if HR and recruiting professionals screened for them more often. DGR should consider marketing more aggressively to these professionals bringing some change in its existing strategy.


    Capt Praveen Dahiya



    Very good suggestions and comments have come. I request you to publish it as an article in a leading newspaper or magazine. The article will help our brotheren who are planning to play second innings in getting a befitting job.
    Happy Sankranti


  6. Dilip Naidu says:

    The Brig has highlighted the Services cherished values as also their weaknesses in a forthright manner. Amrita while not pulling any punches has called a spade a spade. The Service officer on several occasion does get labeled as an administrator. Yet they do a dedicated and great job of it. What intangibles the corporate can learn from the Services comes out loudly & clearly with the fall of Satyam. Such cases indicate a lack of corporate governance and disregard to values & ethics. Thus our IT industry will stand to lose heavily on credibility. India too as a nation loses its competitive advantage to competing nations like China. But a ray of hope still exists with good examples of companies such Wipro, Infosys, Tata, MindTree consulting and some others. Thanks Brig Nawab & to you Amrita for your thought provoking contribution.


  7. Amrita Kaur Chaturvedi says:

    It is very unfortunate that the corporate sector is not being able to take the best out of us!! They generally limit defense officers to Security & Admin roles!! Trust me, seeing most of the seniors guys around in the corporate, many of us are much more capable. What corporate can learn from us besides the ones mentioned above are ;_
    1. Importance of time…. and timely, quick & correct decision
    2. The culture of under and over study to nurture the young professional
    3. for the leader to lead form front!! – take ownership & responsibilities of their team member’s actions
    4. Verbal Commitment –
    5. Less political..
    the sense of belonging is missing here… like we have strong regimentation in defense… that culture of being one big family & trust seems to be missing or fake.. Notwithstanding that there are certain gud practices that we can implement in defense too..

    I know I may be sounding too rude and would have offended some.. My apologies for the same but these are my thoughts & experience so far – two generations in the defense vs.. corporate…!!



    1. Having served with a MNC after retirement from Army,I can say very confidently that our Army background contributed to Corporate in the following ways.
    A. Very high level of ethics which places ex soldiers apart.
    B. Task given is task done.No check back required.
    C. Hard work and resiliance for sustained hard work without
    D. Honest to the core.
    E. Adjusts seamlessly.
    F. Loyalty without question.
    G. Care for peers and seniors.
    H. Always cheerful.
    Weak Points.
    A. Lacks tact and hypocracy.
    B. Not very calculative in costing and economics.
    C. Hates corruption and liers.


    Brig Nawab Singh
    Ex DGM- Admin,Security,PR,CSR,HR,Liaison. Suzlon wind enegy ltd.


  9. dilipnaidu says:

    Good one Nikhil! What you have rightly highlighted the core attributes of our life in the services the culture, the values philosophies, the espirit de corps (as mentioned in my blog by one of our colleague’s on emotional intelligence) and also our interest in sports & the out-doors. All these give us a very high degree of tenacity and fearlessness i.e., a very high EI. This is exactly what the Corporate would love to imbibe. Thanks a lot for posting my blog I feel honored. Regards.



    Dear Sirs,
    The discussion has reached an interesting crescendo. We have lot of positive dimensions which instill a confidence in self and our team mates in the corporate world.
    Positive hierarchy and going by the norms and amending the set patterns to achieve goals.
    Creativity is one aspect which we develop whether it is planning for operations or organising raising days . or operational / ceremonial functions.
    Man management which slightly differs from human resource management , which results in positive synergy in the system …. the know your men principle. Motivation without promising financial benefits or promotions based on NAAM NAMAK NISHAN.
    Adaptability and seamless take over of responsibilities … we are used to take over a new appointment with different set of rules and responsibilities in four working days .
    Multi tasking abilities, quest for learning, coordination and communication skills ,eye for the minutest detail , handling multiple roles and responsibilities especially officers of my generation and later ones who have braved through the officer crunch .
    Competitive spirit with good sportsman spirit and striving to excel and win which we develop while in service when we as coy cdrs compete with other coys but at the end of day share the same meal in officers mess is also remarkable
    Honest straight forward responses are appreciated by chosen few in the corporate world but people who appreciate finally stand by you , though learning little bit of diplomacy will help us in long way .
    Financial prudence and working cost in terms of $$$ Rs Rs Rs is one major aspect we lack and needs to be inculcated and improved .


  11. Dilip Naidu says:

    Dilip Naidu
    Visiting Faculty at Tasmac, Prifysgol Cymru The University of Wales UK

    Hello Vineet … please excuse the slight delay in responding …you are quite right that unless we learn to quantify gains & losses in all aspects of our work no one’s gonna hear you … the HR people you will agree have been trying so hard to do just this … and have made encouraging progress though they stll have a long way to go … e.g., morale, satisfaction, training and the like are now measured & quantified easily … but the finer elements such as values, ethics, beliefs & organization culture may not be amenable to quantification … though they have a very important role in org effectiveness as also in profitability … it’s nice that you brought up this issue and invoked a debate …. thanks


  12. Dilip Naidu says:

    13. Vineet Singh
    Program Manager at CompuCom Systems
    Hi Dilip – Venkat brings out a great point in “Number Phobia”.
    1. We have been trained to have a 1:3 ratio to capture a feature, How we achieve that 3 times superiority could be in sheer numbers in human capital or by innovative use of technology available or a combination of both. NUMBERS
    2. We have all been responsible at some stage for sourcing & accounting (QM/CSD etc). We have all been hardpressed to do more with less (Too many requirements > too little manpower/resources available), we have worked to keep the fleet and equipment in ready state. NUMBERS
    I know for sure we could do this by developing efficiencies. NUMBERS
    Only if we are able to translate all the above learnings into a tangible $$$ gain we are gold.
    I think changing our accounting practices from eligility in quantities to monetary terms could be a game changer, which will force all of us and the generations still in uniform to think in $$$.
    We have inherent core competencies, its just the matter of relating it all to finances.


  13. Dilip Naidu says:

    Dilip Naidu
    Visiting Faculty at Tasmac, Prifysgol Cymru The University of Wales UK

    Ha Ha Venkat you certainly have put your finger where it hurts most! “The numbers phobia” yes many do shy away from numbers and as one General once said “You guys I don’t need any ‘airy phery answers’. I guess that means that we revel in ambiguity & self praise as our other learned commentators have so nicely highlighted. But Venkat the softer issues do matter a lot especially in the knowledge economy with networked & ‘flat organizations’ as mentioned also by Satya above. Issues like core competencies intertwined with culture become important strategic issues. But a conceptual ability to understand the business model and the monetary values is a must for top leadership. Thanks & Cheers. Dilip


  14. Dilip Naidu says:

    Dilip Naidu
    Visiting Faculty at Tasmac, Prifysgol Cymru The University of Wales UK

    Hi Vineet thanks for applying your mind and coming up with this interesting model. The deductions on leadership abilities to motivate; flexibility & adaptibility: & identify & exploiting the cracks in the competition are indeed convincing & true. In this context Sunil our First commentator’s insightful view presents the biggest difficulty – I quote him”One of the things, they need to get over with is ‘ego’. Some of them suffer with superiority (in fact inferiority) complex.”
    Those (some) need to unlearn many things that they learnt during the service career e.g. punishment / bullying, this does not work. They have to understand that while in Army they had some legal authority which is no longer available to them now ….

    With kind regards … Dilip


  15. Dilip Naidu says:

    10. Capt Venkat Ramana
    CEO, Bridgehead Consulting Pvt Ltd

    Its a very interesting thought which has been initiated and so are the responses. While all that is being said is true to certain extent, what needs to be seen is:
    1. What exactly are the transferable values that an ex guy provide to the corporate world. I mean what is the diffusion rate of his prior experience in the new waters.
    2. Our people are (95% of the cases) numbers phobic. Anything to be quantified gets them out of the comfort zone.
    3. To what extent our people can stop themselves from clinging to the safety net mentally, which makes them risk averse.

    These are few of the things. There are definetely numerous virtues, on which we can write hundreds of pages.

    I fully agree that Services is really one of the finest institutions, but do ………………………………………………….?

    I leave this question to be guessed.


  16. Dilip Naidu says:

    9. Vineet Singh
    Program Manager at CompuCom Systems

    While all has been said, this discussion has forced me to add some of my thoughts:
    1. People > Process > Technology: We understand people, have a systemic thought and ability to include resources (technology), leading to create a winning plan; We all very well understand the “People” to be the axis.
    2. Is – Does – Mean:
    a. Is: What is it?
    b. Does: What it does?
    c. Mean: What it means?
    Anyone can explain what it is and what it does, Our ability to explain “What it Means” translated in the financial terms in the corporate world makes us valued. This ability stems from inherent leadership qualities (How easily did we motivate our command to accomplish difficult tasks).
    3. Flexibility/Adaptability: Our ability to adapt, change and readjust helps.
    4. Last but not the least: We can identify the weakness of the competition, Exploiting those leveraging our strengths.


  17. Dilip Naidu says:

    Dilip Naidu
    Visiting Faculty at Tasmac, Prifysgol Cymru The University of Wales UK

    Hi. Yes your point is very important. I feel Services people with a sound anchorage in moral values, ability to accept responsibility and such like attributes have predictable responses. This is indeed valued in corporate settings and elsewhere in the civil too. Trust is an important ingredient of Social Capital (SC). And progressive companies are investing in SC as a source of competitive advantage. Thank you so much Navinder. Regards Dilip


  18. Dilip Naidu says:

    Navinder Narang
    Army Colonel, Experience in Operations, HR, Leadership Development, exposure in Insurance & Healthcare

    SIr, an important factor that has not figured is the ability to win Trust in the environment they work in, by their character, competence, integrity and affinity for human values. Hope there is a point in this.


  19. Dilip Naidu says:

    Dilip Naidu
    Visiting Faculty at Tasmac, Prifysgol Cymru The University of Wales UK

    Hey folks! that was an overwhelming response rich & meaningful. In fact each of your comment is well crafted and reveals your personal experience from both ends that is hard core military as well as the more recent & current corporate. Anand does have a point and Brig Pradeep too feels we are being undervalued (I sincerely appreciate his suggestion and recommend it as a fresh point of discussion) your views clearly highlight the fact that we do believe in the richness of the military heritage that we have imbibed as a result of ‘training training & training’ (in Sunil’s words). I am certain you must have on occasions been asked at the CEO and top management levels (junior levels including MBA participants) as to “How does army do it”? Sunil’s point on ethics and values & societal issues is one which is most elusive of all and the global recession is in ample measure a result of corporate greed. Corporate wants to know how to bring ethics & values in practice. Satya has tempered the views beautifully with a prudent ‘give & take’ approach. Yes financial discipline is one aspect that most of us need more grinding in. That brings us to the point raised by Anand & Brig Pradeep that the army experience does not equip us to deal with corporate complexity. The encouraging development now is that our officers get management skills from IIMs and/or in other good Institutions. Finally I acknowledge with deep gratitude your compelling thoughts and as Satya puts it “All things said and done, the Services is one of the finest institutions and if I was born again I would love to again serve ……). Thank you gentlemen for this rich treat of intellectual ideas! Cheers.


  20. Dilip Naidu says:

    Satya Nidhi Tandon
    Vice President at Rolta

    Dear Dilip,

    Apart from what has already been brought out by Sunil so succintly, Service officers are trained to have a high tolerance of ambiguity. We can function well even without clear cut directions and most of us are self driven.

    My friends in the corporate keep mentioning that one aspect wich distinguishes a person from services background is his hunger to excel. This is true for those who are starting a second innings and not just looking for post retirement employment.

    But life is give and take. There is a lot we need to learn from the Corporate. First and foremost is adjust in a flat organisation and learn to forget hierarchy the way services function.

    Financial prudence is another aspect which service background executives at times are known to be less endowed.

    All things said and done, the Services is one of the finest institutions and if I was born again I would love to again serve for 20 years and then quit and move on.


  21. Dilip Naidu says:

    3. Brig Pradeep Sharma



  22. Dilip Naidu says:

    Anand Gulati
    Marketing Manager, ST Kinetics

    Naidu sir the question should be I feel, what can be done to raise awareness in the business world about the qualified and competent service offrs regards to their employability. Not the other way round!


  23. Dilip Naidu says:

    Sunil Agarwal
    Instructor/Educator at Plano ISD, TX

    Newer developments all around the world are happening at a pace faster than one could apprehend, the entire world has shrunk into a Global village where everyone is approachable to anyone anytime and anywhere i.e. 24/7/365 concept. In such a scenario there are numerous challenges for everyone to survive in this Global environment. The Army officers have many inherent qualities one of them being comfortable with 24/7/365 concept. Other qualities I that I can sum up in the service officers are:

    1. Quest for a Learning: To survive in such a challenging environment, everyone (team member) has to keep him/herself aware of the latest developments, keep his/her skills updated, learn new competencies and constantly thrive to improve the quality. Army career has given them training, training and training.

    2. Working with diverse people from different backgrounds: Today there are no boundaries, people from one part of the world work with other people elsewhere in the world, and we have to be more tolerant and understanding for diversified workforce. Service Officers understand different cultures of people working in the organization better.

    3. Compete against Time, Delivery and Quality: With so much of Global competition, the winner is one who can deliver quality goods in lesser price and before time to astonish the customers. Here again Service officers win due to their agility and swift action.

    4. Retain the Talented people: Good and quality people are sought after by every company; many companies try to attract and retain the talented service officers in the Organization as they can be real motivators and can further motivate and retain quality people.

    5. Work Ethics and Moral Values: with cut-throat competition companies tend to resort to malpractices, The gentlemen spirit is an integral part of service officer’s training.

    6. Try to make Win- Win for all stakeholders: They (Service Officers)know how to make the opponent comfortable with their comradship and team spirit.

    7. Ultimate Service to Society: The challenge to ensure that whatever the organizations do, it serves a meaningful purpose in the larger interest of the society. Welfare of all – they have done this all the time.

    I have given my views. I am myself a service officer and have dealt with many service and non-service officers. One of the things, they need to get over with is ‘ego’. Some of them suffer with superiority (in fact inferiority) complex.

    Those (some) need to unlearn many things that they learnt during the service career e.g. punishment / bullying, this does not work. They have to understand that while in Army they had some legal authority which is no longer available to them now, it would haunt them if they resort it to.


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