Deloitte Consulting Partner Viney Hora allows a mantra of mutual respect to take the lead.
By Shruti Kothari
A Partner at one of the foremost consulting firms in the world, Deloitte Consulting, Viney Hora has over 20 years of experience in working with clients to solve problems using technology. He landed his first role as a Project Manager at the tender age of 25, making him one of the two youngest Managers in the region. In conversation, however, he exudes a humble demeanour that belies his achievements. As we talk, it becomes clear to me that a balanced attitude, as well as a strong awareness of the people around him, have been key factors in his journey to success.
Born and raised in Bangkok, he attended Ruamrudee International School (RIS); while school was wonderful, one of the highlights of his childhood was coming home, getting on his bicycle, and riding over to The Racquet Club to play badminton. “It was just so much fun,” he says. “I would go as often as I could.” He moved to New Jersey upon graduating to attend Rutgers University, College of Engineering, to attain a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. He only took a month off after completing his diploma before entering the workforce in July 1997, where he joined a manufacturing venture in the outskirts of Bangkok.
Viney shares how his childhood helped him succeed. “Growing up in Thailand really gave me an edge in terms of cultural understanding, and also language capabilities, which really helped me in working locally. Moreover, not many international school kids who went abroad for university or further studies came back to work in Thailand. Of those that did return, most had local roots and joined their respective family businesses. Very few ventured into the corporate environment. So, as you can see, there was a talent gap in terms of people who could straddle both the Western and Thai mindset, and I was able to capitalise on that.”
After six months in the manufacturing environment, Viney realised that he was not really being challenged in the ways he thought he would be; he wanted to put his skills to the test, and also find something which really sparked his interest.“The process which led to consulting was not intentional. I sought advice from my parents’ friends, expats working in various corporate environments in Bangkok. We discussed different options but most of our conversations led to the financial services industry. I wasn’t particularly thrilled at the idea of sitting behind a desk and crunching numbers all day; that was the impression I had at the time. In addition, from the beginning, I was not a huge fan of the industry, because from what I understood, it felt largely exploitative, looking to take undue advantage of customers.”
In any case, Viney sent his resumé out to several companies including consulting firms and banks, and landed a job with Deloitte Consulting. There, he started as an entry-level consultant in 1998 under the Global Analyst programme, which involved six weeks of training with global colleagues in the US, followed by six months of working in Houston, Texas, before returning to his home office. While he has had stints doing other work, including starting his own business, he always found his way back to Deloitte.
When I ask him what it takes to be a good consultant, he says, “Of course, you’ve got to be willing to work hard, learn fast, and have a service-oriented attitude, but the key is adaptability. You have to be able to really listen to your clients, to understand where they’re coming from, and then adjust your mindset so you can find a solution that works for everyone.”
When asked what it takes to be a good leader, Viney again displays his inherent principle of mutual respect. “I don’t believe that anyone works for anyone, rather, that you all work together as a team. Every person is equally important to an operation. The job of the leader is to nurture and enable the team to succeed.”
What happens if you invest time and energy on nurturing your team, I ask, and then a team member decides to leave? Do you feel betrayed? “No, of course not,” he laughs. “You want your team to consciously choose you, not that they’re stuck with you because they don’t know what else is out there. As I said earlier, my own journey with Deloitte was not linear; I took the time to explore other fields, including a two-year stint as the Country Manager for a US-based healthcare IT firm, so why would I begrudge others the opportunity? Ideally, if you’re a good enough leader, your team comes back to you because they realise that actually, they had it really good with you.”
He then emphasises how vital it is to try and think outside the box. “The problem with school sometimes is that it teaches you how to follow a system, but not necessarily to venture out of that system and create new spaces. Whether you’re working or learning, you have to develop skills to really understand the fundamentals of a problem and think for yourself, whatever it is that you want to achieve.”
Aside from career-related achievements, Viney greatly prioritises exercise. A committed triathlete, he says that he’s always loved sports. “It teaches you so many skills, like leadership and working in a team, but also discipline, thinking quickly, and perseverance. Sports informed a large part of my childhood, and continues to be central to my life.”
True to his word, his schedule reflects his passion. “I meet the kids before they go off to school, and then try to get a run in at least two weekdays. Client meetings or internal calls start around 8 am. I try to come home by 7 pm to meet the kids before they go to bed, after which I train and then work a little more. I try to swim, bike and run six to eight hours a week.”
Despite his hectic schedule, it’s clear that his family is his priority. At some point during our interview, his kids call, wondering what time he’ll be done; they have plans to spend the day together. When asked about future plans, and perhaps moving away from Bangkok one day, he says, “the sky’s the limit, but of course, it really depends on my kids, and also my wife. She’s got her own business and is doing really well; not a surprise, she was head nerd at Bangkok Patana School. In any case, whatever we decide will be something we’re all happy with.”
As we end our interview, he does one last thing which both surprises and delights me. I tell him I’ll give him my name card, as is customary, and he responds, “Oh, don’t bother. I usually just email or Whatsapp people after I’ve met them. The more trees we can save, the better, right?” Again, it becomes clear to me that it is Viney Hora’s acute awareness of both the world and the people around him that has driven him to succeed.