What a better place then India to start a personal transformation process? While holding a n-2 position in Vodafone India, Bogdan is becoming a better human being every minute spent in his new home abroad. His new way of living, his confidence in the qualities of Romanians and the love for his home country truly make him a special person, to be revealed in today's interview.
Name: Bogdan Lerescu
Hometown: Targu Mures
Abroad since: January 2015
Living in: Mumbai, India
Current position & company: Associate Vice President & Head, Devices, Vodafone
TGR: Bogdan, Vodafone all the way right? Especially after receiving this major role in India...
BL: Definitely! While I was dreaming for many years to an assignment abroad, Vodafone was the first company giving me this great opportunity.
From all their worldwide Heads of Devices, they have chosen the one from Romania for their largest market! How come?
Strange, isn't it? I think we, Romanians, have a tendency to underestimate ourselves and believe that great roles are always for others. And most of the times this mindset is stopping us to even aspire to something we believe is not for us. I was very lucky to have both my two bosses (local and global one) trusting me and they really spend a lot of efforts to help me get the role. I am so grateful to both Francesca and Andrea!
Well, you must have done something right to earn this opportunity! Which were the qualities and performances that helped you grab this role?
I have done many things in my years spent with Vodafone in Romania. First I had to learn how to operate in a very complex and dynamic business at a senior level. That is something I continue learning even after almost 5 years. Then I have inherited an awesome team of professionals who helped me understand all the mysteries of the work they were doing. They were the ones who, along with my peers, supported my ongoing learning and made me a "telecom" professional, if that word exists. Then I had challenging leaders who ensured I have enough pressure to deliver the results. And I did it on many fronts and consistently. On top I also connected very well with the entire organization by volunteering as an anchor to many of the corporate events, making me quite famous across functions and teams. This opened many doors and I got many more colleagues to offer their support when needed. I had a lot of fun doing that, along with the audience who had even more
I am sure all that is easier said than done... What is the Devices Division in Vodafone actually doing?
Everyone outside the industry asks me exactly the same question. We fought to change the name of the function but could not come with a better idea. To put it simply - we manage the toys. This means the lovely smartphones that invaded our lives and became part of us. From the portfolio decisions on selecting the right brands and models, to the way we advertise them, the packaging we do with our voice and data benefits, the subsidies to the commercial negotiations with the big Apple, Samsung and many others like them and down to the logistics that ensure they are stored properly and delivered where and when people like you want to find them. And, of course, we take care of them through their life in your hands.
The Indian market for Vodafone is probably 50 times bigger than Romania's. Did you have 50x more headaches during former 2 years?
Well... We have around 10 million customers in Romania and crossed 200 million in India. So only 20x larger. But the headaches are not coming only from the size of the business, but more from the complexity of the regulatory environment and the restrictions applied to foreign companies.
How many direct reports do you have?
The team is not very large, as one could expect given the volume of devices traded every year. A small team of 3 reports directly to me in the Indian setup.
Indian vs. Romanian colleagues... Which are the differences?
Well, there are not huge differences between the way we work in Romania and India. At the end of the day we are also not Germans
Some of the work culture differences I have noticed: people are not challenging their bosses. They are harder working then us and have very little time for their families and friends, there is a very tough competition starting as early as in kindergarten and that continues even in the corporate environment, my colleagues and partners are very well educated and also the average age for senior roles is much higher compared to Romania.
Did you have to change your leadership style consequently?
My leadership style is very open and honest. I used it across companies and roles and it always worked out well for me. When you are open and honest with your teams and colleagues, half the work is done. I had to adapt to a bit more chaos in the daily operations, a bit less planned way of working and to learn the local workarounds required to get the things done. It is much harder to manage Indian employees because they are super smart, very knowledgeable and usually senior to me (in terms of age and years of experience). Back home I was part of the same generation of professionals that grew together and shared the same working style and principles doing business. I had to learn the local style on the go. Now I feel very comfortable and it is a true pleasure to work with the teams here in India.
How does a Romanian spend his free time in Mumbai?
It depends, Romanian by Romanian I always loved outdoors and for that a city like Mumbai with 20 million inhabitants might not be the best option. So I spent a lot of times exploring the villages away from the crazy cities. I met beautiful, simple people in these places, I spent time with them and I understood the "real India", not the one in metropolis where there are no major differences to any other large city of the world. I was lucky to be invited by my colleagues to visit their homes, meet their families and spend important festivals with them (Diwali, Holi and others). I learned from them where the traditions are coming from, why different rituals are important in their culture and how they cook some of that delicious food.
I also traveled a lot across the country and I have seen places that are heavenly beautiful. And of course I crossed areas one could see in most of the documentaries on India - not the most pleasant ones. But India suffers from the same wrong perception built abroad as Romania. It is a wonderful country with amazingly beautiful people, badly marketed abroad. Indians made me feel at home from the first day and made sure I miss nothing while on this blessed lands.
You prove me right - a country like India has so much to offer! Could you share a unique experience you've had so far?
I was very lucky to find a living enlighten being in the person of Sadhguru. I began to meditate and practice yoga every single day soon after attending his first program, becoming one of his followers. It is hard to describe in words what I felt in his presence and how my life has completely transformed. I know through experience that there is something more in the world that what we use to perceive with our 5 senses.
I had as well the chance to live in an ashram (Hindu monastery) and experience life at a very different level. It is probably the reason why I had to come to India, everything else might have just been the practical arrangements to reach this place, where spiritualty was born.
So, you are in the perfect place for a personal transformational path. Are there any other reasons to enjoy India?
I love the food and the passion they have for fresh and spicy food three times a day. I love the nature and wildlife that resists even in the middle of the most crowded towns one could imagine. I love the people and their kindness. I love the energy young people have over here (India must be having the largest young population in the world), their initiatives and the power to innovate. I love the hot weather of Mumbai throughout the year (we are at the end of January and still enjoy 30 degrees plus). I love the attention to spirituality across generations. I love the free spirit of the nation and the love they hold for their traditions, culture and country. They are role models when it comes to the love for their country.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you've expected to be different?
Human kind is like this only - always complaining about something. I was expecting to have more free time to explore, but the working schedule here is not a joke. Even taking your legal holidays is a challenge. And I thought I will be able to change many more things in business across a short time span, but the size and complexity requires much more time to make things happen.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
Besides the obvious family and friends I sometimes miss my mom's delicious foods and deserts, the mountain treks which are so accessible from anywhere in the country (unlike here where you need a proper long holiday for trekking), my long bicycle rides (if I would have tried riding a bike in Mumbai this interview wouldn't have happened).
How often do you travel to Romania?
I came back only couple of times in the last two years. After spending more than 30 years in Romania I really wanted to use every day off to explore a new place around India and Asia. However, I was lucky to have friends and family coming over and was very proud to host them and show them "my new world". See, the world is so large and amazing that I would like every single person from our country to go and live somewhere abroad. The further the better. As we can become so different if we understand what makes us different and what unites us.
When will we see the new version of Bogdan back in Romania?
Not immediately as I have a lot of energy to keep exploring (and I still need to save money as dreams are free only when you sleep). My dream is to settle down in a small pristine village of Transylvania. I want to set up a place where beautiful people from all over the world will come and experience the real life, where they will reconnect with the basics and to the Mother Earth. My dream is strong enough and will happen one day, not far away from now. But I won't spoil the surprise yet, maybe we will write a new interview when it happens.
That is a great idea, it is probably the most interesting thing to see - the evolution of a human being! Now, please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
I always worked for multinational companies so I had the chance to meet a lot of foreigners. I was, as I am even now, a strong ambassador of Romania and its beauty. In this part of the world we are such a small country that only few people heard of. But I make sure everyone meeting me will know something about Romania. Be it by showing an amazing colorful picture captured in my mom's garden, or a peak in the Carpathian Mountains, or a snap from the Danube Delta, or a vineyard of Moldova, or a story of a castle. I love to see their eyes sparkling whenever they see that piece of Heaven being my birth place.
Well, unfortunately only a handful of people in this world truly know the amazing beauty of our country...
Romania is and will continue to be an untapped jewel in Eastern Europe. The more it stays like that the better, as this preserves its natural beauty and the kindness of its people. After living abroad for a while I can see clearer how special and beautiful Romania is. Not that there are no other good places in the world, don't get me wrong. There are plenty which are better and more beautiful than our country. Still... those places are not home. Once one was born in Romania can never forget it.
We might be roaming around as seekers of many things, but eventually each of us dreams one day to come back and give back to the country which made us who we are today.
Bogdan, you seem to already give back to our country with literally every breath you take! I am so happy for you, for your transformation, for your constant development as a human being, and especially for your feelings about Romania! Thank you for sharing your story and beliefs!
The Golden Romania
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