Get a CEO on lease for six months


The Times of India, Roli Srivastava, April 21, 2010.

Sabbaticals are not always about taking sunbaths on a sea beach. Professionals in their 40s who have taken an early retirement from work to enjoy the sun and surf are being offered 'lease' options by various mid-sized firms and even multinationals, that are looking at experienced hands but are unable to afford such talent for a long term.

So, heads of HR, CEOs and even CFOs are being taken on lease for a period of six months to one year in a trend becoming visible over the last year. At the end of the term, the firm earns streamlined operations by an experienced hand and the professional goes back to enjoy his sabbatical, his bank balance richer. The country's best known headhunters say that while this is a prevalent trend in the west, it is catching up in India now. While 'temp staffing' is fairly commonplace in various industry sectors for junior and entry-level positions, firms looking at temporary CEOs and CFOs is a fairly recent phenomenon, they say.

"It is now becoming prevalent in India in senior and middle management level. At the top management level, it is not called temp staffing (or temping) but Interim Management. The money is fairly good and work is done on a milestone basis. It works for people who do not wish to be wedded to a company and are looking for flexibility,'' says E Balaji, CEO, Ma Foi Management Consultants. Ma Foi is currently handling two such 'lease' placements, one in a private equity firm and another for a European firm setting shop in India.

While there were some such placements about four years ago, Shiv Agarwal, CEO of ABC Consultants says that the demand for 'CFOs on rent' is a new trend picking up now. Industry experts say it is a need-based reality, but examples of such placements are still small in numbers.

"People opting for such roles do it out of choice. They are mostly senior people who have taken voluntary retirement. The companies they join could be going through a bad time in operations and performance and want someone senior with experience and maturity to review the situation and leave when the basic hygiene is in order,'' says Ashok Reddy, managing director and co-founder TeamLease. Such six-month roles also work because the company may not be able to afford a senior person for a long-term role.