NextGen Leader: Alpesh Chaddha

Chaddha is helping Phillip Morris International transform processes on its way to a smoke-free future

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Editor’s note: Supply Chain Management Review is launching a series of new online features in 2024, including NextGen Leaders. Appearing online at scmr.com on the fourth Friday of each month, NextGen Leaders profiles rising supply chain professionals and the impact they are having on their organizations today. If you know someone that might be a good fit for a future profile, please email Editor in Chief Brian Straight at [email protected].

When Alpesh Chaddha joined Phillip Morris International (PMI) in July 2021, the global company had already taken steps down its path to becoming a smoke-free product company. At its 2023 Investor Day, PMI accelerated that pledge, which was first announced in 2016, by setting a goal for two-thirds of all net revenues to come from smoke-free products by 2030.

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Chaddha, as vice president of operations strategy and results delivery at PMI, is helping achieve that vision by leading mid-to-long-term strategy development and implementation programs. But, while a lot of Chaddha’s work involves setting strategy to deliver Operations’ ‘Big Rocks’ Transformation, his remit also includes digital programs and industrial strategy. His function’s impact stretches across the organization.

Cultural fit

With a consulting background, Chaddha joined PMI at an exciting time for the organization and has hit the ground running. He said the culture at PMI, like it was during his career at McKinsey, has been an important factor.

“For me, the purpose is driven significantly by the values, not just what those values are, but are we talking about these values daily and if we are walking that talk?” he tells Supply Chain Management Review.

Chaddha started his career as a software engineer at Cisco in Bengaluru, India, following his graduation from the Delhi College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Post completing his MBA at the India Institute of Management in Calcutta, Alpesh joined McKinsey & Company in April 2011, spending nearly 10 years consulting and working on a mix of strategy and transformation projects. “As a consultant, it wasn’t just a matter of giving strategy … but having an impact on the ground,” Chaddha notes.

Now based in Switzerland, PMI has allowed him to leverage his consulting background while at the same time remaining involved in the projects on the ground.

“I love the consulting space. I love McKinsey. It is very close to my heart. I think it was a perfect launchpad,” Chaddha says, adding that about “two-thirds of my work was on the ground; getting my hands dirty and creating impact.”

PMI has proven a great fit as well.

An ideal fit

“I never saw an organization that met the troika,” he says, pointing to PMI’s position as a market leader, as a company willing to put that at risk to reinvent itself as a smoke-free products company, and one that is committed to doing so while enhancing shareholder value.

With PMI, Chaddha is leading teams that are modeling a new cross-functional, horizontal way of working toward shared goals. It is a new experience, but one that he has found the company is behind.

“The biggest challenge I used to face [at McKinsey] was about making our clients aspire.” he says. “When I came to Phillip Morris, that is not even a challenge. In operations we say go to the moon and the [organization] says, ‘why not Mars and beyond?’”

While PMI may be pushing for Mars, getting a cross-functional team on board can be difficult. Chaddha says the company’s values, its approach to change, and the willingness of the team to adapt have helped the transformation take shape.

“Phillip Morris is changing to a smoke-free future which impacts every facet of the supply chain,” he says. “It’s a leader trying to transform itself by changing the very core proposition of what it was for decades.”

Chaddha says PMI is committed to thinking “end to end in a cross-functional manner” and Operations has reset itself around four horizontal pillars: agility, resilience, sustainability, and organizational health & capability building. While agility and the ability to respond quickly to global supply chain disruptions are a key part of that journey, the established impact in PMI Operations transformation has been in the area of productivity improvement for margin growth.

“I would not take the credit myself – it was already a journey ongoing when I joined,” Chaddha notes, pointing to strong performance in productivity and cost excellence in the past three years.

Another important step in the transformation is digital. That means bringing in elements of digital systems and capabilities and tying everything together. For example, Chaddha says PMI has introduced roles such as “process owners” to empower associates to own end-to-end processes rather than focusing on product ownership as they have in the past.

Servant leadership

Comparing the transformation process to building a plane while also trying to flying it at the same time, it is a journey that PMI is committed to as it transitions to a smoke-free future, but not one being conducted in a silo. Chaddha says that everyone is on board with the transformation and leadership is working together to reach the future rather than setting and striving for individual goals.

Ultimately, the key to achieving this success lies with the collective team, something that Chaddha says is critical. Noting that he may not have the “proverbial gray hairs,” to be seen as a leader, nevertheless, he is able to bring teams together to achieve common goals.

“At the core of everything I do is servant leadership,” he says. “This means setting people up for success. It goes a long way to get people to trust you [if they know] you have their best interests in mind. If you have a good servant leader, people know you are recommending ideas and you are putting out strategies for them to shine.

“Everything I do is not to make myself successful, but to make someone else successful,” Chaddha adds. “I am investing time for sponsorship, mentoring, advocacy, building capabilities and developing a talent pipeline whether for my own function or others.”

At the end of the day, Chaddha’s success will be judged on how he helps PMI transition to its future, but for him, that is ultimately not what drives him to be a leader.

“What makes me have a good night’s sleep is when I am having a meaningful impact on making someone else successful,” he says. “When I am meaningfully able to help them and make them successful in the long run, I think these are my most proud moments.”

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About the Author

Brian Straight, SCMR Editor in Chief
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Brian Straight is the Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered trucking, logistics and the broader supply chain for more than 15 years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He can be reached at [email protected], @TruckingTalk, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 774-440-3870.

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