He might be an outsider for many, but Joe King, an Australian at heart, has made India home. He talks to Nikshubha Garg about acclimatising to a foreign land and moving forward, one step at a time
Joe King, Head, Audi India
When we meet Joe King at his office in Andheri, we instantly notice the décor. The pure white walls, white-grey furniture along with a side table with neatly stacked books give us an impression of a simple man. Not quite the mien we expect from the head of a leading car company.
A man of a few words, we think. “I grew up on a farm in Sydney and went to school in Canberra. We didn’t struggle to make ends meet but I had a pretty humble upbringing. My mother believed in quality education and that has made me what I am today,” recalls King.
Joe King considers India as a great market for luxury cars and isn’t bowed down by competition. He says that one needs to concentrate on what he/she is doing and numbers will follow. Pics/Nimesh Dave
From Melbourne to Mumbai
Having left his hometown and set up base in foreign land, accepting its culture and people can never be easy. “I lived in London for a while and also went to Germany as an exchange student during my school days. It was a great learning experience and it was there that I learnt a lot about adaptability and independence,” adds King.
For the Audi, India head, it was never about coming to India in particular, it was about going anywhere. Once he got the offer, it was an instant yes. “India as a market has huge potential. Also, I wanted my two sons to live in a completely different environment because there is lot more to the world than just Australia and I am glad that they have done a pretty good job adjusting to Mumbai,” says the proud father.
Adjusting to a new city is one aspect, but getting comfortable with the workforce holds equal importance, “You can’t come to a company with a closed mind. I work around the way people work here. My job is to empower them, free obstacles, invest in training and development and largely create an environment that allows people to be the best in their field,” exclaims King.
“In India, I notice that even though the employees are young, they are incredibly experienced and educated as compared to Australia where there is more emphasis, maybe, on the job development as opposed to having a broader educational base,” adds the leader.
Mumbai is known to be a fast-paced and self-absorbed city but he seems to have blended in quite well. He doesn’t show signs of nervousness or apprehension. “I was welcomed here. Last year, when my wife and I had come to India to sort our stay and school for children, we encountered a man when we stepped out for a morning walk. He came to us and struck a conversation. It amazed me because something like this doesn’t happen back home. People aren’t concerned about each other. I love this aspect about India. Sheer passion, concern and peoples’ optimism makes it so different,” admits King.
A multi-faceted personality
An admirer of passion in the citizens of this country, did he also dream of heading a car company one day? “No way. While growing up, I wanted to be many things. I loved music, so I wanted to be a rockstar. Then came a phase where I wanted to be an architect. I think I really like working with people. That’s what got me here as well,” he chuckles.
But it’s not always that King likes spending time with people. He loves his time with himself and his family. “I love music and reading while on a holiday. Trust me, when I try reading after I get back from work, I sleep and end up re-reading the same page over and over again,” he laughs.
“My family and I love playing tennis. We make it a point to play at least once a week. In fact, I want to play golf as well but work leaves me with no time,” adds King.
A self-driven perfectionist, he constantly tries to improve upon things, so much so that he thinks it ends up demotivating those around him as they put in their best effort. “I need to control the voice in my head which constantly asks me ‘Can we make this better?’,” laughs King.
But being a leader is a difficult task, especially when you are getting accustomed to another country. “I have never been a morning person. My wife often asks me the reason for being so grumpy in the morning. The thing is, I need to plan my day and I start doing that the moment I get up. Probably, she wants me to concentrate on her,” says the 45-year-old cheekily.
“Jokes apart, the people in this company and my family stood by me while I was acclimatizing. If I talk about work, I consider my work force’s opinion important since they are the experts in their field. I am just guiding them. We work and have interesting discussions about cricket. It helps us bond,” he says.
Life as a teacher
King’s earlier stint with BMW and Toyota taught him a lot and having achieved professionally, looking back is natural. “It’s natural but I don’t have regrets. I remember starting off with Toyota in 1990 as a sales representative and moving forward one step at a time. I learnt a lot from life and also from bad managers I have worked with. They helped me broaden my horizon but when you talk about regret, I am narrow minded in the literal sense of the term. My mind doesn’t have space for regrets. Everyone faces challenges in life, you need to solve them and move on,” says the driven leader.
“I firmly believe that if you keep looking at what you are going to miss, you are going to be disappointed no matter where you go because you can have a perfect life, yet, there will be something you will yearn for,” adds King.
Is there nothing that he misses? “Well, if I have to point out, it’s driving that I miss the most. I am working on getting a license here and once that gets done, I can’t wait to get behind the wheels. I am sure I will do a good job of driving around the city,” he signs off.
Film: The Usual Suspects
Book: I like reading autobiographies
Sport: Golf and tennis
Holiday destination: South Africa
Born: October 8, 1969
Education: Caulfield Grammar School, Melbourne and Melbourne University
Mantra: If you don’t fail, you haven’t tried enough best advice i ever got: Seek first to understand