Building a Career

*What is Private Equity?*Private equity first emerged in the early 1980s, with Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) opening the first, and still among the largest LBO (Leveraged Buy Out) firms. The logic for LBO firms, at least initially, was this…

What is Private Equity?

Private equity first emerged in the early 1980s, with Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) opening the first, and still among the largest LBO (Leveraged Buy Out) firms. The logic for LBO firms, at least initially, was this: Publicly traded companies are forced to focus on extremely short-term (often quarterly or monthly) results, thus making decisions which may not be in line with their long-term goals. Going 'private' or delisting from the exchanges allows them to focus on these goals. Leveraging, that is, taking debt to buyback these shares as well as spending on longer-term expansion, etc allowed managers to run their companies the way they wanted to. Moreover, the LBO firms were often run by investment bankers and consultants who contributed significant financial and industry expertise. Over time, however, the deals also began to be 'hostile', that is, the LBO managers perceived value in firms which they felt were mismanaged, so they would buy them out, restructure them, and then sell them off once more.

The other side of private equity investment comes from the world of venture capital, where small companies that need to grow but are cash-strapped and too small to list on exchanges approach (or are approached by) VC firms to take a stake in the company, as well as hand-hold them onto a growth path.

The Indian Case

In India, private equity is reasonably young, dating back to the mid-1990s. The environment heated up in the end of the '90s with the IT boom, with companies investing (and getting their fingers burnt) with their investments. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of these firms, with India's stock markets booming and sectors like the life sciences, infrastructure and most recently, real estate being growth stories for the future. Global firms such as Warburg Pincus, Blackstone and the Carlyle Group have a presence in India while Indian players like ICICI Venture and ChrysCapital also have a large presence.

What does the work entail and how do these firms make money?

Essentially, PE funds raise money from high net worth individuals, financial institutions, etc. for a period of seven-ten years and then invest in opportunities as and when they arise, either in early-stage, maturing or even public companies. The work involves of course, valuing the companies that approach you and deciding how much of the company your stake is actually worth, what the company's growth prospects are, etc. Structuring the transactions for tax-efficiency and industry-specific reasons is also part of the job. Post-stake taking, day-to-day monitoring and growth plans are monitored by the fund, with a senior director taking a seat on the company's board. Since the target is also to exit the investment in a few years and return money to investors, the deal teams also constantly monitor the capital markets for suitable times to do an Initial Public Offering or find a strategic investor to sell to.

So what's in it for you?

Outside of entrepreneurship, private equity arguably offers the best shot you'll get at 'being the boss' yourself, and not just being just an employee. Since the money is, in some sense, your own, the attachment you would have with your investments is much greater than in most jobs. Additionally, the nature of work offers an unparalleled opportunity to understand a variety of industries and also get to know many of the movers and shakers in the corporate world, investment banking, etc.

Monetarily, private equity is possibly the most highly-paid post-MBA job you can hope to get. The biggest incentive in this industry is the concept of carried interest, which means that the firm keeps a portion (typically 20 pc) of the profits made for its investor, which is then distributed to employees. Over a period of 7 years, that amount can be huge. As an example, consider a $ 1 billion fund (par for the course these days). Over 7 years, the target profits from this would be in the range of $ 1-1.5 billion; 20 pc of this is $200 million. Assuming 50 pc of this is distributed to employees, each member of a 7-person PE fund (again roughly the standard size for a $ 1 billion fund) would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

What do they look for?

Entry barriers to the industry are notoriously high. An MBA is a must, preferably from an Ivy League school; even a top 3 IIM degree is often not enough to get you a job. At higher levels, extensive senior level experience in an industry is a major plus.

The skill set necessary for a PE job includes significant financial expertise, an intuitive understanding of capital markets, but most importantly, an eye to capture the right businesses and entrepreneurs at the right time.

Abhijit Nath is an alumnus of IIM, Ahmedabad and an economics graduate. He currently works with a real estate focused private equity fund.

Discuss this article in the Forum!

Can you tell us a little about the vision and beliefs of Pantaloon?

We believe in three main things. Indian-ness is first. Everything has to be done in the Indian way so understanding India is of prime importance. The fact that India is diverse is not conceptual but very real for us. Understanding that is the primary focus. Most companies use a one-model-fits-all idea. But in reality West Delhi, North Delhi and Mulund are completely different markets with different attitudes, cultures, habits and festivals. Therefore applying one strategy to all of these areas doesn't work. You have to understand that if you don't believe in the diversity of India it's going to be difficult for us at Pantaloon. Retail is about vicinity and merchandise must reflect that. As another example, in Hyderabad, cool and bright colors work well. However in Delhi a color like pink is very jarring and will not give you good results. Many companies still believe that consistency is the model for success but we differ.

Secondly, India is changing very fast and by 2025, the per capita income will increase to $ 1200. Adding another $ 200-300 and with incomes going higher people will start consuming more. In 20 years 60 pc of India's population will be below 23 years of age, which means that two thirds of the populace would not have any concept of what a ration shop was and would only know of shopping malls. The retail business needs to evolve very fast to keep up with that.

Thirdly, since we look for Indian-ness, tracking the Indian mind at any point of time is most important. For example in the movie Salaam Namaste, the girl getting pregnant before getting married is accepted whereas Neal and Nikki's overly liberal tone bombs at the box office. According to us there are two parallel Indias functioning right now. India-1 is aspirational while India-2 is non-aspirational. People born before 1980 were brought up with a socialistic mindset so they believe in saving money. However, those born after 1980 were young or adolescents when globalization came and thus don't feel guilty in spending money.

Therefore in Gurgaon, which comprises the high-income group of people born before 1980, a Big Bazaar should not do well. The insight here is that the socialistic mindset requires deals and when you give that, Big Bazaar works in Gurgaon. Such beliefs and thinking form the core of Pantaloon and such concepts are not taught in B-schools at all.

What kind of jobs are available for MBAs at Pantaloon and how many MBAs has Pantaloon hired over the years?

We hired 72 MBAs in 2004, 122 in 2005 and 246 in 2006. We are looking to hire about 250 students for the coming placement season. The MBAs would be hired for operations and merchandising profiles.

After recruitment, the induction period is of 21 days where we take you through the company vision and mission. Basically, we tell them about how this company thinks and lay out its vision for operations and merchandise. A short training in design management completely inducts the recruit culturally into the company. After the induction program individuals are given projects for 4 to 5 months along with project guides. After a year, you are placed as Store Managers where you actually get to handle a mini business. As one progresses the authority and responsibility also increases.

What growth opportunities are present for an MBA at Pantaloon?

After one year, an individual is made an in-charge of a store and after approximately 1.5 years one is made the Manager of a large store. After 5 years, you get to manage an entire cluster of stores. After 7-8 years, one is assigned a whole geography. As far as strategy positions are concerned, strategy in retail changes every single day. Every single day one needs to know what is happening. One needs to understand their vicinity well and respond to it accordingly.

What pay packages does Pantaloon offer to new MBA recruits?

Initially, Rs 2.5 lakhs plus in Rs 50,000 performance related incentives. The growth in salary ranges from Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 annually.

How is the work environment and what are the HR policies like at Pantaloon?

The policies are not the same for the entire country and why should they be the same? For example, in the North money is more important, in the South recognition is more important, in the East intellectual recognition is regarded highest and in West India commitment is very important. Our policies are tailor-made to these cultural differences.

What is your attrition rate and what are you doing to control it?

The attrition rate currently is 8.36 percent but some major Indian and international players entering into retail, it will go up. As for the MBAs in our company, there would be poaching when more players come in and if it happens, it happens. There is zero loyalty in retail. The most important thing is creating a soul in the store.

What is the vision behind Pantaloon's venturing into B-schools to start Retail Management Courses?

We started these courses because there were no retail specialization courses in India. In the MBA degrees offered in most Indian B-schools, only some aspects of the retail business are addressed. However, we believe that for the retail industry we need holistic thinkers who think with their left as well as right brains. B-schools talk a lot about analysis and case studies but these are not the only important things. One needs to understand emotions and aesthetics too. For example men love and want gadgets and they want them now. Delivering a gadget order at a later date does not work for a store. Or do you know which kind of men like to smoke cigars most? You'll be surprised but the answer is men who used to suck their thumbs as kids and developed a smoking habit usually prefer cigars. To teach all this we introduced the Pantaloon supported Retail Management diplomas in B-schools like Welingkar Institute of Management, KJ Somaiya Institute of Management and Research, both in Mumbai, then Chennai Business School and Kolkata's Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management also.
We also introduced the Design Management course with Welingkar that tells you about the left and right brains. One needs to be holistically comfortable while using the left and right brain and for understanding emotions and celebrations and applying them in management.

How do MBAs interested in working for you apply to Pantaloon?

For people with experience, the best way is to apply directly as long as they have the most important prerequisites, that is, a cultural fit and the right attitude. For summer interns, we have short-term projects aplenty with definitive end dates and objectives.

Besides that, we are already taking in MBAs from schools running the Retail Management courses and other smaller B-schools.

What are Pantaloon's growth plans like?

This year Pantaloons closed with revenues of Rs 2,200 crores last year and projected revenues for the next year are Rs 4,700 crores. Projected revenues for 2010 is Rs 30,000 crores. We're currently in 36 to 40 cities and by 2010 we aim to be in 100 to 200 cities across India.

Mr Sanjay Jog is HR Head at Pantaloon Retail India Limited and has extensive previous industry experience with Taj Group, ANZ Grindlays, DHL Worldwide Express, Bharti Telecom and RPG Retail.

What is the philosophy of CRISIL and what values and beliefs drive the organization and its people?

Murali Aiyer, Director, HR: Let me explain to you, CRISIL's employee value proposition. We conducted a poll for all the employees who have been with us for more than 3 years, where we asked them what about CRISIL made it good for them. One consistent line we heard across team is 'when I work for CRISIL, I not only work for an organization, but I get a ring side view of the industry, the economy, the government, its policies and a global perspective of things'. 70 pc of Indian industries are our clients some way or the other. We are India's largest rating company and also the country's largest Industry research house. We research in 50 different sectors and do an in-depth research of all these sectors. Most B-school students will be familiar with CRISIL research reports because they grow up on them for two years. All the institutes, including the Indian Institutes of Management, are our customers, so they definitely do that. Our second value proposition is our workforce. Our average age is 27 years, a good mix with women forming one-third of the force, so it is a very young organization. A mix of cross culture, with more than 80 pc of the work force being postgraduates or above, it is a knowledge organization to that level. The environment is open and very collegiate.

We are in a trust based business, which means that people really trust us with judgments, whether it's a bank that wants a loan or a financial institution that wants to invest in a bond. In a trust based business like ours, integrity is a core value.

We do very detailed analysis of everything thus the analytical rigor is one more thing. Whenever senior leaders in government or the industry say that they have spoken to an expert on a topic from CRISIL, then things will get done. Commitment is another core value here.

The fourth value is innovation. Most of our new revenues, approximately 80-85 pc come from products and services that have been developed and designed over the last three to four years which means that innovation is the key. In every business we have centers of excellence, which helps in innovating and churning out newer products.
And of course we are an organization where any analyst on the strength of analysis can even challenge the CEO of the company and the best analysis will triumph. This is one organization, which has made a business of speaking the truth and speaking from great insight.

Some of whom are recognized as national leaders in sectors are a part of this organization and working with them is an incredible experience leading to learning.

For summer internship, we have more people applying than we can handle. For example in a year, we take approximately 30 interns but we get approximately 800 applications. It becomes a little difficult for us, but then this is phase of a growing organization. Currently our employee strength is 1,400. In India we are present in eight different cities. We are also present in the UK and in the US. Our majority shareholder is McGraw Hill Standard and Poors (S&P;), the world's largest rating company.

We employ students from different institutions across India as well as from some MBA institutes abroad, individuals with dual specialization, for example in finance and marketing or marketing students who want to make consultative or financial marketing as their career. Additionally, we look at chartered accountants and graduates (economics, statistics) who have a strong technical background. That is CRISIL in a nutshell and basically how young talent perceives us.

What kind of profiles are you offering to MBA graduates this year? What is the entry level?

Josey Joseph, Head, HR: This year, we are looking specifically for people who have experience in consultancy, for the lateral placements. The maximum intake would approximately be 150, out of which 80-90 would include CAs and MBAs, who typically come in as Executive Analysts or Research Analysts.

M: Apart from B-school students, I would like to add that we are keen to experiment with graduates and try to train them in different fields of analysis, which according to us, many B-schools don't offer. Our own analysts have identified 15-20 different areas, which B-schoolers miss out on today. The length of the learning curve is short. We are likely to hit the market with requirements for fresh engineers, law graduates, statistic graduates, pharma and economic graduates and also individuals who want pursue knowledge services as their career. All this will require a lot of hard work and understanding of data, converting data into information, converting information into inferences and knowledge and helping analysts in their day-to-day work areas. We feel this is the profile of students who, as we go ahead, will be far more valuable than maybe generalists MBAs, because today the world is moving a lot towards specialization.

What is the scope for growth in the organization?

M: Today, careers have to be made by individuals. As new terrains open up we look for all kinds of skill sets. What kind of person will fit in? What kind of adaptability does the person have? What kind of application intelligence does the person have? Depending on all this, a person will move ahead. It will be wrong on my part to say that after an Analyst, you will become a Manager, after which you will become a Head, after the Head you will become a Director and then the CEO. That may be a route, which some people may see but that's not the only route available as a career. There are a host of other routes - there will be individuals who may not be leading a particular department, which is a generalist work, but who is a specialist expert and who may be called the steel expert of this country or of the world. One's career will grow according to that way opportunities shape up and how the individual shapes up and takes advantage of these opportunities. We have many opportunities across the spectrum - we work on data, thus there are data based careers; we work on analytical tools and software solutions, so we offer analytic and technological careers, we work in many areas of models like financial modeling and also in a whole host of deep areas of subject insights, insights with respect to domains, we work in the area of garnering information to put it all together, we work in the area of opinion and that is what the ratings business is all about, we are also in the business of consulting which includes Risk Management and Infrastructure Advisory. Thus, individuals have a whole spectrum available to them in the organization. Worldwide, S&P; is the business leader. They pass judgments on around 180 countries in terms of sovereign ratings, which determine the amount of foreign direct investment into countries directly affecting the prosperity of a nation. This is an organization, which directly contributes to nation building.

What kind of projects are the management trainees put on when they enter into the organization?

J: In B-schools, one is equipped with management and financial studies, but may not be a hardcore financial analyst. So when they come here, they may start with a simple spreadsheet, putting data into a particular format and making sense out of that. In case of any particular sector, interpretation of data is what they begin with. For one year, the students are trained on how to write reports, how to analyse the spreadsheet and what the processes and procedures are.

M: It takes time and effort and its not easy, a lot of individuals think writing a report is easy but our experience is that MBAs from even premier B-schools are not adept to write proper emails, leave alone reports. Their intelligence on analysis is unquestionable, because we test them on that before hiring them, but their ability to write meaningfully has to be taken care of.

Do you differentiate on the basis of departments?

M: Different businesses have different profiles. If it is an urban practice, then we may want people with a policy background. If it is a research business, then they may ask for a person with a Masters in Finance with a graduation in Economics. But if a regulatory team asks for a graduate, then they may ask for a person with a law degree. Thus it varies and I cannot say it will be consistent and standard. Along with post-graduation, the graduation degree is also of importance. The other thing that could be expected here is cross-functionality.

We have around 150 graduates, of which, five-six have gone for international assignments to the US and the UK where they worked with world renowned analysts at S&P.; The kind of exposure they get there is immense.

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What advice would you give a to B-school students if they wished to get into a credit rating company, in particular CRISIL?

M: Final year MBA students, CAs and CFAs should get attuned to the CRISIL Young Thought Leader (CYTL) competition.We have circulated posters to around 125 B-schools across the country and we have the e-brochure of this on our website.

Gunjan Shroff, Executive, HR: We have ten dissertation topics for the CYTL competition. Each of these has been selected specifically by our teams who have in-depth knowledge about these areas. There is a summary along with every topic so that students can make use of that while preparing their dissertation. Students can select any topic of their interest and with help of the summary, can analyze the topic and build on it further. The dissertation is not only about how they cover the topic, but also how they analyze it while getting a whole new perspective into the topic.

M: A sample of the topics would include positions on rural infrastructure, solution to the energy crisis in India, taxation in India and so on. Our team feels that this is one of the best collections of dissertation topics one can offer to students. I would encourage MBA students to go for it. The submission of the dissertation can be done online and the last date for submission was October 16, 2006. Majority of MBA students spend their time preparing brochures, coming out with CDs and visiting us with all this for their placements. We get around 500 such CDs and brochures. Do you think we really have the time and energy to look through all of this? I would request them to stop wasting their time and money. When we go to their campus, we see that the quality of their thinking process has not been properly developed. This is because these students were busy marketing their B-schools over the two years, rather than developing their own thinking. What we are looking for, is someone of the sort who is, for example, interested in the steel sector and tells us how he has followed the whole steel sector right through his two years of MBA. An ideal person would know what is the global market of steel like, what are the global policies for steel, what happened in the Mittal and Arcelor deal, what is the impact of the global market and the global growth phenomenon, what is the impact of all this on the Indian market, does the Indian government have a favorable budget for the steel sector, what are the likely issues that are going to impact the steel sector, what are companies like Jindal and Tata steel doing for this, what are the skill sets required to be the top player in the steel market, and so on. B-school graduates could take up one sector and cover it from the global perspective down to the micro-level. It shows that the person has the width, the ability to look at micro-details and that is the kind of person we want. No B-school teaches you this and one needs take it up himself and understand it well.

A lot of people tell me that they don't get time to read many books in B-school because of their rigorous schedules. At best, they say that they have read Philip Kotler, but that's not good enough. Your reading should be more plural and diverse involving topics from domain areas, non-domain areas, history and more. It is your ability to make a big picture and connect to it because MBA or post graduation diplomas are basically to see how well you can apply theory to practice.

Our problems with B-school graduates are firstly, that they don't read well enough, they don't have the time because most of the time they are doing a whole host of things which actually are not required. Secondly, when they come after completing their two years at B-schools, again they stop reading altogether. A good MBA is good enough for the next six months in terms of understanding, but after that one needs to keep educating oneself, otherwise we will become outdated. One should not read for getting promoted or any other advancement, but you read to rehabilitate yourself. The easiest part of an MBA is getting a job, but the tougher part is retaining it, even tougher is building upon it and building a brand. The organization should be able to mention five things for which an employee stands for and those qualities make him stand apart for the rest.

What is the environment at CRISIL like?

M: It is an open culture where anybody can be challenged depending on the strength of their research and analysis. The culture here encourages thought leadership and people are encouraged to write and write publicly. Good thought leadership articles written by the junior analysts are circulated to our customer base, which includes leaders from 70 pc of the industry. The writer's name is mentioned which gives him an individual branding within the organization as well as outside. The environment is collegiate and young and most people feel it is like an extension of a B-school.

What kind of pay packages do you offer to MBA graduates?

M: I really don't want to talk much about pay packages but I would like to say that we do differentiate on salaries offered to students. We differentiate on the basis of the experience the person brings in and the background. Differentiation has become part of the industry today and after the first year all companies have to differentiate as everyone is not at the same level. We differentiate at the beginning itself. We differentiate on our selection process. This is something that B-school graduates need to be aware of and we make no bones about it, we say it clearly. Our differentiation is across a wide spectrum and is directly related to the roles they play. We also differentiate on the basis of B-schools. With every business too, the pay package differs.

Does working with CRISIL provide one with an opportunity to be transferred as fulltime employees with S&P;?

M: Yes, there is a chance of that and we have had instances of this but I would not like to position an opportunity to work with S&P;, to join CRISIL. The challenge is to go to S&P; and work on assignments and job rotations, come back and engage in building up financial markets in India. I would like people to join CRISIL with the objective to build India and making it a superpower. Going to S&P; is one part of it but I do not want it to be the key driver for B-schoolers to join CRISIL.

How was your childhood like growing up in one of the top business families of India? What is the story behind your nickname 'lucky baby'?

I studied in the International School in Kodaikanal for seven years before I took off to Switzerland to pursue a degree in International Management. I used to come back home only during my summer vacations. During my stay I used to frequent the office and the factory with my father. I also at times used go to the market and visit the retailers to check the visibility of our products, what are the complaints or appreciation of the retailer and the consumers for our products.

I was always attracted to my fathers business, the reason being I grew up on Thumps Up and as I mentioned earlier we used to visit the bottling plants, the factory with my father. So I was familiar with the whole atmosphere of the organization and the people. I also took keen interest in the functioning and operations of the enterprise. As a child I took my first step in the office while playing and I assume it was a signal towards the future .
Coca Cola entered the Indian market in the 70's. At the same time we had Thumps Up so when they moved out in 1976 that year was considered lucky for us. During the same time when they were leaving the Indian market I was born. Thus the name 'lucky baby' was coined for me.

You were partly responsible for adapting Parle Agro to the post-globalization Indian market. How did your bachelor's degree in management help you?

The market is moving rapidly and so one needs to keep innovating and coming up with newer and quality products. Some of the products introduced by Parle first include mango juice, introducing Frooti in small tetra packets, the first jelly drink Jolly Jelly. We constantly make sure that any product we launch should be the first in the market. This strategy basically enables us in being the market leader in that segment.

We were the first one to come out with Njoi, a milk based drink. Britannia did come up with a milk drink but there was a huge difference between the two, ours was more natural and wholesome so it caught the customers attention. The same was the case with Appy Fizz, which was the first carbonated fruit drink. Therefore we have always been different and we like to come up with original ideas and work a little faster than what the market is expecting.

The only thing my education abroad helped me was in handling human resources. When I joined we focused a lot on human research and development. Firstly I wanted to consolidate the management team. I was deeply interested in human resource development because according to me the people are the one's who make and build the culture of the organization. Without people one cannot do anything, as a result I worked hard to get the right people in the right jobs.

Initially when I joined we had an administration department, which handled the HR functions. But after that because I had studied a lot about HR and I was really interested in it, the first thing I did was I introduced an HR department in the organisation.

During that period many other Indian companies too had realized the importance of an HR department so I assume I entered at the right time. Bringing the new culture also helped the organisation grow in a definite direction at the same time we all worked as a team. I have always believed a successful organisation is a result of team effort and not a result of individual determination.

We believe a lot in team building. As a result we organise a lot of programs and activities for our employees. For example before Diwali we organised 'Bring in your Kids to work' day. Wherein the employees had to dress in their national attire and they had to get their children to the office who would also have to be dressed in the national garment. The children had to decorate their father or mother desk in anyway they wished after which we had lunch and movie for the children. The event helped everyone get involved and interact with each other. It also benefited the children know where their parents were working and to interact with the other employees and their children. These are few of the ideas we come up with in order to motivate and encourage our employees.

Do you feel an MBA is necessary to carry out a business?

According to me work experience is the best thing. I'm really glad I did not pursue my MBA and rather came back to India to work in Parle Agro. The amount of exposure and learning I received working here would not be possible by doing an MBA alone. The kind of drill and exposure one gets while working is simply amazing. An MBA degree cannot replicate the same scenarios and problems, which occur in handling a business. One can get their concepts and basics cleared while studying but implementing all of that is a different ball game altogether. Thus I wanted to pursue my MBA after working for a period of time so that when I am sitting in that classroom I would have my experiences and also I would have problems that I faced while working to share with the rest of the class.

But now I think it is too late for me to pursue an MBA degree because of the time constraints and workload. I do not think I can spare two years from my work to complete my degree at this stage of my career. Definitely somewhere down the line I will take up an executive MBA.
Were there a lot of women in senior positions at Parle Agro when you joined? Does having a woman in the senior most position of a company make it easier for younger women in the company to grow? How do you feel being a decision maker?

Before I joined there were women in the organisation but there were no women in senior positions. Even today there are no women in the senior positions except my two sisters and myself. But I believe whether you are a woman manager or a male, one has to always prove themselves at work. I would like to state that we have a lot of women in the organization but specifically as you mentioned we do not have women in senior most positions.

Actually every time we recruit I have not come across any deserving female candidate for the top line position. We do have women on senior positions but we do not have any women at what we call as the 'top line' positions. We do not lay special emphasis while hiring on having a specific number of men or women in the organisation. But it so happens that we usually get men who have the desired abilities and qualities for that particular position. Also we have a time frame for recruiting and consequently we hire the most suitable applicant within that span of time.

Whereas the growth for women in the organisation is concerned its enormous. We had a woman who entered the organisation as a secretary. After two years of service one day she came up to me and requested for a growth in her position. I accepted her request and fixed an appointment with the HR department. The reason I suggested an appointment was in order to know what exactly she wanted to pursue further as a career in the organisation as that would help in deciding the most appropriate post for her. Before coming to a conclusion, even I researched on her and which department she would prefer to work in. Currently she is a part of the purchasing department.

We believe in internal growth. We look within ourselves to fill the vacant positions before venturing out. I think the best CEOs and leaders can be found within the organisation because they already know the culture and functioning of the organisation. They also have the zeal and the feeling of belongingness for the enterprise. Thus first we try inside our organisation then we look outside. We place ads all over at various offices and factories so that if any one is interested they can apply to the HR department.

Being a women decision maker did not make much of difference simply because I have been coming to work since I was very young and the senior employees were always aware of me. I did not start working fulltime as a CEO. When I joined I had to start from scratch and initially I used to sit outside my fathers cabin. In fact I didn't even have my own cabin I used to sit with the rest of the employees. I worked with all the departments in the organization and I always sat with the rest of the employees. I have actually typed invoices, understanding how the whole accounts work. I went through the whole process before I was allotted a senior post. Once I started sitting in the cabin I assembled all my employees and actually made sincere efforts to know everything about them starting from their background to their tenure with the company. I also requested them to give their feedback regarding the company in terms of the changes they would like to see and what have been the positive or negative points of the company so far. This helped us in knowing in what direction the company was moving and in which direction we you would like to take it in. I believe in complete teamwork, without a supportive and efficient team it is impossible for an enterprise to reach great heights. Having such a wonderful team is the reason behind coming up with the innovative products. Also we are looking at a 100 percent growth soon.

Definitely changes take time but I can see a marked difference since I joined and till now and I know there has been a lot of hard work in implementing those changes. I think because my team has accepted me that I have been able to achieve so much. I feel being a women decision maker hasn't really changed their perspective about me.

Do women have to work a lot harder than their male counterparts to achieve leadership positions?

I do not agree that women have to work harder than their male counterparts. Neither have I seen this in my organization nor in any other organization. According to me this is a very old concept because in today's day and age such things are happening. Even if you look at the Fortune 500 individuals many of them are women. To quote another example would be Ms Indra Nooyi, CEO Pepsi, who is a part of the ten most powerful women in the world. Today people do not question her ability just because she is a woman. Initially women faced a lot of trouble getting and maintaining their leadership positions because of various other responsibilities. But nowadays there are so many alternatives available for women in order to maintain a good balance between work and home. For example there are crèches for children, one can keep part time maids and have dabbawallas. We too are planning to start a crèche soon along with other recreational facilities for the benefit of our employees.

What is your advice for aspiring women managers when it comes to crossing personal and family barriers? Would you advocate some degree of rebellion as a solution for women from restrictive and conservative backgrounds?

I believe it's not that tough to handle work and home simultaneously. I being a woman can handle my work and home like many others. Firstly I think women can be the best managers because they manage their home and families. Actually I feel these days there is not much of a difference between a woman and man; they have to work equally hard to achieve great heights. But an important thing for both is that one should be passionate whatever they take up.

I think every woman must work to earn, to get financial independence. Being able to fend for oneself gives a woman many rights and creates a distinctive personality. They must not ask for privileges. Secondly they must be adaptable, flexible and committed in their attitude. Thus women should choose a job profile, which they can manage along with their household duties. Thirdly, women tend to be emotional. They should not allow emotions to hinder their career path. The environment today is very conducive for women to work thus they should make best use of this.

If women are brought up in a restrictive atmosphere they should go out and work. I'm very determined and focused. According to me if one believes in something and your family does not allow you, then one should find other alternatives. For example women have various options for work they could take up and execute it from home, as one does not need to always go to an office to work. There are lots of jobs, which can be easily done from home. Nowadays there are also a few companies who allow women to work from home.

In our company we cannot provide facilities such as working from home to women because all our work is done on the shop floor where the presence of a person is essential.

Which are the new products in the pipeline from Parle?

One can expect a lot of new products from Parle Agro in the near future. I would not like to disclose any of those right now because they are still in the planning stage. I can only say is they are new concepts in the beverages market. We currently have five plants and we have come up with a new plant in Hyderabad. We are also looking at another in Bangalore as well. We are growing really fast now because I feel the economy is also growing and one has to catch up fast. The current phase is not going to last forever and one must take full advantage of the present situation in order to move ahead.

There were a lot of product launches, which we had to postpone from this year to the next year because we did not have that much of capacity. But by end of this year we would have finished the modification of all our manufacturing plants in order to increase the capacity and improve the working environment for the employees so that the efficiency also increases. Along with all this our hiring process has also taken a boost. We have a special team who is assigned for recruiting which we never had earlier. We have introduced several new systems for recruiting as the numbers for hiring have gone up. Therefore we are making all essential arrangements in advance for our next season, which commences in January.

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In the 70's when you got involved with Biotechnology, this sector was hardly known; there wasn't much Government or private sector backing. What made you take the plunge?

I wanted to join medical school and when that did not happen I took up biology instead. This led me to specialize in brewing. When I was not accepted as a brew master in India, I turned to biotechnology in a very accidental manner. I set up Biocon 26 years ago in the garage of my rented house. In fact the garage doubled up as my office. I had to make the most of my available resources and started with Rs. 10, 000 in the bank. Of course my Irish partners were very supportive of what I was doing and I used that garage for the first three years of my operations and then I moved into another rented office in town before I moved into this facility. In those days when we acquired this piece of property on Hosur Road on the outskirts of Bangalore, it was a very remote set up, almost rural with no telephones etc.

When we advertised for personnel, there were few takers. Most of them
interviewed me (as I was a woman) rather than the other way round. Funding was not easy to come by either. No one had heard of biotech and the response of banks and financial institutions was wary and hesitant. I guess I was excited and ready to face any challenges. When I look back at my early days, I feel I was self-assured and determined to make a success of my new venture. My family was a great source of support as were my friends.

Which Biocon invention or pioneer manufacturing process has given you the most satisfaction? In essence, what is it about Biocon that you feel immensely satisfied with?

Biocon is about doing things in a differentiated way daring to be different so that you stand out. Biocon's byline 'The difference lies in our DNA' has enabled us to charter our own business destiny. The three most important factors for the phenomenal growth
of Biocon are that we have an incredibly talented team of people, a wonderfully committed team of people and a powerful ethos to be world class.

Soon after founding Biocon in 1978, we set ourselves ambitions that exceeded local boundaries. We based our vision and growth strategy on innovative research & development. Our overriding goal was to turn knowledge through research into valuable products that could reach out to global markets. Biocon's pipeline of discovery-led research products is both extensive and exciting. Leading this effort is the recent launch of BIOMAb EGFR™ - India's first cancer drug for head and neck cancers. This product marked Biocon's foray into the oncology market and furthermore, has established us as an innovator company. Other programs that are moving up the development path are oral BNP, BVX 10, BVX20 and Anti-CD6 monoclonal antibodies.

Biocon is a perfect example of a company entering a research driven industry in a developing country like India. Do you think India could be the next science powerhouse of the world? And what role do you foresee for Biocon 10 years from now, with respect to India and the world market?

Biocon is devoted to building cutting edge capabilities, global credibility and of course building global scale in our manufacturing and marketing capabilities. We are on our way to making Biocon a global biotechnology enterprise and my dream is to see both India and Biocon being ranked amongst the top league in the Biotech sector. We are already geared to attain global scale. We have Asia's largest Insulin facility and Statin facilities. We are also the largest perfusion based antibody production facilities in Asia. Our ambition is to be among the top 10Biotech companies globally.

Do you get annoyed when people repeatedly insist on calling you a” woman entrepreneur" and evaluate you with a special emphasis on gender? On the same lines, if and how do you think your entrepreneurial experience has been affected because of your gender?

I have never felt the "burden" of being a woman. I have always felt that being a woman provides us with special attributes: compassion, sensitivity, multi-tasking and above all, the inner strength to excel. Like Tom Peters said, "Brains are in, heavy lifting is out" Knowledge does not have a gender divide - women scientists, women engineers and women writers have enormous opportunities to excel and succeed.

How tough is it to break the glass ceiling? Do you think that women in corporate India face challenges and hurdles that men usually don't? Can one safely assume that in your organization women will not or do not face a glass ceiling?

Indian businesswomen are making their mark in diverse fields from Banking
to Biotechnology. I see Indian women being an increasing tribe of high performers across the globe. Women must use their spirit of enterprise and scale heights achieved by their male counterparts I do believe that women are provided with special attributes such as compassion, sensitivity, multi-tasking and an inner strength of honest and untiring commitment. Today, Indian women have clearly realized that with the right mix of
skill, experience and initiative, being at the helm can be one of the most rewarding experiences.

Infact, I think women have travelled a great distance since my early start up days. Women, today have a lot of support, from the government as well as financial institutions and can excel in the professional arena and there is nothing that stands in the way of the younger breed of Indian women reaching higher pinnacles. At Biocon we do our best to ensure gender sensitivity issues are addressed. Women are encouraged not to come at odd hours in the night and if women have to travel to interior areas of the country a male escort is provided. Biocon has a fully equipped crèche that enables employees to have their children cared for while they pursue their careers at the work place. These considerations take care of employee apprehensions. However, I am not the kind of person who will appoint women for the sake of their gender but for the role they play.

There have been numerous debates on the value of an MBA for an entrepreneur and how MBA creates great managers but bad entrepreneurs. Do you think that doing an MBA is essential to be a successful entrepreneur? What is your take on it?

Leadership is from within. Any individual with the right vision, plan and conviction can aspire to become a good leader. There are many attributes to being a successful leader. In my opinion, all leaders need not be visionaries and all visionaries need not be leaders. I believe that more than being a visionary a leader has to inspire people, allowing them to share ideas and aspirations. Vision is an evolving process and not something that has to be rigidly adhered to. In my mind there is a clear-cut difference between a manager and a leader- the sense of ownership. The challenge for any leader is to build a team of professionals that feel the same sense of ownership in every task undertaken.

Personally and professionally, what has been the most defining moment in your life?

Personal best: Being chosen for the Padmashri (1989) and PadmaBhushan (2005) I consider this as recognition of the potential and promise that Biotechnology holds for our country

Professional high, pressing the button at the National Stock Exchange when Biocon was listed in March 2004. Biocon closed Day One of listing on the bourses with a market value of $ 1.1 billion, to become only the second Indian company to cross the $ 1 billion mark on the day of listing

Who has been the major influence in your life? Who is your role model? Among your contemporaries whom do you admire most? And why?

I have drawn inspiration from several people at each stage of my life: My father, My Irish collaborator with whom I started Biocon, Mr. Vaghul Chairman of ICICI who bet on my technology and financed my first large fermentation project, Prof. Mashelkar, D.G. CSIR who endorsed my R&D; focus and made me believe in Intellectual Property, My husband who invested in me in every way, Dr. M.K. Bhan, Secretary, Department
of Biotechnology who is helping to build a strong Biotechnology capability in the country, Dr.Devi Shetty who has inspired me in terms of a new healthcare approach for the masses and of course my team who inspires me every day to build a company that will truly be a torch bearer for Indian Biotechnology.

I am truly inspired by women of courage and conviction in the business world who have broken glass ceilings, gained the respect of the corporate world and made a big difference to their companies by changing the gender mindset that unfortunately still exists in the so called intellectual arena. I would like to especially pay a tribute to Indian women in the corporate world like Indra Nooyi, Naina Lal Kidwai, Shikha Sharma, Swati Piramal, Anu Agha, Mallika Srinivasan, the ICICI trio and many others who are helping to build a new India where women can hold their heads up high.

What would be your suggestion to budding entrepreneurs? What would be the top prerequisites for an entrepreneur?

If you have a vision, a plan and the conviction you should follow it and success will come to you. Biocon is testimony to a vision that a team of like-minded people with the same drive to excel can achieve. A sense of self-confidence, a sense of determination, hardwork and not being demotivated with failure but learning from your mistakes. A sense of overall perseverance is very essential.

Personally, you are also an activist for various causes? What drives you to take these causes?

I sincerely believe that it is important to give back to society - the very society that has allowed us to attain the heights we have. At Biocon, our efforts extend beyond the realm of biotechnology through our community-support initiatives and corporate citizenship programmes. We recognise our responsibility to India – her health, education and environment. Our particular focus is on child welfare as we realise the importance of investing in children, to positively impact their future. Biocon Foundation has been established with the aim of identifying and implementing projects that will impact the social and economic scenario in the country. The main focus areas of the Biocon Foundation are providing quality healthcare and health education for the betterment of Indian society.

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Much earlier, you left India to pursue a successful career in the United States, what was the reason behind this? And then one fine day you left your high profile job in the United States to return home and start a business. What was running through your mind at that time? What all went behind starting

Actually it was the other way round. I grew up in India, completed my education from IIT Kanpur in Computer Science after which I went to the USA in order to pursue my higher education in Computer Science. Subsequent to going there I did my MBA from Harvard and worked for a period of six to seven years including a stint with Apple Computer and then as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Nevertheless like any budding entrepreneur I got bored fast with what I did and it that was when I realized entrepreneurs are born not made.

The typical characteristic of an entrepreneur is that of one who is very curious, interested, passionate and gets bored of what he is doing easily. I started off with Computer Science and worked as a Computer Engineer but got dispassionate and became a Manager only to get bored again. After that I went to a business school, then did consulting in the middle, got fed up and then did investment banking.

I believe that there are two kinds of people with this trait the first ones who always keep getting bored and never achieve anything in the long run. The second kind are the entrepreneurial types who keep getting bored until they find their passion and vocation, which is more meaningful and different according to them. I realized I was more of the latter type I wanted to run away and start my own business which is why I had a shorter attention span with a traditional career. I was motivated by creating new things and taking on new challenges which is far more likely in an entrepreneurial setting than in a regular job. In the process I met up with my friend, Suvir Sujan, who also studied along with me at Harvard.

Coincidently he was also in New York and wanted to do something of his own as well. For us starting our business initiative had nothing to do with starting in India or USA or Latin America. As a matter of fact we just wanted to run our own enterprise be it in any country. But when we started to look for business opportunities we found that options in the USA were saturated and limited; whereas India was a growing economy and so we decided to set base in India.

Mid to late 1999 everything that was in the Internet space had already been funded in the US. I was aware of the Internet biz and the funding structure because of my work experience at Goldman Sachs, which involved working on the team that took eBay public. At the time when eBay went public we realized that eBay is a great business model but the US was a saturated market whereas India showed great potential and had several opportunities to grow. Also as my parents were residing in India that gave me an added incentive to come back.

It may not be the most politically correct statement to make but it was nothing out of patriotism that I returned back to India. In fact it was purely a business opportunity that got me to India. A business opportunity, which I felt, existed at that time and now exists in even greater measure and now the whole world recognizes it. At that time everyone used to say, What are you doing?! You are giving up such a good and secure job to take up something so risky. My philosophy is very simple there are lots of people who want to become successful but they are not ready to go through the journey of what it takes to win, and win big. In my opinion to become an achiever one as to be able to take supernormal risks. A lot of individuals want to become extravagantly rich or astounding achievers but they take subnormal risks. That was my attitude and I took it up at the time when my salary in Indian rupees was around a crore rupees (approximately 200 thousand dollars) and I still had a loan from Harvard, which had to be repaid. But then I decided that was the time to make it happen, to give it my best shot. As things turned out we came in quite early in the Internet space as the market wasnt developed but then it worked out well for us in the end.

According to you why has the online auction segment of E-commerce taken off; when other segments of the E-commerce economy are not doing so well?

As far as I'm concerned E-commerce is still small but is doing very well. I think it is less about online auction auction is more of a tactic, the strategy is more of creating an online marketplace. So if you step back and think for a minute, lets consider, its like a bookstore in an offline world. There are several other offline bookstores but Amazon is a little more convenient form of a bookstore. If you look at in its simplest from it is a library or a newspaper but again more convenient by being on the Net. So these are things, which one can get offline but are easier and more convenient to get online. Google is also like a library. However if you look at the eBay marketplace you cannot do it offline. How can one humanly connect a person in Jabalpur with another individual in Bhopal to trade a mobile phone? One just cannot do all of this in the offline world. Therefore the supremacy of the concept lies in the fact that it is unique to the Internet and cannot exist without it. The model is more of an online marketplace while auction is a tactic to get people interested, enjoy activities like bidding, winning etc. Most of the trading on eBay happens on a fixed price basis. Thus the real idea is that of creating a marketplace and it is doing extremely well. I think in 2006 there was a research done that showed a 42 pc market share for eBay in India.

You have worked in the US. How is the Indian market different from the US market? Don't you see a problem with the low penetration of Internet and customer reluctance to pay online in India?

In general it is very difficult to carry out a business in India. Period. Therefore to create a successful business enterprise it is fundamentally harder and requires primarily a lot more execution capabilities and which also makes it more defensible. To specifically look at the online marketplace, for example, nowadays in the US the postal service and courier companies have very efficient shipping modes. Most of the payments are also done online by an individual because they trust the online systems whereas the case in India is totally different.

Originally such a kind of online payment system did not even exist in India as a result what we did do to make this model successful was very different. We started from scratch by building our own payment system. We went and tied-up with banks in order to do all our risk management. We also had to integrate with all courier companies and actually convince them of picking up articles from one individual and delivering to another individual. The courier companies were used to picking up items from a company and delivering to an individual but they were not used to collecting items from an individual and delivering it to another individual. We had to convince all of them regarding our business model. We made several presentations and showed them how the business model had become large in Germany and USA. To their credit all of them bought the idea including the Indian Postal Service, which is considered to be conservative and sluggish. Moreover the courier companies provided us better rates and started doing cash on delivery for us. Eventually people too started believing and trusting our way of functioning which resulted in the model getting adopted.

Then there was consumer trust concerns for which we had to introduce a buyerprotection programme, which stated that if your money was misplaced while buying from somebody (e.g. you got a defective product), eBay would partly refund for the loss incurred. Essentially we had to do a lot more heavy lifting what people call the nuts and bolts of the business than eBay had to do in the US. Basically getting things in place in the US was much easier while here there was a lot of friction in the process. Initially we spent a lot of our time, money and energy fixing the loopholes. Hence I would state there were several barriers to entry into the Indian market.

Talking about Matrix Partners, what led you to become a venture capitalist because two years ago you had sold your company, you were with eBay and you probably took a small break? What influenced your decision?

After I sold, by the way I am still the Chairman of eBay India but thats more of a transition role, I had to decide on what I wanted to do. The first option for me was that I could retire from business as I always wanted to become a teacher and teach in schools. However the main question was is this something I want to do right now or do I still have the fire in me to take up something more challenging? Finally I realized that I was too young to teach in a business school or anywhere else, I will teach someday but approximately ten years from now. The thought process at that time was I still enjoyed the challenges of the business world.

As a result the next most crucial question was should I start another company? Fortunately after having a successful venture any VC would be willing to write a $10 million cheque for whatever one wants to do and it doesnt matter whatever your idea is. Hence I knew that was an option, which I could explore.

Another option for me was that I could potentially invest in other businesses. Ultimately what I decided to do was to take some time out and think about finding my true interest in whether I would get pleasure from investing in other companies. Initially I started off by investing in small Indian companies, for example is my Indian investment in the travel sector and I also started getting involved in their business as mentor. I also invested in a Search Marketing company called Pinstorm. These all were my personal investments. Importantly these were not only my investments but I was also involved in these companies.

I also realized my framework in life for such important decisions one should look at three things viz. ones skillset, the size of the opportunity (basically the size of the market etc) and fundamentally ones passion. One should ask a question whether he is passionate enough for the endeavor that one wants to undertake. I realized that for me all 3 factors of passion, skillset and opportunity converged in the venture investing line of business. Passion one absolutely needs given the enormous challenge of multiple types of business, skillset existed due to the experience with Baazee and opportunity for such investing in India had improved dramatically. I was enjoying my personal investing role.

So I decided to take up something bigger. I decided to set up a firm and run it myself. At that time I partnered with Rishi Navani, who used to be a VC at Sequoia capital. Essentially we raised our own funds later on we were approached by some VCs who asked us to partner with them. They offered to co-brand with us and offered to raise funds together. As a result a separate fund of $150 million was raised.

What is your investment philosophy as an individual investor and as a part of Matrix Partners and how challenging is it to identify companies in the Indian space vis-a-vis the US space?

As an individual there is no more investment policy. Since I have become a part of Matrix all my investments are through Matrix because if I still did personal investment there is a possibility of a conflict of interest. Hence I do not do anymore personal or angel investments.

At Matrix the investment policy is simple and that is about backing businesses in the consumer sector. We are not a typical technology VC funding company; instead we are a consumer VC fund. Looking at all our core investments which include a Chinese fast food chain called Yo! China, vJive Networks; a digital advertising network, an online DVD rental company, Four Interactive which is a mobile content company and a couple of more in the works.

The basic thesis is that we want to invest in the consumer sector, which would typically include Internet, mobile, financial services, traveling, healthcare. We usually invest between two to ten million dollars per venture. We are not focused on getting results tomorrow or within a very narrow time frame. In fact we are interested in building the business and getting actively involved with it. I am extremely active on the Board and I help the company with strategy, recruiting etc.

As a VC how do you decide about your investments in a company? What are the qualities you look for in the entrepreneur? How do you gauge the challenges and future prospects of a start- up business?

Typically there are two approaches that work, the first one being the topdown thesis driven approach. In this approach you form an opinion of which sector one would want to invest in and then you proactively find the companies, which operate in that sector. If one does not find companies usually one starts companies in that potential sector.

The second approach is bottomsup where you keep meeting companies and go through several business plans that keep coming and you invest accordingly in those you deem fit. As far as I'm concerned ideally we would love to have more of a topdown approach. But in reality there is much more of the bottomsup approach as there are so many business plans floating around that one does not have the time to do a topdown approach.

vJive Networks for example is a topdown approach investment. I started looking at the OOH Digital Advertising market in April last year. In that regards I also met up with all the 20 existing companies. vJive Networks was not even an existing company. That is top down approach where there is market for a particular product but there are no existing companies. Yo! China on the other hand is a bottomsup investment where I happened to know Ashish Kapoor who is the current CEO of Yo! China; and believed that the Company was doing very well.

The second question is a classic debate in the VC circle whether one should invest in an A team with a B opportunity or a B team with an A opportunity. For that my answer would be that ideally I would like to back an A team with an A opportunity but it is a very hard to find such a combination! ? There will be people who would give you a different view. For example my partner and I too have different outlooks. As a matter of fact, if I was pushed to make a choice, I prefer an A opportunity with a B team. As I believe while a rising tide lifts all boats; conversely if you are an A team and the market is not even present then what can you even do to succeed. The flip side is what my partner believes, that if there is an A team they convert a B opportunity into an A opportunity. So really we have no clear answer to this one and both philosophies have worked well in different situations all over the world.


Talking from your own experience what have you discovered over the years in terms of killer investment opportunities?

In my opinion it is easier to work with an A team, but in India it is tougher to find such a team. I believe there are a lot of A opportunities to explore in India. Generally speaking it is much easier to work with an A team and for a VC it becomes tough to work with a B team even if it is an A opportunity. As a B team can goof up the prevailing market opportunity.

Sometimes an opportunity is so attractive that you decide to invest and hire an A team and there are well know VCs in the world who follow that approach. Its a well-known fact between VCs that one cannot create an A opportunity but one can definitely employ an A team. An A opportunity is either there or not there.

Is branding the most important aspect in terms of product development?

I actually disagree with that statement to an extent, I would like to draw upon what Vinod Khosla (coFounder of Sun Microsystems and Partner Emeritus at Kleiner Perkins) has listed in decreasing order of likelihood and increasing order of costs of what makes a successful enterprise. First on the list and most important and unbeatable principle is innovation i.e. the least expensive and most likely to succeed has to be something which is driven by innovation. Brand is actually at the bottom of the list i.e. the most expensive and least likely to do well. Lets take the example of Marlboro Lights. A couple of decades ago, Marlboro Lights was not the first brand of cigarettes to be launched, it was actually the third. There was Camel and other such brands present but Marlboro lights were the first light brand. In this case it was a product innovation, which got the brand Marlboro to become famous and successful.

Another classic example would be Google. Till date Google has never advertised on television, newspapers, and magazines or put up hoardings anywhere. I am sure you have not seen a single advertisement by Google, yet it is one of the most valuable brands in the world. Why? That is because its an amazing product. Therefore my advice to people has always been to focus on creating a marvelous product. Typically one can create a remarkable product when one addresses an important pain point i.e. an overarching and compelling consumer need.

If you look at Yo! China it concentrates on the need of a affordable Chinese food which tastes great served in a great environment. But the main point is that is it as cheap as your neighborhood hot-dogs. Thats the other angle to keep in mind when thinking of India. India is an extremely price sensitive and value conscious market so you have to retain that while developing any product.

Going back to the question the answer is product innovation and in my view brand is of the least importance. A brand would be automatically get created once there is an innovative product. Things to consider is firstly product innovation, second would be customer experience and customer support. The third would be operations, how good is one in operations and functions.

What role do you play as a VC in a company? Does it depend upon the current (start up/growing/ established) stage of the company?

Absolutely. A VC can play variety of roles in a company. Normally we play a role in strategy and are an active part of the companys board. We do not like to be a part of the management team, as I said earlier we would invest behind a great management team and let them lead from the front. In all our current companies we have helped in one or more roles. We have been very closely involved in strategy, like for example take Yo! China, It had a franchising model before we got involved. It had a model where they had planned to set up 200 to 250 outlets in 20 to 25 cities. But we worked closely with the Management Team to change that to a nonfranchising model, since we wanted to control the customer experience at each outlet one cannot ever outsource customer experience and franchising is like outsourcing the experience. We restricted the 200 to 250 outlets to the top eight cities in India. For instance if you are one of the best Chinese food joint brand in Agra it does not matter much but being the best in Mumbai matters greatly. This is an example of a big strategic shift for the company.

In all our companies we participate in the hiring process, sit down with the CEO, inquire about his requirements and accordingly use our network to help him in the best possible manner. We also help on the tactical front such as in case of or in eBay where Im the Chairman so I know what works on eBay or what works on the Internet. Therefore I provide a great deal of support in the tactical and planning area.

A start-up is his first baby for any entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur yourself are you able to relate better with other entrepreneurs? How do you battle with the difference in judgment and belief between a VC and entrepreneur as at the end both want best for the company?

I feel at times Im a little too much on the entrepreneurs side whereas Im supposed to be thinking from a VC point of view! But when you are a VC one is supposed to be a lot more objective and make potentially harder decisions. This takes me a while because I can see the entrepreneurs viewpoint very clearly so that definitely can be a concern many a times.

Looking back from starting to today's online scene what according to you are the changes in India, the Indian startup scene and the venture capital scenario?

The biggest change has been in the market. When we started there were three to four million Internet users, four to five million mobile subscribers and the cost of each call was Rs. 25 on the mobile, SMS was about three to Rs. 10. In contrast to that nowadays there are about 150 million mobile subscribers 25 to 30 million net users, the cost of each call and SMS is Rs. 1 per minute. One can see that the market opportunity has become massive and around five years ago that was not the case and this applies across sectors.

As I said the GDP growth has increased significantly and we are soon going to become a $ 1 trillion economy. India has reached that critical mass where looking at the consumer spending position one will find people who are moving upwards in the Maslows hierarchy of needs. Individuals have moved from fulfilling basic needs to indulging in self-actualization and that is why you see the discretionary spending going up drastically. What all this transformation has done is that it has facilitated more investor money into the country. Most people think India is an over hyped economy but I believe it is because of an important reason. According to me India is under construction like the US and Europe were under construction after World War II and see how things have tremendously changed over a span of thirty years in those countries. Same would be the case with India in the next thirty years and the people who have seen this phenomenon in the US and Europe are the ones who are putting money in India since they can see it coming.

Another big change is the quality of entrepreneurs, which has improved significantly. India is unfortunately a country where industrialists are confused as entrepreneurs, the large industrialists are entrepreneurs but they are a different type of entrepreneurs. The real entrepreneurs are the ones who start small and take the company to the next level; the small entrepreneurs have started to happen a lot more in India. We are also seeing a lot of overseas-returned entrepreneurs. For the first time India is seeing a brain gain which is reverse from the normal pattern of brain drain. I was reading an article somewhere about a one crore rupees offer being rejected by an IIM graduate, as he wanted to set up his own venture. This is a big change and not by design but co-incidence, four of our companies too have overseas returned entrepreneurs.

Is approaching a VC the right idea when one is starting his or her own company?

There are two things VCs look at the type and stage of business. There are types of businesses that will never be good for VC funding. The reason being that they will always be a niche business rather than a massmarket business. A lot of people ask me why there isnt an in India? Personally I have also thought of investing in such a project but the reality is, if today in India you sell 2000 books a day on the Internet it will be a pretty good number. However the profit margin per book in India is as low as Rs. 15.

This means that I am making Rs. 30,000 a day, and keeping in mind the salaries, the overheads incurred etc. there would be hardly anything left over as profit. For this reasons it is not a VC fundable model. However via sole proprietorship the idea is fantastic for earning Rs. 50 lacs to 1 crore a year for the entrepreneur!

Secondly the stage of the business is of great importance. Most of the time individuals merely have a business plan but do not have a track record supporting them. As a result they do not get funding. But one could raise money from friends and family or one could approach an angel investor. For the first time in India in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore one has formal angel networks. I actually helped setup the angel network in Mumbai. There are approximately 35 to 40 rich individuals who pay attention to your business plan and your pitch. If they appreciate your business plan and pitch they would definitely invest Rs 1 crore or 2 crore whatever minimal amount required to start a business. Its only when the business has reached a certain level where it has an excellent team, immense potential that is when one should look for funding from VCs.

That said, the type of business i.e. the opportunity to create a large business would be the overriding factor for most VCs. For e.g., if I do not see a business becoming a 400 to 500 crore venture within a span of four to five years, I will not fund it today.

Recently Matrix Partners has invested in an online video selling company called Seventymm. Could you tell us your analysis and thought behind the investment?

First of all the team is an A team, the founder is a serial entrepreneur who has handled several companies. But it was the market opportunity, which got us to fund it. Today there are 16 million VCD players but three years down the line one is going to have 40 to 50 million DVD players and about 40 million odd VCD players. If you assume approximately 80 million households, on an average a single household rents 1.5 to 2 movies a month and each movie cost per average Rs. 50. At this point of time what we are assuming is one dollar per movie and approximately one to two moveis per household per month. That results in a $ 160 million of revenue per month and about $ 2 billion per year! So the opportunity is there but now we also look at competition. Our question is, is there any national chain of DVD rental? No, there is a neighborhood seller but whenever I want a movie it is not necessary that he will have it and there is no way for me to know whether that is a good movie or not (since most of his Hollywood collection would be pirated).

Now you contrast that with something like a Seventymm, which has 10,000 tittles, where an individual can go to the site and actually add movies to their request lists or queue a list of movies. Once its set the movies keep coming and I also can automatically see what ratings people are giving to that particular movie. Consequently it solves the pain point and provides value at the same price point as your neighborhood vendor.

With so much of the business depending on operations what plan has Matrix Partners and Seventymm worked around in order to handle the logistics of the business?

The entrepreneur is capable and intelligent and has figured that out too. He has software, which handles this entire process. Let me explain that with an example. One of the biggest problem is that people take two movies and when they send the movie back most of the time the movie is in the wrong cover so we actually bar code the cover and the actual disk. Any time a movie returns there is a scanning system that examines both the barcodes and flags an alert for a wrong movie so you have to change. We do that every time a movie goes out. He has built all these systems and its completely technology driven core inventory management.

We have 60 delivery boys per city, as we cannot rely on postal service, as by the time the movie reaches the consumer there would be a long gestation period. Courier cost Rs 5 to 7 per delivery. If we use delivery boys it comes down to Rs 1 per delivery. We have built our own network of delivery boys but to manage 60 delivery boys per city one requires software and routing maps, which help decide upon the most efficient route for the delivery boy to follow. He cannot come from Andheri to Worli and go back to Andheri. There is actually a route map that is generated by the system, which is assigned to a person who then accordingly carries out the delivery.


What's your take on the whole debate between web 1.0 and web 2.0? Where do you see the online market five years from now?

I have a radical view on that as I think people are wasting their time on web 2.0. Let me go back to the Maslow hierarchy of needs model on the Internet. One should look at people talk about Internet being convenient, in fact it is not convenient in India. You need to go to a cyber cafe or you have to dial up a telephone line or use a slow broadband connection. Whereas in the US 150 million households have broadband access all around the clock sitting at home. When you have that situation then yes you can do social networking etc but where is that happening in India. Do you think a person will go to a cyber cafe or any public environment to discuss everything about their life?

There is also a cultural barrier, as not many individuals will express themselves in The kind of things teenagers are discussing at such sites if the parents start reading that they would not let them out of the house! So thats not going to happen in our culture and they are not going to share their pictures and if they do not put up their pictures the site becomes less interesting.

So hink there are cultural barriers and infrastructural barriers to Web 2.0 in India. Fundamentally it is not about social networking but it is about community building. Like in the US, a community is built around a certain need. For example has become a community of musicians and now they are trying to monetize it by putting e-commerce music sales etc. In India one needs to first create a product according to peoples wants and subsequently a community will form around it. One of the reasons your site is popular would be because you provide content that the MBA community wants. Users come to it because of that and then they form a community. Its not that somebody just setups and students would come over there. The thought process is to first build a product that will serve a certain need and then a community will structure around that. Similarly Seventymm solves a need and we are building a community product around it. We think it will be very successful as people will come and discuss reviews and etc.

How do you think mobile Internet will stand out in the near future?

Well, I think it will happen but will take time. Out of the 150 million mobile phone users only two million are GPRS enabled; and of the 500 million growth expected in the coming years the numbers are not going to be more than 2030 million. The urban India penetration of mobile phone is 52 pc and about 7 to 8 pc in rural areas which is where the growth will come from but these individuals are not very tech savvy. In reality there will be mobile Internet applications but the market size will not be 500 million but 25 to 30 million. There will be 25 to 30 million GPRS mobile phone users who can take pictures, surf the internet etc so as long as the application is focused on that and is realistic about the business model given the market opportunity, it will do well. But sometimes I find when I meet individuals who talk about 500 million mobile Internet market which will not exist atleast by the time I retire! Overall you have to deliver alternatives not only via mobile Internet but also through other mediums because India is at a nascent stage of growth.

What would your suggestion be for MBAs wanting to be a part of Matrix Partners?

We never hire graduates straight out of a business school. We want to witness people achieve something in life by the virtue of working successfully in an operating position. To give you an example, seven out of the nine partners of Matrix Partners US used to be entrepreneurs in companies that Matrix funded. Perhaps the best way to join a VC firm is to be a successful entrepreneur! ? There is a huge demand supply gap between the number of people who want to join a VC and the number of people hired into such firms.

Our view is that either one joins a start up which is funded by a VC and does so well there that the VC actually pulls you out. I always tell people that one should get pull hired rather than push hired into a VC firm. One can never push oneself to a VC. In fact a VC will pull you if you fit the bill. Personally I dont entertain any emails by any MBA just out of B-school, be it an Indian or from schools like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT etc. Many people apply but we dont even look at it, as we believe in identifying the kind of people we want and then going after them aggressively. So my advice to people wanting to join firms like Matrix is to work in a startup and do such a great job that the VC wants to hire you. It doesnt matter if you do not succeed. Even the best of VCs have failed but its most important to give it your best.

Sometimes VCs do hire from consulting firms like McKinsey etc. because we believe that those individuals get a lot of exposure in different fields. If you have a strong background in consulting that would definitely be considered. Ideally one could do two to three years of consulting then go in for some years of real operating role e.g. do sales on the field.

What would your suggestion be to MBA students who would like to have a full time career in funding business? What is the skill sets required for such an individual?

I am only a little familiar with how the IIMs work but I am more familiar with the US business schools. So for example if you ask me what did you learn at Harvard, my answer would be everything and nothing because I cannot point out to you one course that taught me something. But at the same time something definitely happened as the person who went into Harvard and the person who came out of there were two different individuals. I think if I analyze it the way it happened, it is more by interaction via case study method, by really putting yourself into the real world situation and trying to solve those problems because business is all about solving problems. One of the issues I think with IIMs little bit is that they take people without work experience.

I think they are trying to change it but my belief is a MBA is much more useful once when you have actually been there and experienced so you can relate to the business situation. An MBA is very bookish and theoretical.

My advice would be dont be too studious. If you yourself have no work experience pay attention to what people with work experience have to say and try to pick up good business insights rather than picking good grades. One of the issues as I went to IIT was that I experienced people who tend to memorize everything and unfortunately our education system encourages that. But thats not how life is in business. I always have access to resources; information is one of my resources so why do I have to memorize anything?! The best utilization of your resources makes a person successful or not. For that reason, at Harvard all exams are open book and take home.

In fact, at HBS I was taking a final exam the Indonesian currency crisis and I remembered an article I had read in a magazine. So I called my supervisor and told him about the article and asked whether I could use it. He said to absolutely go ahead but also made sure that I mentioned the source. I got an A in that particular paper! I would advice individuals to think more real rather than being bookish and do as many projects in actual business situations. I think most B-schools have one such project in the last semester, so try and use it to the fullest.

1. How is it different from doing social work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and running a commercial organization?

I gradually moved from TISS to running a profit-making organization. I started off with working in the social work sector for a while after which I didn't do anything much for a couple of years. Then when my husband got a massive heart attack I joined the Human Resource department at Thermax and worked under the HR head at that time for a period of five years. I learnt a lot under his guidance. However after a while he decided to be a consultant and left us. At that point it was decided that I would head the HR department. I managed the HR division for approximately five years after which the board decided that I should be the Executive Chairperson when my husband passed away.

In my opinion handling a commercial organization and doing social work is fairly different. The fundamental management principles and business insight is the same but the arena one is dealing in is entirely different. For instance the financial implications in a business are mind baffling. Especially for someone who has not handled crores of rupees to take decisions relating to financial aspects or making decisions involving a large number of people in an organization is very tricky and far-fetched. In social work it is usually a one on one decision so the impact is very different. The two sectors are similar in ways that one needs to be calm, composed and should respond to each situation with equanimity.

2. After the two major setbacks in your life, how did you cope with the trauma and go on? What qualities you think helped you regain your belief and strength in yourself?

Initially I was extremely uncomfortable in the new setup. As a matter of fact I kept focusing on my inadequacies and comparing myself to my husband, who was a leader par excellence. I constantly felt inferior since I gave more significance to my limitations instead of looking at the strong points I brought to the organization. Fortunately I went for the Vipassana meditation program, which helped me terrifically to come to terms with death and realize that each one of us have certain competencies and confines. It made me realize that I had to put in my best, however knowing that not necessarily it would be equal to my husband's best. But I had to get over the fact that I cannot survive by forever being in the comparative state of mind. I had to do my best although two things made it worse for me. Firstly there was a downturn in the economy because of which our performance started deteriorating dramatically. So as the head of organization my responsibility was immense towards our shareholders. Also one year before my husband's death we went public and as a family we felt responsible and could not let our shareholders down. This was something that was bothering me a lot.

Another blow to me was the sudden loss of my son a year later and as a mother coming to terms with that was very difficult for me. According to me being in touch with reality and seeing things, as they are is an imperative leadership quality. Many of my senior executives kept saying that this was a temporary phase after which we all would bounce back. They wanted to wait for the economy to turn around whereas in my opinion this was an ostrich-like attitude. The senior executives did not want to get consultants in to the company, as their egos did not allow them to accept any external help. But I firmly believed that we required an outsider's view and therefore we brought in a consultancy firm. With hiring a consultant there were certain drastic changes made in the company structure and culture. These changes brought in growth and development at Thermax.

Over the years you have introduced several new HR policies and guidelines, for example maintaining total transparency and openness within Thermax. Could you explain how did you follow this model? Besides this, what other changes did you implement within the organization?

As far as I'm concerned this is not something, which I brought into the company. These things have been implemented and made use of from the time when my husband was around or even before, during my father's period. Some of the principles included discontinuing the hierarchal system, not being bothered by minuscule things like size of ones room, also one is not necessarily right because he holds a senior post in the firm. We at Thermax believe in giving a good earshot to everyone, giving less importance to the person saying it but instead to what is being said. All these clichés we have had in management, we have genuinely tried to get away with them. I wouldn't say that we have got 100 per cent success with it but we definitely believe in them. Personally any work one does is a part of ones total being and it is much larger than anything else.

If one let's his or her power go to their head and starts thinking that they are the greatest it is the end of ones existence. If you ask me this attitude is not going to help anyone. Therefore the struggle within myself is also with my being not only with my role as an executive, the larger context is vital for me. I think my husband also believed it is essential that we respect people and their individuality. We shouldn't assume simply because we have authority, money and position that we are in anyway better than others. I feel such phases are momentary, they come and go away.

Did you face any problems initially being a woman and handling a huge empire with several men reporting to you? Were your male employees comfortable with the idea?

When I was in the HR department, the administration division came under my vigilance, and the head of department who was an army colonel found it extremely difficult to have a female chief. He had never dealt with women prior to this and being in the administration department there were many women under him as well. In the bargain he was sandwiched between women and he could not tolerate the whole idea. This was one rare case but by and large not only being dynamic within the organization. I was very active at CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) too, which is predominately a male dominated affair. At several occasions I would be the only woman. For myself it is a non-issue as one is sure of themselves they would never find any problem dealing in business solely because of being a woman. In fact people are keener to help you learn and grow. But provided women are not arrogant and pretend to know everything. One should be confident enough to accept his or her vulnerabilities and truthfully declare when they do not know something. This attitude helps in the longer run rather than putting on an act of smartness.

At the time you joined Thermax were there other women in leadership positions? Has the scenario changed since then in anyway? Do women have to work a lot harder than their male counterparts to achieve leadership positions?

Now my daughter has taken over as the Chairperson so once again a woman occupies the top position at Thermax. We are aware that there are only six per cent women in our organization and we are trying very hard to make sure that such biases within us are removed.

We at Thermax require individuals having expertise in the field of mechanical and chemical engineering. These areas are not very popular among females and so not many women join us. We have been discussing these issues with the HR department. Also we have created a committee to review the number of woman employed among the new recruitments in the organization. Merit being the most important I will not compromise on merit while hiring any individual. I honestly believe it is not easy to recruit women in our hardcore business.

Whereas I think we can definitely have several women employees in departments such as Finance, Human Resources but in other divisions one certainly requires the engineering skill set. In fact not only engineering but also specific knowledge in accordance with the division. It is a very technical oriented company so even if for example someone has joined us in one of our divisions but does not have knowledge of the specific product it will take him a few years to get used to it. I would say about engineers in our company it is a very technical role and skill set.

Answering your second question I would say I have not experienced it. The primary reason is what I always keep saying that I was made Chairperson by default. But I am definitely active on this issue; I attend numerous workshops at CII etc. I recently attended one such workshop and I got mixed comments form women regarding this subject. A few women have acknowledged that they had to work much harder to prove their competency than their male counterparts. On the other hand some women have refuted it saying they did not have to prove themselves at their work place. They also said they did not expect any special favors just because they are women. Even the ICICI women have declared that they have reached such high positions and maintained it because of their exceptional work.

ICICI also introduced several flexible policies in order to retain good quality women workers. In fact women don't want special treatment except in case of maternity benefits. The maternity benefits were also confined only to case-by-case basis. There were certain policies made even for men who had family obligations, to retain a good male employee the policy could be altered with it. The crèche system in most companies can also be availed by men, who can get their children and leave them there. Our organization doesn't have it but it is something we are looking at in terms of long-term benefit for employees. Actually not only Thermax but also a group of companies in Pune together are thinking of starting a crèche, which would be of great relieve to the employees.

Being a woman manager how did you manage and maintain the balance between your professional and personal life?

It was not difficult as my children were grown up and were working by that time. They were quite young but were open and encouraging about the fact of that their mother was working. Therefore it made things relatively simpler for me. Occasionally they found it difficult with me being away but by and large it was a smooth sailing.

Personally and professionally, what has been the most defining moment in your life?

Personally I consider my ability to deal with death and loss of near ones has certainly improved. It has given me a great deal of courage and if I could go through this difficult process I can face any situation now. Personally that has been the most defining followed by undergoing for Vipassana. It involved meditation and reading etc that has played an important part in my life.

Professionally was being asked to be a Chairperson of a company like Thermax, especially at the time when it wasn't doing well. Among all the difficulties I had to fight all odds, find solutions and turn things around for our benefit. Doing all that and more alone was a great feeling. While making important decisions and getting the company back on track everyone joined hands within the company but there were times when I had to single handedly manage everything. The challenge of heading Thermax and turning things around was the most defining moment of my professional career.

Who has been the major influence in your life? Who is your role model? Among your contemporaries whom do you admire most? And why?

In my younger days my father was the most influential person in my life. Later on my husband also played a significant role in my life. He was an unusual human being. He was the one who constantly encouraged me to work rather than sit at home doing the daily housework. He respected me as a woman and wanted that I did what I desired to do. He was my role model; today my daughter is my model to a large extent. I have learnt so much from my daughter. In fact I'm still learning. Gandhiji too was an outstanding man and a paradigm for me.

When you say contemporaries, Mr Ricardo Semler is someone who I respect a lot. I also admire some characteristics of Mr Narayan Murthy. Amongst the woman managers I respect Ms Naina Lal Kidwai the most. Actually since the past few years I have stopped putting people on a pedestal or making them my role model. Nowadays for me I like certain specific qualities of individuals but I don't like that person so much that I would wish to emulate them. I have stopped doing it since years.

Do you see a change in leadership and functioning of the organization since your daughter took over as Chairperson? Has the transition been a smooth one for you?

It was a conscious decision to step down as the Chairperson and I have mentioned it several times. The board members decided to have my daughter Meher Pudumjee as the next leader of Thermax. Being my daughter the shift has not been a difficult one as she has imbibed all the family values and traditions, which is very essential. Truly speaking I feel she is better equipped than me as she is a chemical engineer by profession and also has had a stint with Finance before.

Having said that prior to her becoming the Chairperson I realized I had a lot of resentment and irritation towards her. It was coming unconsciously and I was not even aware of it. I had to really reflect and see through to realize my sentiments. But truly I have chosen to step down and I am delighted that she is heading Thermax. The fear and anger towards her was more so because I was a little afraid as to what I would do once I retired. How will I handle myself? So I had to be constantly in touch with that part of me and at the same time have discussions with Meher. The phase was temporary, hence lasted for a very short period of time after which I got over it comfortably.

Personally, you are also an activist for various causes? What drives you to take up these causes?

I am a social worker by profession and therefore when I see such inconsiderate contrasts in the rich and the poor, I feel one must be really insensitive not to be concerned about the underprivileged. As an individual I support this cause deeply and luckily my entire family supports it too. My Board of Directors (BOD) and I have agreed to donate one percent of our Profit after Tax (PAT) for the same purpose. We have created a Foundation where we have defined education as something that we want to take up. We are fortunate that for the first time a municipal school in Pune has been handed over to us. We are going to be running this school from June 2007 onwards.

I am also a very active part of Akanksha, which has been started 17 years ago by Ms Shaheen Mistry in Mumbai. I have supported them in introducing and conducting their activities in Pune.

What is your advice for aspiring women managers when it comes to crossing personal and family barriers? Would you advocate some degree of rebellion as a solution for women from restrictive and conservative backgrounds?

I would on no account advice anyone to rebel or not to rebel. But I would definitely verify that every action has an outcome and be aware of those consequences. In both the cases that is, you fight back or don't fight back there are going be certain consequences one has to face.

I would suggest women to dare to be the kind of woman they aspire to be, not letting social pressures bog you down and define your presence. I would like people to differentiate themselves and to make their choices intelligently. But at the same time individuals should not be bitter about the consequences, certainly be prepared for the outcome. If you are going to revolt and be sour about the end result then according to me that's not a good thing. There has to be a harmony around you, one should win over people and not always be defiant. Also take up a few issues where it is required to be rebellious but at the same time learn to resign at times depending on the situation.

You were a successful software engineer in the USA with Oracle. What made you return to India and start a Wine company?

My father is a first-generation entrepreneur, and I too felt the need to start something of my own. There is a special, incomparable pride one takes in a self-started venture, a feeling of ownership that drives you to make it a success. I could have chosen a secure, cut-and-dry job where I knew what the next day would hold, but I was much more drawn to the road less travelled. Most of my friends were bankers, consultants or media people, and many thought I was crazy to be growing grapes and making wine. Still, I believed in what I was trying to do and did not let traditional expectations scare me off.

Could you narrate your entrepreneurial journey and what were the initial challenges you faced while starting Sula wines?

The journey has been challenging as well as incredibly rewarding. In the beginning, the wine business in India was not exactly open, and it was extremely difficult to get a license to start a winery. But Sula adopted the distinctly Californian philosophy of allowing the world to come in and take a look. That has led to an excellent atmosphere of co-operation between the Nasik wineries, many of which opened after Sula kicked off the 'wine revolution'. The wineries have now formed a strong association, and the wine industry has been growing at the rate of about 25-30 percent per annum. Sula has been growing even faster than that.

What does a wine producer need to do to brand and market wine in India?

Two things have to happen. The first is the market itself becomes ready at a certain point, which obviously helps a lot. The other thing is you have to educate a lot. You have to ensure a lot of positive media coverage. And then you have to go out and put your product in front of consumers and make them understand what it's all about. And in India that is very important because no one actually knows what wine is about. Huge numbers of tasting, sampling, make sure you are available at events and parties. You have to push the availability of wine, which was non-existent a few years ago. Sula has been to that extent fortunate in that we released our wine in 2000 when the country was just about to take off. And so we have grown along with the India boom.

When you received funding for the first time, how did you plan your spending?

Everything comes at a cost, so you have to try and give away as little as possible in terms of share of the company. Do not take more funds than required, take as much as you need or you might regret the decision in the future. However having said that, always think about working capital requirements, quite often entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of funds needed in that respect, as in they estimate the amount of money required to get things moving, what they do not see is, if the project gets delayed by even a few months, what is the working capital required to keep things ticking over and where you are going to get those funds from. So you have to keep this in consideration.

What kind of support have you received from the government so far? What more support and actions do you expect from the government towards the wine industry in India?

The Government has been great in that excise duty has been waved off on wine. That is the biggest step the Government has taken so far. One by one, other small steps are being taken. Of course, the recent freeing up of supermarkets to sell wine is a pretty big step.

As for the things we would like the Government to focus on; our industry is becoming more mature, and as it becomes more so, the basic requirement is infrastructure. What we are really keen to see right now is the four-lane highway from Bombay to Nashik. The Maharashtra government has been talking about the Bombay-Pune-Nashik industrial corridor but let's face it, Nashik has been neglected. Nashik is the future of Indian wine and we need good infrastructure.

We need improved roads and a better power situation. Right now, in fact, our agriculture subsidy is negative. Somebody had promised us free power, which we had not asked for. Next thing we know, we are not getting any power at all because if it is free, they just turn off the switch and leave us to our own devices. So we have to use expensive diesel to power generators in our vineyards and all growers have to do the same. We have about 200 acres of vineyards and if you are to irrigate those on a diesel generator, that is a lot of diesel you are looking at. Definitely we are at a big disadvantage when you compare us to growers in other countries, where they have cheap and plentiful power.

How do you recommend people to nurture their interest in wine?

We have seen that if the customer likes a particular product, he usually follows the product and waits for the new vintage to arrive, then tastes it. If he finds it good he recommends it to his friends. For this reason we have opened the new tasting room at the winery so people could come see our process, taste the latest products and also purchase any if they want from there itself.

What do you see as the total wine market in India? Do you think Indian consumers are price sensitive towards products like wine?

You get this question from both sides. You get asked why wine is so expensive here when you can buy a fairly decent bottle for three Euros in Europe. For me, it is very important that wine should be accessible. I am not interested in targeting my wine at an elite audience. Sure, there are those wines in our portfolio that do cater to that as well. For example, the Dindori Reserve Shiraz is an important example because the amount of work we put into that wine. As a result we have to price it higher than any other Indian wine has ever been priced before, and appreciably higher. That too has its list of regular clientele. We are selling out of that vintage year after year even though it is at Rs 600 plus a bottle. What I want to do is reach the broadest audience possible. So we have wines like our Chenin Blanc, which is at Rs 350, which is accessible to many people.

What is your take on the Indian entrepreneurial scene? How are Indian entrepreneurs different from the hotbed of entrepreneurship in the Bay area?

The bay area has a highly institutionalized structure for entrepreneurs. There is so much backing available, so much advice easily accessible. There is an extremely strong network. That is not the case here in India, however things are improving, and the gap is closing fast. Now the accessibility that an entrepreneur with a good background and a good project has here is a hell of a lot better than I had 10 years ago.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur means accepting the inherent risks present in a new venture and going ahead full-force anyway. It's about having confidence in oneself and a strength of spirit to pull you through difficult times when it would be tempting for most to just throw in the towel and walk away.

Discuss this article in the Forum!

After a four-year stint with a leading investment technology company in the USA, BARRA International, what impelled you to join the family business? Was joining the family business an unsaid norm you had to follow?

Though I did my MBA in the US, and worked at BARRA International for 4 years, it was always my plan to move back home and work with Kinetic. Though my time in the US is an experience that I will always cherish for the exposure I received, I never had any intention of staying there for the long term. I grew up watching Kinetic take birth, I understood the social relevance of contributing to industry and development in India and wanted to apply all my learnings and skills to benefit Kinetic, because then in my own way I would be working for taking the country forward. I come from a patriotic family, a family of freedom fighters, and I was aware of the huge impact that my grandfather's lifetime of work in the automotive industry – from Bajaj Auto, Bajaj Tempo, Kinetic, Jayahind Sciaky, ZF steering India etc. – had on this country. He created employment for tens of thousands directly, and lakhs indirectly; and brought personal, affordable transport to millions. I wanted to take this illustrious legacy forward and continue in the direction he set for us. It was not an unsaid norm that I was expected to follow, it was my own life's plan.

With four years of work experience in a US-based company, did you find it difficult getting on with your new responsibility at Kinetic? Were there any startling differences in the functioning and the work culture between the two structures?

My experience in the US was great for cutting my teeth in the world of business, but it was not in the automotive field. So learning this industry, and way of working was a challenge at first. I spent two years travelling across the length and breadth of India, meeting all our dealers and learning. My dealers are all over the country and each is different from the other, its really very interesting. Also, now infrastructure in India has improved significantly but ten years ago when I joined, there was a big difference in the two countries. But we've had such a great team at Kinetic and a talented support team was in place.

What do you see as Kinetic's brand identity today? Personally do you feel you have been successful in projecting the Kinetic brand, as you wanted it be?

I do continuous market research to gauge brand identity and brand strength; and the research tells me that Kinetic is seen as an aspirational, innovative brand that has continuously offered superior products to India. We are a brand established over 34 years, and our main association is with gearless scooters. We are seen as “pioneers” in the country for we have always taken the two wheeler segment forward in terms of products, technology, creating new segments – such as the motoscooter Blaze – which is really revolutionary with its large format design, powerful performance and first time technology such as disk brakes, four valve engine, advanced suspension, etc. However, I think there is a lot of work I have to do to take the Kinetic brand where I want to.

Would Kinetic be looking at any further changes in the product portfolio in the near future? For the next three years, what will be your priorities and areas of concern?

Our product portfolio will receive two major boosts this year – the first will be our first launch from our association with Taiwan's fast growing two wheeler company SYM. SYM is widely renowned for its technology and quality prowess and is emerging rapidly as a global brand in two wheelers. The other launch will be the second from our Italiano series – the EURO, whose design is inspired by the legendery Audi TT. Over a timeframe of next three years, I would work to establish these two products and also the other Italiano series and more from SYM. I also have ambitions in exports where I see major potential. Areas of concern are importance to go green and make all products more environment friendly; and to cope with increasing competition.

How do you see the two-wheeler industry evolving in India?

There is a lot of room for evolution before we are in line with the rest of the world, but we are strong. Indian two wheeler market is huge and is very important to the people of the country. However, in terms of technology and design, we are not yet at par with the world but we are getting there. We are closer than before!

Were there a lot of women in senior positions at Kinetic Engineering when you joined? Does having a woman in the senior most positions of a company make it easier for younger women in the company to grow? How do you feel being the decision maker?

There were some, but not many. Automotive, or manufacturing in general, does not tend to attract many women. I wish more women would apply to us. As for being a decision maker, there is responsibility but also an exhilarating opportunity to really make a difference and translate dreams to reality.

In your opinion what are the disadvantages faced by women managers at workplace? Do women have to work a lot harder than their male counterparts to achieve leadership positions?

A woman at workplace has to work harder to earn her respect than her male counterpart. The first assumption of a working woman is that she must be a secretary or an assistant. She must make the correct first impression – that she is a professional, that she is qualified and in charge and everyone better understand that. Once she has made that reputation for herself, it no longer matters. Ultimately, your work and your achievements will determine where you go. Companies need talent and will definitely not let a gender preconception stand in the way of identifying and promoting talent.

You have done your MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Do you feel an MBA is a prerequisite to carry out business? Does it add value to a woman's managerial skills?

I think MBA adds value, it teaches you fundamental business concepts and sharpens your structured thinking and problem solving skills. I strongly recommend investing in your education, and getting the MBA qualification; but I wouldn't say that it is a prerequisite. There definitely are non-MBAs who are enormously successful and MBAs who aren't.

How do you juggle your roles as a wife, a mother and businesswoman?

I have a supportive family, and I am highly organized about my time. I also make sure to stay fit and keep in good shape so that I have the energy to tackle all that is on my plate.

Who has been the major influence in your life? Who is your role model? Among your contemporaries whom do you admire most? And why?

My grandfather, H. K. Firodia has been the most major influence in my life and my main role model. I strive to be like him. Among my contemporaries, I admire several people such as Ratan Tata, Anand Mahindra, the Ambanis, the Infosys team, the Ranbaxy team, to name a few. Their achievements are tremendous and they are taking “made in India” to a new level altogether.

What advice would you give to women managers? What skills apart from a possible MBA do you think could help women managers to do well?

Think of yourself as a “professional” first. At workplace, be professional, be confident, focus on the job. Don't let anyone tell you that you cant do this because you are a woman. A woman can do anything that a man can, plus more. It is true. So have faith in yourself and if anyone has a problem with you being a woman – especially if you are in a leadership role – then frankly its their problem and not yours; you cant do anything about it anyway so just don't pay any attention to it! Always keep learning, your education and training never stops!

Abhishek, Director, Global Merchant Services, American Express
There are three ways an Indian MBA can hope to build a career abroad but each path requires clarity and richness of work experience, says guest writer Abhishek, Director of Global Merchant Services at American Express in New York.


These days, news sources raise questions on the health of the economy and the job market across all parts of the world, especially in the United States. This in turn makes people doubt if there is any value in studying an MBA at all and whether it would result in a lucrative job. These questions become more intense if the student is an Asian and his dream job lies in the United States.

In my opinion, being a successful manager is challenging, involves great personal effort but it also depends a lot on what the economy is like at a given point. What you are most passionate about, what skills you can offer and what you are willing to do to get in matters all the more in a not-so-great economy. As an example, having no prior media experience, if I suddenly decided to work in advertising, I would need to assess if I have the right skills and whether I am willing to work my way up from the bottom, being the rookie that I am.

Indeed, the brand of your b-school, its alumni network and the intensity of ones relationships with classmates are invaluable. As an MBA student, you end up learning several theoretical concepts through case studies, projects and field assignments; you are able to develop soft skills through group learning and improve your problem solving capabilities by undertaking leadership roles in college. Beyond this, the importance of an MBA degree begins to fade. Once you start on the job, your work experience starts to matter more and more and your MBA degree begins to matter even lesser.

For management students in India who want to work abroad, all of the above often counts more than does the brand of the b-school.

There are three standard ways in which those who want to work abroad can achieve their dream. The first method is to get a direct recruitment into a foreign firm for an international location, which in my experience does not happen too often (only a small fraction of the class gets international placements). The second includes internal company transfers (like in my case at McKinsey & Co). Though such transfers have been increasing, they continue to be restricted by Chinese walls and the sometimes inferior treatment meted out to domestic Indian operations of multinational companies. The third and most common option I have witnessed many Indians undertake in the past few years is to either study a second MBA degree from a reputed institute abroad or to study an advanced degree of specialization.

The first step in evaluating the first option is to search out business schools that have consistent records of international placements. Generally speaking, the top-tier schools are the ones that provide this opportunity the most. They are also the ones with the maximum competition to get in and later on, even more intense competition for those few international assignments.

The second way is to identify companies known for a high percentage of international movements and then seek an MBA from the institutes they generally recruit from. This route is also a challenging one. There is no preset path for international movement from domestic operations, as, like I mentioned before, they are often not treated at par with international ones. However, if I look back now, from my Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development (SCMHRD), Pune class of 2000, there are so many alumni who have moved to international locations through transfers. It is a direct result of their performance and to a large extent what the MBA education turned them into. One advantage of this path, that most people do not consider, is that the visa process is a lot easier, especially for the USA. If you move intra-company, then the path to permanent residency is much faster than the traditional H1 visa route.

The third and relatively more secure method is to try and do an MBA from an international b-school. This approach may not be for everyone. One still needs to compete to gain an admission. The bigger issue is the significant investment required for a foreign MBA. If you are evaluating this option after having done an MBA previously, you have to also consider the lost income from the existing job. The visa process is also not the easiest.

If you are targeting the most plum jobs abroad, then you have to begin by achieving great clarity on what you want to do in life and whether your current passions are going to motivate you towards them and whether you have the right skills to walk in that direction successfully.

Abhishek is Director, Global Merchant Services at American Express in New York. He graduated in 2000 from Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune.

Dr Srikant Datar

Dr Srikant M. Datar is the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Accounting at the Harvard University. A 'Bombay' boy, Dr Datar graduated from the Mumbai University (University of Bombay then), went on to study at the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

For some years, Dr Datar has been on a mission to change the rather outdated curriculum in Indian and b-schools across the globe. That b-schools are not matching steps with reality has been one of his top concerns and he has also penned a few books on the issue. PaGaLGuY met up with Dr Datar a few days ago to learn that he is not only writing another book but also taken his calling with Indian b-schools more seriously than ever.

Why the new book?

Harvard Business School is completing 100 years so we thought we should re-visit the concept of business education and check what is happening. After speaking to thousands of students, meeting up with schools, professors, our research threw up rather unexpected data. We all thought that US business schools are doing a super job of MBA education but our results were quite the contrary. If you leave the top 15, there is a huge drop in MBA numbers. It was a shock to see the numbers plummet to as much as 25-50 per cent in some schools. And all this when countries like Eastern Europe and Latin America are rising and need managers.

Is the economic slowdown the reason for the fall in numbers?

We found that many companies were actually dissuading their employees from going for the MBA, especially full-time MBA programmes. The part-time MBA, executive MBA, and other masters programs were seen to be better options. The numbers are also falling because it is time for schools to re-focus their goals and strategies. Re-think the curriculum and the education offered. There is a difference in what is needed and what b-schools are offering to the corporate world.

What about Indian schools?

Indian schools tend to focus on strong analytical skills and management concepts. What they lack in are 1. Critical thinking skills. 2. Communication skills. 3. Innovative thinking. 4. Understanding or organisational realities. And it is these skills that really tell a good leader from an ordinary one. A strong analytical mind was the need earlier, no more.

There is undue stress on placements in India

Yes, very much so. Could be that the wrong kind of people are doing an MBA and just could be that these people do not even add much to the companies they join later. Candidates are excited to get into top colleges but do not think about what they are going to do with the teaching they get there. Or what their personal contribution should be to the MBA course.

What needs to be done?

Management is not an individual sport. Skills are needed to work with different kinds of people and different requirements in a company. More needs to be done in 'doing' and 'being' than just 'knowing' which was the important factor earlier. Students need to think creatively and innovatively. You cannot learn to be innovative by the case-study method. Every skill in business schools cannot be taught by the case-study method. A course in critical thinking is important and should be taught in the first semester so that the student can keep learning for the next two years. Lots of other essential issues need to be taught and explained to students before they actually start working. Students have to be aware of themselves, their skills and the needs around them.

You are working with b-schools in India for a curriculum change?

Yes, some of the top schools, including the IIMs have already started making changes. Curriculum has to change, focus has to shift. It cannot be analytics only. Leaders have to have a proper understanding of the places where they are working and the teams they are working with. We have to look at data more interestingly. You don't need a professor in front of class taking a lecture these days.

Indian schools are not globally diverse, does that make things worse?

Yes, that is the case. MBAs have to prepare for a global need, understand what the world wants, the changes across countries, be it cultural differences, different legal processes, unique corporate thinking. It is urgent that MBA students think of becoming global leaders.

You were talking about new leadership challenges?

There are new challenges today, new venture challenges, leadership challenges, consultancy challenges and new boardroom challenges. If you are going to lead people, you better know how different people are. Empathy has to be developed. Leadership today is not as much about authority as much as the ability to handle a conflict. A leader acts with integrity. Leadership skills that worked in the old model are unlikely to work today. MBAs need to understand how to work 'through' and 'with' people.

You tend to quote Mahatma Gandhi often

Three of Gandhi's principles are important more than ever and work perfectly in the MBA space. 1. Knowledge without character 2. Science without humanity 3. Commerce without morality. It is the change I am talking about. What were attributes to be a good manager and leader earlier do not stand anymore. Today, it cannot be an analytical mind only which will get you there, you need reliability as well. Honesty, empathy, ethics are more important than ever.

Mr R Gopalakrishnan

Mr R Gopalakrishnan, fondly called Gopal, has spent a good 45 years in the corporate world. This includes 31 years at Hindustan Unilever and the last 14 years at Tata Sons, where he is serving as Director. A product of St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, Mr Gopalakrishnan is also an author and has written three books so far, namely The Case of the Bonsai Manager, When the Penny Drops: Learning what's not taught and What the CEO really wants from you: Four straight As. He is on his fourth book, which is not even remotely connected to 'management.'

PaGaLGuY met up with Mr Gopalakrishnan. The Director spoke about his new book and also shared his views on MBA education in the country, its ills and why he never did an MBA.

The Tata Group has been recruiting MBAs for years. Any feedback on how they perform at the workplace?

India produces in the region of 1,20,000 MBAs every year, so called MBAs – those with MBA education. Whether they are PGDM or whatever else. So far as I am aware and this is more anecdotal – not more than 15% have work experience. And 85% if not 90% do an MBA after their BA/B.Com etc. At Tata, we recruit for the top end and in two ways. One, by looking at people with real experience, two, by taking fresh people and giving them real experience so that we make them real. We try to overcome their deficiencies. That is because it is also our job to take the product and fit it in. So I can't comment if they are really bad or terrible as other people say so. I am just giving you a background to say it can be possible.

Has the global slowdown affected recruitments at Tata?

The job situation is bad everywhere. Harvard MBAs do not have jobs these days. There is a nexus between health of the economy and recruitment. Economies in Europe are not doing well. Actually, software is not doing too badly, manufacturing has slowed down, and companies are doing some amount of adjustment. The next two years is going to be tough. Careers are slowing down and there are partly global and partly local reasons for it.

Even an MBA degree will not help in this situation?

Management is an applied education, an applied science. It's not theoretical. The theoretical underpinnings come from economics, science, and psychology. If I go to any other part of applied learning such as dancing or painting, I can't do it if it is just theoretical teaching. Schools of applied technologies need enough of precept theory and practise. You have 5,000 management institutes in India and that is one of the reasons that young people see MBA as a passport. Management learning is what you make of it.

Education of any kind is an enabling device. People have studied far and not joined a corporate career and vice-versa. Yes, it helps if you are part of a good institute. In Mumbai, if you are part of St. Xavier's, then yes it is a good thing but more than all this it is what you make of your education which is important.

Is that why you never did an MBA?

There was no MBA at my time. If I had thought of doing it, I would have been in the first batch at IIM-A. I have done an advance management programme from Harvard Business School and I am considered an alumnus but I have not done an MBA. It was not a very fashionable thing at that time. I would have rather studied engineering. MBA education is good thing to have but the criteria of taking people with 3 year's experience should be in force. In the Indian sociology, you have to finish all your education and then start working, with all family including grandparents waiting to clap. In fact, studying in bits is considered something wrong and that the person does not know what to do, is what family will say.

And then management institutes are also closing down.

The demand for education in India has attached to it quite implicitly, a rider of quality, same holds true for MBA courses too. It is like the less well-off people pay money to send their students to English medium schools rather than free municipal schools. There are lots of regulatory bodies, either attached to the government, MHRD, AICTE, UGC- but there is no quality effective supervision. Ten years ago there were 1600 institutes; the people saw the money coming in and more came in. Some will eventually close down.

What is your new book about?

The book is not on management. It is on changes that happened in society and the country at large, through the eyes of my ancestors. Changes I mean by sociological, historical and economic ones mainly. I have traced my family for generations. I have gone to the year 1824 which is G-minus 6. Traced how the family started in the village. What happened in the country at that time? What influenced them socially and historically and how they changed. The book is not on my family but on how the changes affected them. For instance, I have discussed Tippu Saultan, the Vellore uprising, 1857 revolt and how my family heard of it and how it changed them. The effect of the first steam engine, first newspaper, first post card… Have got it all till my children. I have finished the manuscript. It is on who the people I have met in my life etc. what lessons did I learn from them.

Your earlier books touched upon management, not this one? You have fancy titles also.

If you are the literary type you will like the titles but if you are management type, you will not. Management people like to read books on 'how to impress your boss.' But the third book was about how to impress your CEO. Actually, even publishers have a say in the title – if you have a title like One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, people will fly over your book.

I have written books in 2007, 2010, 2012 and though they are management books, they are on life. They apply to every kind of a person. The first book on Bonsai Manager was about intuition. We all have to be intuitive. Be it a policeman, doctor, we all have to be intuitive if we have to do something better. The second book was about self-awareness. The most difficult person to know is oneself. If you think you know yourself, you know your body, do you know your brain, your physiology. Even a doctor does not know.

Third was treating your boss like a customer – if you notice, we never treat our boss like a customer. But if you realise that if given a choice, the boss would have done the whole job himself. A employee often thinks of a boss as an exploiter for getting work done out of him. But try looking at your boss as a customer, you will take his instructions better and actually understand him.

So you provide stereotypical solutions in your book?

Most management books are written by academics and after doing much research. They have interviewed some 5000 people and they want to say something profound, and they should. I am not an academician and I do not offer formulae as there is no formula. I will never buy a book which says how to score a century in cricket all the time. There have to be failures. Am saying I have walked in the streets for 45 years. I have learnt a lot. I will not tell you how to do it. I write experiential books, what an older person will tell a younger person.

You won't find Martin Luther King writing about management or Peter Drucker on how to lead your life. But there is a space between management and life which I am drawn to. What is the use of all cosmetics if you have not made yourself up internally?

Why so much of philosophy?

At my age, what do you do? When you get older, you look at things dispassionately. When you are younger you want things more involved - it is more like hurry up, I want a job, hurry up, I want a child. At 25, you cannot be philosophical and 55 you have to be philosophical. I have a dhobi box and I keep tossing my ideas into the box. I keep rummaging my dhobi box for ideas. I get my ideas from the box. I like story telling which not a good thing in management.

If you can convert your learning, it will be the best MBA, you don't have to be an MBA. I try to write about experiences from real life. I am not Martin Luther King, I am not Mandela. I am an ordinary person. You get books on them, but when I read the books, I feel I am far away. But when I meet my father or my friends, I can relate better as they are normal people. All my stories and experiences are true.

The Tata group has maintained a very 'social' image for years.

Yes, Tata cares about doing for society. About 2/3 of Tata's profits go back in measures that help society. So if you notice, no Tata person can ever be a billionaire, we don't want to be one, we don't claim to be one. We don't want to be number two either. People look for deeper value than money and that is why they work for us and our attrition rate is not bad. No, am not saying we are perfect at it but employees are important for us.

What plans with Goa Institute of Management since you are on its board?

GIM was unstable for a while but now we should be on course. There is a new director who is academically inclined. We have recruited people who are also heavy on the academics side from places like NITIE, Mumbai. We want to produce socially and ethically-aware MBAs.

Any goals to reach, any dreams?

At 67-68, I look at others' dreams, cannot have my own anymore. Future of other younger people be it my children or others is what I look forward to.

“I am overqualified. I am underqualified. I don't have the experience. I am too old for this, they need someone younger. I am not supposed to complain in this economy, atleast I have a job. Whaa !! Not everyone is supposed to change the world. ”

Do you hear (or worse, use) these sentences often? I am sure you do. I have, myself, been guilty of committing this crime several times.

Here's an interesting story that proves the same:

Folks at one of my favorite startups, shared that they had an opening for a 'Software Engineer' and were looking for referrals. I decided to share the 'open' position with my alumni. But, I decided to make an experiment out of this. Yeah, I know. I am a big weirdo.


Let me throw in a few numbers. There are over 9000 members on this page. Most conservatively estimated, 1000 final year students, towards whom the post was targeted. GharPay is a seriously cool startup and all of that jazz but, let's just say it still doesn't touch many of the undergraduate's heart strings as a dream job. So, 23 people inbox me their intentions to work for this setup. Few of them asked the CTC and the job location. I obliged and commented on the same post with the information.

The salary is commensurate with what the top guys get at some of the more established companies . So, I was expecting a little more enthusiasm.

The 23 people who did send me their intention to apply by inboxing me were replied by me to send in their resumes. Guess, how many of those resumes turned up?

15 out of 23. All it'd have taken is a minute to attach them and click 'send'. So, Stage 2 filtration done, without any effort from my side. I told the other 15 people (and remember, I am giving them an illusion that they have 'made it to the next round') to send in sample of the codes, the best they have written till date. All of this is actually part of GharPay's recruitment process. Now, we have the really interesting part. A grand total of 1 person sent the sample code.

Finally, I sent in 2 referrals to Arpit (co-founder at GharPay). The other one was that of the cousin of one of my friends who insisted that I sent her resume anyways.

When I sent in the referrals, I shared with Arpit this same experiment of my mine. Here's is his reply:

My experiment was not an anomaly, after all.

The point is that there are dozens of parameters out there which will lead to your disqualification from a job application process. Make sure that at least, you are not disqualifying yourself.

An expanded version of this blog post was first published on my blog GharPay has since been acquired by Delhivery for an undisclosed amount and Arpit and Abhishek are working on a new startup.

The brain is a fantastic beast. Works extremely hard to ensure that you don't really put in too much effort. Its a cognitive miser and it forces you to act like one. Any amount of tough decisions that the brain needs to make, it will find a way to push it forward to a later point in time. Explains why you don't regularly gym, eat healthy food or just about never end up keeping your new year resolutions.

But what if you could train your brain to be regularly OK with the additional pressures of thinking, imagining and actually doing things that required you to think deeply? What do you truly require to get there? How do you become a much better version of yourself.

Remember the curiosity you had as a kid? Remember how certain problems bothered you for days until you had a solution? Some how as people grow, they seem to value action over thought. May be it is ingrained in their minds that action is doing and thinking, well that is just something that makes you look lazy at work. Over a period of time people just stop thinking deeply about things.

A ton of times when I interview people for a role at PG, I ask them to think about a specific problem and 99% of the times the person just stares back. I suggest that they could run me through how they think about the subject. I usually get blank stares. Over the years the pattern is fairly consistent. A ton of people just don't even know how to think clearly.

The world needs more thinkers. You. You reading this article. Please learn to think better. Cherish the pain of solving a problem. Savor the joy of connecting the dots. Enjoy the short-lived burst of happiness before you are off to solving other mysteries. Life is a struggle. At least struggle with things that are worthwhile. Think hard.

image courtesy: Bharat Goyal Photography

The end of a journey is more important, because this end was the driver of your journey. You always set this end to get there at any costs. This end is the report card of your whole journey.

If you agree with above statements, prepare to experience failure in that journey. Because you put up psychological pressure on yourself by doing that.

Put that 'at any costs' attitude aside. Never think about what will be the end of this journey. Create a temptation goal for the journey.

Let me explain with an example: If you are preparing for the CAT test, you set a target (or end or report card) as 99.50 percentile and to achieve this percentile you set another target of attempting 55 questions out of 60. This target put up a psychological pressure on you, and you will fail.

Now consider same with temptation target - just set confidence as your goal. To accomplish this goal, practice till perfection but perfection has no limits. So practice as much as you can. By the D-day, you will have enough confidence to be stand as winner.

Never allow the pressure of your result to choke your performance to enjoy the part of wonderful journey because very often we have no control on few things that come in our way.

In above example how you can sure about those 55 questions will achieve you 99.50%ile or more, you have no idea of what other candidate is going to do. If you keep worrying about what other candidates doing, you resisting yourself to performing best. If you prepare well enough for game, you never lose that game. You lose it because you don't perform as much as you can.

More often people are telling about to give more than 100%. How is it possible? Can you fill 500 mL of water in 250 mL bottle? I know your answer is in NO. But yes you can, first you have to consume first 250 mL of water from that bottle then fill it again. 'To give more than 100%' doesn't mean that give your 110%, 200% or whatever, it mean to give your 100% every time when you are in the field.

Great people become great because they excel in their preparation. Whatever you achieve in the end, is result of whole preparation during the journey. Set yourself performance goals not the result goals.

"Love your work, don't worry about the fruit" is the key of whole success.

A few of my friends crib in front of me all the time, about how they hate their current 9-5. I always ask them what would they rather be doing. They mostly reply with something to do with the creative side or somewhere they think they can make a change. While I do appreciate the thoughts, I always follow up with my favorite question. “So, how many people have you actually met in this domain or industry that you say you want to work in?” 95% of the time, I get a zero response, which is perfect, for then I can use my vindictive laughter to humiliate them. (Yes, I'm an evil weirdo.)

So, when my buddy from High School told me the same thing around 6 months ago, I asked him my stock question. Expecting the same stock answer, I was ready to take him up on his bullshit. Not to be. I had found my match.

ME (with a smirk on my face): “So, how many people have you actually met in this Marketing/Advertising industry that you say you want to work in?”My buddy (poker faced): 6 or 7

Blown away already, I decided to find out his story and tracked his progress over the next 4 months, while he kept hacking his way in. Read on, if you want to know the hustling steps that he took to make an *almost* seamless transition from his miserable IT job into Advertising.

Without any prior experience in Advertising/Marketing domain

Without an MBA

Without any previous contacts in Advertising, whatsoever

Without having a degree from ABC institute of Communication

Have a look at why worrying about the above is one of the biggest career mistakes people make. Find my notes and comments against AB in the brackets.

Enter Maddy


It was a 2-year long journey with IT. I still do not know how to format a computer! Worse, I never wanted to know.

(AB: How many of you can relate to that?)

Life in IT was tough. MBA in marketing/advertising was at the back of my mind. It remained there. I knew it would not move, so long as people believed primary mathematics and 'some numbers out of hundred you scored 5-7 years back' have got everything to do with your marketing/advertising/creative skills. Well, I'm just a senseless layman to question the judges who are officially entitled to do my job (make no sense).

(AB: I'd generally mark that as a limiting thought; unfortunately, that is a sad but true scenario in India.)

November 8: Manager raped me in front of 10 people who 'mattered'. In IT, verbal rape doesn't quite qualify for 'HR issues'. So, I put down my papers that evening and walked away. Went home, got belted, came back and withdrew my resignation.


Read the rest of the blog post on my blog where it was originally posted to find out how my buddy overcame the situation.

Or should I say, the need for none.

Two weeks ago, my company decided to post an entry-level analyst job opening on a MBA-specific niche website, anonymously. I uploaded it on Friday, 2 pm. By 6:30 pm, when I logged out, I already had 50 profiles in my inbox. By 6 pm on Tuesday, when I closed applications, I had crossed 400. Mind you, not the run-of-the-mill IT Analyst applications, 95% plus were ready to become (or already were) investment bankers.

This was the first time any of us in the company were running this exercise. I skipped the email bodies, downloaded the attachments into one folder, and started sorting: Yes, Maybe, No. Yes meant a line professional would read the resume and select some profiles to interview. Both Maybe & No meant the same thing: immediate rejection. I was on a deadline of less than seven hours before handing over the sorted folders. Just over a minute to read each application before taking a call to sort. By the end of four hours, my mind was completely fried. I pitied recruiters who did this daily, wondering how they prevented their brains from turning into mush.

By now you'd have understood that I considered everything other than the resume itself superfluous. Yet, every now and then, some gems cropped up. Two such cover letters are reproduced below, verbatim.

1. In the pursuit of achieving perfection, I wish to widen my horizon in different fields of work. Working with such a reputed organization as yours will certainly help me exploit my best potential and make me work as a key player in such a challenging and creative environment. Opportunity to working with your firm would provide me an understanding of the industry as also enhance my knowledge of financial analysis & management. I believe my education and values would enable me to exceed expectations on the above parameters and also give the organization a commendable team player.

2. Knowing as I do, that your esteemed organisation is a learning place for many successful professionals I am approaching you, sir, with a fervent request to offer me an opportunity to serve in your high profile organization.

I am pleased to enclose my "Curriculum Vitae" which inter-alia highlights my professional and academic attainments. I am looking forward for an Organisation that furthur shapes my skills and provde me with a successful career.

It is therefore, with a fond hope and expectation that I am approaching you for a positive and favourable response. Needless to mention I shall make earnest endeavours to come up the expectation of the Organisation.

Both stated they knew my organisation well. In reply to an anonymous posting. Wow. Grammatical errors set aside, who comes up with such gems? That they are aware won't even be read?

Tomorrow, I plan to start an online petition to permanently murder the idea of cover letters. Verbose resumes are poisonous enough, anyways.

The answer is not an easy Yes, although there are enough qualities in women to suggest that women actually make better sales reps than men. Let's look at some of the top qualities that one may look at an excellent sales rep,

Detail oriented



Good at networking

Not impulsive

Driven to succeed

Can start and maintain good conversation




... amongst several other related qualities/factors.

If one looks at each of these closely, and then checks the levels of compatibility with intrinsic qualities of both men and women, we would figure out that there are better chances of women having stronger competence in each of these above qualities.

Women, by virtue, are more detail-oriented than men (if you don't believe that, then take your wife/girlfriend/mother for shopping) and generally don't make the hasty errors that cost millions in sales for a lot of organisations.

Women are also known to be great conversationalists and are excellent at networking (they also manage to maintain such networks). Given that most of today's working women would have seen their mothers/aunts as housewives and yearning for recognition from their male counterparts, they would be fiercely competitive and ambitious to make a mark of their own. This allows for space in learning and the drive to contribute amazing insights and thought-leadership to their work - which in this case would be sales processes or systems leading to great revenues.

I have personally known women to have comparatively fewer large bottleneck issues with gatekeepers or first-level decision makers. One of the benefits of being detail-oriented is the capacity to control discussions and outcomes of meetings with a certain specific decision maker in the decision-matrix.

One of the major challenges of women sales reps is the establishment of status-quo, which is a situation caused due to reaching that perfect time in life wherein they achieve everything that makes them contented. The perfect-balance is something that women reach faster than men, and therefore can have the disastrous effect of them plateauing at a very important juncture in their career. When that happens, the contentment factor plays a large role in creating an opposition strong enough to stymie all the good work and opportunities present. The motivation to continue being a rockstar sales rep is intrinsic and therefore has to be strong enough to win over the status-quo contentment that shuts out women sales reps.

Some of the best sales reps in the world who are followed for their inputs on sales (Jill Konrath, Elinor, Kelly, etc) are successful moms, wives and also brilliant sales leaders. A closer look at their profiles will make one thing pretty evident: that they found a reason large enough to pursue their love for sales, and have contributed almost equally (when compared) to their male-counterparts in taking sales to the next level.

How do we become really successful?

Let me crisply answer this fundamental question, using my experience as a guide. When we talk about MBAs - managers - what do these guys really do? Even before that, just who are these guys?

Well, the "who" ratio is approximately 20:30:40:10.

20% are entrepreneurs - totally self-driven and in-charge of their own destiny. 20-30% are intrapreneurs - they are entrepreneurs inside an organisation. 40% are executives - they carry out things really well. 10% are eternal crib-nannies - the world fails to see that they are god's gift to mankind.

I have worked with dynamic and successful people from all categories above, the least being from the fourth. The one common thread in all successful people is long term vision. They were all thinking and acting really long-term.

So what's that? What really constitutes long term vision? A distractor intelligently said, "in the long run, we are all dead." So for him there is no point in anything that's long-term. But what is long-term? Five years? 15 years? 50 years? In my opinion, "long term" in any decision situation is a sufficient enough time period that you allow all players in the game to have their full effect on the situation. The subject (the manager or you) waits patiently for the final effect to display itself.

Here are some precise points

When someone is in the first stage of her/his career, it pays to remember that it is precisely that - the first stage. Their whole life is yet to happen! The first job, or the first 5-6 years of your job are your foundation years when you must focus on these four things above everything else.

Greedily learn actual professional skills that matter - not just basic stuff like smart paper-pushing, PPT-making and glib-talking. Slog your bones off so you learn more - your body can support it now (in your twenties). It will be too late after you are 30. Overlook the money you are making, focus only how much you are growing as a professional whose opinions people seek. It changes your entire perspective.

Try working with the toughest bosses, not the easy ones. The tough bosses will force you to grow completely out of your comfort zones, and you will thank them for the rest of your life. I feel that 9 out of 10 successful people did many of these things in their earlier years, knowingly or unknowingly. Let me be honest, while we are in the daily rut, it is difficult to get a 30,000 feet view like the one I have propounded above. But focus on the job's content, not payoffs. And taken to the extreme, if you get a chance to work with a super boss, a guy who can totally change your professional calibre, maybe it'll be a good idea to do it free of charge :).