Thursday, July 31, 2008

Next Generation of Air Transport: Capt Gopinath


I am a 25-year-old mechanical engineer based in Lucknow. I have started a business aimed at setting up a network of movie exhibition units in villages, using low-cost projectors. I wish to create a chain of 10,000 movie units across rural India in a span of seven months. After nine months of experimentation, my projector now works fine for a 120-inch display, but I have having a tough time trying to raise the required capital of Rs 1 crore. My parents say they have spent enough on me and friends say they need money for houses, cars and bringing up kids. I tried banks and venture capitalists. Banks ask for income tax returns for three years, while VCs insist on a track record. Is it possible for me to get seed capital or will the money come only after my business begins to bloom? Should I slog for several years before I get basic capital. Please guide.

CAPTAIN GR GOPINATH Executive Chairman, Deccan Aviation

THE creation of a large capital is undoubtedly a critical requirement for entrepreneurs across the board, at every stage of their growth. To get an idea off the ground, however, the critical factor is not money but passion and commitment for your vision, which for the truly committed, is inexhaustible. From Dhirubhai Ambani to Narayana Murthy, the success stories of Indian businesses are rife with first generation entrepreneurs having no prior business education, funding or even experience. Indian entrepreneurs now have the advantage of a dynamic and robust economy acting as a fertile ground for their innovations, experiments and success.

Market Your Dream

People have to buy your idea, if they are to put their money into it. Do make sure you have a vision, a well researched plan in place and stay positive. Ask yourself: What is your vision? What is the relevance of your idea? Are You cut out for the grind? This will help you chart the different stages of development for your business, as you envisage it. Each stage of growth will require different strategy, approach and budget. You will have to don different hats to deal with different challenges and crisis in order to stay afloat and make a success. You want to set up a rural network of movie exhibition units. You can start with the prototype you have already built, make it work and build your product reputation around it. It also helps to build a committed team, and acquire the right know how to market yourself and your product effectively.

Build Your Credibility

If you have to get someone to fund your dream project you have to make them believe that your commitment is 100%. This cannot be simulated, only your sweat, toil and tears can speak for you. You have to be prepared to throw in everything that you have to realise your business concept. An investor will go along with you once he’s convinced that even though the failure of the venture would definitely be a setback for him, for you it will be nothing short of a financial catastrophe. I do not prescribe to any management theory instead I prefer to rely on my gut instinct which is backed by my own research and observation. In the early 1990s I stumbled on a news report about a Vietnamese born French pilot using helicopters to help foreign investors travel all over Vietnam. This made me think about the abysmal lack of helicopter services in India and the potential of the enterprise. The process of economic reforms had begun but commercial aviation was a negligible industry and air travel had remained stagnant in the past decades. Under the circumstances, getting finances for a helicopter looked almost impossible. It took my friends and I four long years to get a single helicopter on lease. By 1996 I had mortgaged everything I owned, borrowed heavily from friends and relatives. I succeeded in getting a few private investors on board and acquired our first helicopter and launched Deccan Aviation. While we earned profits right in the first year of our operation, my vision for Deccan Aviation was not just about securing an annual profit. We wanted Deccan Aviation to become India’s largest, most specialised and customer focused helicopter charter company. This required, further investments, a large fleet of helicopters and more financing. Until four years back, I drew a net salary was Rs30,000, but my company remains well supported by investors.

Early Mover

You must realise that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And If you want to dream big you must act fast and be decisive. The bottom line is if you have a vision and are willing to put all at stake, you will be able to prove your commitment and get support.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taking Air Transportation to the next Level.

Software Products to Fuel Air Transportation

V. K. Mathews is the founder and CMD of the IBS Group of companies. Mathews founded the International Business Services Group in 1997, which has grown to being a leading global provider of new-generation IT solutions to the Travel, Transportation and Logistics industries and whose solutions today manage the mission-critical operations of the best airlines, the busiest international airports, top oil & gas companies and most luxurious cruise lines around the world.

VK MATHEWS Founder and CMD, IBS Group

Equipped with a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from IIT Kanpur, Mathews started his career in 1979, teaching computer science to army officers. In 1981 he joined the IT division of Air India and played a key role in the implementation of their computerised passenger services systems world-wide. Subsequently, Mathews joined The Emirates Group, where he contributed to the growth of the airline in various capacities, over a span of fifteen years from 1983 to 1997. As General Manager-IT of the Emirates Group, Mathews was responsible for formulating and implementing Information Technology strategies for Emirates’ global operations.

In the late 1990s, while many industries had already adopted modern software systems to run their operations, the air transportation sector was still using age-old systems that were slow to respond and too complex to manage. There was a need for simpler technology solutions to ease and speed up processes.

On the other hand, India’s brimming software industry was dominated by code-on-hire services companies and the opportunity for leveraging the cheap but effective software skills in the country to meet the worldwide need for software products to fuel air transportation was left largely untapped.

Watching this emerging business idea in 1997 was 41-year-old VK Mathews, figured that a logistics software product model was good enough to make him quit that job and take the entrepreneurial plunge. Thus was born International Business Services. The company, in its first decade, has put together a bouquet of 15 software products to serve the global travel, transport and logistics industry.

The aim of the company was to provide IT solutions to the global Travel, Transportation and Logistics (TTL) industry. Starting with the development of solutions to specific problems as turnkey projects, under Mathew’s stewardship the company has moved from strength to strength. With strategic acquisitions and the technological expertise and business domain competence gained, IBS today offers a range of innovative and cost-effective products, in the areas of airline operations , airport management, airline cargo , oil and gas logistics travel, cruise and hospitality management as well as ocean transportation. IBS is committed to developing new generation IT solutions that replace legacy systems.

In just ten years IBS has grown from an initial size of 60 staffers to a 2000-strong, SEI CMMi Level-5, PCMM Level 5, ISO 9001:2001 and TickIT certified company with a global presence. The company’s earnings have grown at a steady annual compounded growth rate of 40%. The global clientele of IBS includes major corporations like Nippon Cargo Airlines, BAA, Emirates Airline, Cathay Pacific, South African Airways, Air New Zealand, Dubai Airport, SITA, Shell, GulfShare, Qatar Airways, Celebrity Cruises, Star Cruises, Orbitz Worldwide and so on. IBS and its Group companies operate out of Atlanta, Alexandria (VA), Bangalore, Boston, Cochin, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Phoenix, Rotterdam, Sydney, Trivandrum, Tokyo and Toronto.

Mathews is an advisor to the Government of Kerala in the areas of Information Technology, Industry, Management and Education. He is a member of the State’s IT Advisory Board, Higher Education Council, Planning Board of Kerala (Committee for Industry & IT) and figures in the Board of Studies of several colleges/universities. Mathews is also a member of Board of Directors of the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management - Kerala (IIITM-K) and a member of the TiE Kerala Core Group.

A committed technocrat and a business visionary, Mathews is one of the pioneers who have ensured a place for Kerala state on the global IT map. In recognition of his achievements he has received numerous honours and awards. He was awarded the Management Leadership Award 2001 by the Trivandrum Management Association, and the Millennium Leaders Award 2002 by Surya TV, a leading television channel in South India. In 2002, he also received the IT Kerala Award for Enterprise Excellence and the Kerala State Sahridaya Vedi conferred on him the award of IT Man of the Year 2003.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Speaking the Language of Business.

ArcelorMittal: Speaking the Language of Business

Mobility of people and ideas is central to success at ArcelorMittal. Thus, the company is emphasizing the importance of business English as a competency to ensure ideas and best practices can be shared throughout its global operations.

When you create one of the largest companies in the world via merger, integrating new people and ideas becomes a significant challenge. This is exactly the situation faced by ArcelorMittal. This company is a major player in the global steel industry, with current production equivalent to about 10 percent of the world's steel output and a clearly defined brand promise of "transforming tomorrow." With 310,000 employees in more than 60 countries, however, communication poses a challenge.

In the global steel industry, mobility of people and ideas is critical to success. To effectively manage this large international organization, ArcelorMittal is placing an emphasis on the need for its executives and managers to speak English, the all-but-official language of business around the world.

"In our aim to become the world's most admired company, many things need to be improved," said Lakshmi N. Mittal, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal. "A priority is the fluent command of the English language. Our business long ago evolved from being local to being global. To help drive the business forward, we need a common language. The ability to speak English is not only a priority for our company, it is a valued asset that may expand [employees'] career opportunities."

"Global management requires a shared language," said Alejandro Gardella, ArcelorMittal human resources manager for the Americas. "Without good communication skills, employees have a limited ability to contribute to the new global company. We have already had situations where managers have had to travel with interpreters in order to participate in our global meetings.

"Within our company, we have a wealth of talent and knowledge. But we need to be able to access this from across our group in order to position our company where we want to - as the best," he adds. "When Arcelor and Mittal merged in 2006, it was clear to me that in order to gain full advantage of the employees and expertise in the Americas, English business language skills would be essential."

Two Companies, Many Voices

After the merger, the ability to share information across the organization's expanded international operations became critical. Thus, the company quickly saw the advantage in having employees in high-level positions speaking English. This presented a challenge, as only 15 percent of the ArcelorMittal workforce was comprised of native English speakers.

Previously, ArcelorMittal has provided classroom-based English language training, but this yielded inconsistent results. The company's production facilities often are located away from large metropolitan areas, and the result was a limited and unreliable approach to English language training. In order to efficiently and rapidly provide employees with the business English communication skills they needed, a new approach was necessary.

"Prior to the merger, we had conducted a very successful pilot scheme with GlobalEnglish at Mittal Steel," Gardella said. "The implementation was very collaborative. The rollout was not just a test of online language training but represented the first-ever e-learning initiative by the company. We were very interested to see how it would be received, as that would indicate to us how we could use e-learning in other areas in the future."

The pilot scheme proved highly successful. Ninety-eight percent of the participants indicated they would recommend the method of training to a colleague. In fact, news of the program spread quickly via word-of-mouth. Additionally, 83 percent of the participants were able to directly apply what they were learning on the job.

"The product satisfied a specific need for our employees, and one that they recognized," Gardella said. "There was no lack of clarity. Having the interface in an employee's native language proved the perfect bridge to speaking English, and this is one of the keys to success."

Following reports of high satisfaction rates from users, ArcelorMittal rolled out the service to managers, engineers, specialists and high-potential candidates around the world. Management targets those employees who need to use English in their current jobs or in preparation for future positions with the company. Enrollment rates have taken off as managers around the world have found out about the program and assumed responsibility for distributing it locally.

The ArcelorMittal Corporate University conducts many leadership and high-potential courses only in English. This has been a factor in driving participation in the program, as employees must meet a certain English level proficiency in order to attend these programs.

"Supporting our employees as they developed their skills was clearly an important factor in the success we have seen," Gardella said. "We provide regular encouragement and recognition to keep our employees motivated. Those who are making great progress are acknowledged in our newsletter, as well as with e-mails from senior executives. We have also planned for employees to have access through computer labs so that they can spend focused time on their learning. We are now looking at creative ways to build on the initial enthusiasm in countries where we have already had tremendous success."

One Company, One Voice

The service has been rolled out to more than 5,000 people in the organization, including 1,600 employees in Latin America, but there is significant need for more. ArcelorMittal has more than 35,000 people in leadership and management roles, so the bulk of English training has not yet taken place.

"We are already seeing the benefits," Gardella said. "People who before could not be considered for global projects can now be accessed for their knowledge and experience. Employees in Brazil, for instance, have been working with Japanese production and quality techniques for decades, and now ArcelorMittal can bring that expertise to facilities right across the company. Understanding communication from the company headquarters is easier, and we are able to share learning and best practices across all employees in the shared language of business: English. In the longer term, succession planning and high-potential development is also improved. We can now include people from around the globe without the limits of a language barrier.

"When you are a leader in an industry, you must always be developing and improving your own best practices. At ArcelorMittal, we are committed to providing the leadership that will transform tomorrow's steel industry. Having a common language allows us to get the best out of everyone in our company. That contribution is what allows us to continue to move forward in our aim to be one of the most admired companies in the world and to continue to lead the industry."

Article Resource:
Christian Standaert
[About the Author: Christian Standaert is the general manager of ArcelorMittal University.]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chetan Bhagat: Keep the Spark Alive

Keep the Spark Alive.

Excerpts Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune - 23rd June, 2008.By Chetan Bhagat.

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you.

This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated.

The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party - several months in advance - just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So, how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn't the
purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already.
Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.

I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marbles. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are Disappointment, Frustration, Unfairness and Loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return, if things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? Is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades - how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release.

Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved - movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result - at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan - I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it - not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an
opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is Isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time
they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history.

And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You!!!

Scrap yard to Success....

Jitendra Singh with son Lokendra


This serial entrepreneur went through a roller-coaster ride in a career spanning three-and-a-half decades and learnt some survival lessons on the way

STEEL ingots, magnets, flowers and film-making — these disparate interests hardly hold a connection for most of us. But for Jitendra Singh, they mark the turning points of a long entrepreneurial journey that began in the early 1970s and continues to this day. In these years, Mr Singh says, he tasted success and failure in good measure and each experience left him with rich experience and lessons in business leadership.

It all started on a tour to Japan in 1968. Young Jitendra had gone there along with his father, whose metal scrap business had a few customers in the land of the rising sun. A nationwide strike had given this engineering student an impromptu vacation and he used that to stay and learn his first lessons in business from Japanese workmen.

“There was a cluster of furnaces in Japan’s Kansai region (known as a steel hub). India’s steel industry had never seen that kind of growth. I realised that there was space in India to set up similar facilities, especially when we were just developing and I predicted huge demand for steel,” says Mr Singh. He found a willing venture capitalist in his father and the family applied for government licences to make steel ingots in the country.

Indian Steel Corporation (ISC), the Singh family’s new firm, obtained three licences and by 1973, had set up two plants at Kolkata and Mumbai, each with 12 tonne arc furnaces. Industrial units making small steel items were the customers and soon, the business started gaining ground. Demand was growing and Mr Singh decided it was time to scale up capacities.

The first hurdle came in the form of high interest rates. The proposal was not only turned down by many banks, but the high cost of borrowing made it unaffordable for the family to take loans for expansion. But Mr Singh had resolved to expand capacity five times and looked for options.

“That’s the second thing that one should do to cement a new business; expand. Unlike now, it was tough to raise money back then. Assistance from banks was hard to come by, so we thought of going for a public offering,” says Mr Singh. Inspired by the highly successful IPO from Reliance and Dhirubhai Ambani’s daring vision, Jitendra Singh went to the capital markets to raise Rs 1 crore.

The IPO brought in the money, the expansion was completed and the steel ingots business found a growing market. Revenues increased consistently for a decade. But Mr Singh got a severe jolt, when his father died in 1982. He took help from his uncles and managed the company, though ownership issues and a family split would ensue later.

In 1985, ISC got into engineering. In the metal scrap business, the company used heavy magnets that would aggregate the material and release them into a waiting furnace. Many engineering, capital goods and steel units had similar needs and Jitendra decided to start manufacturing industrial magnets.

“We have been repairing our own magnets, which weigh anything between 5 to 10 tonne. We had collaboration with a UK company. With the manufacturing sector growing in the country, we sensed an opportunity in the business,” says Mr Singh. The initiative clicked. Within a couple of years, revenue reached as high as Rs 75 crore (Rs 300 crore at today’s prices, says Mr Singh).

Thus, Mr Singh had established a reputation for getting into businesses where he had no prior experience and learning on the job. “As an entrepreneur, one needs to keep diversifying so that all the revenues are not dependent on one business,” the veteran explains.

In 1992, his uncles also passed away and the business was split. He and his brothers got the Mumbai side of the business, with operations in Khopoli and Bhandup near the metropolis. However, this meant a sudden drop in revenues. “We adapted,” Mr Singh recalls. ISC tapped the demand for magnets across the subcontinent. A Bangladesh office and a factory in Malaysia were soon opened. This move helped stabilise revenues, but Mr Singh felt more diversification was needed to overcome the hard times.

That is when the fragrance of flowers attracted him. Mr Singh set up an export-oriented floriculture unit in the mid 1990s. “We set up a joint venture with an Israeli company. It was not that difficult to get into the business in India and we saw a high demand for flowers in the export market. But within a short time, high duty rates imposed by the EU made the business non-viable and we closed shop,” says Mr Singh.

More bad news was in store. Beginning 1997, the global steel industry entered one of its worst phases. Steel prices fell and the Asian financial crisis made bank loans hard to come by. “We somehow continued operations till 2003, but had to shut shop after that. We didn’t have the financial support to go for backward and forward integration, which could have saved the business,” says Mr Singh. Revenues had shrunk to new lows and the business had to be reinvented.

“Now, we wanted to get into businesses where margins are better to withstand any recession,” says Mr Singh. But he was now joined by his son Lokendra, who not only understood the family business but was clued into opportunities emerging in modern times. “In our ingots business, the difference between production and selling costs was slim. So the margins were low. A recession would wipe out the profits at one go,” says Lokendra. The father-son duo zeroed in on three sectors for diversification; media, pharmaceuticals and food & hospitality.

The first piece of good news came from the flowers business. A changing lifestyle and rising middle class incomes made India a hot, growing market for flowers. Jitendra was quick to revive his floriculture business. The Khopoli unit, which had filled with the grating noise of metal scraps business for decades, was now handling tender flowers.

At that time, a movie-maker friend visited Singh’s unit in Bhandup and happened to see the backyard warehouse where metal parts had been stored. He asked for the space for a few days, so that he could film parts of his film there. Mr Singh agreed. At the shooting, film star Raj Babbar, who had also known the Singhs previously, remarked the warehouse was an ideal place for a regular studio. It did not take much to get the serial entrepreneur making plans for a new venture; an investment of Rs 3lakh for a rental studio for films and television soaps.

“We had a lot of empty space at our Bhandup-based facility. Earlier this year, we set up the 8,000 sq ft studio. Within two months, we have been reporting 100% occupancy,” he says. He wants to add another 5,000 sq ft to the facility soon.

Among other plans, he is eyeing project engineering, building on his magnets business. “Today, we have 80% share in India’s magnets market,” claims Mr Singh. At Rs 30 crore, the company might be far removed from its days of glory, but Mr Singh is hopeful. “The steel industry is in for a long-term boom...I don’t have any turnover targets. I only hope to go step-by-step, learn from every step you take, forward or backward.”

These days, Mr Singh often takes visitors to show off his star-studded ex-warehouse floor, where a movie or a TV soap is being shot. And he refuses to draw curtains down on his entrepreneurial dreams that have sustained his long journey from a scrap yard.

Article Resource:
Author: Prince Mathews Thomas is the Chief Editor in the The Economic Times, Mumbai and the article appeared in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Start-ups called "Starship Enterprise".

Businesses Face New Safety Challenges as Workforce Ages.

Businesses Face New Safety Challenges as Workforce Ages

As the number of employees over the age of 55 continues to rise, businesses are faced with the challenge of retaining these valuable workers while reducing health- and injury-related losses. Studies by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show aging workers have fewer workplace injuries, but diabetes, hypertension and other age-related ailments are increasing employers' costs associated with medical insurance and lost work production.

Businesses can help mitigate their losses by improving policies and workplace design to allow employees to continue to work in a safe and healthy environment, said Tina Minter, a loss control specialist with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

"Older workers are highly valued by employers for their judgment, flexibility, experience and creativity," Minter said. "Fortunately, many of them will work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, due partly to advances in health care. This presents both opportunities and challenges to businesses, which will need to adapt to maintain a safe work environment for these workers."

Minter and her colleague, Russell Dronne, a Chubb loss control specialist based in New York, recently led a session, titled "The Aging Workforce: It's Not Just Ergonomics," at the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Professional Development Conference and Exposition, Safety 2008, in Las Vegas.

Although injury rates among older workers are lower than those of their younger counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, other factors can contribute to increased health and safety exposures: age-related chronic disorders and diseases, loss of hearing, impaired vision and physical and cognitive limitations.

Minter advises businesses to take action to address these risk factors. Some examples of what businesses can do include:

a) Allow for flexible work hours so those with poor night vision can adjust their start and finish time to coincide with daylight hours.

b) Encourage employees to use the health care system for preventative well visits.

c) Eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches.

d) Encourage employees working at a computer to take small breaks every 30 minutes.

e) Don't rely on sound as the sole means of emergency communications, as employees with hearing loss may not hear announcements.

"Employers should include older workers in the design process and seek outside professionals for assistance in adapting the workplace, training and human resources policies to fit the aging workforce," Dronne said.

Minter's and Dronne's session was one of seven led by Chubb loss control specialists at this year's ASSE conference. Other topics covered by Chubb included nanotechnology, global supply chain exposures, fire protection, sprinkler design and OSHA inspections.

Chubb's Loss Control Services unit provides loss prevention and premium audit services to more than 100,000 customers annually. With more than 400 risk engineers around the world, the unit offers Chubb customers specialized assistance in disaster planning; fire prevention, detection and suppression; employee health and safety; cargo security; preventive-maintenance planning; and asset protection.

The member insurers of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies form a multibillion-dollar organization providing property and casualty insurance for personal and commercial customers worldwide through 8,500 independent agents and brokers. Chubb's global network includes branches and affiliates in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Don’t fire them, fire them up!!

Don’t fire them, fire them up!

Startup Hiring Checklist


More often than not, the best employees are the ones that find you, not the ones you go out and look for. The problem a lot of startups have is, how do I get more people to find me? Simple — think of it as a marketing exercise. Just as you would explain the product features to a potential customer, explain to a candidate what it's like to work for you (in real language, no HR platitudes thanks), what you look for in people and then make sure people find out about it. You can even post a Web page on life at your company. It's a small investment to make but an effective tool in getting a vast audience to read about the work experience under your roof.


You’ve hired smart people already right? You think your team is the best on the planet. So put them in front of candidates! Don’t hide them in a back room. Too many people have their HR people do most of the interviewing. Let the candidates get to know the people they'll be working with, if they join your company.


Many entrepreneurs think that the simple way to hire a good team is to throw money at the problem. In choosing a place to work, people look at the company, the role, the people, the environment and the money. Pretty much in that order, but it's important to keep the balance among all the variables. As long as the money is competitive (and this is key), the other factors should decide the final outcome. Money doesn’t win people over, money prevents you from losing them. It gets you in the game. People value their time and while you might be able to ‘buy it’ with an outrageous salary, that’s a temporary measure. They’ll eventually realise that doing a boring job 10 hours a day for huge dollars isn’t the way they want to spend their life. It's not a way to build a company, it’s a short-term band aid strategy. You don’t win people with a lot of money and I’d say you don’t want to. People who chose a job purely on the larger salary are probably people you don’t want on your team anyway. That said, the corollary here is that you can definitely lose people with money. If you're not paying what the market is or your firm just pays really low salaries, people will go elsewhere. It's all about balance.


Sometimes people come along who don’t fit into any existing role. You can consider hiring really smart people, even if you don’t have a defined role for them. At the same time, don’t be afraid to redirect a candidate if you feel they’re interviewing for the wrong job. If you have a roadmap for your company’s progress, you would have created titles and jobs that you would require in the next two or three years. Many smart people will fit into these roles, current or future, but others create the job profile for themselves. Have the flexibility to include both groups in your team.


The hire-or-don’t-hire decision is critical. Why is this decision so important? The damage a wrong choice can do to morale, to your product, to your company should never be overstated. It’s a little like poker, the most important and hardest skill to learn is when to fold a hand not when to bet. Not hiring a few good people is far better in the long term than hiring a few bad ones. Err on the side of caution.


This mostly applies to software developers, but the principle is important for all. Don’t hire based on keywords in a resume. Too many companies look for “JMS”, “EJB 3” and “J2EE” and assume someone is a good developer. Look for people who are good at learning new technologies, rather than stacking up acronyms.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Growing oppurtunities for a Freelancer.

EARLY a hundred years ago, American humorist Robert Benchley said the freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece, per word or perhaps. For a long time, freelancing was hardly a career choice in any profession. It offered very poor pay, little professional status and hardly any opportunities for growth. And it remained that way for decades, until the forces of globalisation brought freelancing out from the cooler and put it in mainstream. Today, the powers of Internet and outsourcing have combined to make freelancing a potentially attractive career choice, and still better, an option to exercise freedom and one’s spirit of entrepreneurship.

Freelance outsourcing is spreading like a sail lifted in the headwind. Men and women of all ages are logging onto the Internet at their homes, spending the number of hours they choose and serving customers half the world away in services as varied as web designing, medical transcription, manuscript editing and accounting. India’s rise as a provider of software and business process outsourcing services has helped elevate the image of freelancing at par with regular jobs, but the real push has come from the burgeoning demand for individual skills in capsule form that corporations won’t find it economical to provide.

“I am a big fan of freelance outsourcing and its place especially given the latest developments in Internet, telecom and technology,” says entrepreneur K Ganesh, who was a trendsetter in both call centre and online tutoring businesses that have become thriving trends in India’s outsourcing industry today. He has used freelancers in his start-up companies and believes the trend is set to catch on big time in the years to come.

The last few years have seen several factors coming together to make freelancing more viable than before. The most important change, of course, was the advent of Internet and connectivity at homes. Till not long ago, young mothers were giving up promising careers to take care of their families. Today, most of them still find it difficult to get back to work, but can at least profit from the freelancing trend. Also, globalisation and outsourcing have brought millions of people in India and China to the world’s labour pool, connecting individual service providers in these nations with individual customers in the West, for the first time in such a large way. These factors have also spawned a series of web exchanges dedicated to the job of bringing freelancers and buyers together.

A decade ago, a Harvard Business Review report said freelance outsourcing could take over the world. The setting for that invasion, if one were to happen, has never been more propitious. The talent crunch is getting tighter everyday in many sectors and often, HR managers have to rope in freelance workers to meet short-term demand. HR consultancy Ma Foi maintains a database of such workers who could be called at short notice to work for projects that crop up from its clients. Customers supplement their own headcount with such teams, adopting pay-per-use model. “We know who are the right ones to contact for the job,” says Ma Foi chief operating officer E Balaji.

When the dotcom bubble burst around the turn of the millennium, one of the few online businesses that survived was, which has fashioned itself as the eBay for services. Similarly, Logoworks, which provides a platform for designers to display their talent and make logos for companies, has been another success story. It was recently acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Experts say the proliferation of online marketplaces for freelance work is one indication that outsourcing is no longer confined to companies and has spread to the individual level.

Freelancing, in fact, is getting more sophisticated than writing assignments and consultancy. There are business advisors who are available to tackle a given issue at a company for a specific period. There are turnaround artists who work only as long as it takes to pull a firm out of morass. There is also the 28:28 model in the oil sector, where geophysicists and engineers work for 28 days and take rest for the next 28. They typically work on one excavation project for about two years and then move on to newer fields. Companies are ever innovating on what all can be freelanced.

While such special projects do exist, most of freelance outsourcing, however, is confined to non-core functions that a company can freely get outsiders to do. “It helps us outsource non-core functions of our business, so that we can concentrate and focus at the things we are best at,” a software businessman says. It helps businesses do away fixed and recurring costs on menial tasks. However, there is a flip side to it too. The old adage that nobody got rich by freelancing is still true. It is extremely difficult to build value in a career, given the fragmented nature of clients and projects that one might work for. It may also not pay in proportion to the hardwork. For companies using these services, on the other hand, managing outsiders is a challenging task. There are intermediaries such as Ma Foi who aggregate freelance labour pool, but still quality control and a grasp on timely delivery can be unpredictably difficult. “I do not support freelancing because all said and done, you need a person to be present in-house to exchange views with other people in the team and also to have a perfect product,” says CEO of ESS Solutions Sanjay Kanth.

Also, freelancing might be suitable for some tasks but not for others. Says Mr Ganesh who now runs an online tutoring service: “For TutorVista, we thought of allowing freelance tutors and becoming a marketplace for trading in tuitions. But we dropped the idea because this concept has failed with other portals. If you dig a little deeper, you will know why it doesn’t work. First, there is the challenge of dis-intermediation. The student and teacher may get connected and do away with intermediary and therefore the commission. The second challenge is quality assurance. The quality of service is intangible, it is not like a product. Determining the quality of service becomes impossible, so there may be a chance that it won’t be worth the money.”

Balaji of Ma Foi says it is the difficulties involved in quality control and resource management that will present entrepreneurial opportunities in freelance outsourcing. But India will have tough competition in this segment. Ireland and Israel are already making solid progress, while eastern European countries and even Pakistan are potential winners.

This would call for a body like Nasscom to take freelance outsourcing under its wing and promote quality. This would help India avoid costly mistakes that its outsourcing companies made in medical transcription and animation, where low-quality work led to virtual blacklisting of Indians. But high-level of flexibility, the freedom to pace one’s career, global scope and convenience will make freelance outsourcing a compelling option for more professionals. And bringing them and their customers on the same platform is going to be an equally compelling business opportunity.

Article Resource:
The article appeared in The Economic Times, Mumbai in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Start-ups called "Starship Enterprise".

Monday, July 21, 2008

Action Biotech: Capitalizing in the Biotech Industry.

Capitalizing in the Biotech Industry

Action Biotech believes in the substantial future potential of stem cell treatments for many serious health conditions. They are venture capitalists who invest strategically in small companies that have promising stem cell capabilities.

Some of the Californian stem cell companies in which they have invested are beginning to show promising results in fields such as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or "personalized stem cell lines" which contain the personal DNA of the patient, thereby eliminating the body's normal immune system rejection, which is one of the limitations of current stem cell treatments.

However, they recognize that this field is a long road, with both progress and set-backs. They believe the field will move ahead more rapidly as the $3 billion from California's much-delayed "Prop 71" stem cell funding bill begins to become available to private companies from 2009 onwards.

Starting up a business in a highly contested field can be challenging. Many entrepreneurs are tempted to copy other businesses with the hope that their venture would manage to do better than the next fellow’s. Only a few have the courage to enter a crowded battlefield with a completely unique offering and change the rules of the game through innovation. One such firm is Acton Biotech (India), competing with thousands of diagnostic laboratories in the country, but making a singular proposition that has made prescribing doctors sit up and take notice.

It would be shocking, but not far from the truth, to know that there had been sick people who died because of inadequate diagnosis and wrongly targeted treatment. Dreaded diseases like cancer call for extreme treatments before which the body could wilt and collapse. So, it is essential to know exactly how much a patient could take before a process such as chemotherapy could be administered.

Modern research has shown that not everyone reacts to medicines the same way. There are people who metabolise the drugs too soon or too late, leading to complications. So, not only the dosage and frequency, even the nature of treatment must be customised to the extent possible.

It was with this objective Sandeep Saxena founded Acton Biotech. His laboratory in Pune and a network of sample collection centres help doctors leverage the power of gene analysis to design chemotherapy and related treatments for cancer patients. The 32-year-old biotechnologist believes a better understanding and use of human genetics could revolutionise the diagnostics business and alter forever the one-size-fits-all prescription that the medical world is used to while treating ailments.

Sandeep Saxena Founder and CEO, Acton Biotech

Asian Institute of Oncology in Mumbai is one of the institutions using Acton’s services. “So far, our practice was based on the assumption that all patients will respond to a drug in a similar manner,” Dr Anupama Borker, paediatric oncologist at the hospital, said. “But some patients would respond very differently from others. Now with these tests, we can stratify patients and tailor the drug according to so that it has maximum benefit and least side effects. We are also testing for the aggressive leukaemia and tumour load. If both these are high, the patient gets a stronger dose, as compared to a patient with a less aggressive leukaemia and low tumour load.”

Typically, a hospital refers a cancer patient to the nearest collection centre where a blood sample is collected. The genetic properties of the sample are analysed at Acton’s Pune lab. “Drugs for treatment of serious diseases like cancer are needed to be washed out of the body and if the patient lacks the required enzymes to wash it away, then it will start accumulating inside the body and prove counter-productive. Therefore, this is exactly why a simple gene test is so important as you can then be give drugs according to the enzymes you have in your system,” Mr Saxena said.

There are some global players in the field such as Mayo Clinic, Prometheus Lab and Quest Diagnostics, none of them is present in India, according to Saxena. Because of the novelty here, “even convincing my team that this project will work was quite difficult. But, now they are as confident about my business as I am,” he said.

“My business is a mix of biotechnology, medicine, pathology and marketing, and I am happy that I am able to maintain the correct balance between each of them. I want to expand it further and get into other major diseases like TB or AIDS. I am confident that very soon, everyone will be able to afford gene therapy and it will be done to cure even the most common diseases like common cold,” Mr Saxena said.

Article Resource:
The article appeared in The Economic Times, Mumbai in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Start-ups called "Starship Enterprise".
Action Biotech

Microfinance Management and Investment Advisory

M2i Founders Chase A Dream; Set Up Firm To Offer Advisory Services To Microfinance Companies.

M2i consulting has been set up to catalyze the growth of microfinance by bringing in more professionalism in the sector. Towards this mission, they endeavor to work with start-up as well-established MFIs, entrepreneurs, investors and donors and provide such services which facilitate integration of microfinance with the economic mainstream.

They bring in best application of modern management principles to microfinance, by continuously assimilating knowledge from diverse fields and by building on the body of knowledge within the microfinance domain. They use rigorous analysis to solve complex management problems, while maintaining absolute clarity in the recommendations they make. Their processes are designed to ensure an intellectually rewarding experience for their clients, as well as, for us.They interact closely with their clients to provide customized solutions. While they emphasize on innovations, they follow them up with rigorous validation and standardization to ensure sustainability of these innovations.

Imagine building a business plan by combining a love for travel, desire to see development in villages, financial acumen and college friendships. That’s what three students at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) did in 2001. Deepak Alok, B Atul and Rajeev Kumar used to discuss how market forces could aid development. One compelling area to look at was the fledgling industry of microfinance, banking for the marginal sections of the society. It was not yet mature, but had all the ingredients of any mainstream industry, they believed.


Microfinance Management and Investment (M2i) Consulting came into being in March 2006and quickly landed a client in ESAF, Thrissur. The start-up advised ESAF on capital structure and conducted training. The success of the first assignment was noted and ICICI Bank soon signed up as a customer.

The company got its first international assignment from Microfinance Investment and Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). M2i assessed the financials of an MFI called Parwaz, which later became its client. More projects came from southeast A s i a n countries and the team had to travel to places like Indonesia, P h i l i p - pines and Cambodia.

Today, M2i’s client list includes Rashtriya Grameen Vikas Nidhi (RGVN), Sadhan, Development Alternatives, ESAF, Cashpor, BISWA, Nirmaan Bharati and Appropriate Technology India (ATI). M2i trains, provides support and management consultancy to MFIs. It also helps these institutions in designing products for their clients — the villagers who borrow money from these MFIs.

Microfinance institutions often find raising capital a difficult proposition, given that the rural banking mechanism is unfamiliar to most investors, including private equity and venture capital firms. Making money in microfinance is itself a challenge and providing corporate advisory services could have been even more so, but M2i navigated through the early difficulty of winning clients by leveraging the prior contacts the partners had. “Initially, we were apprehensive, we weren’t sure how it will work. But, we had the confidence that it was all that we wanted to do,” Mr Bist says.


The company, which now employs 11, has made profits from the first year of operation in 2006-07. It had a revenue of about Rs 15 lakh in the first year and Rs 40 lakh in the nine months of the current fiscal. It has a profit margin of 10%.

Entrepreneurship makes you an all-rounder, feels Mr Alok. Initially, he had to do everything from writing the books of accounts to ensuring numerous regulatory compliances and most of his time was spent on them. “But, it’s only when you go through this experience that you realise how very discouraging complex regulatory requirements can be for a start-up. Thankfully we now have fairly standardised and streamlined systems.”

Article Resource:
The article appeared in The Economic Times, Mumbai in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Start-ups called "Starship Enterprise".

M2i Consulting

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Classic Stripes: Taking Auto Styling to the next Level.

GRAPHICS and decorations on vehicles was once a business pursued by the small-time garage operator catering to a local clientele. Even abroad, there were only a few companies in this business, and in India, virtually none. Two decades ago, not many would have seen sense in the need for an organised business to put stripes and designs on automobiles. But Kishore Musale has not only taken that business mainstream, he has also made a number of car and bike manufactures factor in exterior adornment as part of their design.

So, it was a milestone for Classic Stripes, which Mr Musale founded in a 120-sq-ft room outside Mumbai in 1987, to have won an order from Tata Motors to provide body-side graphics to the Rs 1 lakh car. The company already serves a range of Tata vehicles in addition to global giants like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Toyota and Indian companies, including Bajaj and Mahindra & Mahindra.

CLASSIC STRIPES PVT. LTD. (CSPL) was established in 1987. The Company is in the business of producing decals which are used in the 2-wheeler and 4-wheeler industry. With ISO-9001 certification and a staff strength of over 300 people, CSPL has propelled its brand to the forefront of Graphic and Printing Industry. The Company has a production capacity to produce over 6 million motorbike decals per annum and is the largest manufacturer of 2-wheeler Graphic worldwide. The Company also produces Doming Labels and has a production capacity to produce over 2,00,000 Doming Labels per Shift. The Company has also invested in the state-of-the-art in-house design studio which caters to the requirement of the industry and as per customer’s design requirement.

Classic Stripes Pvt. Ltd. for the second consecutive year has featured in the survey conducted by the Grow Talent Company in partnership with Economic Times as the “Great Places to Work” we were rated 5th in 2007. . This is a tribute to our Core Competence which is our “People”.

Mr Musale’s business goals are ambitious and global. While selling to the local market and retail buyers would have been easier, Mr Musale, from the beginning, wanted to have original equipment manufacturers as his clients. He particularly wanted to target Japanese vehicle makers, which had the best volumes to offer, but insisted on the highest quality possible.

Classic Stripes had to struggle for business for four years after its birth. In the first year, it made only 20,000 units. But Mr Musale believed the automobile industry in India was set to explode and his time would come. He was amply rewarded when the country’s economic growth, technology advances and a growing population began to translate into a rapid growth initially for two-wheelers and later for cars.

With experience serving tough Japanese clients, Classic was quite ready to meet the new domestic demand. There has been no looking back since and today, the company has developed the capacity to produce 10 million units of graphics a year. It employs 600 people and has been ranked among the 25 best places to work in the country by Businessworld magazine.

“OEMs have always been our main focus. But, now we are concentrating on after-market graphics for cars, graphics with original designs through their showroom,” says Mr Musale. Mr Musale can now afford to take more time off to spend with family or to listen to Led Zeppelin’s songs. But he is already chalking out global expansion plans for Classic and two sister companies. “We are also looking at supplying signages like the big ones you see at petrol stations, shopping malls in India and abroad,” he says.

Article Resources:
The Economic Times.
Classic Stripes

Friday, July 18, 2008

Evolution from a Seed Manufacturing Company to a Talent Development Function.

T Muralidharan, is one of the few who have floated with the ups and downs. Today, he runs a successful talent spotting business, but it was the failure of his attempt to sell seeds to farmers that made him a gritty entrepreneur.

Mr Muralidharan, chairman and managing director of TMI Group, believes in fate. “I believe in serendipity. I would have never been an entrepreneur had it not been there,” he says. It was this fatalism that protected him from succumbing to failure.

It all started over a beer. Mr Muralidharan was chatting with his friend and IIM-A batchmate Turab Lakdawala, when the latter declared that he wanted to quit his job and start a business and asked Mr Muralidharan to be his partner. Mr Lakdawala wanted to do business in seeds because of his agricultural background, while Mr Muralidharan had no clue about biology or agriculture. The only dubious qualification was that they had no money and seeds needed minimal investment. They started TM Inputs in 1987 with the hope that millions of farmers would buy seeds from them and grow bounteous crops. Little did Mr Muralidharan realise that it would be a different kind of seeding and inputs that he would really make his mark in.

Three years later, losses were mounting. Mr Muralidharan realised that he wasn’t contributing to the business, given his lack of knowledge. His partner, who understood seeds, nevertheless was no match to his competitors in marketing wits or risktaking ability. The two decided they’ll give the business 1,000 days and see how it goes.

Then, a friend, who freelanced as a recruitment agent, recommended the business to him. Finding jobs for people and people for jobs. The concept appealed to Mr Muralidharan so much that he converted his seed company into a recruitment agency. The additional benefit was that the name of the company had to undergo very little change. TM Inputs and Services. The new input was the potential employee. With this business, Mr Muralidharan realised he was a people-centric person and that’s the kind of business he should be doing. “My core competency is networking. And recruitment business is all about networking.” His IIT-IIM pedigree helped him get big companies in his clients’ list. It also helped him get access to IIT-IIM talent pool, as his friends from the premier institutes started joining him. Branches in metro cities were opened with these new partners.

The need for talent is a lot like hunger and the business is evergreen, not unlike the food business. Mr Muralidharan says when the economy grows, recruitment agencies get business because there are more jobs going around. When the economy slows, there is business again, because workers quit under pressure and companies need to refill positions. “It is like a perpetual vacancy cycle,” he says.

In 1997, his partner Mr Lakdawala started his own advertising firm. This left Mr Muralidharan free to explore his networking opportunity. He gradually grew the businesses into three divisions — TMI First, which caters to the requirement of freshers, TMI Network for lateral hiring and C&K Management helping companies build core competencies.

His alternating fortunes taught Mr Muralidharan what succeeds and what fails. “Budding entrepreneurs should never underestimate execution. It is very romantic to make a business plan with all its embellishments, but to get it done you need people and processes and most importantly your personal integrity in times of adversity,” says Mr Muralidharan.

In 2000, he received funds to start C&K Management and for creating a knowledge portal — Like most businesses, he also went through the pain of the dotcom bust. His online venture faced bankruptcy with huge expenses and little income. Failure loomed and again Mr Muralidharan survived. He says it was the sticking together of his team that saw the company through the bad times.

Now, business is growing steadily and bigger clients are walking in. “We create courses for top global IT companies in India. Every failure teaches you more, a lot more than your success,” says Mr Muralidharan.

Ironically, the biggest challenge Mr Muralidharan faces today is to retain his own people. His employees get trained and then are hired by, sometimes, his clients. “Then my employees become my customers,” he says with a chuckle. His company has 650 employees in six branches in India and one in Dubai. It has a turnover of Rs 35 crore and an annual profit of Rs 7 crore.

This management alumnus believes IIMs teach managerial capabilities, but not entrepreneurship. IIMs only teach a student the way to minimise risk and accumulate wealth. But entrepreneurship is all about putting one’s future on the line and risk everything to create something. It includes the willingness to go bankrupt. That’s why, Mr Muralidharan says he never regrets leaving a cushy job to start on his own. “I love to do what I am doing. I don’t think I would have been better off working for others, no matter what the pay was. Customers and wife are my bosses and they are manageable,” he says.

About The Manage Mentor:
As India's largest Career Advisory Group, they have far greater responsibility to their employees to be transparent and put all their cards on the table, while seeking talent. To provide lots of excitement and challenges when they come on board, and to assist them navigate to the best employers in the country - when they decide to move on after contributing to the company's growth.

Welcome to Kareer Center , a site dedicated to employees, present, past and future. Read up about the hot jobs, our selection process, our business profile and our employee policies. If you feel that we could work together for two years or more, please select the job that interests you , submit the data required and be assured of a quick response from our HR team. I thank you for your interest in TMI group.
T. Muralidharan
Executive Chairman, TMI Network & MD, C&K Management Ltd.

Article Resources:
The Economic Times.
The Manage Mentor

Ask Dr Shah: Your Homeopathic Medical Advisor

Homeopathy in Neighbourhood

IN Dr Rajesh Shah’s 5,000 sq ft clinic in Chembur, Mumbai, a team of nine doctors divide their time between treating visiting patients and chatting on the internet. Nowadays, they spend more and more time in front of the computer screen and their boss is not complaining. After all, they help run a global clinic in a combined offline-online format. And they’re winning more and more converts to their chosen practice, homeopathy.

Dr. Rajesh Shah, M.D.(Hom.) practices in Mumbai, India. He has studied homeopathy intensively for twenty years. Dr. Rajesh is an internationally acclaimed physician and teacher. Over the years he has conducted seminars and workshops for the practitioners and the students in England, Holland, Belgium, Czech Rep., Greece, Sweden, U.S.A., Ireland, Croatia, Norway, etc.

Dr. Shah has an uncommon strength of having a research base in his clinical environment. He has worked on many new therapeutic molecules; some of them have been granted Patents while some of them are international patent pending. He is a hardcore researcher + clinician + teacher + promoter of homeopathy.

Dr Shah presents a modern and scientific face of homeopathy. His huge practice supported by clinical research based data, statistics and scientific documentation, makes it unique in the homeopathic worked. He not only presents the 'new face' of modern homeopathy; but also responsible for 'new phase' in homeopathy. His global clinic in Mumbai is visited by patients from all over the world.

His team of nine full time doctors and other support staff not only offer the best of homeopathic treatment but rather set international standards in Good Homeopathic Medical Practice (GHMP).

Dr Shah has a distinction of having treated eminent patients from various faculties such as scientists, medical doctors, researchers, diplomats, ministers, film celebrities, professors, high profile government officers, etc. from many countries.

Homeopathy has become so popular in India that it is often considered part of its traditional medical systems. But the world over, while newer converts are being won every day, it is still in the backwaters of medical science, Dr Shah says. Even a few year ago, the awareness was very low. “Since my college days I felt very bad about the way homeopathy was not given its due respect as a mainstream medical form,” says Dr Shah, who used to distribute leaflets to popularise the discipline among his friends. “I felt it was my responsibility to make people aware of homeopathy so I saved from my pocket money to print those leaflets.”

It would be another decade before the dream started taking shape. In 1995, internet came to India and Dr Shah immediately knew he had the answer. He started learning nuances of the Web. He learnt web designing and content development. His only companion was his wife, Dr Rupal Shah, another homeopathic doctor. Next year, he launched his first web site Classical Homeopathy. It was an instant hit. People from all over the world sought advise online. Within a year, he started launching Web sites catering to specific disease complaints. Patients could get instant consultation, while the medicines would be shipped for a charge.

“It is a huge responsibility when patients come from abroad for treatment,” he says sitting at his clinic, while a colleague treats online a leucoderma patient from a Swedish village. “I feel compelled to cure him. I have the added responsibility to live up to his expectations. We can’t compromise on research and have to keep on discovering new medicines to enable faster cure,” he says. It has been 12 years since he took his homeopathy treatment online. He now runs 30 websites and treats from 152 countries. “My aim in life is to bring homeopathy to mainstream medicine and give it it’s due,” he smiles.

Article Resources:
Ask dr Shah
The Economic Times, Mumbai

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sunil Bharti Mittal: The Unsung Hero of the Telecom Sector.

The Unsung Hero of the Telecom Sector.

The son of a politician, Sunil Mittal is from the town of Ludhiana in Punjab. He has built the Bharti group, along with two siblings, into India's largest mobile phone operator in just ten years. The UK based telecommunication giant, Vodafone and Singapore's SingTel both own stakes in the recently renamed flagship company Bharti Airtel. The group also has partnerships with Axa for insurance and with the Rothschild family for exporting fruits and vegetables.

He has been Chairman & Managing Director of Bharti Group since October 2001.

Entrepreneurial Ventures

Residing in Delhi, he is married, with three children. A first generation entrepreneur, he started his first business in 1976 at the age of 18, with a capital investment of Rs 20,000 (U$1500) borrowed from his father. His first business was to make crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers.

In 1980 he sold his bicycle parts and yarn factories and moved to Mumbai.

In 1982 he became the exclusive dealer for Suzuki Motors's portable electric-power generators imported from Japan. The importing of telecom equipment were banned by the Indian Government as ITI (Indian Telecom Industry ) monopoly practices & sole OEM for Department of Telecommunication.[citation needed]

He established the first company to manufacture push button telephones in India. He was one of the first Indian entrepreneurs to identify the mobile telecom business as a major growth area and launched services in the city of Delhi and the National Capital Region in the year 1995.

Tie-Up with Wal-Mart

In November 2006, he struck a joint venture deal with Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, to start a number of retail stores across India.

In July 2006, he attracted many key executives from Reliance ADAG, NIS Sparta and created Bharti Comtel.

How does he relax? "I used to play golf before, now sometimes I play tennis. But I thrive on my work. For me, work is love, not stress. But I won't say there's no stress. As you come to the top of the pyramid, the intensity of competition, of jealousy, is high."

What about his family? "I have a daughter who's 17 and twin sons who are 13. I don't get to spend much time with the family. Everybody has a job to do and I think I was ordained to do what I'm doing. My family is supportive, however. Whenever I'm with them I try to spend some quality time. We have an occasional holiday. First generation entrepreneurs always have this problem."

Is the business environment in India changing to enable operations with integrity? Replies Mittal: "I've walked the corridors of power and there's a big positive change, which is very palpable at the higher level, since licensing has mostly been dismantled. At the lower levels, however, things are quite the same. But once change starts from the top there is some impact downwards..."

Corporate Social Responsibility: Towards Sustainable Welfare.

Sustainable Welfare

TODAY, about 300 multinationals control 25% of the world’s assets. Indian companies currently comprise only a fraction of this number. However, with our economy coming of age, more and more of them will lay claim to this elite list.

While this is truly a matter of great pride, we must remember that there rests an equally momentous responsibility on us to give back to the society that has nurtured our growth. Today, most companies contribute to society by means of well-defined corporate citizenship initiatives executed by their not-for-profit trusts and foundations. However, we believe it is important for corporations to look beyond charity and redefine the act of ‘giving back’. Corporations must look at cultivating and encouraging social entrepreneurship in society with the same degree of focus and energy that keeps profitable businesses running.

As companies with a conscience, the onus is on us to lead the initiative to reform. We must recognise that the power to initiate change lies with the youth, particularly as most employees across organisations are today under the age of 30.

Youth have found empowerment in the ubiquity of technology and the democratisation of online media, among other factors in today’s world. In India, we see more and more people voicing a need to do their bit for governance, policy-making and improving civic systems. Most important, they want to be agents of change by making a positive difference. Many of these people have path-breaking ideas for social change but not always the means and resources to take them to fruition. Often, their dreams go unrealised for lack of support or guidance.

With the right push, imagine the transformation their ideas could bring to the economy, society and the environment. Think of the difference they could make by channelling the energy of the youth towards improving education or healthcare.

Companies are accountable to society, not just their shareholders. They must look beyond the current performance yardstick of shareholder impact and profits. Creating a culture of leadership is a pressing need, particularly to ensure that our social values keep pace with economic growth. The onus is on companies to catalyse this process by broadening their horizons on social commitment. Corporates should augment their current charity efforts and utilise their business experience, acumen and capabilities to provide the required impetus to social entrepreneurship and make social development efforts scaleable and sustainable.

The case for social entrepreneurship has never been stronger. For both companies and individuals, there is an urgent need to evolve a systematic approach to addressing social issues by applying a combination of inspired effort and strategic thinking. This also means pushing the boundaries of corporate social responsibility by making the act of giving sustainable for both benefactors and beneficiaries.

What we have before us is the perfect opportunity for corporations to step in and empathise with social entrepreneurs. The challenges faced by social entrepreneurs are similar to those faced by any fledgling company. With our wealth of experience, the corporate sector is capable of extending support to entrepreneurs by advising them on processes, quality parameters, building scale, enshrining values and ethics, exploiting market potential and fine-tuning financial performance.

Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we can easily recognise that an organised initiative has greater potential for social impact than fragmented efforts in social entrepreneurship. The key to success lies in reaching out to motivated individuals by offering access to a network of successful entrepreneurs along with a framework for evaluating social ideas, exploring funding sources and models, and charting a roadmap for the successful execution of their plans.

The emphasis must be on selecting social ideas that are sustainable, profitable and suitable to be implemented through a clear business plan. Participating in such an initiative will give young corporate professionals a taste of entrepreneurship beyond what their job roles can offer them. They will learn how to evaluate ideas, build business cases, seek funding, learn governance mechanisms, etc. At Infosys, they have already set the ball rolling. INFYi is an Infosys initiative focused on providing young entrepreneurs with an opportunity to make a positive social impact and seeks to combine professional excellence with social conscience.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kishore Biyani: The Man They Wrote Off.

Retail King of India.

Two years ago, no one took Kishore Biyani seriously. His company, Pantaloon Retail, was seen as a one-man show. Biyani himself was regarded as unpredictable, and not a long-term bet. Today, he is the biggest retailer in India. In two years, Kishore Biyani has bounced back to become India's largest retailer. Here's how the maverick ignored conventional wisdom on retailing, and won.

By M. Rajshekhar

His motto: "Rewrite the rules but retain the values", seems to have worked well for Kishore Biyani, MD, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. In being chosen as the 'retail face of the year' by Images Retail, Biyani's efforts at 'rebranding' Indian retail has been recognised. "Pantaloon will innovate a pan-Indian model of retailing, rather than copy the western model," says Biyani.

Biyani was chosen for the award through a nationwide industry poll after a performance assessment by global retail consultants, KSA Technopak, Knowledge Partners and a jury chaired by McKinsey and Co.

The awards included 13 categories in retail segments such as fashion, catering services, food and grocery, health and beauty, leisure, consumer electronics and entertainment. The others nominated for the title included the likes of BS Nagesh, CEO, Shoppers' Stop, Raghu Pillai, CEO RPG Enterprises, KN Iyer, CEO of Crossroads, and Vikram Bakshi McDonald's JV partner in India.

Pantaloon's Kishore Biyani has become India's largest retailer, but still has several aces up his John Miller shirtsleeves.

In India's chaotic markets, Kishore Biyani is the unchallenged king of retail. He has the knack of catching rivals off-guard and striking where it hurts most.

Pantaloon Man

Unlike most people, Kishore Biyani makes no bones about his simplicity. He's the man you're most likely to ignore at the Pantaloon or Big Bazaar store, as he stands in a corner observing the way you shop. But make no mistake, what he may lack in sartorial style, he more than makes up through his observation powers.

You'll never catch him in a tie and jacket. He isn't a stickler for large cars, and has just graduated from driving a Honda City to a Honda Accord, though he's just as content driving around in a junior manager's Maruti.

He is a strict vegetarian, and is currently off cheese and fried foods, but will otherwise eat anything that is green.

According to him, golf is a waste of time. Instead, he's addicted to a daily half-hour walk and does yoga twice a week.

He used to be a lawn tennis regular but gave it up citing lack of time. He can't understand the fuss about gyms and hasn't visited any.

Biyani loves films and has even produced some, but was never part of that industry. His personal preference is films by Guru Dutt, Yash Chopra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

He believes in taking quick decisions. The deal with Bennett, Coleman & Co was done in seven days flat. He has never met V Banga of Unilever in his life, and leaves the task of relationship building to his managers.

Instead he spends time with property developers - Sanjay Chandra of Unitech is a pal - merchant bankers and investment bankers.

Biyani's victory isn't unexpected. India's own Sam Walton (the legendary promoter of Walmart) is quick to seize any advantage. Which is why the denim manufacturer who quit the trade because "it wasn't creative enough" commands over 1.3 million sq ft of retail space.

But even size hasn't made a difference to Biyani's vaulting ambitions and he's on an even faster trajectory of growth. He's booked over 4.5 million sq ft of space across the country, and will utilise 3 million sq ft by this year's end in 23 Indian cities.

He will invest over Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) to make this dream a reality. Says R S Roy, editorial director of the magazine Retail, which tracks the industry closely: "Mall developers have him in mind before they start constructing. His presence ensures footfalls and a premium for the mall."

Even Biyani concedes, "We have a store opening virtually every fortnight; I have lost count now of how many I have opened."

But don't let Biyani fool you. He keeps a close watch over his empire with the assistance of his two brothers, who are directors in the company.

He might have over 6,000 employees and 300 managers, but the buck stops only with him. Every time a store opens, managers have to rush daily reports for the first 45 days, and it isn't unusual for Biyani to be fixing any lacunae either over the phone or personally in the store.

Weekly targets are fixed and reviewed every Monday. The badshah of the bazaar jets between his stores across the country to "spend at least six or seven hours every week in the stores", he says. Even when he's in inspection mode, Biyani takes time off to cut more deals.

Check out Book on Kishore Biyani:
It Happened in India by Kishore Biyani

Kishore Biyani
3i Site

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nine ways to win an argument.

Nine ways to win an argument.

People argue all the time and most of the time it is the people who are most aggressive or loudest win specially if they are wrong.

Winning, is not the matter of being the loudest or the most aggressive but being clever and diplomatic and giving it back to your opponents without he/she realizing it.

Here are NINE tips :

1) Re-word

Re- word the opponents logic in such a manner that it is most favourable to your point of view. For example, if your opponent says that you should not increase the price as the distributor will not like it.

You can start by saying that, " You mean to say that I am the distributor's enemy and do not take into account their welfare………" exaggerate and misstate your statements .and then in the mock hurt tone say that "That's not what I said at all…putting he dealer in defensive.."

2) Categorize the arguments to an unpopular category

If you categorize the opponent's argument in an unpopular category it is associated with all the negative emotions. For example if somebody is arguing that you should increase the price as the cost input has risen , you can counter by saying that it is like reverting to the cost plus margin approach of the license- raj period…..

This way the audience will start visualizing the negativity of license raj and associate it with the opponent's point of view.

3) Liken the idea to something which has been tried and has been the failure

For example, if your opponent is advocating reducing the price to gain market share
tell him/her that the same strategy adopted by Coke/Pepsi by reducing the price to Rs. 5/- had not worked and had also affected adversely their bottom line…..

4) Ask for proof

Most of the fast and furious opponents try to pull a fast one by misstating or twisting the facts. Ask for proof, there is a 50 % chance that your opponent has twisted it to his/her advantage and if it so, he/she will lose all credibility. If the facts are found to be true then he/she will not gain anything and you will appear as a diligent person.

5) Agree in principle but discuss the details

Agreeing in principle is a very clever stalling technique and is used quite often with people where sensitivities are involved, for example if you cannot openly disagree with an important client or a senior person you can state that you agree in principle …. . . The person will be elated getting the impression that you have agreed with him/her but the matter will remain unresolved as the specifics have not been discussed or agreed upon.

6) Interrupt

A below the belt strategy but very commonly used in todays dog eats dog world .
This strategy is very effective specially if your opponent has a much stronger case.

7) Admit nothing

Generally, at the start of the argument some basic assumptions are taken , do not accept and challenge them. For example if your opponents starts saying that in this recession times we should increase the market spend rather then cutting it… challenge the basic assumptions saying that I do not agree that there is a recession… The opponent will get distracted and instead of arguing his main point of view will spend his/her energy in proving there is a recession.

8) Question their motives

If you hint that there is some hidden agenda in the opponent taking a particular point of view, the opponent will be in the defensive and will try hard to refute your accusation or will not strongly push his/ her point of view.

For example if your rival is complaining about the uncompetitive salary structure of the company, you can turn around by saying are you complaining just because you have been given the stiff target to recruit n no. people in a month….

A dirty trick for dirty rivals

9) Appeals to other in the room

Bring in the third person specially the person who is favourable to you. This will help in depersonalizing the discussion and distracting your opponent.

You can start by mentioning that let us hear what Ram has to say about this …..

Adapted from Mark H. McCormack book on Communication.