Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winners -Keeping it Simple!

The setting was perfect. The event was to felicitate the top 25 India's fastest growing entrepreneurs . The venue: Indian School of Business, Hyderabad jointly organised by All World Network and the TiE Hyderabad.

A panel discussion on Secrets to High Growth Entrepreneurship. The participants were 3 entrepreneurs -from different industries-an online bus ticketing service, an organic farming co, and a travel planning service for the Indian middle class consumers, joined by representatives of a Venture Capital firm, and Centre for Entrepreneurship Development. Amidst a bunch of ISB students, entrepreneurs, mentors, and some aspirants in the ecosystem.

It was interesting to hear the recipe of success. While each of them had anecdotes to share their experiences in their journey so far, what was distinct-was the clarity of thought and the focus-while they set about achieving the objectives they planned for their organisations, while adapting on the way-to battle and overcome the temporary hiccups.

1. Contrary to most beliefs-the most critical factor was NOT " money"!Unanimously, it was TALENT!!

Speaker after speaker, reiterated-that it was the team that made all the difference. Not just identifying the right persons, whose personal interests were aligned with those of the companies interests, but the ability to retain them. Which also meant- letting go of the wrong persons, if need be-to ensure the right energies in place.

The motivation for the right employees-too was not 'money'-for each of them explained how they were among the lowest of 'paymasters' !!

2. FUNDING was seen more as an enabler that allowed the team to focus more time for execution!

Capital was often referred to as hygiene. While all agreed that a huge amount of failures of ventures happen -despite great ideas and wonderful execution, as a result of undercapitalisation, it was pointed out that all of them gained from the mentor ship & guidance -that came along with the right investors! In terms of getting the business model right, by adapting & tweaking the operations, to the changing customer expectations.

3. Another aspect which most speakers dwelled upon-was to decide how to scale up-especially since it is in the DNA to grab all opportunities that come by. The key was to decide whether to 'diversify' or to 'be the best in the niche' they have focused on.

While there were many temptations -the winners clearly didn't stray from 'what they had originally set out to solve a pain point of the customer'!

It was interesting to note that as the companies grew -in India, the senior management team spends more time on 'improving the execution aspects' while in the west, the emphasis is on 'customer acquisition'!

Looking back- what I learnt wasn't rocket science. Just another reinforcement of keeping things simple. Do the right things right. Each of the winners had backed their instincts, followed their heart -and stuck to the course!

Well, I am delighted to be a catalyst- part of the most vital ingredients of the ecosystem-that helps companies identify the best talent, while enabling shaping careers for a better world tomorrow :-)!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cleantech in India- Less rhetoric, more business!!

The energy at the TiE 2010 Cleantech Seminar was palpable!

If the first Cleantech conference last year was all about gushing about the huge potential, and the sudden urgency to rush into the 'next dot com' boom, there was a lot of maturity in the latest edition. The ecosystem was just perfect-a very good balance between a bunch of entrepreneurs that TiE Hyderabad was able to encourage -and a community of venture capital firms, investors, management consultants, 'wanna be' entrepreneurs, service providers,...keen to zero in and be part of the next big story.

During the day, the 150 plus eager listeners were treated to about 16 presentations-of folks showcasing, very articulately, their products and services, on the progress they have made in their respective forays-and a glimpse, of what could be the potential-if the right kind of resources were provided. Close to a dozen VC firms also trotted up-and mentioned about their global portfolio, their focus on cleantech and their sweet spots-handing out their coordinates!

To me, it seemed the theme wasn't so much of the 'pot of the gold', but the evidence of a lot more opportunities for the asking.

-The emphasis this year, was not as much on the energy efficiency & smart grid domains, but about the huge potential in recycling & waste management- and more so, in the Water segment.

-The romanticism of the solar voltaic solutions seemed to be less, as there was a distinct need for more economic solutions- with people talking about alternates like thin films, and patents in the pipeline.

-VCs too were no longer willing to fund 'ideas on paper napkins', but the emphasis seemed to be on those with a proven track record in the 'go-to -market' ability. Most of them have eyes on investment sizes of 3m US-and so were naturally desirous of a certain critical mass!

-Among the assortments during the day, were some established players in the green space wanting to scale up with new applications ( Nandan Biomatrix, Sharada Inventions), some new kids off the block ( Waterlife, Mobile Water cleaning plant), some wanting to penetrate into the rural markets, and a couple of old economy companies -changing their avataar and jumping into the bandwagon of the "energy' euphoria!

-I must mention the networking sessions were very vibrant with folks reaching out very comfortably with purpose. Almost every group had someone with an "American accent'-driving home the point that there were quite a few NRIs/ returned Indians conscious about the domain.

-It was interesting to see a slew of management consultants, representatives of angel investors, as well as some prospective service providers who could prove as catalysts /incubators and perhaps ride on the greenfield projects.

As a recruiter, it was particularly warming, as almost as the promoters mentioned 'the need for talent' almost in the same breath as 'the funding required'...though I must admit I was a little disappointed that our fraternity wasn't represented -apart from yours truly!

Yes, the trend is apparent. Opportunities for jobs -especially in the middle & senior management exist galore for

- the R&D /technical operations. I can see options for scientists, and all those environmental engineers who can transplant their experience internationally to help companies put systems in place in India.

- sales & marketing-especially those with experience in rural marketing of products/services-reaching out to remote locations with almost negligible electricity. The challenge is to also spread awareness and increase adoption!

(Incidentally, we have mandates for a 100 crore solar company-that wishes to foray into the telecom industry by expanding their applications to as the power back up for towers etc. )

-finance professionals to help the technocrats present their financials with a bid to attract investments -not just at angel, but also project financing and if possible, venture capital.

-I can also see a lot of opportunities for all those in their mid career blues- some of who had missed out on the wave of IT & Telecom in the last decade- and especially those who have taken a break to pursue that one year MBA-to take course least till such stage the cleantech space finds ready made & qualified talent. Not to mention -for those have 'been there, done that' and now want to give back to the society and lesser privileged.

And for those abroad..I reiterate -as I did when I signed off at the end of the last conference. there is a huge opportunity to lure some in the Indian diaspora, either NRIs (non-resident Indians) or Indian-origin foreign nationals, to return to India to participate in this growth sector :-)!!

Cheers! Please feel free to reach me offline for some specific clarifications, as usual! I shall be glad to connect you to those who are in the know ....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Changing Workplace-Different Strokes?

It’s kind of an eerie feeling!

Just earlier today, I was making a point to one of my clients-how we ought to be striving to become an employer of choice. In this globalised world, we need to think beyond being a ‘local hungry outfit’-and as we anyway woo and wow MNC customers across different geographies, we ought to be better off wondering how to attract ‘world class talent’!

Maybe we should be tinkering our hiring process as today, as more and more professionals are gravitating to finding 'work life' balance, working in the domains of their choice, even choosing technologies and the employer they would like to be associated with! Perhaps it is time for a fresh approach to change our communication to prospective talent banks -to first connect, then increase our visibility, and then engage them...

So it was a sense of deja vu that I read the cover story of the latest issue of Business Today-Born to Rule @Work -. I highly recommend the brilliant piece on how some of the better employees in India are changing their workplace for the ‘twenty somethings’!!

  • L&T has changed their pay packets as youngsters want money in hand rather than security in the long term.
  • Nokia has started reverse mentoring.
  • Maruti Suzuki & Genpact have overhauled appraisals to ensure instant gratification to give feedback all through the year.
  • At Apollo Tyres, mandatory structured training programmes seem to be more effective than salary hikes as retention tool as nobody wants lifelong employment anyway!
  • There are some in Infosys working on community empathy projects as they want ‘meaning in work'
Gen Y is unique.

"There is a desire to acquire –higher compensation, instant recognition, learning, the power to make decisions and above all, a desire to have absolute control over their careers and life.

They don’t respond to command-and-control type of management. Give them work, tell them what is expected and you will perhaps get better results that what you were looking for."

Well, time will tell if these brilliant individual performers can merge their identities with the team and add tangible value to the workplace by aligning with the organisational needs.

Yes, it is imperative that one be sensitive to the changing aspirations, and so one must change tack to attract and retain the kind of talent one needs -which are different at the different stages of the life cycle of the company (growth, recovery or crisis) as well as situation one's company is in (Startup, Turnaround, Realignment and Sustaining success).

In a country where one in two citizens is younger than 25yrs of age, are hirers taking notice?

There is a need to change the archaic way of recruiting. Go beyond 'numbers' or 'seats to fill'. Time for metrics other than 'cost per hire'. Concentrate on getting the right people in, and ensure a large majority stay on, grow and contribute to the organisation. What about waiting for the right person to serve out her/his notice period and join, and looking beyond hiring tresspassers-just because they are the ones immediately available for joining ?

Personally, I am of the opinion that no size fits all! In most organisations, one can find a pattern of some jobs being ‘developmental’ in nature –while a lot of others are ‘maintenance oriented’. The former needs an air of creativity and flexibility-while the latter revels on discipline and order.

Perhaps-there is something we have to learn from the world of sports. I recall reading an interesting article on how to pace oneself while running a marathon. It is much more fun if you can finish with the group you start with. Isn't life a marathon? The journey is just as important as the destination, right?

It is time we found our own solutions-tailor made for the best fit!