At the NASSCOM Summit for Small & Medium Enterprises (SME)


The times, whether bad or good, do not target anyone just because he is a start-up or a SME. People marry while the stock market collapses, people also start companies, get new customers, and make good and bad business decisions.

The last few weeks, after the sunrise at Pondicherry, have been very hectic. I was continuously on the move – starting with an inaugural address at the NASSCOM summit for SMEs in Delhi, then a trip to Sagar near Jog Falls in Karnataka to be with the folks at NINASAM – an outstanding organization that I must tell you about someday – another talk at NASSCOM’s Quality summit (I am done with NASSCOM for the year… :-) ) in Bangalore, a trip to Bhubaneswar and finally, the last weekend with 150 doctors at the Narayana Hrudayalaya – talking to them about the idea of Vision. It has been busy and fulfilling!

The SME Summit had an air of uncertainty – the timing is such that it is natural for people to question if at all it is a good time to be a start-up or are these times particularly bad for being an SME?

At the Shangri La Hotel in Delhi, the venue for the summit, MindTree co-founder Krishna Kumar and I were sharing a room the night before. The morning conversation was pretty much pre-ordained by the news of collapse, gloom and doom in the capital markets as we waited for breakfast before heading down to the summit venue. We were discussing the issue of bad times and good times and what they do to business. Then a young waiter came in, bringing with him our idli and tea. As he set down the food, we shifted our attention to him. He was about twenty four, very pleasant and clearly knew and liked his work. KK and I started a small conversation with him. Where was he from? What had he studied? Who was his family?

You will be surprised how everything changes with these three unhurried questions.

He said that he was from the hills of Himachal Pradesh – when he spoke those words, I could see the mountain streams and apple blossoms in his eyes.

Then, blushingly, he told us that next month he was getting married!

KK and I were delighted – we congratulated him.

The young waiter thanked us, collected the tray and, with a glow at the thought of the young-bride-in-the-waiting, walked out on an invisible carpet of clouds.

He had heard about the bailout packages in the US, the shroud of rumor about the ICICI Bank, the layoffs in the airline companies and the impending slow down.

But he is getting married next month.

What can be a bigger act of confidence in the future than raising a family? Bringing a coy bride all the way from the land of the gurgling streams and apple blossoms into the harried capital city where our man would return to work – serving idli to people who become friends between a loaded tray and an empty one-people whom he may never meet again.

KK and I watched his receding steps to realize a simple truth: slowdown or not, people will marry; they will visit friends with the new bride wearing a pair of jeans but with her hands covered in those white and pink bangles that notify the whole Universe about her change of status; they will celebrate; they will mourn; one day they will get up in the morning and wake the kids up who must now go to school; they will go to work; start a new business; they will cook a meal and eat; they will fight with their loved ones, kiss and make up and then sleep. So, we told ourselves, the world does not really come to an end after all.

The times, whether bad or good, do not target anyone just because he is a start-up or a SME. People marry while the stock market collapses, people also start companies, get new customers, and make good and bad business decisions. Some plan to build the first floor and some close shop. So, there is no point in despair.

At the NASSCOM summit that morning, I told people about the hatch-rate among wild salmons called Coho.

Coho salmons are one of the most prized fish – both as game and food.

They spawn in fresh water and return to the ocean where they grow up to become adults. When the time comes for them to reproduce, they return to their place of birth and lay eggs. Out of 2500 eggs an adult may lay, only 375 survive. Of these only 30 become “smolts”; these are big enough to migrate to the ocean. Of these, only 5 become adults that grow up in the ocean and of these, only two one day return to spawn.

Salmon Fish

All creative acts must follow a similar process – that is Nature’s way. It is a sobering thought. As against the 1250:1 chance of success among spawning salmons, in our lives, we expect every single creative effort, every enterprise to become a success. It simply isn’t going to be that way. That has nothing to do with good times and bad times. There is no point blaming the economic environment because the economic environment only mimics Mother Nature.

Like the two fish that will return to spawn, we simply must keep working hard, duck the nets and the bears waiting upstream, swim further away and pray a little bit longer. Along the way, we attend a birthday, a christening – sometimes a funeral and, if we get the chance, certainly the apple blossom wedding that is due next month.

Comments
Samar Says
Monday October 20th 2008

BTY, Where did you get the idea of the Coho Salmons?
Regards.
SK

    Shankar Says
    Monday November 17th 2008

    Dear Subbroto,
    I am yet to put down the book down as this is inspiring.
    I recall the quote of my English professor” The Brits taught us to speak English”.. “today we teach them English Grammer”. I wish my country Men and Women get inspired by these entrepreneurial success stories and experiment in their life, as life is a process and not a destination. Sitting in Cairo today, I read that the news that Indian investment in Egypt is 2.2 Billion USD in 2006 and today we have their president in our country.One of the expensive and Iconic Car( Land Rover) and the cheapest ( Nano) are ours. We now have to look at ” Mars”, as we are done with ” Moon”. More of Subroto’s and APJ’s are the need of the hour and my humble Pranams to you for being an inspiring Role model.

Monday October 20th 2008

Thanks for this thoughtful blog Sir..you really to me like a guiding ship..its great to share your blog and views..if you can visit my blog and share a comment..just love to get a comment from Aparajito’s Apu!
http://subhadip-writerscolumn.blogspot.com/

Sajag Says
Monday October 20th 2008

Dear Subroto,

A simple, but very practical advice to accept things and move on with life.

You have co-started your company in 1999, during the height of dotcom days. What has been most striking is to guide Mindtree through the difficult days in the next 2/3 years. I remember the CEO of my company walking out of Office at 2am in the morning with a not-so-sure-look on his face. But we survived, not a single employee was laid off and it has broke records in its domain.

Now, after 10 years, there is another recession which is knocking at the door. My guts are it will be not as bad as 1999 when people who could pronounce Java/J2EE or C/C++ got jobs. This time it has been financial sector specific and ripple effect has already started.

My request:

1. Could you please advice the IT professionals on how they should move through this phase? When the environment is panicky, it is easy to loose forsight.

2. Could you please inform on the impact of it in IT sector and how should IT industry behave in the near and mid term henceforth.

Thank you and will really look forward to your response.

Regards,
Sajag

Monday October 20th 2008

“Slowdown or not, people will marry; they will visit friends with the new bride wearing a pair of jeans but with her hands covered in those white and pink bangles that notify the whole Universe about her change of status; they will celebrate; they will mourn; one day they will get up in the morning and wake the kids up who must now go to school; they will go to work; start a new business; they will cook a meal and eat; they will fight with their loved ones, kiss and make up and then sleep. So, we told ourselves, the world does not really come to an end after all.”………..absolutely beautiful and true lines!!…..

Dhana Says
Monday October 20th 2008

Dear Friends — On the bigger act of confidence, let me share the Dash poem by Linda Ellis that will inspire us, to slow down and to consider what’s true and real…

http://www.thedashpoemmovie.com/

Girish M Says
Monday October 20th 2008

Hello Subroto,

Thank you for the wonderful sense-making post in the times of “follow the herd”. One of my personal influential posts has been your “Letter from the Trenches” on CIOL during the 2000 times. What you said then holds true now and always.

Please write about NeeNaaSam. I look forward to that post eagerly.

Regards,
Girish

sankar Says
Wednesday October 22nd 2008

Nothing to worry about slowdown .

regards

Sankar D

Thursday October 23rd 2008

I posted some ne blogs..if you can please visit and share your comments..http://subhadip-writerscolumn.blogspot.com

Lubna Says
Friday October 24th 2008

A lot of things happen over three questions, and not just over coffee!
Am glad you take the time to ask people about themselves, not many do.
Best regards
Lubna

Ramesh Raina Says
Friday October 24th 2008

Dear Subroto,
Change is the law of nature and since time immemorial there has been ups and downs but beauty of the nature is that the social and business activities have never ceased to occur.That is what when we say ” Survival of the fittest”.

During the times of Mahabharata,famines and droughts when everything almost annihilated,few survivals again develop this world to the more strong position than before,may it be population,Technology or economy.

The world will never stop moving whether there are slow downs,tsunamis,famines,terrorist attacks,Bomb blasts or stock market crashes.

All-your-readers Says
Saturday October 25th 2008

Dear Gardener,
Happy Diwali to you and your loved ones, including all your colleagues at MindTree.
Best wishes
Your readers

Thursday October 30th 2008

Hi Sir,
i have read both your books and been a constant follower of your articles on the website and in Times of India . Both your books gives inspiration and insight to people like us .

I work for a Server Product Start up company . For me Staffing is a passion and i am sure one day i will become a entrepreneur. Your books gave me an insight into what was the life cycles of a start up company and also the Resistance an entrepreneur has to have to build great organizations. I am sure there are plenty of instances like the one u encountered with the waiter in Delhi, all of us would have faced but only a few learn from those .
I always remember one of the quotes of Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam who said I Quote “Learning gives creativity. Creativity leads to thinking. Thinking provides knowledge. Knowledge makes you great.”

As start up we have had our up’s and down as a company and current times are much more turbulent times and i am convinced if we don’t succeed in journey i will grow strong as a person and learn from the experiences .
Kindly keep penning such wonderful thoughts and enrich aspiring people like us to work harder and achieve great heights.

Friday October 31st 2008

Greetings Sir!

Asking the “High Performance Entrepreneur” to “Go Kiss the World” is easier said than done. Inspirations are fine. But task specific guidelines is what the wannabe entrepreneurs in India need. A mentoring program.

That could change the tables for a lot of people who have it in them, but is looking for a sense of direction. The people closest to them; relatives, friends or collegues may not be the best qualified, even if they are the most well-intentioned of the lot to advice. Good intention cannot be equated to good advice.

The United States has a service provider that provides a mentoring program to its green card holders through a website http://www.score.org

I am sure there are veterans in india, such as you, who would like to advice and follow on budding talents (we sure do have a handful of those) to reach their full potential.

My schemes are grand, and in my search for a mentor I have ended up nowhere yet. The thought of my impending success scares me, lest I may not be suitably prepared. By the law of nature, such as that of the Coho Salmon, I might not survive to spawn, but I would rather prepare for success than failure.

If there is a mentor in you that is ready to guide and prod me through the rough terrain that I have to transcend, please do email me.

Best regards.

Anupam Says
Saturday November 15th 2008

Your articles make me dream Subroto. Every word you mention, whether it is Coho Salmons, Streams in the mountains or blossoming apples… it strikes somewhere deep inside. I have read both books written by you and liked them a lot. I have been following your articles since my college days. At this moment, my mission is to read completely all the books that you have recommended in your book “Go Kiss The World” as further reading reference.

I am a full-time software professional and am working in a great company. In one of the meetings, I had an opportunity to shake hand with you and the grip of your firm hand is still in my memory!

Just in between, I wanted to express a little bit of disagreement with your article. The crisis going on right now is the result of human greed and extreme consumerism… It is the result of us going against the natural laws. Until we have trust and belief in the personality ethics and distance ourselves from the natural laws and principles that Stephen Covey so succulently states in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, our condition is going to be the same, breaking down now and then. And one day, because of survival instincts, the governments of some countries will be compelled to attack another country [we have already seen some trailer of the same in the past]. That is when third world war could erupt.

Sunday November 16th 2008

Dear Subroto,

How can you come up with such mesmerizing pieces, at a time when I thought of the same things? It is true that life is much beyond the slowdown. Life is so much about the people whom you love and care, and if you have such people in your life, no environment is going to affect you. In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, the famous psychologist of the Viennese school of thought, Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the dreaded Nazi concentration camps, has elaborated on the “life” that never stops living, even in extreme conditions.

I think one thought sums up the entire matter: ” When the going gets tough, only the tough get going”.

Regards
Avinash

Shankar Says
Monday November 17th 2008

Pl go back to your toddler age. Did you get scared to walk or was it, you stopped trying after a few falls. Same applies to Bi Cycle learning. Nature gives us the right kind of experience to mend and learn.. and be better than yesterday. I say this after becoming an entrepreneur. There were stages in life when I was not able to pay my sons school fees in Dubai. When the going is strong, the strong gets going. Proabably the reason why Pyramids are steep as you go up ( in life). Keep trying. Success is every Individuals birth right. It depends on the way you look at. But do not give up. Our country future is embedded with the few entrepreneurs like you. ” Just do It”.

Thirumani Says
Monday November 17th 2008

Just wanted to ask if everything is fine at your end Subroto. I was able to look forward to your blog every tuesday of the week. It is quiet a few weeks since your last post. Have you moved your blog by any chance?

Gajesh Nagesh Says
Monday November 17th 2008

Greetings Sir,

It was an experiance reading ” Go kiss the World”. It was very obvious that you had to be an enterpreneur somewhere during your course of life because the phases of your career gives you all that experiance and courage needed to be a enterpreneur. Added to it your confidence, Knowledge and determination did the rest.

Each and every lines of the book had a message in it. The words were so nicely put up that it was very hard to put down the book. Thank you Sir for such a nice , inspirational and exuberant book.

The benevolence which Mindtree is doing for the Spastic society realy inspires people like us to do something for the society. Please do write on the enterprenurial part of your life which will guide us in achieving our dream.

Vikram Says
Monday November 17th 2008

Good Morning Mr.Bagchi!
I had a chance to sit through the video at one of our company forums in which your speech at a PMI forum was played. It was the first time I heard about you. I was deeply influenced by what you said about Projects Managers and how projects are handled and percieved in our wonderful nation!! I have just completed your 2nd book “Go Kiss the World” and it has stirred the passion of being an entrepreneur back in me, which I always kept a tight lid on due to fear of failure and fear of putting my family in an uncomfortable zone. I would request you to share with people like me on what are the key things to keep in mind when chasing a dream that one has in the Indian context. How to balance the commitments that we already have undertaken both financially and socially, and succeed without impacting them in a large way?! How to come up with a Business Plan? What should it consist of? What should I look at and realize it is a good plan or a bad plan? These are something so many of us face today and are not able to crossover, making us shed our dreams of creating something that we can leave behind for generations to come.

Smita Roy Says
Monday November 17th 2008

I read the article by Subroto ‘ the cucumber seller at chennai. Here is what i felt…..

Dear Subroto

I agree that we are all connected. I feel it almost every moment. It’s a matter of great fortune to feel the connection with everything in this creation. Indeed God has several methods to teach you who you are and what is the purpose of your life. Each time He takes humble forms, like that ‘dressed in poverty cucumber seller’.

One time I was walking around that corner where the ‘Koshys’ café is, around the MG road. A bit entangled in my own thoughts…thoughts of the past that usually make me regret or depressed, or thoughts of the future that create anxiety and restlessness. In short I was trapped by my own mind. Like million chains, and zero awareness… Few mins passed. My heart screamed for help! I begged the unseen to show me the light. And then something unbelievable happened.

There was this street beggar sitting by the side of the road. He stopped me. He made a hand gesture spinning his finger at the right side of his forehead. Then he said, “It’s the game of the mind. Become free right now!”

I was almost frozen! I felt the thoughts dissolve like the water in water! I felt the same as you felt. I wanted to touch his feet. I knew He was GOD.

I am among those very few fortunate chosen one who serve Him directly. Serving humanity is serving Him. I work for the less privileged. Am the blessed one!!

Lots of good Wishes and prayers

Smita Roy

    Lubna Says
    Tuesday November 18th 2008

    Hello Smita,
    Smita, normally I scoff at this entire concept of “connections” or “forces of attraction” or whatever else it may be called. But something made me click on your name and I landed on the website of your NGO. I am currently doing some soul searching and I think you will be able to provide guidance, if you can spare the time. The “contact us” page doesnt appear to be loading and some pages are under construction. Can I send an email to the address given on the home page and obtain phone nos? I will do so shortly, am travelling from tomorrow.
    Subroto apologies for using your blog for this.
    Best regards
    Lubna

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