Professional turning Entrepreneur: Bushfire in the Making

The best of India's workplaces compete every year with each other for the prestigious ranking and awards from the Great Place to Work Institute.

As we look at the decade ahead, I believe, we would see a huge shift in the nature and the resultant quality of entrepreneurship in the country because an entirely new genre is entering the fray. It is the “professional” who is choosing to build what I term “High Performance Entrepreneurship”.High Performance Entrepreneurs create large employment, enter global markets quickly, create shared wealth, have social responsibility and in many cases, create companies that survive them.

Professionals becoming entrepreneurs is a rather recent phenomenon in India.Historically, entrepreneurs have been businessmen; risk takers who put in their own money and then “employed” professionally qualified and experienced individuals — who then took over the task of running the business and eventually retired from the enterprise as employees.If you were outstandingly good, you were rewarded with the largest quarter in the colony, the owner attended your daughter’s wedding and you got a long service award and it was a badge of honour to fade away from a company quarter to a plot of land in Faridabad near the Escorts plant or to Sonari or Sakchi near TISCO in Jamshedpur.

That story changed somewhat in the last three decades since every sector in the country spawned multiple choices of employment for high performers after the economic liberalization. So if someone did not see herself working for Hind Motor for life (don’t beat yourself up if you do not recognize the company), retirement no longer was the only path. She could now make a mid-career change to a Maruti, a Hyundai or a Ford. But, the professional freedom was a freedom to choose employment not the freedom to create enterprise. To make professional experience a fungible commodity beyond job-seeking, to build a much larger leverage for both the GDP of the country and employment for others, would be the defining theme of the decade ahead.We would see that as the most significant trend among high-achiever professionals and the trend augurs well for the country; it shifts the onus of professional excellence from seeking individual growth and security to that of creating larger societal wealth.

Take Dr. Sharan Patil, son of a retired Supreme Court judge. After his post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom, Dr. Patil returned to India to do what every good surgeon does: work for an established large hospital and then having made a name, probably hop multiple clinics and remain content for the rest of his life.The role models for people like him were slowly sliding into their sunset years at comatose government funded research hospitals or, having become professionally successful, were just counting the number of cash-stuffed pillows in their bedrooms.

Dr. Patil, in his thirties, was making a name for himself after working at the Manipal Hospital in Bangalore alongside people like cardiac surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty.Both the doctors were contemplating what next and ended up not moving up the value chain with fatter pay packets in the existing hospital or with a competitor. The two actually set up their own hospitals: Narayana Hrudayalaya for one and SPARSH for the other.Both started with some family inheritance, while Dr. Devi Shetty subsequently raised money from private equity, Dr. Patil simply raised a personal loan from a bank. Though Narayana Hrudayalaya is the better known and the larger hospital, Dr. Patil made the world turn when the now famous Lakshmi Tata, a girl with eight limbs, was operated upon by surgeons at SPARSH and National Geographic flashed that story through a full length-documentary to an astounded world that such complex procedure could be attempted in India.

Dr. Devi Shetty, Sharan Patil and up-North, Dr. Naresh Trehan are a brand new phenomenon. They live in a new India in which ideas are not chasing resources, resources are chasing ideas. In it, the best among the best of professionals are not turning to company quarters or awaiting a golden wrist watch as long-service award; they are building enterprises.

The idea of enterprise as a culmination of outstanding professional capability is a contagion from the east to the west and from the north to the south. In far out Nasik on the west coast of India, a Stanford returned Rajeev Samant who quit his plush Redwood City job as a compensation and benefits expert at Oracle, returned to India less than a decade ago. A double graduate in Industrial Engineering and Economics, Rajeev Samant at Oracle represented the quintessential middle-class Indian dream of serving at a “multinational company” and that to “in abroad”. Rajeev quit his job as the youngest manager and the only Indian in department, returned to India, persuaded his father to give him the 20-acres of family land that was up for sale, raised money from the Silicon Valley Bank and created Sula Vineyard with zero previous experience in winemaking.Today, he buys grape from farmers on 1500 acres of land and shipped 260,000 bottles of wine last year. His business has created employment for 2000 people in one of the most backward areas of the country and this year, he will clock-in sales of Rs. 100 crores.

The best of India’s workplaces compete every year with each other for the prestigious ranking and awards from the Great Place to Work Institute. In their 2010 Top 10 ranking was a completely unknown company called “Make My Trip”. Less than 10 years old, it was founded by Deep Kalra, a first generation entrepreneur. Deep Kalra is a product of St Stephens in Delhi from where he went to IIM Ahmadabad. After the standard set of “multi-national” stints that left him on the “high platform and low-purpose” quadrant, the man decided to build his own business because his role models had built businesses. Deep quit his job with the Sun shining high and built from scratch a travel business that is changing the experience of Indians but equally importantly, making best companies across businesses line up to ask him what breakfast his people eat that make them way different?

While age has been on their side for professionals like Rajeev Samant and Deep Kalra, it has been quite another story for erstwhile Maruti man Jagdish Khattar who at 67 was simply not ready to retire. What did he do? The man started Carnation, a much talked about start-up that promises to change the way you would service your car, buy your accessories, spares and insurance with a branded, nationwide uniform experience. The lifetime of experience was way too valuable to write memoirs and play golf. The erstwhile bureaucrat turned industry leader has become a shining example for public sector CEOs who fade away into board positions and smaller largesse without realizing that the true meaning of giving back is “build”.

In the years to come, high-achievement professionals from Dr. Sharan Patil to Jagdish Khattar will redefine the meaning of personal success as much as the meaning of the term ‘businessman’.Given societal recognition and removal of roadblocks like systemic corruption, the trend they are setting could become the bushfire of innovation and growth for both the corporate and the social sector.

Sayantan Roy Says
Wednesday September 15th 2010

As usual, very inspiring. Thanks Subroto. This article comes at a time, when I personally am at the crossroads of taking a call to move on with my own entrepreneural venture. People like you and Rashmi Bansal are constantly conspiring to push us towards the new door :)

Ajay Das Says
Thursday September 16th 2010

Subroto Bagchi’s writing has always been very inspiring. This one is another addition. He is the rock star of contemporary corporate culture and he is a must read for every professional and every entrepreneur

Lubna Says
Thursday September 16th 2010

Dear Subroto,

This is a nice post. Especially, the story about Jagdish Khattar. I think in one of your books (Perhaps GKTW) there was a strong sentence: Never retire. Jagdish Khattar sure lives up to those words.
Apart from the entrepreneur, I think it is the new breed of entrepreneurs, viz: social entrepreneurs for whom profit is not the sole objective/or perhaps not the objective at all, who are also being recognized by society.

Arun Says
Saturday September 18th 2010

Hi Sir,

I have been following your blogs from quite long, working for IBM as an Associate Architect, I have always have a dream to become a entrepreneur, but I think should I pursue my masters from IIM, to become a entrepreneur as I doesnt have much expertise in becoming a entrepreneur. Do studying in IIM gives me an extra edge to achieve it. why people outside of IIM couldn’t achieve as big as students from IIM do ?

    Subroto Bagchi Says
    Wednesday September 22nd 2010

    Dear Arun,

    You can do your management course anyway. That by itself may or may not help you to become an entrepreneur. I suggest you read my book “The High Performnace Entrepreneur” and that could help you some.

    Best wishes,


sunil p Says
Friday September 24th 2010

Subrotoji , I am an ardent fan of ur blogs and musings that u routinely put up on net or in the print. Yes, the need of the hour is certainly to do be a entrepreneur or startup or self employment because that is how we can address employment challenge. But one has to look at the other side of coin , the entrepreneurship has more failures than the successes and that is what whcih never gets highlighted. The success of a startup is more a case of several variables falling place miraculously sometimes and sometimes due to sheer audacity of an entrepreneur. In the nutshell all should be cautioned the perils of getting into it headlong.

anupam Says
Sunday September 26th 2010

Subroto is my teacher. I have been learning from far – reading his work and listening from a corner. Everything Subroto says inspires me.

Pradip Das Says
Thursday October 14th 2010

Dear Subroto,

This is an inspiring article. I have also read all your books and one can learn a lot from it. Also I had attended the launch of “Mindtest” as a customer and the way you explained the toughest point “Commitment” with a simple word “Bridge” was really excellent.


Monday October 18th 2010

The increase in stress levels, poor work life balance and the high platform and low purpose would be the key drivers from the birth of successful entrepreneurs in India.

Very inspiring thoughts from Subroto, specially when I have already taken the plunge last year to be an entrepreneur

Tuesday November 2nd 2010

Dear Sir,
I always questioned myself that “why I am doing what I am doing”, how come a cantonment product doing all this which he has never learnt, how when all my freinds dreamt of joining army I became a social entrepreneur.
Thanks for clearing my mind.
While going through the article it striked my minds that whatever I am doing was never tought in school college and society its thinker and writer like you who influence a young mind and gives it a direction.
Nice article Sir, you can change a lot of lives

Anupam Says
Friday November 12th 2010

Subroto, thanks for writing this inspiring article.

Subham Says
Friday December 10th 2010

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

I thank you for writing the book “The high performance entrepreneur”. I am at a stage of finding co-founders and could identify with your book.

I wanted to ask you one question and though that this would be a good forum to ask you the same. What is the best practice of equity division among founders and co-founders or what are your perspectives into it?


Jagadeesh K Says
Friday December 17th 2010

Dear Sir,

I read your book Go Kiss The World.

It taught me many things about life, business, entrepreneurship, family, relations, attitude etc..,things which I couldn’t learn from my management classes.

While working in a technology business incubator here in Kerala, I used to refer your books to every one who came up with the dream of starting their own company.

One of them, after many struggles, is going to launch his company in Technopark, Trivandrum.

Thank you so much for your igniting words!

Sanat Mohanty Says
Monday January 10th 2011


At the outset I would like to pay my respect to you, for, not only you are an excellent writer but you are an exceptional realist. I am an aspiring entrepreneur and have read your book – High performance entrepreneur and needless to say, I found it the most practical and applicable piece of work ever written on entrepreneurship. I am a great fan of your way of thinking and insights. I would really look forward to more such books wriiten by you.

Gautam Dasgupta Says
Saturday February 26th 2011

It was great.I remember my days when I interacted with you in Calcuuta (Project 21).You have really written nice books which should be read by every professional.You really start from the basic level ie “value” in character building.
Thank you Subroto I expect many more books like this in coming years from you.– Gautam Dasgupta

Tuesday May 3rd 2011

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

Two years back I was on a crossroads,with a very high paying Job,lot of perks and a corporate superstar of sorts with recognition…But I was not happy, I did not had the same zeal to jump out of the bed to go to Office on Monday morning…..Inner calling said I needed to create something of value something which will drive me,I always knew what I needed to do but was doubtful if I would be able to give up the frills of my well paying Job,It was then in one of my many early morning meeting Flight from Mumbai -Bangalore-Mumbai that I chanced upon your “High Performance Entrepreneur”,Once I picked up that book I could never keep it down .The decision was all too clear I had to create NeoNiche Integrated Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Since then Roads have been bumpy.It may be more so moving into the future.but I have never regreted taking that decision….Your book still works as refrence point for me……I just want to say THANK YOU MR.BAGCHI


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