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.