Zap the Gap


It was this seed that then led to the name MindTree and later, the logo of the company drawn by a 17-year-old school boy with cerebral palsy. The rest is history.

Shombit Sengupta

It was the mid-nineties India and I was working for Azim Premji at Wipro. Among other things, I chaired the corporation’s sales and marketing council. Wipro was in the cusp of things. But Chairman Azim Premji had the clairvoyance that the Indian economy would open up and beyond providing what he termed “escort services” to multi-nationals, Indian corporations would have to transform themselves into world-class companies in order to survive and flourish. This meant working intensely on two things: quality and brand. On the Quality front, Wipro had decided to embrace the concept of Six Sigma and rolled it out as the new language of work at the five disparate businesses with help from the Motorola University. On the brand front, Wipro needed to discover its promise, reengineer its stodgy look and feel, and make the corporation ready for the 21st century. It needed help.

Help arrived in the form of a rather unusual individual: Shombit Sengupta. When Shombit came, to begin with, the chief executive council at Wipro, its apex decision making body, was flummoxed at his appearance, his utterances and the aftershocks every encounter left them with.  He challenged the very fundamentals; he demanded that they think not just the look and feel of the brand but the very reason for their existence. The Indian born, strategic brand consultant used to live in Paris at that time where he had nearly 50 French designers working for him as he transformed brands across companies in consumer products to financial services using structured methodologies that built the foundation of a brand.  Over the next one year, Shombit changed the Wipro brand identity and in the process, left an indelible mark on the mind of the corporation.

In 1998, I moved on from Wipro and joined Lucent and during my stay there, the seed of MindTree was sown.  Things were still embryonic and one day, work brought me to Paris. I went to look up Shombit and using him as a sounding board, I presented the business plan for the unborn MindTree. Shombit listened intently and then asked me just one question. “What would be the DNA of the company?” DNA of the company; what was that? I was startled. DNA, he explained, is the key to all differentiation, it is the seed of the brand and just as living beings have a unique DNA and that replicates, a company is also a unique entity and without a DNA it would not replicate; would not survive. The MindTree founders rolled back, we thought through and decided that our DNA would be imagination, action and joy. It was this seed that then led to the name MindTree and later, the logo of the company drawn by a 17-year-old school boy with cerebral palsy. The rest is history.

In the succeeding years, Shombit  was transforming brands for Britannia and Jubilant and Hindustan Unilever, Lewis Berger and Mahindra and Mahindra. Story has it that at one time, if you walked into a European home, you could see at least 6 things that had a Shombit Sengupta signature: from Danone to Remy Martin, from Nestle to Cartier. In this process, Shombit today is a brand unto himself.

In the forthcoming issue of Zen Garden, Shombit is my guest. He tells me all about what CEOs in India must know about their brand; who will disrupt the status quo and some interesting aspects of his early days few people know about. Do find the time for the Forbes India issue on the stands over the coming weekend and let me know your thoughts.

Before I sign off, many thanks to Subramani and Sunil for the two fabulous stories in response to the last blog. Take care for now.

Comments
Girish Says
Thursday September 22nd 2011

Hi Sir,
Whenever I read new stories in your blog, I really get inspired my confidence will be high. Thanks a lot for sharing these with us.

Geetha Says
Saturday October 1st 2011

Dear Gardener,

Thank you for this superb article on Mr. Shombit Sengupta in Zen Garden:
http://www.business.in.com/article/zen-garden/artist-shombit-senguptas-insights-on-branding/28852/0

The lesson that comes across very clearly is that it does not pay to bemoan one’s fate/kopal without taking any action to change it.

“Fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny.”

And Mr. Sengupta’s joie de vivre is actually very contagious!

    Ivan Says
    Monday December 10th 2012

    I was waiting inlntety for this post… However, to be frank, I was rather disappointed. I expected a hilarious post detailing your rendezvous with the students languishing in those decade-old benches, that you too had sat in long time back…Anyways, you’ve got a point there! Personally speaking, I’ve never thought there was ‘glamour’ (for want of a better word) in the teaching profession. However, indeed, a person who bestows knowledge to bunch of (begrudged) students is a God in his own right. And, it’s certainly better than the plain vanilla number-crunching one gets to do in an IT/ITES job, though the rewards are low…P.S. My ‘sources’ say that you’re an ‘adept’ teacher! Is it? 😉

Viral Jani Says
Wednesday October 5th 2011

Hello Mr. Bagchi,

At present reading – “The Professional”. Thanks for the guidance offered through it. None of the professional educational syllabus covers these aspect of a professional life.Kudos to you for such a nice compilation.

    mohan Says
    Friday November 25th 2011

    Nice comment

Thomas Says
Tuesday November 29th 2011

Dear Mr. Bagchi:

I just read ‘The Professional’. Thank you for penning some of your accumulated wisdom. Its a wonderful book. Thank you. I wanted to ask – have you read the wisdom in ‘The Proverbs’ in the Bible? Its written by Soloman – the wisest man who ever lived/will live. It got 31 short chapters. Please find below a link for your ready reference.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+1&version=NIV

Have a great day.

Best Regards,

Thomas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts
Books