Book Title: The Elephant Catchers – Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth
Author: Subroto Bagchi
Who does not want to scale? Almost every entrepreneur wishes to do what Mindtree (the organisation referred to in this book) did, take their startup through a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). Since the stories of scaling are told by Subroto Bagchi (co-founder, Mindtree), it adds greater credence. Upon reading the book one can clearly understand why “scaling is not for the faint of heart”. As the author clearly suggests, it is not necessary to scale unless one wants it, the business needs it, and one is comfortable with the idea of magnitude.
The book covers considerable ground regarding the topic of scaling an enterprise. I especially liked the chapters on strategy, leaders, boards and consultants. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur you will first have to get comfortable with the notion of size, understand the variety of factors that contribute to scaling (boards, leaders, strategy, structure, consultants, sales, etc), be ready to learn from others and be willing to ask and take help from the right people. I think it is this idea of identifying, seeking and being ready to receive help on specific matters important to scale that makes all the difference. It is quite evident from the book that the founding team cannot scale all by itself. In one of the evenly laid out short chapters the author clearly highlights why those who start and those who scale have very different mindsets, knowledge, skills and attitudes. While some can learn both, most founders assume they have both. Could this be the reason why we have so many small and medium enterprises in India and very few who scale successfully?
The book presents number of interesting philosophical ideas for reflection. I loved some of the references to philosophers and books, especially the one from Khalil Gibran: “You children are not your children… They come through you but not from you… And though they are with you they belong not to you…” I think this extract from Gibran is particularly useful for entrepreneurs. Not understanding this is probably one reason they don’t allow their enterprises to blossom to potential. I also loved reading the four clusters of attributes that leaders ought to have when an organisation scales: Ninja; Coach; Thought Leader; and Rain-maker. The other interesting idea that caught my attention was the thoughts that Shombit Sengupta shared with Subroto Bagchi. I will leave it to you to delve into the book and figure these out for yourself.
In recent times I have been reading books written by researchers. To give myself a little break I chose to read a practitioners account. I think it was time well spent. If you are an entrepreneur / business owner (either attempting scale or scaled successfully or failed to scale) you will most likely resonate with the ideas in the book. I am sure it will make you stop and think. The book stops short of making suggestions on how you can use these learnings in your scaling endeavours – but that I think is best left to the reader to identify. The inspiration lies hidden, subtly, within the text.
As shared with you a little earlier I am presently teaching a new course titled “Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organisation” for a group of second generation family business owners at The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII). Since much of the course hovers around discussions on scale, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the views / opinions / learnings of someone who has successfully scaled from India. This will help me enrich the class with close to home examples and personal anecdotes of a seasoned entrepreneur. I look forward to sharing these interesting thoughts with my students in the coming classes.
If you wish to know more about this prolific practitioner-writer, check this out: http://subrotobagchi.mindtree.com/the-elephant-catchers/