The Elephant Catchers

Book Title: The Elephant Catchers – Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth

Author: Subroto Bagchi3-d-cover-Elephant-Cathers

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/

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A new journal for entrepreneurship education research

Last year I visited Peru, South America and helped start the ‘Diploma in Innovation and Entrepreneurship” run jointly by CIDE-PUCP and Future Startup Heroes. I spent almost three weeks in Peru visiting number of cities helping promote the culture of entrepreneurship. Here are some photographs capturing my Peruvian memories.

Before leaving Peru I promised the participants of the first batch of the diploma program that I would send them every month, two “readings” on entrepreneurship education. I kept my promise and this month I am sending them the fifth and last installment. As I was putting together the readings I realised that I had an opportunity to not make it the last mail from me (entrepreneurial educator?).

Last week, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) launched a new journal with a focus on entrepreneurship education. It is called “Entrepreneurship Education & Pedagogy” (EE&P). Its name and form confirm its sibling status to “Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice” (ET&P) – a premier journal for entrepreneurship research. While I was enjoying the articles from the very first issue of this new journal, it occurred to me that I should share this with my friends who will be soon completing their diploma and becoming entrepreneurship educators.

Would they not benefit from having access to a spring, instead of a glass?

Therefore instead of sending two articles as I have done in the past four months, I decided to turn this into a blog post and send it to them. I hope they read all the articles in the first issue of EE&P (for this month) and continue to look up this journal from time to time. The journal has research articles, cases, instructor resources, and games. This will help them as they embark on their journey to being world class entrepreneurship educators!

Peru is an entrepreneurial country and with a host of entrepreneurial educators the nation can catalyse its entrepreneurial journey.

Good Luck to every one of them.

Are Startup events the new Reality Shows?

A student of mine recently wrote to me saying he was surprised that most of the B-Plan competition winners failed to start or failed after starting. He looked back at one award winning B-Plan presentation and found that even he (a nascent entrepreneur) could easily locate significant gaps in its business model. What surprised him was that none of the jury asked him anything related to that. They were enamoured by his presentation. That boy, encouraged by the jury and the award went on to start the business and eventually failed.

Could this unnecessary failure been stopped? Is it the responsibility of those who sit in the jury to be critical? But then how will these competitions run? Events are a part of the show business, “show” is critical.

His mail reminded me of a Reality Show on TV for identifying super singers. On one such final the boy who delivered the best performance did not come first. It was the one who got the maximum votes from the public (the most popular one) who came in first. One of the famous singers who was on the jury came to the stage and said something like this to the that boy who sang well and did not win “You may not have won the title today, but remember you are a real super singer.” And if I am not wrong he also offered him a chance to sing in one of his upcoming movies.

This is what I told my student – Please understand that the business model of events and reality shows is to create hype and raise emotions. It thrives on populism. Though they call themselves “Reality Shows” the only thing missing is “Reality”. So be wary! But remember that they are important and have their place in any entrepreneurship ecosystem! Make use of these events if they can help you, but don’t spend your life trying to be the new actor on stage.

Startup Schemes to watch

In India the biggest challenge for startups today is not ‘starting up’ but knowing how to keep themselves abreast of whats happening in the ecosystem. There is so much happening all over the place that we tend to get lost. With the government launching a number of schemes to help startups and entrepreneurs, it only gets even more difficult. Hence any compilation of such lists is useful. I found here: Here is a list to 50 such schemes.

Policy initiatives and resulting schemes are useful for startups. They help during the tough early days of a startup. So don’t miss reading this and make maximum use of whichever you can.

Happy Reading and Happy Using!!

My 2nd Babson Conference

It was great being there at the 37th Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC) hosted at the Michael F Price School of Business, University of Oklahoma, Norman. This was my second Babson (as people there refer to it). While the last time I was a doctoral consortium participant (competitively selected), this time I presented my first paper based on the thesis work.BCERC2017_Raj

I enjoyed my first paper presentation (Corporate Accelerators: A grounded study of its motives, manifestations and measures) at this prestigious conference. It was also my first paper co-authored with my mentor. I met a few of my fellow doctoral consortium participants – Mona, Jerone, Moyra, Beldina, Ida, Wei (hope I’m not missing anyone) and it was heartening to see their achievements and progress. You guys inspire!

I met many stars (Aldrich, Busenitz, Lumpkin, Landstorm, Patzelt, and others) in entrepreneurship research including Prof Robert Baron who won the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. His book ‘Enhancing Entrepreneurial Excellence’ was one of the first academic texts I read as a doctoral student. It was exciting to see his energy and enthusiasm.

I made new friends from across the world. All of them are scholars (some budding) with a keen interest in the phenomenon of entrepreneurship. We spent a lot of time laughing and chatting over trivia between sessions and during the social events.

The BCERC is a cool conference where you get to hear emerging ideas which will probably appear in journals a year or two down the line. It is also highly developmental with people giving each other feedback for improvement. Senior scholars are willing to give time and listen to our ideas and questions without any criticism.

As I told Georgia who is the most important person behind the conference – ‘I’m now a BCERC fan’ and hope to keep coming back to the conference every year (of course to present my research papers) and return ‘recharged and inspired’.

Thanks to the organising team of BCERC and Price School, Oklahoma for making this conference yet another memorable experience.

Seminar for Entrepreneurial Leaders

Seminars and Workshops are dime a dozen. Occasionally there does arise an opportunity arises to listen to a wise teacher. Here is one such opportunity at Chennai.

Swami Parthasarathy is going to be Chennai on 04th July 2017 (Tuesday) speaking on the topic “Venture with Prudence”. This will be a chance to listen to his wise words on a topic that has taken India by storm over the last few years – entrepreneurship. There is also a Q&A session.

Here is the brochure to the program. Table Seminar evite The contacts are in the brochure. Reach out if it interests you.

Best wishes

If you are an entrepreneur

You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.

The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.

Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:

  • Providing inspiration
  • Providing tools and techniques to start
  • Providing methods to sustain
  • Providing approaches to scale

Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.

If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.

Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!