Is there a secret trick that successful leaders and businesses apply to get different results from the same business environment? Yes, as it turns out and it took five sessions and seven achievers to unlock the puzzle at Business Today's second annual leadership series, MindRush, that was held in New Delhi on Saturday.
Management guru and CEO coach Ram Charan opened the second day of MindRush with this question and pointed out that most successful leaders know how to convert complexity into simplicity and never turned their eyes away from the customer. Charan has consulted for some of the biggest corporate houses in the world including the likes of GE and Microsoft. In India, business houses including the Aditya Birla Group and Wipro have consulted with him.
Distilling decades of his management wisdom and expertise, Charan said that companies need to "keep their eye on the prize" by continuously asking themselves what can they do better for the customer.
Stating that good leaders don't blame external factors including government, he said: "Leaders don't commiserate or ask for it. Rather in adversity they seek / search for information. There is power in simple questions. Good leaders may face difficulties and roadblocks but they never suffer from fog (of vision and how to get there)."
Of course, practice make things perfect too. He praised the Narendra Modi-led government and said it was providing the right motivation for business. "India needs to build credibility and that comes from action. Economic strength comes not merely from GDP growth but having healthy foreign reserves. The government needs to plan to have a $1 trillion forex reserve over the next decade or more," he added.
The second session had leadership and motivational expert Peter Docker, who drew the attention of the business leaders in the audience to the secret of successful brands such as Apple and Virgin. It was the firm grip these companies have on 'why' they do what they do that makes these companies highly successful, he said. "Successful leaders and brands first begin with 'why' and then get on to the 'what' and 'how' to do what they do," he said. In other words, their integral belief and purpose of choosing to do what they do are invariably more successful than others, he added.
The post-lunch session had a panel discussion on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. The panelists included serial entrepreneur Vishal Gondal, Founder of Goqii.com; Radhika Aggarwal, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Shopclues.com; and Laveesh Bhandari, Chief Economist at Nielsen India.
The panelists opened the discussion with a background on their entrepreneurial stints. Aggarwal spoke about her previous unsuccessful stints with entrepreneurship before founding e-commerce company Shopclues. "I have been third-time lucky with Shopclues," she said.
Speaking about the hype around start-ups raising funds, Bhandari said, "I am quite surprised when VCs come to me and tell me to grow at 10 to 20 per cent. I lot of opportunities get lost because investors are looking at those that grow 10X every year, while most businesses grow only at 2X or 3X. If you are aiming at entrepreneurship, one should not miss out on those opportunities that scale slower but can be very attractive and sustainable areas to get into," he said.
Gondal said that in India there could be about 25 start-ups with a billion-dollar valuation in the next 12 to 18 months. "You can call it a bubble, but the reality is that in China there are already 50 odd companies that have achieved that. The valuation is also part of the fact that all the action that is happening is in India. If you see what Alibaba did to its investors, we are expecting the same in India," he said. "Things are more realistic this time than in late 90s."
Are a lot of young people choosing entrepreneurship? Bhandari said, "The cost of entry into the entrepreneurial ecosystem has gone down dramatically. The only thing that is stopping people is high salaries." Aggarwal said, "Earlier if you had to start a business, there was so much that you had to look at completely from scratch, including what technology to use and how. Now it is much faster because so many things are already available."
Gondal pointed out an interesting trend that is in sharp contrast to the scenario years earlier. "Today, there are people who have left everything and they ask me tell me what to do next. This means entrepreneurship is being celebrated. While earlier you would wait to get funding to take the risk of starting up. Now it is a great thing to say that I am an entrepreneur."
This was followed by an engaging session by P. Murali Doraiswamy, Professor & Director, Mental Fitness Lab, Duke University, on how to spark your grey cells to do more for you.
He talked about how the human brain was actually the biggest asset that companies had and how science had advanced to show how brain worked better and more efficiently under certain circumstances.
Companies needed to bear in mind that long monologues do not work well with people and they did not tend to retain most information. He spoke about the importance of recognizing that how the brain of men and women were actually wired differently. "It is true that multi-tasking does not lead to good results," he said. Doraiswamy also highlighed the significance of exercise, sleep and right food to boost brain efficiency.
The guest speaker for the last session was Everest climber Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, who was the first person along with Sir Edmund Hillary to climb the world's highest mountain.
Norgay talked about his 1996 Everest expedition and explained the difficulties faced by his team that also carried an IMAX camera to film the entire climb. Talking about his father's 1953 expedition with the New Zealander Hillary, Norgay highlighted the importance of communication. He said while his father barely spoke English, Hillary did not know Hindi, Nepalese or the Sherpa language. Norgay also said that after climbing the summit of the Everest, "I felt very proud to be standing where my father stood 43 years ago."
Offering an important leadership lession to the CEOs, Norgay said individuals never get to the top of the team. It is important to have a good team. It is also important to have a burning desire, and to be passionate about your dreams, he said. Norgay recalled his father's words to end the session: "Be a leader, be a guide and accomplish... Above all, be great and make others great."
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