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"An Entrepreneur Should Always Stay Involved in the Business"

E Kumar Sharma     December 24, 2019

Q. What was the problem that you were grappling with?

A. Little over a year ago, I was grappling with issues around succession and felt I should move on and step aside from my role as the CEO and let professionals lead. Then I began search for the right people and was looking at the best way to do this.

Q. Who did you approach for advice and why?

A. Having known G.M. Rao (Founder and Chairman of GMR Group) over the years, I approached him. It was also because he has built several businesses, is respected in the industry, and most important of all, I knew that he had a written family constitution with clearly defined roles for all and had looked at succession planning. So, I thought, he may have the answers.

Q. What was the advice?

A. He immediately told me to never move away from the company. He said: "An entrepreneur should always stay involved in the business." That's because, he said, while professionals will be good at what they do, will have the company's best interest at heart and will even think long-term, it is really the entrepreneur who will be able to think and take bets for the very long term. While an entrepreneur will be hit the most by a wrong decision, he will still not be bound by quarterly or yearly performance. He will always be able to articulate a vision and align business interests to this long-term vision. G.M. Rao then gave me examples in India where entrepreneurs stepped aside but, led by circumstances, had to step in again.

Q. How effective was it in resolving the problem?

A. The advice helped clarify my thinking and gave me a purpose, too, which is to keep the company focussed on the long term, and to look at the very long term. It also helped me make the transition from CEO to co-chairman and managing director.

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