Back to basics

In 2010, IBM conducted a Global CEO Study. One of the key learnings from that study was that CEOs felt under-equipped to manage the complexity of operating in an environment that was (and as is) fairly volatile. Prior to this study, IBM’s report pointed out that business leaders were constantly worried about change – be it in governments, policies or even technological innovation. I happened to read this report recently; it reminded me of a talk (at the University of Texas at Austin in 2007) given by N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder, Infosys, on how businesses and business leaders should work towards controlling all internal variables. He suggested that leaders should, basically, stop worrying or complaining about external factors and work on what they can control.
At The Smart CEO, we started thinking about ideas for a cover story on reminding business leaders and entrepreneurs on the basics of leading a business. Our mandate was to identify someone who had built a large business and had seen multiples cycles of the economy. We naturally turned to Narayanan Vaghul to share his 50 years of experience, knowledge and mistakes with our readers. A renowned banker, he was the Managing Director of ICICI (initially, ICICI Limited and then ICICI Bank) from 1985 to 1996, and then remained its Chairman till early 2009. He has also served (and continues to serve) on the Board of Directors of ArcelorMittal, Wipro and Mahindra & Mahindra, among several other organisations.

The cover story is targeted at all business leaders – from early-stage entrepreneurs to leaders of large companies. The goal is to remind people about the basics of business leadership, the key aspects to always keep in mind and most importantly, remind people about staying ethical.

The rest of the magazine, as always, is tilted towards entrepreneurs running growth companies. In this edition’s ‘Startup School’, we discuss with Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and chief executive of Consim Info, the parent company behind bharatmatrimony.com, the topic of establishing new business units. In our section titled ‘Fictional Case’, we discuss how a fictional hand-made chocolates retail company can scale up from three outlets to over 50 outlets. In ‘Starting up’ and ‘Growth Enterprise’ we bring to you the stories of various promising growth companies from several sectors including biotech, clean energy, e-commerce, social media, management consulting for small and medium enterprises, and telecom. Overall, we’re excited about this edition – for the variety of topics covered and the simplicity of the cover story – and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this edition.

On a concluding note, let me recollect a recent elevator pitch I made, on behalf of The Smart CEO magazine, at TiECON Chennai, 2011. In less than two minutes, all presenters (primarily entrepreneurs) had to explain their product or service offering to the audience. The Smart CEO magazine’s elevator pitch ran something like this:

Our tagline for the magazine reads ‘Inspiring India’. It’s something we came up with two years ago, but now we realise we could have come up with something better.

Over the last two years, as we’ve interacted with several entrepreneurs, we’ve realised that it’s fine to say that you want to inspire people and help people follow their passion. But the reality is, in order to be a successful entrepreneur, one has to get things done and make progress on a daily basis. Establishing a link between your people, your business model and your day-to-day operations can certainly help you execute better. However, all this is easily written about. But actually implementing it is really, really hard.

In my mind, the best part about The Smart CEO is that: we do understand the limitations of media, the limitations of where we can help an entrepreneur. We cannot help you change the world. We cannot help you execute better.

But what we can do is this: we can help you gather atleast ONE new idea – which you can implement in your own business, your own career – from each and every issue of the magazine.

Hope you enjoy reading this edition of The Smart CEO. And, remember; never forget the basics of business leadership. Wish you all a fabulous 2012.

Prem Sivakumaran is co-founder & CEO of Growth Mechanics, a leadership and entrepreneurship-focused business content company in India. Growth Mechanics publishes The Smart CEO, a publication focused on enabling peer-to-peer knowledge exchange among C-level executives and board members. The platform reaches over 1.2 lakh CXOs across its website, app, print publication & CEO Round Tables, and has featured on the cover India’s leading business leaders/founders from Infosys, Mindtree, Tata Sons, ICICI Bank, Biocon, Yes Bank and several others. In addition of Smart CEO, Growth Mechanics also organises the Startup50 Conference & Awards, an annual event to recognize India’s top 50 startups every year. Startup50 Alumni include Freshdesk, Oyo Rooms, Urban Ladder, Capital Float, Paperboat Beverages, among others. Growth Mechanics’ primary business model revolves around linking CXOs and Brands around engaging content and has worked with India’s leading companies including Mahindra Group, Godrej & Boyce, BASF, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Fiat, IDA Ireland, Yes Bank, Prestige Estates, Frederique Constant, Indian Terrain