What’s age got to do with it?

“It’s either now or never.” How often have we heard this phrase from early stage entrepreneurs? Several young professionals take the plunge early and startup, confident and ready to pick up skills on the job to make their ventures a success. We have seen the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Larry Pages who started up when they were just 19 and 23 years old, respectively, and did so in style. Lakshmi Mittal got into the steel business when he was just 26. Narayanamurthy founded Infosys when he was 35.  In short, the world of entrepreneurship belonged to young people. Or, so we thought, until we hit upon the story of Jagdish Khattar. The ex-chief of Maruti decided to rewrite history and founded Carnation Auto at the age of 65.

Ofcourse, age hardly matters as long as one has the drive and passion to run an entrepreneurial enterprise. Khattar’s drive came from the fact that he always functioned like an internal entrepreneur throughout his public and corporate life. He spent over four decades across several public sector companies including the Uttar Pradesh state transportation department, ministry of steel, tea board and a government-owned cement company. His roles were highly entrepreneurial, creating his own tasks, operating on a tight budget and managing a team of people to get the work done, keeping all stakeholders happy. He then moved on to Maruti, initially as Director of marketing and then took over as Managing Director in early 2000. In January 2008, at the age of 65, he started up Carnation Auto, with the mission of creating India’s first multi-brand auto service and solutions company. Khattar’s story is one filled with grit and determination, and a can-do attitude that is critical for success both as an entrepreneur and as a public servant. Our story titled ‘The Transition Man’ aims to draw lessons from Khattar’s career and throw some light on his customer-focused approach to delivering shareholder value. The ambition behind writing this cover story is big. We are aware that there are several such talented professionals across India, who have the idea, the experience, the skill and the ability to become entrepreneurs. Through this story, even if we can convince one person to take the plunge and pursue his entrepreneurial dream, we would have achieved our goal.

Our Starting Up and Growth Enterprise sections are, as always, filled with several promising companies. InMobi, founded by Naveen Tewari, is today the second largest mobile advertising network in the world. They have close to a 17 billion monthly impressions on mobile applications and websites, just 1 billion lower than Google-owned AdMob. After being seed-funded by the Mumbai Angels, InMobi’s progress has been extraordinary. They improved the quality of their product, expanded globally and deliver mobile ads to consumers in 108 countries around the globe. The story of InMobi is a lesson on scaling up globally for any entrepreneur. Premedia Global founded by siblings, Kapil Vishwanathan and Kami Narayan, is a content solutions company focused on delivering content to the U.S publishing market. The key takeaway from this story is the clarity the founders had on the markets they were going to address.

Our section titled Lounge that has received a lot of positive response over the last six months.  Kaushik Nadadhur, a passionate movie writer (and hardware engineer if I may add), anchors this section. In the past he’s written about everything from interesting career choices to movie marketing, all while drawing parallels between the movie and corporate worlds. In this issue, his article titled Attaboy Fanboy takes you through the world of fans and fanboys, and draws parallels between the early adopters of Apple products and Mani Ratnam fans.  

As always, we hope you enjoy reading The Smart CEO.