Go mad with ideas

Go mad with ideas

Naveen Narayanan, global talent acquisition head, HCL Technologies, talks about the company’s vision of nurturing young leaders in India to make a difference and lead the difference



MAD LTD (MAD), the youth leadership initiative inspired by HCL Technologies, aims to nurture young leaders in India who promise to ‘Make A Difference’ and ‘Lead The Difference’. Since the inception of the MAD initiative in October 2010, HCL has managed to reach out to over 25,000 students across India through MAD attacks conducted across 120 colleges and has received 18,000 MAD ideas. The MAD website has had over 15,000 visitors and registered approximately 25,000 active users within a short timeframe.  Its fan community on Facebook has increased by 35 per cent.

So far, this programme has completed three seasons and at the end of each season there is a grand finale and the winner is chosen from the shortlisted 10 to 12 ideas.

Naveen Narayanan, global head, talent acquisition, HCL Technologies talks about MAD’s vision and its future plan.

How MAD fits into HCL’s vision

MAD LTD (make a difference and lead the difference) is a leadership development program, which aims to transform young people coming out of colleges. These youngsters can take on a lot of things at the grassroot level and can transform things on the social or the business side and contribute towards changing the world. We believe that this is the best way to nurture leadership.  This completely aligns with our overall policy of employee first and customer second (EFCS).   We are looking for people who come up with ideas, those who are willing to drive innovation for the company or the client.

We do something similar within the company as well. Internally, one of the many programs we run as part of the EFCS philosophy is the value portal. This idea exchange platform was created to funnel the innovation energy of our employees, especially those at the grassroot level to collaborate, innovate and lead the implementation of their ideas to deliver value to the customers. The value portal was designed to drive employees to share their innovative ideas that they believe would make a true difference to the customer’s business. A group of employees therefore created the MAD Jam (Make a Difference Jamboree) to identify the best innovators of HCL. On an annual basis, there is MAD Jam for those who are in the value zone (those who are directly interacting with clients on a daily basis). These are the people who provide value to the clients and it is important that they are empowered the most.

The overall value system of EFCS fosters a set of people who we call internally, ideapreneurs. The whole program is called ideapreneurship, which identifies people who are willing to bring receptive ideas and also work on it in an entrepreneurial way. And doing this externally with colleges is what MAD is all about.

The MAD aim

The country will continue to be ruled by the younger generation for the next 30 to 40 years. And we believe that the Gen Y has a lot of disruptive ideas and it is important to foster, nurture and encourage these ideas.

How does MAD work? 

We go to a set of colleges, typically where we hire from and with whom we have strategic tie-ups. We have a workshop for them, which are run by our internal EFCS champions. They talk about the leadership philosophy and how it drives some of us. Subsequently, we encourage people to give us details about their idea, which they are currently pursuing or would like to purse in the space of social innovation or business. They submit it to us either on the same day or online. Interestingly, students who reach out to us are those who are already in the phase one or phase two of trying out their ideas.

The finale happens around June every year. This is the end of a particular college season. Our workshops take place between August and November and the ideas start bubbling up and in the first quarter of the calendar year we filter these ideas and present them to the panel so that there is adequate time for the individual to benefit from the coaching they would receive. So, it runs through the whole academic year.

We go through a process of evaluation through an external panel, which continues till the grand finale. And once the 10 to 12 ideas that are shortlisted, its ideapreneurs go through extensive coaching for about two to three months before the finale happens. Most of the finale members are people who have experimented with the idea in a small way, or have a revenue model in place. In the finale, these students interact with the panel, make a presentation and defend some questions and answers.

One person is chosen and called the CEO of MAD and we continue to invest in that individual who gets access to funds, leadership in HCL, mentoring from internal and external groups, but more importantly, gets access to resources to improve on a few things which help the sustainability of the idea.

Mandate for choosing ideas

There are four parameters that we take in to consideration while evaluating an idea. First, we see if the idea is agnostic. We see if the idea is unique and there is innovation, either in the idea or the delivery of the idea. It is also important for us to know that the idea is scalable. And, finally, there has to be strong commitment from the individual. We play a role mainly in the third and the fourth parts.  The most important contribution from us is to ensure that the individual gets fair amount of leadership coaching, ability to collaborate, handle finances and look at competition.

Long-term vision

There are two or three things that we want to attempt. One is to obviously take MAD across geographies especially our bigger markets like the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Two, is to broad base this across talent segments. It is important to take this to business education as they also go through some form of social engineering and social innovation programs. Next, we try and see how we link these to our larger agenda internally. If there are 10 ideas, we would like to link it to our sustainability program or the individual who has the idea will work on our agenda. Those are the definitive changes that we would like to bring in the next couple of years.

Entrepreneurial trends

Everything seems a lot easier for today’s generation, like access to information and capital, than it was earlier. And that access has made this generation very confident. I also believe that this generation has become proud of India and wants to do something at a social level for the country; the level of activism and need to make changes at the grassroot level is strong.  However, the easier part is to start a venture, the difficult part is to sustain and grow from there. The reason why Silicon Valley has so many entrepreneurs is because they have people who are willing to, either for commercial consideration or otherwise, step in and help coach and mentor ideas. This is something that Indian entrepreneurs lack. We are trying to fill this gap through MAD and help unleash the potential of some of these young individuals.


Year: 2013

Name:  Snehita Avireni

Idea: Rent out farm equipment to farmers. Her target audience is any farmer – small, marginal and medium sized – who owns land anywhere between one acre and six acres. 

Year: 2012

Name: Sneha Kunasani

Idea: N2 – “No to food wastage No to starvation” has struck chords with most hearts. Her brainchild, N2, is all about  utilising the surplus food wasted in large quantities, each day, to feed underweight children and needy adults present all over the country by establishing an effective delivery system with the help of volunteers. 

Year: 2011

Name: Shyamli Rathore

Idea: KAP, a social programme connecting the adults who have time to spare and the will to share this time educating orphans and street kids. Together, these adults and kids grow plants and make this planet a better place.

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