Subtle learnings

Subtle learnings

When you constantly meet and interact with personalities who have achieved something in their professional spheres, there is an intangible personal development that you take away, over time


One of the best things about my profession is the exposure and opportunity I get to meet and interact with people from different walks of life. Personally, for me, every meeting has a takeaway, one for the story itself, and the other on a personal level. And, when the meeting is with someone who has reflected, fairly deeply, upon his or her own life and career, the learning is that much more.

I like to watch movies; I enjoy them and leave them behind.  I do not analyse what went wrong with a movie or how great it was. To me, it is merely a source of entertainment. However, I must admit that I was totally besotted by the movie Roja. I still don’t know if it was Arvind Swamy and the on-screen chemistry he shared with Madhoo, the locales, the narration style, the direction, or the fact that I watched it during my most impressionable college days. The fact is that the movie stayed with me for a really long time.  So, when I got an opportunity to officially meet Mani Ratnam, the film’s director, it was a great day for me.

You may ask why I met him, especially if the mandate for The Smart CEO is entrepreneurship and its ecosystem. Over the years of our interaction with the business world, we have come to understand that there is a constant learning that everyone gets from outside his or her comfort zone and having an open mind to absorb these learnings help in growing and progressing well. If you observe closely, for a filmmaker, every movie is almost like an entrepreneurial venture. So there are some common traits between a good entrepreneur and a good movie maker. According to Mani Ratnam, these qualities are leading by example, thinking out of the box and never taking “no” for an answer. His belief in his ideas and definiteness to do a project only if he is thoroughly convinced by it is what led him to his success. He has collaborated with numerous people in his career and believes that such relationships work well when it is complementary.

Instinct plays an important role in his profession and only instinct guides him to convey his message to his audience.  Visionary surgeon, Dr. K M Cherian, a pioneer in pediatric cardiac surgery in India, could not agree more, about the importance of instinct. “Pediatric cardiac surgery is difficult because it involves the correction of congenital defects, which demands quick decision making.  In such circumstances, one should have a strong intuition,” he says. He believes that while that intuition comes with training, there are times when it is also instinctive and you have to be a little street smart to recognise that. It needs a fair amount of guts too as these surgeries are high-risk.  Cherian is also a firm believer of fate and destiny as he believes that these two are the key factors that have led him to where he is today – founded hospitals and pioneered treatments like coronary artery bypass surgery, the first bilateral lung transplant, the first pediatric heart transplant and so on.  And of course, hardwork!

While these are some characteristics that define the people they are, there are some from the business world who make good mentors and believe in imparting knowledge and lessons from their past to budding entrepreneurs. N. Vaghul needs no introduction.  He has served as a mentor for many successful entrepreneurs today, like Kiran Mazumdhar Shaw of Biocon, K.V. Kamath of ICICI Bank and so on. He built ICICI Bank as a professional manager and not as an entrepreneur, yet his ideas are very relevant to an upcoming startup of today. A very well read leader, he uses story telling as a tool to convey his message.

On the other hand, as our editor notes, Subroto Bagchi, the chairman of Mindtree, an IT services company, has a deep desire to share his knowledge and believes in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. Between 2007 and 2010, Bagchi’s full-time role, titled Gardener, was to work with the top 100 leaders at Mindtree to get them ready for the future. During his career, he has also authored several books including The High Performance Entrepreneur, The Professional, MBA at 16 and The Elephant Catchers.  For all these books, Bagchi spent time reflecting upon his professional and personal life, the decisions he had made and, most importantly, he had the willingness to share his learnings with the society at large.

I could go on with this list. But, given the limited space, let me stop here. In the end, what I would also like to stress here is that, we not only bring to you the stories in the best possible way, but also try to imbibe these qualities, hoping to become better leaders, better implementers and better entrepreneurs! Personally, I have learnt that it is an ocean out there and not everything gets written or spoken about. There are many things you just need to infer which comes out of observation. And I strive to do just that! Wish you all a wonderful 2014.

Poornima Kavlekar is the Consulting Editor of The Smart CEO. She likes to write on varied topics ranging from investment and business to parenting and childcare.

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