The constant gardener

This edition holds a special place in my heart. And it has everything to do with featuring Subroto Bagchi, chairman, Mindtree, on our cover. I had never met or spoken to him before this interview but his book, The High Performance Entrepreneur, played a key role in the formative years of the magazine. In addition to the wonderful insights it had for an early-stage entrepreneur, the book also taught me that senior business leaders, when asked the right questions, are more than willing to share their experiences to help others. It is with this premise that we launched The Smart CEO to set out on a journey of gathering insights, knowledge and lessons from India’s leading business leaders and share these with millions (hopefully!) of people across the country.

For this edition’s cover story, we requested Bagchi to answer a set of questions on the topic ‘The thought process of an entrepreneur and how it should evolve over time.’ Almost selfishly, I inserted a question or two from my own business situation and trust me, the answers have helped me think with clarity.

Here, I am going to talk a little bit about a unique job title that Bagchi held at Mindtree between 2007 and 2010. During this period, Bagchi’s full-time role, titled Gardener, was to work with the top 100 leaders at MindTree to get them ready for the future. In an internal communication to Mindtree employees, Bagchi wrote, “In my new role, I would create the necessary ‘white-space’ – the time to sit face-to-face with a leader, undistracted, and be available to him or her exclusively, for everything that may be in his or her ‘personal-professional’ space. We would explore together. Read. Watch a movie. Go places. Do some sense-making that is only between that person and I, which can unlock a hidden latch somewhere, resolve a difficult knot or simply get the person to see himself in new light.” He went on to explain what he meant by personal-professional. People have personal-personal problems (problems with your spouse, for example) and professional-professional problems (you want a promotion this year); but his role involved solving problems between these two extremes – something he called personal-professional.

The role of Gardener was created for a very specific purpose. Mindtree had expanded from idea to IPO, from 0 to 6,000 people in eight years. Bagchi and his colleagues believed that it was time to ensure that capacity was created internally to match the opportunities outside. Essentially, the role involved getting the top 100 leaders at the company up to the task of tackling the future. The title, Gardener, was something the team came up with after prolonged thought. The idea was to treat the process akin to how a gardener would tend to a garden – with passion, no ego and the goal of maintaining wonderful plants that grow to become more and more beautiful.

The insights Bagchi shares with us in this edition not only come from his own experience as co-founder of Mindtree but also from the numerous conversations he has had with the top 100 leaders at the company. We are tremendously excited to present to you this edition of The Smart CEO; we hope you find it as useful as we did.

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