In this edition’s lounge, four entrepreneurs talk to us about their role models and what they have learnt from them
TEAM SMART CEO
Who is your greatest inspiration? It is not an easy question to answer. You first start saying Steve Jobs … and before you finish, your mind is ready with three other names. It is like answering the question, which is your favourite movie or for that matter, your favourite food?
Anyway, we decided to ask four very interesting entrepreneurs the trick question – who is your guru? The answers turned out to be interesting. From Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata to one’s previous boss and a mountaineer who climbed the Everest without oxygen, we heard it all. For us, the one that took the cake was Milk Mantra’s Srikumar Misra’s answer: a combination of two people – his father, a person very close to his heart and Steve Jobs, someone he hasn’t met but who inspired him through his products.
Team Smart CEO has a detailed rant about why Steve Jobs inspires so many people but that’s reserved for another day, another edition. Read on… and learn who inspires India’s next generation business leaders.
I don’t really have a guru, but I do have some strong inspirations. First is my father, Binaya KR Misra, who died very young. However, in his short life, he not only created a successful transformer manufacturing venture in the ‘70s as a first generation entrepreneur, but also supported so many entrepreneurs at a personal level who have gone ahead to become highly successful themselves. My second inspiration is Steve Jobs – a true visionary and game changer – someone whose single-minded focus on changing consumer needs (and behaviour) went on to change the world for the better. These two people, one very close to my heart and another who I have only read about, make me believe that the only limiting factor in life is life itself – rest can be handled.
Srikumar Misra, Managing Director and CEO, Milk Mantra Diary
My source of inspiration is Mr. Ratan Tata. He can be considered a guru of all entrepreneurs. He is a man with a vision and implements his dream in a very disciplined and uncomplicated manner. When I started Ferns ‘N’ Petals, I got my first wedding order for The Taj. The then manager was almost like a Messiah to me. Previously, marriages only had the concept of flowers in the form of garlands. But, I was lauded by Taj Hotels for introducing the concept of cut flowers. I received several orders from them, which helped break-even my business, which was running into losses. Another aspect of the Taj that inspired me a lot was the financial support, the values and the discipline that is reflected right from the guard to senior manager. Everyone replicates the humble and sober nature of Ratan Tata. My first corporate interaction was with the manager at Taj and I was amazed that the vision of the owner can be seen and reflected even in the eyes of everyone working there. This was a corporate eye opener for me.
Vikas Gutgutia, Founder and Managing Director, Ferns ‘N’ Petals
My mentor, guru and inspiration is a gentleman called Manoj Tirodkar (who was also my previous employer), the man who started the Global Group, a telecom infrastructure company, around 25 years back. He is a first generation entrepreneur and brings in the sense of positivity and passion in whatever he does. He inspires people to be their best, even when there are limited resources and are going through bad times. I worked with him for more than 12 years in different positions and admire his entrepreneurial skills, especially the way he brought his vision to the telecom industry much ahead of time. A man who started from a chawl, who did not even get formal education due to lack of resources, built a corporation which acquired businesses like Aircel Towers for more than US $1.5 billion.
His trust and belief in people is extremely inspiring. Although I was an employee in his company he gave me an opportunity to independently set up business ventures for him in new business areas like IT, security and aviation. I was not only allowed to chair the board but also had the privilege to take independent decisions related to setting up international operations, business subsidiaries, joint ventures and partnerships. Some of the key leanings he inculcated in me were independent decision making, trust and faith in my team, execution of innovative ideas and a sense of ownership which have collectively helped me grow as an entrepreneur.
Rajeev Wadhwa, Founder and Chairman of Baron Aviation and Allied Services Pvt. Ltd
I am greatly inspired by Reinhold Messner, possibly the greatest mountaineer of all times. Reinhold accomplished many feats in his life – the most inspiring one being, becoming the first person to successfully climb Everest without supplemental oxygen. At a time when most of the world believed it to be beyond the realm of possibility, Messner had the courage of his convictions to not only attempt something so dangerous (as climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen), but also complete it successfully.
From this, I have learnt not to accept conventional wisdom as the gospel of truth, to question everything, and to not be afraid of doing things the way they have never been done before. In business, people often put down new ideas by saying “Oh, we have never done it this way before” or “if it were possible, someone would have done it by now”. This kind of attitude curbs creativity. For instance, once, when we decided to conduct all our trainings online, we got a lot of scepticism from people. People doubted the effectiveness of online training, especially for a complex field like analytics. People were unconvinced simply because no one had done it successfully before. Two years and over 2000 students later, we are proud to say that we now have the best online analytics training course available anywhere in the world. So, today, I strongly encourage my employees to find new ways of thinking and doing things. We are constantly innovating in the way we teach, the way we market and the way we grow.
Gaurav Vohra, co-founder, Jigsaw Academy