Lecture by subroto bagchi
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    Lecture by subroto bagchi Lecture by subroto bagchi Document Transcript

    • Subroto Bagchi is co-founder, Vice Chairman & President,MindTreeConsulting. He works out of New Jersey, USA.)My first assignment in the US was in 1990 when Wipro asked me to move to theSilicon Valley to set up a beachhead. A decade later, I am back here, as co-founderof MindTree Consulting - looking after our operations in the Americas. Untilrecently, I used to tell people, half in jest, between both assignments, everything isthe same. Both the times, there has been a Mr. Bush as President, both times therehas been recession and both times, US has gone to war. Yet, in 1990 - we hadprobably less than five software companies of any consequence, work was doneonly in client locations and the India brand did not exist. Today, we are talkingabout 850 or more companies directly impacted, more than 400,000 people andtheir families involved and depending on how the world emerges from the brutalattack on the World Trade Center - wewill really know what will be in store for each one of us individually andcollectively. Yet, there are lessons we need to pick up as we go.1. Beyond a point, worrying does not help, you have to know as you go.Yes, the US is in a state of recession. The last one lasted 3 years - from 1989 to1992. This one has been worsened by the dot.com / Internet bubble which wasfanned by an overheated stock market. As a result, the crash has been louder thanlast time. Also, as against the last recession, todays world is so well connected, sosimultaneous that if you touch some thing in New York - in the very next moment,you can feel the impact in Tokyo or Bangalore. The other aspect is how muchpeople are exchanging information and how fast news and analysis reaches themtoday. This has at least one negative impact. It breeds a herd mentality at a globallevel. If one company in one industry does a layoff, everyone else says, why am Inot following suit? Either people say the world is going to be great place or everyone says it is coming to an end. The truth is in the median. Beyond a point no oneknows the full story, no one has the full data. After all, who could predict the WTCbombing? So, we have tofocus on the job at hand and move on. We have to make changes, as events unfold.The important thing is in cultivating the ability to do so.> >>2. Companies are not slot machinesIn the last few years, fund managers, venture capitalists, retail investors and a tribeof analysts had all contributed to the over heated investment climate.Unfortunately, people had lost track of a simple truth. A company is not a slotmachine. But for a moment, let us agree that it can be. The danger in that argumentis that, the rules of the slot machine then apply to companies. What is the rule? Aslot machine can reward only two per cent people only two per cent of the time.Change that simple rule and no one will ever set up a slot machine. We had the
    • absolutely crazy environment in which, first of all, people regarded companies asslot machines. Worse, 98 per cent people expected to get more than they gave 98per cent of the times. Educated people should know that that is a coveted but notfeasible model. Unfortunately, in the mayhem - a lot of people got greedy, set upcompanies with short-term gain in mind and they are falling by the wayside today.Quite sadly, they are taking a lot of people with them.> >>> >>3. You do need a business plan after allWhen we thought of MindTree Consulting, we began the process of thinkingthrough the business plan 14 months prior to launching the company. We wrote anold-fashioned business plan that ran in to 80 pages. Did we have all the answers?No we did not have all the answers. Yet, we wrote the business plan - not to consomeone in to funding us. We believed what we wrote and used it to guide us tillwe rewrote the plan again. Yet, I know of someone in the valley, who raised $100Million without having to write a business plan. Every one got so carried away thatsome one said, if you have to write a business plan, you are no good. Thiscompany just wrote a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and handedthem to their potential investors. Two years in to the game, the $100 Million hasevaporated and so has the company. The moral of the story is, you cannot buildbusinesses in the air. You cannot work for people who do that. If you chooseotherwise, you choose the consequences as well.> >>4. People need real skills to build real solutions for real customers to get real cashPeople make money when real customers buy real things and pay for them. Onlythen, our customers can use your or my services. Those services cannot bevaporware and they cannot be devoid of the need to build solutions that "move"things. Yet, we live in times in which these seemingly simple precepts were thrownaway. Many trivialized the effort it takes, the investments you need and the time ittakes before capability can be built to listen to customers, understand needs,manage them and build value for them. We also diluted the standards for hiring.We overlooked considerations and ignored simple rules of engagement. From thedeveloper perspective, a lot of people know that they do not know. Some have nounderstanding of business and how things work. Armed with a rapidly acquireddegree, some questionable work experience, they all flew with the H1 visa. A H1visa takes you from place A to USA. It does not make up for, nor does it shortenthe knowledge acquisition process and the experience building that are pre-requisites to delivering real value to paying customers.> >>5. Hard work and loyalty are back in fashionIn 1998, I had Gallup do a poll with 100 software engineers to accurately map theprofile of the quintessential Indian software developer. Turned out, it is a 26 year
    • old male, decided to be a software engineer in his 9th grade, came from a nuclearfamily, father professional, mother home maker, places learning, family andmoney as the priorities in life (in that order), is a pathological learner ("learns tolearn" more than "learns to do") and has changed 1.75 jobs in the first two years ofhis career. Go to any one, any where in the world - they will tell you what is wrongin that model. You have to choose your career well. You have to know that youcannot be just a bundle of technical skills. There is more to life than writing code.The world needs solutions, not software and it will take time to master that. Youjust cannot be tactical with your own life -sooner or later, it will all catch up. Thatis beginning to happen. You did not need a recession or a Bin Laden to drive homethat point. That is the way it works in the medical profession, in public life, injournalism, in teaching primary school children. We cannot be an exception.> >>6. It is going to be a long haulHow long before the current slow down, recession, uncertain geo-politicalsituations get better? First of all, it will get worse before it gets better. But it willget better. It is very unlikely that we will see improvements before the end of 2002.First of all, in the best case scenario, the aftermath of the WTC tragedy will takethe rest of the calendar year to get sorted out. Disclaimer: Even Mr. Bush does nothave full knowledge and full control over what will happen, whatwill be the consequences and what cascading impact we will see as a result of theplanned overt and covert operations. Given that fact, investment climate will becautious, new applications will be on hold and business justifications will bedemanded before anyone spends any money. So, it will be somewhere in themiddle of next year that we will come out of the penumbra of the economic effectsof the next three months. And when we do come out, it will not be a start fromwhere we left ourselves in 1999. It will be a world that will demand more personaland collective accountability. Markets, customers, investors and employers will notbe the same again. Given that, you and I will need to ask our own selves some verybasic questions whose answers only you and I have.>>>7. Skill merchants bewareIn all the flux we are seeing before us, if there is one thing that is increasinglyclear, it is this - people who have a purely skill view of themselves, will have moredifficulty coming through. There are a lot of people out there who think thatknowing Java, C++ or EJB is what it takes to assure career continuity.Unfortunately, it takes much more than that. Early in ones career - a technicalperson needs to learn a lot many other things. He or she needs to understand howbusinesses work, how to handle clients, how to work as a team and a host of otherthings. These can happen only one project at a time and require both patience andcontemplation. Traditionally, many people have thought these are fringe issues andwhat really matters is the ability to churn code. Additionally, people need to learnsome very non-glamorous things. The current crisis reinforces the fact that the real
    • world depends on mainframes, legacy applications and a host of very mundane butcritical things. People who have disdain for these will be in for surprises. We haveto have the same attitude to the routine as we have for the latest and the best.> >>8. Know how much to fakeIn the last two years, I am amazed as to how many people we have bred who arenot their own selves. Every other day, I come across people who have adisproportionate image of their own selves. Worse, they believe in the self-createdage. Some people look so puffed up. Strange job titles, phony accents may lookalright for a while. After some time, theycan actually make a person unusable. The other day, I met this otherwise veryusable middle level manager. Pre-melt down, he got carried away and got slottedfor some thing he did not quite fit. His company is gone but he is still perched onthat imaginary place. Even making conversation is so difficult with him because hehelplessly mouths jargons that make him look like a liability. It is important to beyourself. Fancy words on a resume do not carry one beyond a point. They actuallydestroy you..> >>9. How tactical can you, should you be?It is important to seize the moment and take advantage of opportunities. But howfar should you push the envelope? In the last few years, investors, employers,employees and customers - everyone has been guilty of developing a tactical viewof the world. This was to hurt sooner or later. The current situation has hastenedthe process. The result is that investor money has evaporated, companies arefloundering and employees are lost in a maze. In times like these, we tend to blameeverything other than our own judgment. While the events around us areresponsible, so are we. In Bhubaneswar, next to my in-laws house, there used to bea private computer training institute that was always full. Whenever I visited them,my in-laws would ask me if all the boys and girls there would soon be flying offwith H1 visas. I was getting tired of saying "no".After a while, I began to suspect my own cynicism. Today, the place is quiet as agraveyard. The question is, how could thousands of people who could not write apage of English without making a dozen mistakes and had no math skills andwould not qualify a written test for a third level engineering college, suddenlybecome exportable computer wizards? Did they themselves not know this? Didtheir parents not realize the improbability of it all? We can blame the slow down.On the other hand, we are the slow down.> >>10. The world will move on. Will you be there?Allan Greenspan says that the only thing certain about a recession is that it getsover. I could say the same thing about war and associated crisis that we are going
    • to witness. That is how the world has always worked. Our parents and their parentshave seen larger crisis. It so happens that our hare of growing up is coming to usafter a protracted period of what looks like good times. Having said that, thingswill come back full circle. As that happens, some will survive and some will behurt. Rather than worry about either, it is a good time to do some deep reflectionand come to terms with realism. It is also a good time to take a larger, morecomprehensive view of ones career and make some solid investments towards that.It is also a time to rethink ones perception of some old fashioned things like focuson fundamentals, hard work, loyalty and building real value for real customers. Areyou ready?> >> _______________________________