I work as CEO of ClearThink Software – a company which is currently incubating e-commerce marketplace with supply chain integration and related analytic solutions. Also worked as Operating Partner for TGC Consulting where I was on advisory boards of several companies and helped clients on Strategic Advisory, Consulting and related assignments in e-commerce, Information Technology, Retail solutions and such others. Earlier to this, I was the Country Head and Board Member for Misys, India, USD 4 billion global IT Software Product Company, where I was responsible for setting up global software product development centre in Bangalore and facilitated significant M&A work such as – merger and separation of multiple legal entities. Prior to that I worked with Alcatel-Lucent on global M&A strategy & services for Asia Pac and Europe theatres.
I was one of the initial start-up team of Mind Tree where I performed various roles such as P&L head, HR Head, CIO and helped set up global geographies. While with Coopers & Lybrand (C&L), a global consulting firm, as part of Information Technology practice, I was responsible for implementation of SAP (Sales, Distribution 3.0B, Ware-house modules and Supply Chain solutions) to Indian and global clients. With Wipro, post my masters, I worked in sales and developed the Export Oriented Unit market segment. Having travelled extensively to US, Europe and Singapore and many other geographies, have garnered global and diversified experience.
In the last more than two decades of corporate experience, I was fortunate to work with some great companies and wonderful people and learnt a lot from them. I never thought that I should pen management books. It so happened that I was down with an ankle injury and to pass time I started writing and soon it turned into my first book, ‘Unusual People Do Things Differently’, which was accepted by Penguin. Soon it became a best seller and I guess that is how my journey as an author started. People started appreciating my writing, one thing led to the other and besides since I was immensely enjoying writing, more books followed both in fiction and management books. Sometimes life offers more than what one envisages. I am grateful!
Q. Since you give a lot of examples from the real world, case studies of companies and their best practices, tell us something about your research process. And how important it is for the book.
People buy books in anticipation of learning something or to be immersed in your storyline. It beholds on the author to publish something of value, something of interest and that is possible, only if the author does decent amount of research. To me, research forms the core of my writing. Most of my books take at least 12-18 months to write. During this period, I collect a plethora of information – from books, journals, articles, interviews and visit many libraries to get an understanding of the topic. I read intensely and then put aside articles of interest and then start writing in bits and pieces. Over a period of time, the content is developed and then I take off for a month to put it all together to get the first draft. After the first draft, I take a break and clean up my mind. Almost forget the topic at hand. Soon, I pick up what I have written and re-read it. Then I edit – chop a lot, add a bit and then soon, a second draft sees the light of the day. Again a short break and then I re-read and edit. Finally the draft is ready to be submitted to publishers. From there on, the publishers validate and edit quite a bit. After a few rounds of such edits, it takes the shape of a book that you see on stands. It is an arduous and a patient process. But then the fun is in doing it and eventually seeing it published.
Q. You have 3 published books to your credit: The Last Ten Per Cent, Unusual People Do Things Differently & Working Hard is Not Good Enough .Tell us how different are they. Is there a common line of thought that you have tried to convey through these books.
All the three are very different books. The Last Ten Per Cent focuses on how to Service and sell to customers – so that you become a world-class company. Unusual people do things differently is about how people made a difference to what they do to their communities, companies, teams and how they evolved over a period of time. Working hard is not good enough talks about the fundamentals of what it takes to be successful in this day and age. The common line in all these is ‘excellence in what done does, keeping in view the business context’. At the end of the day, business is all about customers and people.
Q. What is that key learning that you would like your readers to take out?
There is no one key learning. Even what you learn today is outdated tomorrow. In fact, it is better to forget what you learnt sooner so that you can learn more as you peddle your way. Everything in life is so contextual and evolves with circumstances and with passage of time. Stay connected, be good with people, be sensitive to your environment, apply yourself to what makes you happier – because soon what will remain are memories and those too will one day belong as remembrances of someone else.
Q. Who do you think are your readers? Any feedback (fan mail) that you have got from a reader of your book that you would like to share with us?
For the management books, most of my readers, I guess, are working professionals. People, who want to learn, grow and be successful in life.
During my latest book launch of ‘The Last ten Per Cent’, a reader approached me and asked, ‘Why haven’t you given examples of Indian companies with respect to service excellence?’ I think it is a valid point. I could have. Obviously there are fantastic Indian companies which are delivering far superior service compared to many western companies. But then I used a different rationale for arriving at the data-universe, which is, ‘at a very large scale and magnitude of operations, what is the level of service consistency that companies are offering? That is when many western and some Indian companies stood out. I
picked the top of the charts in different segments and presented them’.
In another instance, a reader wrote, ’I am disappointed with the ending of your fiction book, ‘From the eye of my mind’ (the story of an 18 year old autistic child). Well, I chose an ending which one doesn’t expect. I chose a very circumstantial ending. Often people expect the spice of life to bloom in the end. Unfortunately that is not how it works most of the times. Not always it is a crimson ending; there is beauty in paleness too. I felt bad that the reader didn’t enjoy the ending, but I felt fine that I could evoke those emotions in her.
A few readers sent me great emails that they truly enjoyed reading ‘Working hard is not good enough’. I was happy. One reader said, ‘old wine in a new bottle’. I smiled to myself. Probably he expected more of it. The book is simple in approach and takes an case-study approach to explaining various intricacies of management. Well, old wine is anyway the preferred one.
Overall, the best part is to receive fan mail and I take time to respond to each one of them. People take pains to write, I believe, I should respect them and respond. It takes an effort, but I guess is worth it.
Q. Tell us what is the best and the worst part of being a writer? Any words of wisdom for those who are starting out?
The best part of being an author is the satisfaction of learning and enjoying the process of writing. The worst part is – having a sense of incompletion irrespective of how best you give in. I realize that as an author, I cannot please everybody and at times, I can’t even bring a whole new theory to play. But then I am happy to have explored newer dimensions and perspectives and perhaps have made people realize another important aspect to the theory of management.
As a fiction writer, I have enjoyed building characters. I feel happier when people relate to the characters and to the tale. More soon on this part…
It costs less than a popcorn pack that you buy at a multiplex & much less than the spa you get for your actually tired mind and not body!