“Building a great company is seldom an accident”, Subroto Bagchi, co-founder, Mindtree

Subroto BagchiSubroto Bagchi is the co-founder of MindTree Inc., an international IT consulting company. He has also authored, ‘Go Kiss The World: Life Lessons for the Young Professionals’, ‘The High Performance Entrepreneur’ and ‘The Professional’. YourStory caught up with the man. Excerpts

What it takes to build a great company

I don’t know what makes a great entrepreneur, because a company is not just about the entrepreneur. Six months before MindTree was born, all the founders sat together and discussed the values we want to stand for. We settled on six things and decided to stick by these six all the time and not as an afterthought.  The six things are — domain, tools, methodology, quality, innovation and brand.
These are the six horses of the chariot that must pull it in the same direction, at the same time, with the same energy. If you do that, chances are high that you’ll build a great company. I can tell after 14 years at MindTree, that a great company is seldom an accident. If you look at a great company, it is genetically engineered to be great! Great companies are built when people have a long view of time, without the long view you can’t do those six things. And, that long view must include a sense of legacy — the founding team must understand there must be life after them.

On scaling 

You don’t scale a company in an year or two. There is no scientific view to scaling a company. A year or two goes away just like that. Entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs must understand that it takes a long time to build a great company. Though this whole concept of serial entrepreneurship is much touted, I am not a fan of it. Brands take a lifetime to build. Look at Narayana Murthy, he is an immensely rich man, ask him to build another Infosys, I bet he cannot. He simply cannot. It takes 30-40 years to build a company.

The company DNA

An entrepreneur has to mould his brain to build the DNA of the company. What goes into the DNA of the company are those vital things that never change. Your DNA determines how your hormones are secreted and determines your synapsis, similarly the DNA of the company never changes.
Japanese believe companies die every five years. So if a company dies every five years, it is the DNA — the basic essentials — that transfers during the transition.
Values of the company have to be part of the DNA, because if they are not one unit then it is very difficult that the next generation of leaders will continue practising those.

On choosing investors 

We are extremely careful about choosing our investors. Entrepreneurs while talking to investors seem to have low self confidence. It’s a mistake! You must understand that you have enormous potential to create value. Only future will tell who has done whom a favour. So use that power in your favour. The color of money is very important. If money is coming from laundered sources or non-laundered sources is very important, because that will determine your day-day functioning and will determine how much you can stick to your values.

Boardroom dynamics 15 years from now will depend on whom you took the money from. For example, I will be very scared to take money from a guy who says he doesn’t understand anything about my business. If you don’t understand my business how you will question me, how will you set the right accountability? It is important ask the investor beyond money what other value can you add? Your investor’s ability to question you should be able to make you accountable in the right way. Last but not the least, there should be a culture match. It is important to understand that it is a long haul. Look at MindTree, we started the company in 1999, had an IPO in 2007 and still some of our investors hold significant stock. So, it is a long association.

Transfer of values across the company 

You have to walk the talk as founders. If my wife comes to pick me from office, she has to report to the security guard, sign the register, get a badge and be escorted to my office. I know my entire office notices it, but only if I do that, the security guard will take his job seriously. Our security guard is not required to stand up or salute any one. The moment he salutes anyone, his eyes are off his job — keeping us secure. You have to walk the talk in small things. Life is not about big, but small things. Building a company is like parenting — every time the kid is going out of home, mom says come back before sunset. You may not come back once in a while, but she always says it.