'Your purpose determines your power' - Subroto Bagchi, Author, The Elephant Catchers


People who catch rabbits do not catch elephants, says Subroto Bagchi. To understand the roots of this statement, you have to travel with Subroto, back to his childhood in a small town, where he would watch village people go out on a hunt, everyone participating with great enthusiasm, from a 3-year-old to 70-year-olds. The hunt created huge ruckus and eventually everyone caught the rabbit or any other similar small animal, reminisces Subroto. “The catching of the animal was marked with festivities; the hunt was consumed next morning. The hallmark of this hunt was the enthusiasm with which everyone participated. For hunts like these, expertise is not required.”

But, when you go and catch an elephant, what you need is expertise, distinguishes Subroto . He cautions that if it is enthusiasm, and not expertise, that is driving you, the elephant hunt can become life-threatening. To catch an elephant you need expertise, team work, and collaboration. While rabbit is a consumptive item, elephant is an economic resource if captured, explains Subroto, in his new book, ‘The Elephant Catchers’.

The book uses the elephant analogy to address one of the pressing needs of businesses – the capacity and capability to scale. To scale, one needs to be comfortable with the idea of scale, Subroto underlines. “If your vision is to cross an ocean, you won't build a bamboo bridge.” Your purpose determines your power, he reminds. Define your purpose in your mind, and from thereon, it becomes easy to scale.

Scaling your business

How do you scale your business and bag those big deals? Here are a few snatches from the book, to offer a clear roadmap on the many critical things that an organisation needs to consider while aiming at scale.

"An organisation that is in its initial growth phase is usually pitted against much larger entities and needs to think different, inventive ways, to get customers. For such organisations, emotional reasons sometimes work better when knocking on a prospect's door. This is not to undermine logical reasoning but to underscore the power of emotions. The key to winning the customer's business is to be able to connect, to tunnel a path to their feelings, and to come across as hungry, willing, genuine, trustworthy and, above all, interesting. As a company grows and seeks newer domain, geographies or business models, this adage becomes even more relevant," says Subroto.

He further adds, "Also, every enterprise that meets with sales successes in the initial years faces a peculiar problem as it gets to the next level. The best salesmen, star performers, who got in the sales, do not want to sell anymore. They want to be managers. This is a slippery idea. When they become sales managers, they begin to find cold-calling, the pivot of the sales juggernaut, below their dignity. Now, you have a strange situation. Now, you have two people doing the job of one person, with one simply sitting on the other's head."

Scaling your intellect

In this chapter, Subroto highlights the fact that an enterprise, at the end of the day, is an intellect game. The capacity to get to the next level often depends on a leader’s ability to augment the organisational intellect by tapping into external expertise.

Scaling your reputation

The process of brand building is the externalisation of the inner value of a corporation, product or service. In the book, Subroto talks about his interaction with Shombit Sengupta, who founded Shining Strategic Design, a brand advisory in Paris. Shombit says that a brand is not a logo, tagline, or a smart-sounding name. It is the perception of the value of a company, product or service in the mind of the customer, and perception is partly rational and partly emotional. A company that wants to remain fresh and appealing must rethink its brand at periodic intervals. And, for a brand to change the core of the venture, it has to go through a transformation first.

Scaling your people

When you are hiring for a fresh phase of growth, don’t hire for education, years of experience or pedigree. Hire for the candidate’s ability to build, his capacity to think differently, and ensure that you are not hiring someone who cannot think beyond the formula of his previous organisation. That is like raising a tiger cub in a cat’s womb.

As an organisation grows, there will arise inevitable situations that require people in positions of seniority and consequence to be fired. No management should be afraid to fire a non-performer; it is the most absurd fear to have. Performance and failure to perform are professional issues. Most importantly, fire without trembling. In business, it isn’t a good idea to be afraid.

Scaling against adversity

When extraordinary events overtake us, it is time to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. There is no magic formula for managing the ups and downs that inevitably mark an organisation’s progress, for maintaining a state of harmony, and sustaining levels of performance and productivity in trying times. But it helps to know that big changes, when they come, need to be understood in the context of individuals involved. When you notice these changes in your organisation, tell yourself it is not an aberration but a rite of passage. That in itself will significantly change your ability to accept the inevitable, positively influence your approach to issues and individuals, and help in subsequently dealing with them in a manner that balances personal needs and organisational imperatives.

These are only a few edited excerpts from the book, a few glimpses of the elephant. I urge all my entrepreneur friends to get a copy, as this book definitely is a must-have for all of us who think and live scale in our own lives.