From TV Mohandas Pai: How to build startups and scale them globally

We are a $2 trillion economy. We are the country that produces the largest number of babies, over 25 million every year. We have more than a billion dreams. If you have a dream, it better be a big dream for you have just one life.

TV Mohandas Pai, currently chairman at Manipal Global Education, and best known for leading Infosys as its CFO from 1994-2006, addressed the audience at the first regional TechSparks at Bangalore as the 200+ strong crowd listened in rapt attention.

To learn how to build global businesses, Pai started off by giving the audience an understanding of India’s growth story. Pai compared the growth of the Indian economy with the Chinese and wondered if we would have been a $10 trillion economy today if we had the growth rate and trajectory of the Chinese. But he sees a big opportunity in the fast growing Indian economy that is rapidly changing into a Consumer economy.

“We can easily be a $10 trillion economy in the next 20 years,” he said confidently.

India and China are continental economies as compared to Europe which is smaller than, and broken into many small ones. This gives Indian entrepreneurs a unique upper hand to target this huge user base of a billion consumers.

Innovation happens when there are innovative people around. “Capital seeks superior returns,” Pai quipped. Capital is always looking for innovation and disruption. Pai stressed on the importance of disruption. Establishments grow at 5%. Disruption has higher returns.

It is the iconoclasts and the rebels who bring about disruption and change the world. Pai went on to describe the route to building a successful company.

A. Idea – should be simple, the entrepreneur should be able to communicate it easily and clearly, and be passionate about it.

B. The plan should be tangible and ideally with set target dates.

C. Build a great team - Individuals can be geniuses, but the founder needs to build a great team. The skills of these team members have to be mutually exclusive, but collectively exhaustive. There are going to be fights, debates and clashes among them, but the team needs to learn to be together and work together. For any company this is the reason why a CEO spends a disproportionate amount of his time hiring people.

D. Be flexible – You might have a great idea but be flexible enough to pivot from one idea to the other if the first one doesn’t get you customers.

E. Keep your eyes on the competition and have 4-5 versions of your product ready. Start with a quick and dirty version. Go to the consumers, test it out and make these consumers a part of your consumer base.

F. Scale operations, revenues etc. but be wary of unnecessarily scaling the team size. – Realize that one bright engineer is worth 40-50 regular ones who just want to do a 9-5 job.

G. Be humble and ethical – Pai stressed on the importance of growing with humility. An entrepreneur should be honest and fair with his employees and share the spoils of success with everyone on the team. Good people won't stay in the long term if you are unfair with them.

We are coming to Pune, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai too. Get your TechSparks tickets here.

In conclusion, TV Mohandas Pai evangelized the formulation of a startup policy that would lead to 100,000 startups in the next 10 years so that India can become the superpower in entrepreneurship - the startup hub.

Pai’s speech was full of several witty one-liners, quips and interesting tidbits. Here are a few of them:

On starting up – “Starting up is not easy. It is lonely. One has to work 24x7 and forget about a work-life balance, or girlfriends/boyfriends.”

On ‘silly’ ideas – “No idea is silly. Only the ones that don’t get funding/customers are.”

On ‘people-who-sit-on-boards’ - "All people who sit on the board think they know more than you. It is a great fallacy."

On leaders and leadership – "A leader has to walk the talk. It is lonely at the top. As a leader you have got to be nimble and strong. A leader cannot show his weakness."

On making money – "Build businesses that change the world, and make a lot of money. The latter is more important."

On working with the government - "Government is a long kiss of death. Don't do business with the government."

On valuations – "Valuation is an art, not a science."

On how to choose mentors – "The same way you choose your girlfriend or boyfriend? It just happens."

We are coming to Pune, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai too. Get your TechSparks tickets here.


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