Three industry experts share why Indian SMEs must upgrade their business knowledge and skills to deal with current challenges and opportunities

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“Starting, managing and scaling a business is an art and a discipline,” says Sirish Dhurjety, conscious capitalist and a passionate entrepreneur who co-founded and managed boutique strategic advisory firm Capital Logic.

As an entrepreneur, Sirish, who has multiple management qualifications to his credit -- a PhD in Management focused on impact investing from the University of Madras, a Masters degree in International Marketing from the University of Strathclyde, UK, and an MBA from LIBA, India, has closely worked with more than 150 entrepreneurs and SME leaders. He sees a number of characteristic challenges that are common to SMEs struggling to survive and thrive. These include leaders not being post-heroic enough, not diagnosing strengths or bottlenecks in an organisation and across the value chain, financial indiscipline, and cloning successful companies without having expertise or a differentiated revenue model.

The Seed Transformation Program brings the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership to established businesses and their leaders — on the ground, in their communities. Join the programme today

Srikanth Sridharan

Srikanth Sridharan, an engineer by education who has worked in MNCs such as Cognizant, IBM, and Infosys for over a decade, opines that a lot of SMEs limit themselves focusing only on the challenges they face currently instead of looking at future possibilities. “They get held up in the ‘past’ and prefer to ‘stick’ to what’s been working for them. Because of limited awareness and the eternal cash flow challenges, a lot of SME leaders’ valuable time is spent in day-to-day firefighting.”

Harish Arnezath, a business transformation professional with over two decades of experience in consulting and internal deployments, agrees with Sirish and Srikanth. He says, “In many cases what’s missing is the experience, methodologies and courage to act right and in time, to leverage the existing growth and scale opportunities.” He adds, “I believe that the ‘window of opportunity’ opens only for a limited time. One needs to quickly weigh the options and pass through this window. Whether it’s weighing the funding options, investing in organisation design and executive hiring, adopting professional management practices or learning to better execute with limited resources, they need to keep an open and cognitive mindset.”

In spite of the numerous challenges, the three believe that SMEs are integral to India’s economy and have the potential to fuel faster growth. Harish says, “With the right political and economic policy support, this ecosystem can help India write an inspiring growth story in coming times.

Equipping SMEs tap new opportunities

Having worked closely in the areas of organisation design, problem solving, and helping enterprises recognise and unearth their potential through innovation, Harish observes that there has been a clear transition from traditional management practices to more professional, aggressive yet well-planned practices. “Businesses have grown in the maturity index, and there are multiple factors that have led to this transition. With an active community of Angels, VCs, PEs and other professionally-managed funds, access to capital is no longer a deterrent for growth or scale. Also, it helps that today every enterprise and every business has the opportunity to go global and not just tap local opportunities.”

The one-year leadership program challenges leaders to assess their company’s vision, redefine strategies, and make ambitious changes toward exponential growth. Learn more about the Stanford Seed Transformation programme

With the burgeoning Indian middle class, rise of nuclear households, and the increase in the affluence level of tier 2 and 3 cities, there’s been a transformation in consumption patterns and preferences. “In other words, it means that customers have many alternatives. And that’s why it becomes imperative for businesses to have a strong value proposition. Interestingly, unlike a few years ago, today there is an openness to serve the under-served market need, which means competition has intensified and we see businesses adopting wide-spread market penetration strategies.”

But not all entrepreneurs or businesses have the agility or understanding to sync with the market dynamics. Often, many look for mentors, peers and industry experts to help them walk through the transformation, which has practical limitations. It is here that relevant industry programmes are coming to the aid of the entrepreneurs.

The Stanford Seed Transformation Program Experience

With a relevant course structure, a hands-on programme design, and a panel of industry experts and professionals, the Seed Transformation Program is helping established business leaders inculcate new-age professional management skills and mindsets that are a pre-requisite to grow and scale a business today. The comprehensive year-long programme includes ten months of immersive management training designed specifically for business owners, led by Stanford Graduate School of Business faculty and supported by trained facilitators. The ultimate goal is to create and activate a detailed action plan to help business leaders grow and scale the company.

From strategy, corporate governance, leadership, and finance, to value chain innovation, business ethics and design thinking, the Seed Transformation Program covers a wide spectrum of management lessons which have shaped Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. The programme helps leaders to create and implement an action plan to transform the business even as they are pursuing the course. Today, Sirish, Harish and Srikanth are key facilitators driving the Seed Transformation Program in India.

Sirish Dhurjety

Sirish explains why the programme is relevant for businesses, especially SMEs, and what sets it apart from other similar programmes. “The first is the intent and vision of Seed as an organisation – which believes that that business is one of the most powerful engines of change to move developing and emerging economies to greater prosperity. The second is that the programme sees employees as assets. And, third, it leverages the inherent inner drive of every human being to contribute and build a better society.”

The Seed facilitator believes that the way it has been designed makes the programme powerful and unique. “It adopts a hand-on and practical approach to learning and translating that learning into on-ground impact.” With the right amount of academic inputs and emphasis on applicability of the management principles in a business leader's organisation, the programme enables the leaders undergoing the course, as well as their teams, to think through transformation strategies and also equip them to effectively implement the strategies. “The leaders are expected to invest a considerable number of hours in the programme. They have to prepare for the prework for the workshop, continually engage in conversations with peers and facilitators, submit the work on time, leverage peer-to-peer learning opportunities at the leadership labs and expect to be an active participant in the Seed Transformation Network,” he adds.

Harish Arnezath

In addition to the curriculum and the course design, another distinctive offering is the in-company workshops held at the business leaders’ companies every quarter. These workshops help the team align with the leader’s vision and roadmap, catalyse the transformation seamlessly by creating accountability and charting a clear direction for the team. Harish says, “As facilitators, we act as the bridge between the leader and his team and between the leader and the transformation strategy. From understanding the organisation’s baseline, the existing gaps and market potential, assessing the plan, or helping them ready their organisation to scale, we help the cohort in many ways to customize the course learnings and apply them to their businesses.”

The companies also have an opportunity to engage Stanford students as Interns, apply for Seed Consultants to work on specific challenges and importantly, engage a Seed Coach to help them implement their transformation plan in a structured and prioritized manner once they complete the program.

Connect. Learn. Engage. Grow

On completion of the programme, the leaders become a part of the Seed Transformation Network, in essence the alumni community. This enables the participants to continue to stay connected with the broader Seed alumni community.

Sirish says, “In my past roles as Management Consultant and Investment Banker, I worked closely with clients to draw up business plans, and then assist them in strategic initiatives. Today, as a Seed facilitator, I help leaders and leadership teams to draw up a transformation plan themselves. Having seen the transformation that the two styles can bring, I vouch for the latter being more relevant and powerful.” On a lighter note, he adds, “I would have enrolled as a participant if it were offered a decade ago.”

Sirish observes that today business leaders are willing and able to take greater risks. “Today, we have a number of contemporary success stories which help to benchmark success and also foster a mindset of experimentation among the SMEs.”

Srikanth agrees that while SMEs have been driving a significant portion of India’s GDP, generating value and jobs in the Indian economy, there are more opportunities for “SMEs to connect, learn and work with one another and grow. And, the Seed Transformation programme is taking on the role of an enabler and making that happen, with a larger mission to impact for the company, the community and the country.”

The Seed Transformation Program brings the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership to established businesses and their leaders — on the ground, in their communities. Join the programme today

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