Failure is a part of the learning process, says Lenovo’s Shailendra Katyal at TechSparks 2021

At TechSparks 2021, YourStory’s flagship event, Shailendra Katyal, MD of Lenovo PCSD India, reveals how the Chinese Fu Pan approach helped the tech company reverse its fortunes and why founders must embrace failure as part of the entrepreneurial journey.
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Walking down the entrepreneurial road isn’t easy; one often stumbles upon unexpected roadblocks and dead ends. 

It is extremely challenging to launch a business, and often herculean to sustain it. So why do people willingly choose a path riddled with unpredictability and sleepless nights? The determination to see one’s vision – be it a new product or service - come to fruition is common amongst entrepreneurs. 

That said, success is sweet but failure needs to be seen as a source of learning. 

“People should have an appetite for failure as well. No idea is unique. It’s only about who gets there first and executes better,” said Shailendra Katyal, Managing Director of Lenovo PCSD India, on Day 1 of TechSparks 2021, India's largest and most influential tech-entrepreneurship conference. 

Speaking on the power of an entrepreneurial mindset, he focused on the need for startup owners to accept failure as part of the learning process. 

Lenovo’s growth journey

Lenovo’s market share in 2003 was way behind that of other computer companies like Dell, Hewlett Packard, and IBM. 

But from 2005 onwards the company was able to accelerate growth and acquire IBM’s PC Business. It also formed a joint venture with Japanese electronics firm NEC and acquired Medion, a German electronics manufacturing company. In 2014, IBM’s System x server business and Google’s Motorola Mobility were acquired by Lenovo. 

How did Lenovo turn things around in just two to three years? 

With Fu Pan.

The Fu Pan approach

Fu Pan is a Chinese term drawn from an ancient Chinese game, ‘Weiqi’ or ‘Go’, which translates to replaying the chess board, or analysing the moves you've made so as to do better the next time. 

Players replay an entire game on the chessboard after a match to break down each move. This is mainly done to explore the dynamics of each move, understand if something better could have been done, and learn whether the outcome would have been different. The Fu Pan analysis has its foundations in two things:

  • Being critical of one’s work and showing no mercy.
  • Looking at failure as the end result of a process rather than the failure of oneself.

This is essentially a process of learning where one steps out of their comfort zone and reflects on mistakes made.

Shailendra, who heads Lenovo’s PC and Small Devices Group in India, says, “People often get emotional, and Fu Pan requires one to look at processes with absolute objectivity.”

It gives them the ability to look at one’s actions and critique them. Knowing that things could have been done in a better or more efficient way requires one to separate one’s performance from the self.

The entrepreneurial mindspace

The MD of Lenovo PCSD India says being able to make decisions quickly yet rationally, while having a clear vision in mind at all times, and possessing the ability to roll up the sleeves and work with any kind of team are all key factors that contribute to becoming a good entrepreneur.

“Every role has an element of operation and vision. But when one is the leader or an entrepreneur, that becomes the primary job. Are they ahead of the curve? Are they helping the organisation stay ahead of the curve?”

“Entrepreneurs need to stay connected to the context and the environment, and nurture the ability to pick up trends while sticking one’s neck out and taking a few risks,” Shailendra said.

The need for predicting growth

Shailendra said peeling the onion at every stage of a journey is important, “not just at the end of the year or at the end of a project”. 

Deep diving into every step of the process to figure out why something worked or didn’t is crucial to predict growth. 

Many companies that experience hypergrowth in their nascent stages get caught up and end up having to grapple with potentially serious problems while scaling. “Predictability of growth and innovation to sustain are both very crucial for a company that is growing,” he said. 

The DNA and culture of the organisation should be conducive enough for people to share new ideas and knowledge, take risks, and upskill constantly, Shailendra said. 


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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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