Q: As a North Indian in Bangalore, how did you develop trust amongst the 300-400 people set up in your family business?
A: One had to assure the people as well as the stakeholders that everyone’s interests were being managed, as opposed to managing one’s vested interest.
I had to not just ‘talk the talk’ but also ‘walk the talk’.
They trusted my intentions. They trusted my integrity. They trusted that I was really trying to do something which was in everyone's interest, to the best I could. It wasn’t like I was able to make everyone happy but atleast I was trying to do the best I could for all the different stakeholders involved. And that helped.
I remember the trust was so strong that when we did have to sell the business, I only did it on the condition that the people who were employed in the company would continue to stay employed and they still are.
Q: Why the switch from my family business to venturing out on my own was necessary?
A: You have to keep challenging yourself. Once the business was profitable; there wasn’t much room to grow. A trend I have noticed amongst a lot of future family business generations is that they reconcile themselves with the fact the business has money, provides a decent lifestyle, may not have a lot of chalenges or room to grow but at least its comfortable.
In my opinion, however , ‘ It's not about comfort, it’s about challenging yourself to be all that you can be.’ This was the prime reason on a metaphysical level or a philosophical level.
Q: Advice to a lot of young listeners, struggling between deciding Whether to pursue an MBA or not?
A: I chose Harvard Business School after a lot of analysis, because my opportunity cost was so high. In my opinion, there are three advantages of an MBA:
The education itself, what you learn there
The alumni network, where you get access to equally smart, if not smarter, people allowing you to get council from, connect with etc.
The brand, which helps someone in two ways: one is that it helps people place you as a talent and the second is that it allows you to open doors whic would otherwise not open without the brand.
These are some things to keep in mind.
Q: What must one ask themselves when figuring out which MBA college to pursue?
A: If you have a vocation or a functional skill in mind, does it deepen that skill of yours?
If you have a geography in mind, does it place you in the geography or give you job opportunities in geography?
If you don’t get into an MBA school which has a brand, which has the ‘alumni network’, which is giving you the chance to broaden your horizon and think about what is it that you want to do. If you have industry in mind, will it give you the access to the industry?
If the MBA school is not answering those questions or ticking those boxes, I will think twice because it has both time commitment and money commitment to it.
Q: You’ve taken a lot of risks in life as you moved through. You took a decision to build this very iconic One Horizon Center at very expensive costs. when you were committing such large sums of money, what were the thoughts going through your mind?
A: First and foremost, I think, in real estate the biggest raw material that you are most particular about is location. It is all thanks to Mr. Rajiv Singh, who is the head of DLF, that he was magnanimous enough to give us the opportunity to do this. The location of One Horizon Center just works for Gurgaon becoming almost a fulcrum. Our whole thought was that we don’t want to push a product, we want to pull a need. Since then some very nice concepts like Cyberhub have come up. But at that point, and this is 2008, there was really no landmark. There was really no center of Gurgaon as such where people would come and congregate. We realised that if we could create a real estate format where people could come, that by itself becomes an icon or a landmark.
They were heard of, but in Connaught Place. If people are willing to pay that kind of rental in Connaught Place, then why can’t they pay that kind of rental in Gurgaon?
We just have to create the right solution for them. That is what worked for us. It was; understand the need of the customer, cater to that need in a way better than others have done. We seem expensive but we’re not that expensive a building. We have been able to prove our investors on whose behalf we work. We are able to put the pieces together in a manner that creates a digital value for everyone; stakeholder, consumers and investors.
Q: Throughout your journey what has been your biggest failure? And, what has been your learning from this failure?
A:I remember reading this book by ‘Tal Ben Shahar’, called ‘Perfect’. What he says in the book is that, “If you want to be successful? Double your failure rate.”
The one that I would talk about is an investment we made in an area where the infrastructure was going to develop. The business case was based on that infrastructure development, to unlock the value of the project. Unfortunately, the development of the infrastructure took a lot longer than we anticipated. We came out okay, but,not as good as we should have come out in that project. What i failed to really identify at that point in time was that how things can go wrong and what the impact of things going wrong can have on your business case, specifically. IWe had to do a lot of double takes. We had to do a lot of re-negotiations. We were happy that we were fortunate that we had good partners who were understanding. But had I thought through some of those issues earlier on, on what are the things that can go wrong, not that it should stop you from taking that risk, but it allows you to structure your deal differently. It allows you to take risks in a slightly different manner.
One, business at the end of the day is only business. It can go well, it can go bad. Think carefully about both sides of the coin and realise. As our ‘Geeta’ says, “You are here to only do your job with that business.”
My second learning is; Failure is great. Today, that experience has taught me more than a lot of my good wins. My wins are great and I feel very lucky to be a part of that agulation, but this experience probably has been a lot more valuable from the learning than the ones that went well. So, don’t be afraid to fail as long as you’re learning a lesson.
When I seek out people to become partners in my journey, I like people who failed. Because, they would be a lot more aware of what not to do, than what to do in that situation.
A lot of us focus on what to do. The real value is understanding what not to do. Those are my learnings from the failure.