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At NASSCOM EmergeOut: On Hiring, Planning, Investment, Networking, Pricing, Customers

Hiring & People
One statement on hiring appeared to be repeated quite often at the NASSCOM EmergeOut Conclave: “Hire for attitude, hire for passion, not for skills,” said Partha Parthasarathy, Chariman and CEO of NuStreet. “We hired a bunch of people from big companies, and we gave them salaries, their visiting cards aid ‘Founders’ and we gave them stock options. So hire key people and make them owners.
Navyug Mohnot – CEO and Founder of QAI: People are not your most important resource – it’s the right people. In the last 1.5 years, the total number of customer calls that I have made are 3. Most of my time now is in building leaders. We look for people who understand that you wake up in the morning, and know that you either do lunch or be lunch. Over the years, we haven’t taken a potential customer out to lunch. Manage competencies, not careers.
Anand Deshpande, CMD of Persistent Systems: Hire peers, else you’ll be restricted. You can’t manage everything yourself, so it’s important to hire peers.

Parthasarathy: It’s more important to raise smart money. There are financial investors – people who can put money in, but they won’t add too much value. It’s better to get people who give you money, but also assist you alongwith it. Two kind of people with smart money – the VCs and the strategic investors. The VC wants his 10x and exit. The strategic investor may want to buy you out later. But be careful – I took money from a person who was an angel investor, who wanted to become a strategic investor. He wanted to do a roll-up of my company with his, and hold a majority stake.

Mohnot: Think through the business model and all things related – market segments and stakeholders, value creation and value capture, stickiness and switching costs, better faster OR cheaper, barriers to entry and exit, scale and scope. An invention is just an invention, everything around it makes it an innovation. Having all the constructs around the product make it work. SET Big Hairy Audacious Goals (reference: Jim Collins’ Good to Great). Execute, Execute Execute, focus on people, process plans, reinvent, re-imagine, re-define, destroy, challenge, deploy, change, disorganize, manage competencies, Just fail faster.

Brand Building
Mohnot: Build a brand from the first day you set up the company. Phil Crosby said “I started as a junior clerk. The only thing I decided was – be reliable and useful.

Mohnot: Our biggest competitor is the big 4. We are at least 30 percent more expensive. David Maister – brand is best build if you follow – “believe passionately in what you do. never compromise our standards and value and care about your clients. do all of these things because they are ethical things dto do, and thety are primary road to customer success

Madan Padaki, CEO of MeritTrac: Focus on getting 5 customers, and keep them damn happy. We built relationships with people at a personal level, and they know we’re delivering. When they switch companies, we get those companies on board. Relationships are not built overnight. It all boils down to – do you enjoy what you’re doing. Our customers helped – “Why don’t you think about doing this?” That’s how niches get created.
(Another Speaker): Define an anchor customer, and don’t diversify too soon. That will distribute your energies. Focus on the thing you can do, and do it very well. Align yourself to your first 3-5 customers, and focus on getting the company off the ground.

Danger Zone
Padaki: We were 15 days away from a cash burnout – our angel investor had gone bust. We had 2 lakhs in the bank, which was close to our wage bill. We decided – whatever it is, we will work on this. We told our employees that we can’t pay them, but if you’re interested, stay back. All 15 stayed back. Whatever we made, after taking out the cost, we gave to them – we gave Rs. 323 rupees to a person, Rs. 450 to another. It brought it an tremendous cost focus. If a light switch was on, three people ran to switch it off.

Advisory Board, Networking, Press
Padaki: We created an advisory board – we just asked people if they could be on our advisory board, and we told people, that if you want to know more about us, just call these guys. Not one of them got calls, but they helped open doors. I attended every nasscom do for the last 8 years. We didn’t know a single soul before we started the business. I don’t say no to any meeting. It gives you an idea. I’ve been to ship building conferences to understand what they need. Even today, it is – “we will meet, but when is the question.” We had a profit of X lakhs, but we took a call on sponsoring a NASSCOM event because we wanted to be seen. Networking is usually very matlabi (selfish). Helping genuinely helps a lot. I can recount umpteen number of instances where we’ve helped someone, and through some odd set of co-incidences, it’s worked out. A lot of our image is based on what has been written in the press. We looked at what was of interest to the market, and we’ve got a fair share on talent pool analytics.

Our coverage of the NASSCOM EmergeOut Conclave

Subroto Bagchi, Mindtree: Customers, Products Will Change; 60% Time On Sales
On Hiring, Planning, Investment, Networking, Pricing, Customers
—  Tips For Before And After Your Funding from Sanjay Anandram, Sanjiv Mittal, Manu Parpia

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