|Let's talk: Soota interacts with every
new batch of recruits, emphasising transparent communication
June this year, Mindtree Consulting, the Bangalore- and New Jersey-based
it services company, took the unusual step of publishing All About
Integrity, a small, hardbound booklet, which listed how (former)
employees had breached the company's non-negotiable policies on
honesty and had been fired for their troubles. As it turned out,
it wasn't just junior employees fudging account statements or
calling in sick when they really weren't ill, but senior executives,
such as an (unnamed and at one point best-paid) employee who reportedly
over-billed the company for his cellphone expenses. The company
fired 80 employees last year for faking their academic achievements
or work experience and was quick to publish that in this 15-page
"We want to retain our small company
soul even as we continue with our rapid growth; and clear and
transparent communications is a key part of our strategy,"
says Chairman and CEO Ashok Soota. This means that over 2,000
MindTree Minds get copies of every piece of communication (quarterly
results, press releases, analysts' presentations and even top-secret
SWOT analyses of the company). "We provide employees with
this information and trust them not to misuse it," he says.
Soota and Subroto Bagchi, MindTree's coo, are themselves at the
centre of this communication initiative. The former addresses
up to a dozen batches of fresh recruits every year. "These
are things that I don't miss," Soota says.
REVENUES: Rs 448.8
PROFITS: Not available
| Total employees: 3,900
Attrition (per cent): 12 (2005-06)
Average career tenure: 4.5 years
Training budget (budgeted/actual): Not
available /Rs 1.7 crore
Training man-days (actual): 26,337
(Total learning person days)
"Ashok (Soota), Subroto (Bagchi) and
the founders remain accessible to all employees and are open to
criticism and suggestions," says Radha R., Vice President,
Global Business Intelligence Practice. In the six years that she
has been with the company, MindTree has grown from a small start-up
into an established it services outfit. "I've had dozens
of job offers along the way, at, often, double my current salary,
but MindTree feels like home," says Radha. The company's
rapid growth, however, means that the top management can attend
All Minds Meetings (as employee meetings are called) less frequently
|Building leadership: MindTree
believes that the best way to retain people is by giving junior
and mid-level managers more responsibilities and planning
their career paths
A cornerstone of MindTree's operating philosophy
is the C.L.A.S.S. (caring, learning, achieving, sharing and socially
responsible) framework that every employee and vendor is expected
to follow. "These are values that we expect not just MindTree
Minds, but our vendors also to follow," says Soota.
Aside from building a close-knit community
at MindTree, the top management has also made a conscious effort
to build second and third rungs of leadership and has given them
autonomy to take independent decisions. "Project managers
can take calls on margins; and we don't sack them for making the
odd mistake... that's the only way they will learn," says
Krishnakumar Natarajan, President and CEO, it Services, MindTree.
"Many of our employees get offers from
larger Indian companies and MNCs, but we believe that it's our
culture and the sense of being part of a growing, yet sensitive,
organisation that keep people at MindTree," Bagchi says.
Interestingly, Soota, Bagchi and other seniors get few concessions
for their seniority. For instance, the limited number of parking
spaces at the company's head office in Banashankari, a middle-class
neighbourhood in south Bangalore, aren't reserved for anyone,
and late comers (regardless of rank) have to park on the street.
SOOTA/CHAIRMAN AND CEO
"People are MindTree's Best Ambassadors"
who left Wipro in 1999 to start MindTree, spoke to BT's
people strategy. Excerpts:
MindTree hired over 1,000 people last year and is rapidly
growing out of its small company shell. How do you manage
to keep the feel of a small company going?
For starters, communication holds the key to retaining
a "small company feel". We have two or three philosophies
here. One is that we want to be close to our people. We
also have this whole variety of communication mechanisms,
both indirect and direct, including Snap Shots, my mailer
to all MindTree Minds. Fundamentally, we want to give more
information to our people than any other company does so
that they know and understand everything that is happening
around them. Another way of keeping the small company feel
is to build inclusiveness into the company's culture. In
the long term, we can be in just three-four locations. This
will allow our top management to visit everyone at least
once every quarter.
Why is communication so important?
I personally put in a lot of effort on this since it's
a great way for me to interact with people as they join
us. I meet every new batch of recruits. Never for a moment
have I thought of changing this pattern. I speak to them
in groups of 80-100 as they come in, and end up doing 12
such sessions in a year. I find the interaction and the
feedback very valuable.
MindTree does a sizeable chunk of lateral hiring and
often uses references of its own employees. Why?
When MindTree Minds bring their friends, it's a great way
of saying: "We are not only happy to work at MindTree,
but happy to bring our friends here." You don't bring
someone to a place you aren't comfortable about. And, they
are our ambassadors, as they deal with our customers every
How will you scale up these practices to keep pace with
the rapid growth projected over the next 12-24 months?
Our policies, practices and information sharing processes
are common across the globe. Personal interactions and the
use of web-based programmes to stay in touch with our people
are key. For example, after we had our MindTree Minds Meet
in July this year, we ran an exclusive programme for our
employees overseas so that they could tune in and didn't
feel left out. We would like both our teams and customers
to retain the closeness of MindTree... retaining and living
by our values. This will ensure that MindTree will become
more than just a financial success.
Soota proudly points
out that 39 of the 42 top managers MindTree started off with are
still with the company and that, on average, employees stay with
the company for nearly five years-a rarity in the industry. MindTree,
incidentally, is one of the few Indian it companies to offer a
distinct technical career ladder to employees who want to focus
on specific areas rather than get into the nitty gritty of managing
teams, projects and business divisions. "A technical architect
is a rare resource in the industry, since everyone wants people
who can manage 300-person teams, rather than a technology specialist
who works independently and has no one reporting to him. We believe
there is a huge potential for these architects," says S.
Janakiraman, President and CEO, R&D services, MindTree.
|A close-knit community: On an average,
employees stay with the company for nearly five years
Lateral hires (who constitute nearly half
the recruitment at MindTree) have an Arboretum (literally, a place
where plants and trees are grown for scientific purposes; in this
case, a learning centre) to imbibe the MindTree culture. "Given
our rapid expansion, it is important for them to get used to our
value systems fast," says Bagchi.
There are, however, areas of concern. Though
MindTree may have shot up eight places on this year's listing,
there are issues it needs to address in order to remain a preferred
employer. For one, headhunters, a key cog in the business, aren't
overly impressed with the company's image and branding. "MindTree
is just one of thousands of companies in a very competitive market.
And with the likes of IBM and Infosys hiring by the thousands,
it may get progressively difficult for it to find the best talent,"
says Gautam Sinha, CEO, TVA Infotech, a Bangalore-based HR Consultancy
that hires regularly for the company. Then, there is the (much-debated)
issue of salaries, which, at the entry- and mid-career levels,
remain way below industry blue chips such as IBM, HP or Infosys.
"At the mid-management level, there is a critical shortage
of people and despite the good intentions of the top management,
salaries need to get better," says Sinha.
However, with an IPO in the pipeline and
a new centre at Bhubaneswar, Orissa, also in the works, it looks
like the good times will continue to roll. "We've done exceptionally
to reach this level. The hard part will be to maintain it,"
| A DAY
IN THE LIFE OF
RADHA R./ 39, VICE PRESIDENT AND
HEAD, GLOBAL BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE PRACTICE
|You get my point? Radha (extreme
left) quit IBM to join MindTree and she has no regrets
Like most business heads,
Radha R, an IIM Bangalore alum and former sales hack at
IBM India, arrives in office at 9 a.m. and without preamble
proceeds to clear her laden e-mail inbox and set up meetings
for what will turn out to be a packed Friday. As the head
of the 350-person Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence
Practice, she is responsible for expanding the business,
generating new leads, taking existing customer engagements
forward and, perhaps, most importantly, finding people to
run projects. Soon, she's on the phone with customers on
the US west coast, straightening out misconceptions and
probing for opportunities for larger, more lucrative contracts.
Radha's next assignment takes her in a completely different
direction as she gets a tech update from three of her colleagues
(hierarchy, this correspondent soon discovers, isn't something
overly emphasised at MindTree) on RUBIC, a data warehousing
framework being developed in-house. "As the head of
this unit, it's imperative for me to understand both the
technology and the operations side of my division,"
She then dons her businesswoman avataar for her next meeting,
butting heads with her colleagues on the progress and probability
(varying between 60 per cent and 90 per cent) of various
deals. Colleagues say her apparently easygoing demeanour
hides a fiercely competitive techie who takes nonsense from
no one. "I am taking it easy today, since you guys
are around," says Radha, pointing at this magazine's
photographer. Radha, who quit the relative comfort of a
multinational job at IBM to join the then fledgling MindTree
six years ago, has no regrets about her career choice. "MindTree
has allowed me to experiment with a variety of job profiles
and feels like home," she says.