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MARCH 25, 2007
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 BT Special
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Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  March 11, 2007

Bouncing Back
Everyone makes mistakes. We profile some of the biggest mistakes made by the top names of India Inc and how they recovered from them.

"From a leadership perspective, I could not read the coming of the (internet) downturn"
Manoj Chugh/President
(India & SAARC)/EMC Corporation

To err is human, to forgive, divine. What then, do you call the process of learning from your mistakes and turning around a no-hoper situation into your winning moment? Leadership, perhaps. Second chances, say management gurus, don't come easy in life; one has to create them and make the most of a bad situation. "There can be mistakes with regard to vision, strategic planning, execution lapses, communication lapses and loss of focus," says Ranjan Das, Professor of Strategic and International Management, IIM-C.

If life serves you lemons then make lemonade and serve it chilled. That is exactly what Deep Kalra, founder and CEO of travel services portal,, did. Kalra, who started his company during the dotcom boom of 2000, was pretty soon struggling for survival when the great internet dream went bust. "When we started out, our focus was solely on the Indian market. The NRI segment was just a minor blip on our radar. But the dotcom crash forced a reality check-which was delivering real value to the customer," he reveals.

"One needs to assess one's own expertise and supplement it with help from outside agencies"
Sanjiv Goenka/Vice Chairman/RPG Group

In a way, he recalls, the bust was the turning point, as Kalra and his team found that the net was used not so much by the Indian consumer as by the non-resident one to make travel bookings. It also helped that compared to when he started out, the Indian resident market, too, has matured. So, instead of going to different sites or travel agents to check out the best deal, a traveller could just check out a travel portal. "It was the most obvious lesson that we forgot; your market research has to be thorough before you set sail on the high seas. People will not buy on the net because it's sexy and cool; they will buy if it offers value for money," says Kalra.

Too often, says Santrupt Misra, Director, hr, A.V. Birla Group, being overconfident sounds the death-knell of great ideas and becomes the genesis of a self-created cesspool of trouble. Sanjiv Goenka, Vice Chairman, RPG Group, who learnt by burning his fingers, agrees. "About 15 years ago, we were setting up our power plant in Kolkata and we went ahead with the construction without hiring an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor. That, to my mind, stands out prominently among a litany of judgment errors," recalls Goenka. Result: huge delays in the project, not to mention massive cost over-runs. It's a different story that the power plant today has among the highest plant load factors in the country.

So, how did he turn it around? "When I realised the goof-up, I tried to salvage the situation by going in for a daily monitoring system. It was a slow process, as we didn't have any in-house expertise in EPC contracting, but we did eventually get it right. Now, we can build an entire power plant with in-house expertise," says Goenka. The mistake, he says, was to have gone in for a major project without possessing the requisite competence. "What I learnt was that one needs to make a candid assessment of one's own expertise and then supplement it with help from outside agencies," he says.

The Hard Way

"We were always confident of the IPR issues on Lipitor and the US court decision came as a surprise"
Malvinder Singh/Managing Director/Ranbaxy

"People will not buy on the net because it's sexy and cool; they will buy if there is value for money"
Deep Kalra/CEO/

It's a tired cliché but it's entirely true-the lessons of life need to be learnt the hard way. "Three primary reasons why mega-blunders happen are: being cocky and not heeding the voice of caution; over- managing and making the organisation too dependent on you; and not having someone play the devil's advocate," says Misra.

Add to that the mistake some people make of putting all their eggs in one basket. "In 1996, when we started operations, we were focused only on private equity investments for early stage companies. We did not do anything else," says Rashesh Shah, Managing Director and CEO, Edelweiss Capital, a financial services firm. "But around 2001, I realised that if we wanted to move ahead in the business, we would have to diversify and scale up. That's when we raised some capital and inducted a few senior professionals from across the finance sector and diversified our business model. We also capitalised on the bad market situation that lasted from 2001-03 to expand our business," he adds.

Sometimes, it is not enough to just be right. Presenting facts in the right manner for an informed decision is equally important. Ranbaxy learnt it the hard way during its legal fight in the us over anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, the world's largest selling medicine. "We were always confident of the intellectual property rights issues on this product and the decision in the us court (which ruled in favour of Pfizer, the patent holder) came as a surprise," admits Malvinder Singh, Managing Director, Ranbaxy Laboratories. Ranbaxy's contention that its version was not an infringement of Pfizer's patent was initially rejected by the court. It's only when it presented the us Federal Court with evidence of process, that it managed to finally win the case. The advantage: Ranbaxy was able to save 15 months and got a clear window of 180 days to launch the generic version of the drug whose sales are worth over $12 billion (Rs 52,800 crore).

Once is a Mistake, Twice is Stupidity

"Around 2001, I realised that if we wanted to move ahead in the business, we would have to diversify and scale up"
Rashesh Shah/Managing Director/CEO/Edelweiss Capital

Good leaders, it is said, fight adversity, not take flight from it. Learning from a blunder forms a major part of the bouncing back process, says Misra. "The first part is to realise that you've made a bad decision. After that, you have to look at the reasons why you made that error in judgement. It might even help if you could talk to people you trust," he suggests.

Much, of course, also depends on the corporate culture prevalent in the organisation. Management gurus say leaders who are direct and forthright with their employees about their mistakes are able to salvage situations much better than those who are pompous and let their egos get the better of them. "If employees hear about it from outside the organisation, it can shatter morale. Besides, while most errors can be redeemed, it is very hard to recover from a loss of credibility," asserts Misra.

Sometimes, it's not so much a physical change that is required but a mindset change. Recalling his days during the heady internet boom at the turn of the century, Manoj Chugh, President (India & SAARC), EMC Corporation, says: "From a leadership perspective, I could not read the coming of the downturn when internet start-ups began to crash like nine-pins. Quarter on quarter, we were struggling to make ends meet."

Elaborating further, he says there were three segments: commercial, enterprise and service provider. "Of the three, the service provider segment showed the maximum promise and growth and there were big ticket deals in the offing. Of the other two, the commercial segment was attractive, but it required a lot of work. When the bust happened, we had to quickly de-risk our business and keep the morale of the people high. We needed to refocus our efforts and concentrate on hitherto neglected segments, such as the commercial one," he adds. It was, to use his own words, a major mindset change-which, he says, is akin to changing the engines of an aircraft in mid-air.

The crisis he faced also pushed him to look at expansion of operations into the Indian hinterland-reaching out to 100 cities in a span of 18 months. "It was an ego-buster but it did teach me one thing: you have to fill up the ocean drop by drop rather than through some big bang deals. Rome, after all, was not built in a day," he concludes.

Wanted: Agri Pros
Companies are looking for farming specialists.

Agriculture is by far the world's biggest business. Changes in approaches to farming throughout the world and the increasing demands of consumers are creating a wide range of career opportunities. And with the corporate sector-read Reliance, Bharti, Godrej and the Thapar Group, among others-entering the sector in a big way, the demand for qualified professionals with the requisite skills has exploded. Agricultural courses, ignored by most students till only a few years ago, are suddenly hogging the limelight. As many as 13 top notch companies visited IIM-A last year to recruit agricultural specialists (IIM-A has a very good course on the subject). Says Anurag Bhatnagar, Director General, National Institute of Agriculture Marketing: "The demand for agri-business management graduates is so high that we will not be able to meet it in the next few years."


WHO'S HIRING: Reliance, Godrej Agrovet, ITC, Aditya Birla Retail, Olam International, Bharti, among others.

WHO'RE THEY HIRING: MBAs with specialisation in Agri-Business Management and Graduates/ Post-graduates in agricultural disciplines.

AT WHAT LEVEL: Fresher and mid-level.

AT WHAT SALARIES: The starting salaries range from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 9 lakh per annum. At the mid-level, salaries rise to Rs 15-20 lakh p.a.

WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS LIKE: Exact figures are difficult to come by but the industry is growing very fast. With big companies coming in, demand outstrips supply by a fair margin.

Help, Tarun!

Q: I have done PG Diploma in Mass Communication. Currently, I am working with a news organisation and want to get into corporate communications. Which are some of the good institutes?

If you have done your Mass Comm from a reputed institute, then you need not do a course in corporate communications. Since you are already working in a news organisation, it should not be difficult for you to get a job with either a pr or a corporate communications agency. You could start by contributing to the company newsletter and then grow from there.

Q: I am in the last semester of PG Diploma in Business Management from a reputed institute. I have a job offer from a commodity exchange concern as a research associate. But my inclination is towards investment banking. How do I make a headway in this field?

If your inclination is towards investment banking, then you should be applying for jobs keeping that in mind. Also, during campus recruitment, check for companies in that arena. And in case you decide to take up the job with the commodity exchange concern, you will learn about certain other sectors in the industry, analysis and research methodology. At some point, you could make a switch.

Answers to your career concerns are contributed by Tarun Sheth (Senior Consultant) and Shilpa Sheth (Managing Partner, US practice) of HR firm, Shilputsi Consultants. Write to Help,Tarun! c/o Business Today, Videocon Tower, Fifth Floor, E-1, Jhandewalan Extn., New Delhi-110055..