year: 1977. The Janata Party, which had just been swept into power
at the Centre, decided to throw MNC computer giant IBM out of
India. Azim H. Premji, then a young man, grappling with his family's
business in edible oils and detergents, smelt an opportunity in
the then practically non-existent it space and dived headlong
into it. That decision changed his life, and played a major role
in transforming India from a Third World no-hoper into one of
the world's knowledge superpowers. Wipro is today the third largest
Indian it and it services company.
Around the same time, a young Indian socialist
working in France travelled to Bulgaria and was arrested as a
spy for talking to a girl in French. He was apalled by the restrictions
of the Marxist system and turned capitalist with a vengeance.
His name: N.R. Narayana Murthy, who has recounted this story umpteenth
times. "I am a capitalist in mind and socialist at heart,"
Murthy has often said in the past. It was this unusual blend of
ideologies that led Infosys to offer employee stock option plans
early on in its evolution.
These decisions were game changers for the
two tech titans-and for a large number of people across the globe
whose lives were touched by them.
Not every decision changes the course of
history, of course; but many executives have taken decisions that
have lifted them from obscurity and put them on higher growth
trajectories. Here, we profile some of them.
President and CEO, Cognizant Technologies
D'souza, it was a deeply personal decision that proved pivotal
to his career. "The single-most important decision that I
made early in my career was to stay off the beaten path,"
he says, adding that when he came to work at Cognizant (then Dun
& Bradstreet) in India in 1994, it was a small, virtually
insignificant business unit within a major us corporation. "But
because of this, we had a lot of autonomy and I was able to learn
quickly, try my hand at various functional aspects of the business
and take greater responsibility far more quickly," says D'Souza.
During his long stint (he worked with three different chief executives),
he was able to imbibe the individual work styles of each one and
see, and contribute significantly to, the company's evolution
into a multi-billion dollar one.
a growth opporunity for yourself and ride it to its logical end.
CEO, Rare Enterprises
as a chartered accountant in 1985, Jhunjhunwala invested a few
thousand rupees on the stock market. "That one decision changed
the course of my life for the better," says the man who the
media regularly calls "BSE Stock Broker" and "high
net worth investor". He says he knew within days that he
wanted to make his career on the stock market. It's a decision
that hasn't exactly hurt him-his Rare Enterprises has a portfolio
worth Rs 1,785 crore as on March 14, 2007. And Forbes, which makes
it its business to track the wealth of the über rich worldwide,
last year estimated Jhunjhunwala's net worth to be a couple of
hundred millions short of the billion-dollar mark. "In the
80s, when I entered the markets, it was going through a dull phase
but I was still bullish and made money," he says. He made
money even during the Harshad Mehta-fuelled boom and again in
the crash that followed. "I got it right both ways,"
he says. The reason: he has followed a diligent and methodical
approach-what Warren Buffett has made famous as "value investing".
Follow your convictions and master your domain thoroughly.
Chairman, MindTree Consulting
surprised everyone in 1999 when he quit his position as Vice Chairman
of Wipro and CEO of Wipro Technologies to launch MindTree with
nine other industry veterans. "Several people questioned
my decision then, and their numbers grew over the next 12-18 months
later when the it industry went through a downturn, forcing many
fledgling companies to shut shop," says Soota, who steered
MindTree past the $100 million (Rs 450 crore) revenue mark last
year and made it a preferred employer in the competitive it market.
The company now has over 6,000 employees and early investors,
such as Global Technology Ventures, have made a profitable exit
following its blockbuster public offering that saw its shares
list at a 47.5 per cent premium of its offer price of Rs 425 per
share. "If you're taking such a radical step, it's important
to be 100 per cent convinced about the viability of your business
I was also helped by the quality of the top management when I
started MindTree," explains Soota.
from courage of conviction, you must also have enough steel to
ride through tough times.
Founder and Director, SpiceJet
that changed my career was the one to start a low-cost airline,"
says Singh, who was inspired by the examples of Ryan Air and Easy
Jet, which deliver the lowest air fares to price-sensitive consumers.
"My vision was to redefine flying from a 'CEOs only' kind
of activity and make it affordable for everyone," he says.
SpiceJet, which began operations in 2005 with a fleet of six Boeing
737-800 new generation aircraft, today has a fleet size of 11,
and flies to 14 destinations.
keep in mind the needs of your customer (it may be your boss)
and tailor your strategy accordingly.
VC & MD, ABB India, Head (South Asia-Pacific)
events have shaped Uppal's career. The first was his decision,
in 1996, to establish Volvo's operations in India. "Many
people thought Volvo was an idea before its time-but I knew the
idea of offering luxury and comfort to a middle class clientele
would work. We went ahead and wrote a new chapter in the annals
of India's commercial transport history," he says. The next
big decision was to return to ABB India as CEO in 2001. "The
challenge was to transform the company into a mega-enterprise
of global proportions. It called for out-of-the-box thinking but
we managed this successfully as well," he adds.
Every problem has a solution; the trick is to find it.
Founder and CEO, Contest2win
his career changed the day he hired Thota Ranganath from Pepsi
as coo at his first start-up, contests2win.com (c2w). "I
was hiring probably the most charged-up professional I had ever
come across; little did I know that I was actually changing the
course of my company's future and mine too," he admits. Ranga
took over the day-to-day operations of c2w from Day 1 and made
it very professional and process-driven. "His corporatisation
drive at a start-up blended perfectly with my entrepreneurial
style. While I drove business development, he drove company development,"
says Kejriwal. The watershed event came about six months later
in February 2000. c2w was offered an opportunity to start C2W
China as a JV with Softbank, one of the world's leading VCs. Ranganath
migrated to China to set it up, did it successfully, and also
launched Mobile2win, which Kejriwal sold to Disney in September
2006 (he refuses to divulge how much he sold it for but says he
got seven times his investment). "I had managed to not just
replicate myself but actually deliver a much better version,"
You must have the courage and the vision to hire people who may
be smarter than you.
The demand for commercial pilots is growing
The shortage is so
alarming that even the Indian Air Force is considering releasing
some of its aces to serve Indian and Air-India. At last count,
the Indian aviation industry was facing a shortfall of more than
1,000 pilots. Most airlines are recruiting pilots from Central
Asia, East Europe and anywhere else they are available. But many
of them aren't fluent in English, creating massive communications
and safety problems. Says Tushar Basu, Director, Analytic Consultants,
a leading recruitment services company: "According to a recent
study by Airbus, India's commercial aircraft fleet is expected
to rise to 1,100 by 2027." Industry projections estimate
that India's fleet strength (commercial aircraft) will rise from
about 164 now to about 500 over the next five years. Now, why
does a commercial pilot's job suddenly look so alluring?
WHO'S HIRING: Every single airline is hiring
as are some large companies that are buying wide-bodied corporate
WHO'RE THEY HIRING: Individuals with Commercial
Pilot's Licence (with or without job experience).
AT WHAT LEVEL: Mostly at the entry and middle
AT WHAT SALARIES: The two PSU airlines have
grades; pay and perks can vary between Rs 40,000 p.m. for freshers
to Rs 2.5 lakh-plus p.m. for captains. Private airlines pay anything
between 1.5-3 times as much.
WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS LIKE: Indian airlines
will require about 5,000 pilots over the next five years.
Q: I am a final-year student of Botany and am interested in pursuing
a career in biotechnology. Please tell me about the reputed universities
offering a Masters in Biotechnology. Which branch should I specialise
in? What are the career options?
There are almost a hundred colleges in India offering courses
in biotechnology. The Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied
Biotechnology, Pune, is one of them. Besides, certain medical
colleges offer related courses as well, e.g. AIIMS in New Delhi.
Go to www.indicareer.com/biotechnology-colleges-in-india.html
for a list of institutes offering courses in biotechnology.
Q: I am doing B. Tech. from a private institute and
am interested in Environmental Studies. Please tell me which course
I should take and where it is offered. What are the prospects?
Environmental Engineering does have a growing scope in today's
environment of green consciousness. Most engineering institutes
/universities offering engineering courses offer courses in environmental
engineering as well. I would recommend that you go to one of the
reputed institutes if you are able to get in as this will enhance
your career prospects.
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.
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..