Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to have two conversations with two amazingly talented guys. Both were seeking my guidance on their personal situation. Their theme was common but their contexts were different. I dedicate this blog to them and many more of my fellow countrymen who have the ability to shape India’s destiny in the near future; as a successful economic entity that can have a reasonable influence on global perspectives.
The first person I spoke to asked me a question which was the highlight of the conversation. He asked me, “If I believed he could be a CIO of a Fortune 500 company by 2020”? Even as I began processing his question in my mind, he quickly followed it with another supplementary question; “do you even think it is realistic of me to have such a goal”? He lives in Mumbai, currently works for an NGO and has been actively seeking to contribute and be recognized with over 10 years of overall experience in the IT industry in India. I had to stop answering the first question and address his supplementary first because throughout my adult life I have been posed this question about being realistic and I thoroughly abhor the phrase. I simply say this, “If you are real, everything that you think and do is real as well. I then switched to the first question and asked, “Why 2020, why not in the next 20 minutes”? “What really prevents you from being the CIO of a Fortune 500 Company in the next 20 minutes or days or months?
As I shaped my career over several years, I never thought about my destination. It was always the urge to do good work. And it came out in the above conversation. One of my first major assignments turned into a product I designed and that is still commercially available in the market. But I never regret the fact that I did not have a patent to my name or designing the product did not get me either the fame or money it deserved. However, today’s generation of talent have all the information and guidance they can have at their disposal with the means to become rich and famous as well. The only thing they have to do is to “think about creating value”. And so I concluded to my mentee, whether you choose to take an MBA and go international or you find some someone sponsoring you, the question that you need to satisfy most to achieve your aspiration is what value can you create and / or contribute? That will automatically take care of your aspiration in much lesser time than you think “realistically possible”!
The other conversation I had was with a young man who has just been in the software industry for just over an year now. He works for a major software multinational and has been trained on their software but performs support function without adequate practical experience of the product. His mind is a bristling place of creativity. However, he feels stifled with no avenues to learn, no time to reflect (his weekends also being taken away as he has to be at work) and his shift based work not allowing him to socialize and expand his horizons because of the hours he has to work. Even as he has been uprooted from his roots and family (his parents are growing old and live alone), he is facing the constant disillusionment of what he is doing at his workplace. He works in Hyderabad and wants to return to Kolkata and so his question to me was whether this was a valid move for his career? My answer to him was a candid no, if it were from the perspective of working for someone. On the other hand, if it were from an entrepreneur’s perspective, it would be a great one. This took him by surprise and he could not comprehend the entrepreneur part. And I believe a young creative mind like him should think up entrepreneurship; not just in the software area but even perhaps in other areas of life, using his engineering education and technology skills to build a modern enterprise. I could perhaps persuade and motivate him in every possible way except perhaps for the fact that funds are not available for a young creative mind in India to realize his aspirations. This is despite all the VC’s and others making such a noise about India and its talent. But the most critical thing I told him is to aspire; not to stop. Nobody can stop you, leave alone tax your imagination. If you find a way, the means will follow.
I have written about these two cases because they speak of a nation’s ethos where a generation of Indians are restless and want to find direction for themselves and their countrymen. They want to contribute and are willing to do what it takes. The environment such as Education and Government can become supportive and facilitate this process of transformation where the country can legitimately cross-over from body-shopping to creating value. It is not enough if Mr. Narayan Murthy dislikes doing business based on visas. He must find a creative way of facilitating young talent to explore and express. The day this happens we can mark a new Independence Day for the country and celebrate it. We can do away with the ceremonial Red Fort speech by the Prime Minister and the parade on Janpath. It is time we moved away from the vestige of the British Empire.
The announcement from the new RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan that the Indian Rupee will be internationalized raises the hope of a great future. It will make capital available for entrepreneurs that can be deployed to create value. The sooner this is implemented the better as it will in itself take care of the falling Rupee Value. Will foreign investors want to pay more and get less for their investments?