Father Tincture of Profit

Page 1



The Way I Work

Rajat Tuli of Happily Unmarried Satyam makes up Deven Chachra’s reel life dreams.

Father Tincture of Profit


The Magazine for Growing Companies

Mobile apps

that will amuse your business PAGE38

Father Tincture of Profit Dr. Mukesh Batra started out as a homeopath,

The magazine for growing companies

and built a 86-crore business out of those innocuous white pills. PAGE30


U.K. Gupta

January 2011 | 150 | Volume 01 | Issue 12 A 9.9 Media Publication

built India’s first hologram company. PAGE 54


January 2011


The Bibliophiles Mayank Dhingra’s (front) love for books made him start Dial-A-Book with brother Tarang.

50 Start-up Diaries Dial-A-Book wants to make buying books as easy as ordering pizza. Will bookworms bite the bait? And, Hyderabad-based RideNSync finally lands its first corporate client. by shreyasi singh

30 Sweet Pills of Success

Dr. Mukesh Batra may have inherited his homeopathy skills. His business acumen, which has helped build Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic into a 86 crore group, is another matter altogether.

46 Bitten By the Blockbuster Bug

38 App Time

Deven Chachra has scripted a celluloid dream of his own by reinventing Delhi-based Satyam cinema into a chain of multiplexes.

Smartphone applications aren’t just fun and games anymore. An app can be a potent marketing tool that can supercharge your business.

by shreyasi singh

by amy barrett

by pooja kothari

this page photograph: Subhojit Paul

54 How I Did It U.K. Gupta, Holostik India

Being a pioneer in an industry was always important to UK Gupta. No wonder he takes great pride in having introduced holographic images to India. by pooja kothari

This edition of Inc. magazine is published under license from Mansueto Ventures LLC, New York, New York. Editorial items appearing on pages 11, 14-15, 22, 26-27, 38-44, 57-58 and 62 were all originally published in the United States edition of Inc. magazine and are the copyright property of Mansueto Ventures, LLC, which reserves all rights. Copyright © 2009 and 2010 Mansueto Ventures, LLC. The following are trademarks of Mansueto Ventures, LLC: Inc., Inc. 500.

on the cover

Dr. Mukesh Batra, founder of Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic, a chain of homeopathy clinics. Photographed by Jiten Gandhi in Mumbai. Cover design by Binesh Sreedharan

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  1


January 2011 16




05 Editor’s Letter

06 Behind the Scenes

Companies that make sure that the only toilet museum in the country runs efficiently.

09 Launch

The Inc. India 500 awards ceremony The Ticker MIT’s Eugene Fitzgerald on innovation We Asked, You Answered: Attendees at Inc. India 500 awards open up A Skimmer’s Guide to Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done, by Michael Hammer and Lisa W. Hershman An ideal get together for marketers Blogger Logic: What you can learn from Joan Rivers

14 Get Real

By Jason Fried The most important word an entrepreneur can say: no.

16 Passions

Rishi Modi scorches the dance floor with his Latin American moves.

Guidebook, No. 12

How to plan for hiring in 2011. Find the Guidebook following page 24

18 The Scuba Sutras

68 I Wish I Knew Then...

M.M. Gupta The founder of Dainik Jagran, a leading publication house, shares lessons from life.

By Guhesh Ramanathan Testing your team’s readiness and your own is as important as the product you are launching.


21 The Goods

57 going global The challenges of international e-commerce

New business applications for the iPad Mouse that give your wrists a break! Cool gadgets for your car A spanking new gaming console Things that Nihar Mehta cannot live without

26 Innovation

An environment-friendly stove for food hawkers.

59 sales & marketing Entrepreneurs offer advice to a start-up that claims to have found the magic formula to mastering mathematics 60 elevator pitch Fizzy Goblet sells hand-paints canvas shoes. Will investors show it the colour of money? 62 leadership How to get employees to embrace your vision 63 ask the expert Tough questions, smart answers

28 Balancing Acts

By Meg Cadoux Hirshberg Is your business the villain in your marriage? You can turn that around

64 The Way I Work

When Rajat Tuli isn’t thinking of funny lines that will ake people laugh, he is looking for excuses to gobble up his chocolatier mother’s new delights. as told to sunaina sehgal

2   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011




5 things to do

online this month

1. Reward Your Best Workers What constitutes a generous raise in this labour market? Find out.


2. Dump Your Worst Customers

Entrepreneurs share their advice for parting ways with overbearing and unprofitable clients.

5. Get Your Juices Flowing


How to manage brainstorming sessions so they are truly productive.

3. Be a Joiner


Good peer groups offer equal parts networking and group therapy. Here’s how to find one that works for you.

4. Freshen Up

Could your business use a new image, a new logo, or even a new name? Rebranding is risky, but it can pay off.



MANAGING DIRECTOR: Dr Pramath Raj Sinha Printer & Publisher: Anuradha Das Mathur Editorial managing Editor: pooja kothari assistant features editor: rohini banerjee consultant features editor: payel mukherjee feature writer: sunaina sehgal co-ordinator: akhil bery DEsign Sr Creative Director: Jayan K Narayanan Art Director: Binesh Sreedharan Associate Art Director: Anil VK Sr Visualisers: PC Anoop, Santosh Kushwaha Sr Designers: Prasanth TR, Anil T, suresh kumar Anoop Verma & Joffy Jose Designer: Sristi Maurya CHIEF Photographer: Subhojit Paul Photographer: Jiten Gandhi community team product manager: mahesh ravi senior manager: shreya pilani associate: deepika sharma

4   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Sales & Marketing Vice President: Naveen Chand Singh National Manager (Events and Special Projects): Mahantesh Godi regional manager (south & WEST) Vinodh K (+ 91 97407 14817) national sales manager (inc. india) Pranav Saran (+ 91 98117 77113) manager (Kolkata) Jayanta Bhattacharya (+91 93318 29284) Production & Logistics Sr General manager (Operations) Shivshankar M Hiremath Production Executive Vilas Mhatre Logistics MP Singh, Mohd. Ansari

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Published, Printed and Owned by Nine Dot Nine Mediaworx Private Limited. Published and printed on their behalf by Anuradha Das Mathur. Published at A-262, Defence Colony, New Delhi–110 024 Editor: Anuradha Das Mathur Printed at Silver Point Press Pvt Ltd, Plot No. D-107, TTC Industrial Area, Shirvane, Nerul, Navi Mumbai – 400706

editor’s letter

Happy New Year! Till the beginning of this decade, I had never used homeopathy—or, even thought about it. And, then, I had my first child, and like

most mothers, I started looking for options that weren’t as harsh as antibiotics. It helped that a close relative ran a thriving practice in a tier-II city, and consultation was simply a call away. Since then, I have been a convert. That’s why it was with a lot of excitement that I met Dr. Mukesh Batra for our cover story. He was, after all, the best known face of this system of medicine. He didn’t disappoint. I came away quite impressed, but more so with his business acumen and vision than anything else. I remember even asking him if he’s sure he went to a homeopathy college and not to a business school. We meet business founders quite regularly—as is to be expected for an Inc. magazine writer. Despite that, it was difficult not to be impressed by Dr. Batra’s ability to think business. The kind of systems and processes he’s managed to build Things I Learnt into his organisation is a case In This Issue study in itself. Spending 10 hours at Every time we mentioned the my desk won’t cover story internally, colleagues necessarily get my creative juices pointed us in the direction of the flowing. hundreds of complaints that Patience is the name come up on Google searches. of the entrepreneurial We thought about that, but then game. No point losing decided that we are not here to heart over lack of assess his skills as a homeopath. success. For us, it’s his ability to build a I should give my best business out of what many conshot, and expect the sider quackery that counts. least.

Surely the astute businessman that he is, he knows that the customer will only continue to pay if she sees value—and a real solution to her health problems. We hope you’ll enjoy the story. This month, we’ve added another start-up to our portfolio. Dial-A-Book was just too appealing in its simplicity. It should be interesting to track its progress and see if people actually bite into its business model. RideNSync, the company we’ve now been following for a year, has turned out every bit as interesting as anticipated. Its original product is firmly in the shadows, even as a variant takes centre stage, and becomes vital to the firm’s revenue strategy. It is these twists and turns that make the entrepreneurial landscape so fascinating—and make writers like me look forward to every issue. Last, hope the year started on a good note for you; and that it brings all your plans to fruition. Happy 2011, friends!

Pooja Kothari pooja.kothari@9dot9.in

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  5


Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life

Framed factoids Did you know that Queen Victoria bathed once in two months? Or, that in the 18th Century England, homes had no way of disposing waste other than throwing it out of windows, which could land on a passer-by? These are just a few facts displayed to amuse visitors. These have been printed and framed by Bharat Designers and Printers, set up in 2001. The 10-lakh firm is headed by Bharat Gupta, and employs eight people.

Brochures Inspired by a visit to the Madame Tussauds museum, Dr Bindeswar Pathak established the Sulabh International Toilet Museum in 1992. He wrote to 101 embassies asking them to share their country’s history of commodes. He received 61 positive responses. The interesting story of the birth of this unusual museum is printed in brochures, designed and published by Xtreme Publishing. Established in 2000, Xtreme is headed by Prabhat Goyal. The 25 employee-firm also services companies such as DuPont.

6   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Sulabh International Toilet Museum, New Delhi

01.12.10 12:30 PM

Pest control Controlling pests, especially in a public place, is a challenge. One has to ensure that gases used to fumigate a public area are poison-free. And ensuring this, is Pest Control India. The gases, carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide, ensure that termites and cockroaches die, or cease to breed. Established in 1954 by Nalkur Sripad Rao, today it’s headed by his son. This 200-crore company deals with the management of all sorts of pests—with added services like weed and marine pest management.

Glass façades The first ceramic toilet made by Thomas Turiferd for Queen Victoria, or Japanese toilet seats that massage the derriere—these are just a few treasures displayed at the museum dedicated to the most important room in the house. Protecting them from damage are glass façades made by 25-year-old company, Modi Facades & Fixtures. The 90 crore-firm is headed by Nuruddin Modi and employs 350 people. It offers services such as cladding and gazing, and manufactures products like shower cubicles.

photograph by SUBHOJIT PAUL

reported by SUNAINA SEHGAL


News, Ideas & Trends in Brief


In Brief The audience at the Inc. India 500 awards ceremony couldn’t stop swaying to the tunes played by the snake charmers (right). The evening was different in many aspects—and, a resounding success.

Celebrating the Rising Stars of India Inc An evening of awards, music and camaraderie On a starry, crisp winter evening, the

rising stars of corporate India got together at a five-star hotel in New Delhi for the much awaited “Inc. India 500 Awards” ceremony. A hundred and fifty people attended the event to celebrate the success of companies that have been honoured in our annual ranking of India’s Best Performing Mid-sized Companies, published in September. Owners of mid-sized companies from all over the country encouraged their colleagues as they went up to collect their awards from Gautam Thapar, chairman and CEO, Avantha Group. Later, they listened in rapt attention as Thapar shared lessons from his journey with what he called his “Indian international” company. As was fit for an evening that promised

to be “different” from the usual awards ceremonies, Thapar opted for an interactive discussion with the audience instead of delivering a keynote address. Pramath Raj Sinha, managing director, 9.9 Mediaworx, publishers of Inc. India magazine, set the mood for the session with his questions. Others were only too happy to follow and threw a volley of questions at him. From challenges of scale, a subject close to the hearts of the entrepreneurs in the ballroom, to finding good talent and the education sector in India, the audience tapped Thapar on a wide range of subjects. The participants were left in no doubt about Thapar’s ability to dirty his hands in running his global empire that has a sales presence in 64 countries and a manufacturing unit in 14. If any person in that

room had thought that his success was courtesy his illustrious surname, he was surely left believing otherwise. Two of his ideas especially struck home. While answering the question on people becoming the biggest challenge in future, he urged business owners to stop lamenting the lack of good managers and instead focus on growing their businesses. “If you cannot scale-up quickly enough, someone else will, and you will lose your middle management talent quickly to that company,” he warned the audience. He also advised them to welcome customers who demanded more out of them, instead of ruing them. The highlight of the evening was a performance by a group of snake charmers, continued on the next page

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  9


Celebrating the rising stars... continued

who had re-invented themselves as musicians-cum-entertainers. When their vocation came under threat from government legislation that banned snakes from live performances, these solo players stuck together and learnt to play as an ensemble. They had the audience swaying to their tunes—an enjoyable hotchpotch of Hindi blockbuster tunes juxtaposed with the ones traditionally played on a been (a snake charmer’s flute). Another “difference” was a quiz by Vivaki, a part of the

Inc. India 500 Awards” ceremony, for several of the firms on the list, it may as well be the last! At the rate that they are growing, we can only hope that many of our mediumsized heroes will soon outgrow our upper limit of 1,500 crore in turnover and join the “biggies”. Of the participants, R.K. Somany, chief executive, HSIL, and an honouree, was quite certain that his company will be one of those. We wish all of them the very best in this particular endeavour. Almost everyone in the

“If you cannot scale-up quickly enough, someone else will, and you will lose your middle management talent quickly to that company.” —Gautam Thapar, chairman and chief executive, Avantha Group

international advertising firm Publicis Groupe, which tested the audience’s readiness for the future—not to mention their ear and eye for business trivia. The first question almost had everyone in the room stumped: Which global company was originally known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo? Only one person knew the answer to that: Sony. The 20-minute contest kept the members of the audience on their toes. At the end of each question, there was a quiet scramble for cell phones, as answers were SMSed. Anuradha Das Mathur, director, 9.9 Mediaworx, closed the evening with some bittersweet parting words. Though this was only the “2nd 10   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

room sat up as Mathur related an anecdote from a trip to Israel that had mothers encouraging their children to fail. “We need to celebrate failure as much,” she urged the audience, who nodded in agreement. The special book launched on the occasion was further proof of that: it celebrated the success stories as much as the struggle that companies go through to reach their goals. A live music performance entertained the audience through cocktails and dinner. And that’s where our stars got real busy—seeking out old colleagues and congratulating new friends, networking and finally, posing for the shutterbugs.

The Ticker Madison’s world just got bigger. Sam Balsara-led Madison World has partnered with Mumbai-based OnMobile, a telecom value added services provider, to launch a mobile balsara marketing firm—Kabuza Marketing... In Delhi, daycare centre Your Kids R Our Kids has received 10 crore from India Venture Partnership. More working parents should be able to breathe easy now...Giving Your Kids company is Fashionandyou.com. The online luxury shopping site raised 36 crore from Sequoia Capital to invest in technology, logistics and CRM... In more news with a good fit, Tata International has acquired a 74 per cent stake in the 170-crore, Tamil Nadu-based Bachi Shoes, owned by Gopalakrishna Bachi. stylish union Together, they plan to tread the profit path, competing with the likes of Bata, Reliance Footprint and Future Group. Go break a leg!... Investment seems to be the buzzword for venture capital firm, Nexus, which plans to invest in 50 internet and technology start-ups over the next five years. Its Nexus Seed Programme will invest between 20 lakh and 2 crore in seed capital...The Centre, too, seems to be in the mood for investments—it will don the venture capitalist’s hat and set up a 2,000-crore pharma fund for drug research initiatives to be conducted by Indian scientists... For foodies, there’s mouthwatering news! Mirah Group, owners of Rajdhani and bharwani Falafels brands, has taken a onethird bite of Singapore-based Mad Over Donuts’ pie. The present 17 MOD units, which are headed by Lokesh Bharwani, will soon expand to 60. Set, fried and smoking. —Inc. India

Innovation is the Holy Grail of business, the ticket to the future. A new book, Inside Real Innovation: How the Right Approach Can Move Ideas from R&D to Market—and Get the Economy Moving, attempts to demystify that quest by breaking down the process by which innovation occurs. Its coInnovation Guru MIT’s Eugene Fitzgerald authors—Eugene Fitzgerald, an MIT professor of materials science; Andreas Wankerl, a Cornell researcher; and Carl Schramm, CEO of the Kauffman Foundation— write that the process is long and requires patience but that the U.S. is still well-positioned to be an innovation leader. Fitzgerald spoke with Inc. reporter April Joyner. What should we be doing to encourage innovation?

Just like we’ve introduced students to entrepreneurship, we need to introduce a broad student audience to innovation. Those who want to be in the core part of the innovation process can take not just science and engineering classes but also specialised classes that research how best to bring new technologies to the marketplace. You argue against trying to force innovation in specific sectors. What should we be doing instead?

Sector-based investments identify a market and then find a technology that might feed into it. That has worked for a long time, because we’ve been in the information-age paradigm. Semiconductors, PCs, software, the internet—they’re all part of the same paradigm. Now we’re reaching the end of that paradigm, so we need to look around in all different sectors. The next great opportunity could be anywhere. The way to figure out which ideas have value is the innovation process itself. You have to investigate the technology, its implementation, and the market for a particular idea. Are there signs of a new paradigm emerging, or will it be a long time before we see anything like the growth of past decades?

Engineers and scientists are educated with this idea that progress always happens, that one thing follows another. But just because one paradigm ends does not mean another one begins. That’s probably a disturbing thought to most people. I think we’re going to be in a preparadigm stage for at least 10 or 15 years, because fundamental innovations take that long to get to the market. With rising economies in countries like China, can the U.S. afford to wait that long?

In developing countries, growth can happen just from catching up. But once they catch up, they’ll be on the same curve we are. So then it just comes down to which nations have an environment that is conducive to innovation. Individual career mobility, ease of organisational disruption—all this kind of fluidity is really important, and that doesn’t exist in all countries. From that perspective, the U.S. still has the fundamental foundation for high rates of innovation.

A skimmer’s guide to the latest business books

The book: Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done, by Michael Hammer and Lisa W. Hershman; Crown Business. The big idea: Companies must take a chainsaw to inefficient processes, then build better ones. The backstory: In 1993, Hammer’s Reengineering the Corporation galvanised companies to rethink every aspect of operations. Hammer died in 2008. Hershman, CEO of his consulting firm, completed this book. Reengineering redux: Hammer repeats lessons from Reengineering—focus on end-to-end processes, shed tasks that don’t add value, let workers make decisions. But Faster, Cheaper, Better gives a more structured approach to achieving goals. If you read nothing else: The chapter “Measure for Measure” offers a fine study in collecting useful metrics. For example, a budget-conscious retailer wanted to know what percentage of shoppers made a purchase. Instead of using radio-frequency ID tags, the company hired students to count those who left with packages. Right from the start: Faster, Cheaper, Better targets corporations struggling to untangle nasty procedural hairballs. But the book is equally valuable for growth companies erecting systems for the first time. Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great) Hammer spent more than a decade studying many of these companies and describes in great detail both successes and failures.—Leigh Buchanan JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  11

From Left: Courtesy subject

In Search of the Next Big Thing It’s out there— just waiting for you to find it


An Ideal Get Together for Marketers Tips to grow professionally, and more

In Rapt Attention The audience listened to Jessie Paul’s (R) thoughts on how a marketer should grow and brand himself.

Paul Writer, a marketing advisory firm,

hosted “The Great Indian B2B Marketing Summit” in December in Bengaluru. The conference brought together more than 80 marketing professionals and CXOs for a day of debate and discussion, knowledge sharing and networking. The sessions spanned a wide spectrum, from applying the latest trends in social media, to discovering the shortest route to the corner office, to instilling the realisation that marketers need to brand their professional selves as much as the product or service they’re selling. Kiran Mani, head of industry sales, Google India, warned how marketers have to move beyond past paradigms and think afresh. For example, he stated, segmentation, a key part of marketing, is dead. Given the reach of the Internet, it is far more important

blogger logic

to ensure that your business is visible and available when consumers come looking for your products and services. Advertising will also move towards being more about engagement, and less about awareness. Jessie Paul shared her thoughts on how a marketer should grow and brand himself. Just as professionals spend a lot of time and energy planning the marketing strategy for their product or service, they should spend a considerable amount of effort on devising plans to grow in their own field. These steps would be different across junior executives, middle management and CXOs. Junior executives should focus on mastering processes and best practices, and becoming skilled in executing projects flawlessly. Middle management should be more vocal about sharing their opinions, and planting their stakes on the ground

with forward-looking statements. CXOs need to develop a vision for the industry, and institute the right frameworks as well as share opinions on the latest policy issues. The marketer would have achieved success when they are recognised as an expert in their field, are known by their name and not by any organisation title, and their personal reputation is equal to or greater than their company’s reputation. Speaking about the conference later, Paul stated: “This was an opportunity for us to bring the B2B marketing community together, possibly for the first time, in Bangalore. I believe India has a huge pool of innovation and what is required to monetise that potential is marketing.” While admitting that B2B marketing is at a nascent stage, Paul predicted that it should not be a big challenge, given the kind of talent we have. Another interesting session revolved around the journey of a marketing professional to the corner office. Rajeev Suri, chief executive, LiqwidKrystal, a company in the education and training space, proposed a three-pronged path: “Stay close to the money, stay close to the top leaders and keep shifting gears.” Sangeeta Sundaram, head, marketing and corporate communication, CapGemini India, recommended that marketing professionals invest heavily in whatever they are doing and always think about how they can be a part of the bigger picture in a company’s growth journey. The conference was certainly a great opportunity for B2B marketers to reflect on their personal and professional journeys and chart the right course for the future! —By Mahesh Ravi

What You Can Learn from Joan Rivers

Yes, that’s right, Joan Rivers, writes StockTwits CEO Howard Lindzon (howardlindzon.com), who saw A Piece of Work, the recent documentary on Rivers’s life. Rivers, by the way, is now 77.

“Joan wants to be considered an actress, but in my eye she is a fantastic entrepreneur. She may seem unorganised, but she knows what she wants… to be working.…At 75, doing the redeyes and cruises and small towns to perfect her craft and go where her customers are until they come for her. She believes they will. That’s an entrepreneur.” 12   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

we asked, you answered

Spilling the Beans! Inc. India 500 participants speak their mind

As the attendees at the awards ceremony made a beeline for the chief guest Gautam Thapar, CEO and managing director, Avantha Group, we cornered some of them for a question-and-answer session of our own.

Straight Talk (From top left) Ashok Hiremath, C.M. Ashok Muni, D. Ashok, Dr. Arvind Lal, Amarjit and Gunita Singh, M.M. Gupta, V.K. Chaturvedi, R.K. Somany, Tarun Varma and Gautam Thapar.

What are the ‘it’ things that occupy your working desk or office cubicle? Family pictures? Drawings? Any favourite painting?

There are two photographs: one of my family and the other of Lord Balaji.

—C.M. Ashok Muni, Director and COO, Nagarjuna Agrichem

Right behind the desk there is our logo, which is actually an astrological sign for the planet Jupiter. —B. Venkat Ramana, Director, Vuppalamritha Magnetic Components

What are the things you love best about your job?

What is the worst thing about your job?

Going back home and calling it quits for the day! —Dr. Arvind Lal

The “buck stops here” syndrome. —Anjan Malik

I haven’t had a vacation in the past 12 years! —B. Venkat Ramana

What’s the one lesson you learnt from your worst boss?

That there’s nothing worse than a worst boss —Gautam Thapar, Chairman and CEO, Avantha Group

The independence to determine how, when and what to do.

Empathise with your people

—Anjan Malik, eClerx, Director,

—Chris George, Founder and Group CEO, EBS Worldwide

The young faces that I get to see every day.

Hard work, honesty and building a solid team

—Girish Batra, Chairperson and Managing Director, NetAmbit

The best part of the job is that it brings something new, a challenge every day. —Dr. Arvind Lal, Chairperson and Managing Director, Dr Lal’s Path Labs

Impatience and irritability coming from impatience —D. Ashok, Chairman, Nava Bharat Ventures

Drinking too much tea. —Gautam Thapar

How do you indulge in office? Order in a Sundae? Listen to music?

Order-in pizzas.

—Shobhit Gupta, Director, Holostik India

Watch videos on YouTube. —Tarun Varma, Director, Gaboli

I have a small fridge in the office which has chocolates —S.B. Ravi Pandit, Chairman and Group CEO, KPIT Cummins Infosystems

What part of your personality do you lend to your work?

My love for chemistry

—Ashok Hiremath , Chairman and MD, Astec Lifesciences

—R.K. Somany, CEO and MD, HSIL

Which is the one work habit that you would want to get rid of, if you could?


—Pria Warrick, Founder, Pria Warrick Finishing School

I am not an easygoing person. I am speed oriented and quick —S.B. Ravi Pandit


What’s the weirdest thing in your office?

A painting of Che Guera which says ‘Su Che’, meaning ‘What’s up?’ in Gujarati. Also a painting of Bruce Lee, which says ‘Mamu Lee’. —Chris George


—Gautam Thapar

The loo

—Amarjit and Gunita Singh, Founders, Inted Group of Companies

Who do you wish would friend you on Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg —Shobhit Gupta

The comedian, Bill Maher

—Sheikha Mattar-Jacob, co-founder, Masala Tee

Richard Branson —Chris George

Me and me alone

—Mahendra Mohan Gupta, CEO and MD, Danik Prakashan

— Sunaina Sehgal, Deepali Goel and Rohini Banerjee

—tArun vArma

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  13


The Power of Negative Thinking All systems have a way of getting more and more complicated—and less and less functional—over time. That’s why managers need to learn to say one important word: no

Are you in the software business? I bet most of you would answer no. So let me put it another way: Do you have a website? If the answer is yes, you’re in the software business. A website is software. It has utility, and that utility is accessed via an interface on a computer or mobile device. That’s software. Given that today most businesses—and plenty of individuals—have websites, far more of you are in the software business than you probably realise. You may make widgets or furniture or run a restaurant or provide a service, but you’re also responsible for software. Even if you outsource the development of your website, you’re ultimately responsible for its presentation. In that way, you’re little different from a restaurateur—you probably don’t grow or raise your own ingredients, but you serve them to your customers. The buck stops with you. Being in the software business is a wonderful thing. It means you can create just about anything. A basic set of raw materials—a server, some code, some graphics, some words—can be configured into a billion-billion combinations

14   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

with relative ease. That is unique and wonderful and should be celebrated. However, it’s also a curse. Understanding why is the key to building great software—or a great website. Let’s start by looking at a physical object—say, a standard 16-ounce water bottle. Think Evian, Poland Spring, Fiji, or something like that. You don’t have to be an expert in anything to know that those bottles are well-designed. They are made of clear plastic, which means you can see the contents from far away; if they were opaque, you wouldn’t be able to tell what was inside. The water inside the bottle is heavier than the packaging; if the bottle was heavier, you wouldn’t be able to feel if it was empty or full without picking it up ILLUSTRATION BY pc anoop

get real

or pouring out its contents. The bottles are grippable, portable, and easy to use; if they were too tall or too fat or too slippery or too thin, you wouldn’t be able to just grab and go. You don’t have to analyse the bottle like I just did to understand that it is welldesigned. You know it, because you can see the bottle, feel it, and use all of its features immediately. You can see where it starts and ends. It is not complicated. It is in balance with its purpose. Imagine a bottle without a spout or a bottle that was burning hot or a bottle that was as slippery as ice. Every reasonable person would know that wouldn’t work.

back, and the business evolves. Things get more complicated. More people, more opinions, more pressure to add stuff. The software grows. Version 2.0 comes along. It does more than Version 1.0. More features, more options, more screens, more stuff. Or the website is redesigned with more pages, more words, more images, more departments, more tools. Nothing has gone wrong yet. In fact, Version Two is pretty good, too. But over time, yet more stuff is added. Remember our water bottle? Imagine what would happen if more stuff was added to it. Pretty soon it wouldn’t be functional. The physics would push back. Not so with soft-

If the laws of physics govern the physical world, the word no governs the virtual world. “No, that’s one feature too many.” “No, that’s just not worth it.” Contrast that with software. What are the criteria for evaluating software? Software doesn’t have mass. It doesn’t have shape. It doesn’t cast shadows. It has no edges. It has no size. You can’t pick it up. You can’t feel it. It doesn’t obey the laws of physics. It’s not really even there. Nothing is pushing back, saying, “That’s a bad idea; that won’t work; that’s going to burn someone or hurt someone or make someone drop it or...” Almost none of the tools we’ve developed to evaluate physical objects apply to software. This is why most software goes bad over time. Software—websites included—usually starts out pretty good. The first version is pretty focused. Yes, there are horror stories of overstuffed websites or unwieldy software products being launched. But for the most part, the first version of something has the fewest features it ever will have. As time goes on, customers send feed-

ware. You can just add more pages! Or you can just add more features or more settings or more preferences and hide them behind yet another button or menu. It’s just one more button, right? This is where it all begins to fall apart. Future versions are loaded with more and more stuff. Nothing pushes back; nothing says no. And eventually, the product or the site becomes unmanageable. It’s too big, too slow, too confusing, but it’s still all subjective. Unlike the water bottle, the software can just keep growing. Software can’t overflow. It has no edges, so it can never be too big. Guess what? It can. The only way to stop this perpetual growth of an object without physical borders is for you to create your own borders. Those borders are discipline, self-control, an editor’s eye for “enough.” The ultimate border is one simple word: no. Someone in charge has to say no more than yes.

If the laws of physics govern the physical world, the word no governs the virtual world. “No, that’s one feature too many.” “No, that’s just not worth it.” “No, no, no.” I remember when our software company, 37signals, didn’t know how to say no. We were building the first version of Highrise, our Web-based contact management tool. And we kept saying yes. “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” Yes! “Oh, man, it should totally do this...” Yes! “How about we add the ability to...” Yes! It was always yes, yes, and more yes. Which meant that when it was finally complete, Highrise ended up sucking. It wasn’t easy, but eventually we looked back at what we had created and admitted, “This is just way too much. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not simple. It’s not clear.” So we scrapped it and started over. The new version was built with a heavy dose of no. It turned out wonderfully. Today, Highrise is our fastest-growing product. It’s still hard to say no when we’re building a new product. I think it’s because yes just sounds so much better. Yes is the thing of dreams. Yes, we can do this. Yes, we can do that. Yes feels really good. The problem is that yes often results in massive costs that we don’t consider when we’re dreaming up all the things we want to do. Yes doesn’t push back until it’s too late. If you’ve already agreed to do all these things, then it’s that much more difficult to say no later on. And that’s the key to it all. No is easy if you say it early. It’s a lot harder to say it later, because it’s usually in response to something you already said yes to. This is where things get hairy. No means you have to make tough choices that aren’t always obvious at the time. No can be hard, even painful; it can lead to imagining what could have been. But when you make software, it’s almost always a good idea to say no more than you say yes. Over time, you’ll regret saying yes more than saying no. No?

Jason Fried is co-founder of 37signals, a Chicagobased software firm, and co-author of the book Rework, which was published in March. JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  15

“Dancing gives me vitality; it’s a never ending source of energy. I never get tired!”


16   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Life Outside the Office

At 12, he was your regular mister twinkle toes. When the music would start, Rishi Modi’s feet would get into a mood of their own. At 34, he is yet to get over the “dance fever”. Modi has now found his clique among lovers of Latin American dance forms. The CEO of Fresh Rank—a firm that specialises in search engine optimisation—has learnt this dance form for three years under the guidance of Sandip Soparrkar—a choreographer to Hollywood and Bollywood stars. Modi has also participated in the National Latin American Competition and bagged the third spot. For the past year though, he’s been training at home with a tutor, and has also choreographed some groovy steps. “I danced for three hours at a family gathering,” boasts Modi, who’s now preparing to show off his moves at an upcoming wedding.

Groovy tunes Maria Maria from Partner Theme song of Anjana Anjani

Favourite moves Tap Cha Cha: In which dance partners tap on each other’s shoulders Turkish Towel: Both partners, one behind another, open and close their arms together

Rishi Modi

photograph by JITEN GANDHI

Latin American dancing

reported by SUNAINA SEHGAL

The Scuba Sutras BY Guhesh Ramanathan

Look before you leap

Scuba diving is a safe sport, even though it sounds scary with all the talk of strapping on a tank and a lead-weighted belt, and then jumping off into the deep waters. What makes it safe is the discipline of the sport. A diver never, ever, dives without checks. First come the background checks—the dive leader checks out the site in advance: its contours and depths, expected currents and visibility, and even what fish could be sighted. She also assesses how challenging the dive site would be. Would a novice enjoy this? Or, does it demand an experienced diver? Then it’s time for a self check. A diver has to check his readiness for the dive. Whether the buttons are inflating and deflating the jacket as expected? Are the lead weights adjusted to his body weight? Could he release the weights, jacket and air tank with a few movements in case he has to abandon a dive? Is there enough air in the tank? Is he ready to give a final go ahead to the dive leader and his buddy for the dive? It doesn’t end here, though. After this, a diver Testing the Waters The first sutra ‘never dive without a checks his designated buddy out in the same mancheck’ is as true of life in business as it is of scuba diving. ner. And finally, if both are fine with their checks, they go ahead and dive. What happens if a diver does not pass these checks? check. And, that’s equally true of life in business. I could talk to you about the time I scorned the check and dived wearing Here’s what happened when I ignored the first sutra. four times the weights I should have worn. I ended up being stung by sea In early 2001, my tech support company was urchins in Goa—a pain that lasted four whole months. Or, about my wilful working on a software product that would provide ignorance of a leak in my jacket that could have drowned me as I swam 30 live customer support to computer users using the meters down the sea in Tunisia. internet—something quite uncommon in those I could go on, but what matters is the principle. Never dive without a days. Organisations were using the net to provide

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Us checks to test your readiness for a project will help it succeed

The Scuba Sutras

tech support to customers, but that was primarily on e-mail or chat to direct customers on what they should do. In a few cases, companies were providing telephonic support. Our product, Remote Fix, would have allowed us to connect to a customer’s system, find out what was wrong with it, and fix it. My team even created an incredibly light 250Kb application that a customer could download for free from our website. This application would run on the customer’s system, and when he needed help, he would only need to click on a button that said “Call a technician”. This

My mistake? I had forgotten to check my readiness for this “dive”. And what’s more, I hadn’t bothered to check my team’s readiness either. We launched the service—and watched delightedly as the number of hits on our server leaped. That, however, soon turned to horror because the server crashed soon after. I had forgotten that we had hosted our site on a low-cost server somewhere in the boondocks; and it just couldn’t take the load. Within hours of the launch, we were scrambling around for alternative sites. We went to the extent of fielding phone

I had forgotten to check my readiness for this ‘dive’. And what’s more, I hadn’t bothered to check my team’s readiness either. little application would then connect him to a technician, who had access to a much “heavier” back-end application running off our servers. A person manning this could find out what was not working, test the system extensively, and fix it: Literally within seconds. However, to drive adoption, we needed some innovative marketing. So we did something that no tech support company in the world had done: we priced the service at a ridiculously low 150 ($3) per month. We called it “Cable TV pricing”, and our sales collateral reflected that: “For the price that you pay your cable TV operator, you could get unlimited technical support for your software and applications on your computer.” We invited customers to try it out for free for the first time— they could subscribe annually, if they felt the service was great. And we went to town with this. We even got huge coverage on national press with this. We had a great product, we were offering a bargain price, and we were ready for the kill. Or, so we thought.

calls from customers across India, asking for their e-mail addresses, and e-mailing the software to them. We also managed to find an alternate hosting site that cost us quite a lot more, but at least it was stable. Then, the next disaster hit. We had hundreds of people queuing up to ask for support within hours. We had designated two—just two—technical people to provide this. Within minutes, the support queue turned into a rabble. Have you seen the queues at a movie theatre when a long-awaited cinema is thrown open? Have you seen how this changes from an orderly line to a mad, confused crowd within minutes of the ticket windows opening? Well, that’s what it was like. Within days, Remote Fix was dead. Our promise of “hassle-free tech support, right at your desk” turned into a nightmare: customer feedback was scathing. Our dreams of revolutionising the tech support industry turned into ashes in our mouths. Let’s apply the first sutra to this situa-

tion. As a “dive leader” I had checked out the “site”: the market. The “currents” were strong: the market needed this service. We knew that we were sitting on a winner: we knew what “fish” (read: revenue!) we would see. We knew that the “visibility” for this business was global, and not just India-centric. But as a diver, did I do the equivalent of a jacket-air-tank-weight check for myself and my buddies (my organisation and my supporters)? No way. Did I know the “weights” (what would drag us down? In this case: the responding customers!). I miserably underestimated that. Did I check my jacket, which was supposed to help us float (in this case, the number of people we would need to man the server, and the server itself?). No. Did I check out my air (read: what resources would be needed to enjoy this “dive”)? No. Did I check out my ability to release my load (in case I ran into trouble, what would I need to abandon to surface safely)? No. Most importantly, did I even bother to do a buddy check on my organisation? No. Other than the two technicians originally assigned to the job, no one else had any idea of how to respond to this overwhelming demand. Is it surprising that Remote Fix flamed out so quickly? No. I have learnt my lesson. But my question to you is: Where are you “diving” today? Are you following the first sutra: That you will never dive before you check? Sure, as leaders, we all check out the environment around us. However, do we bother to check our readiness for the dive? Or, for that matter, our team’s readiness? That is what differentiates success from failure.

Guhesh Ramanathan is a mentor at the entrepreneurship cells of IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad. He serves on the boards of several companies, and is an advanced certified scuba diver. JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  19


Your Business Toolbox

The Goods

Clever Toys at Work Business applications for the iPad The iPad, as we all know, is yet to be officially launched in India. Despite that, it has become India Inc’s favourite plaything.

That’s no breaking news, given that it comes loaded with apps that do just about anything—random to real useful. If you’ve bought one for yourself, here are a few must-have business applications for your new toy. —Anoop Chugh



Dragon diction

Desktop connect



With this, you will never need to worry about being away from work, or being behind a firewall, or, for that matter, the operating system you are on. The user can access any type of content from any location and at any point of time. It brings the best of Cloud Content Management, helping the user to view documents, spreadsheets, images and other types of content. It delivers content directly to the user, just like the web— without any hardware. Get started at 675 per user per month for 500GB of web storage.

The best things in life are free. As is this application. It enables the user to attend a meeting, even if he or she is not in office. A convenient option, all you need to do is TAP to attend meetings online. It also allows you to view presentations, design mock-ups, spreadsheets and reports—basically, anything that attendees are sharing on-screen. As the application is on, it can join meetings in seconds by tapping a link in an e-mail giving instant access to whoever’s presenting the meetings. Get started for free.

If you’re used to working with voice recognition applications for Windows, you can also use one on the iPad. Powered by Dragon Naturally Speaking, it allows you to speak and instantly dictate small text, or lengthy e-mails. Its voice-to-text transcriptions are considered five times faster than typing on a keyboard. The application supports US English, UK English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The best part: it helps a user edit the final message with a list of suggested words. Get started for free.

It’s like working on Windows 7, except it’s on your iPad. It’s essentially a desktop viewer that allows a user to view and control Windows, Mac OSX and Linux computers, as if you were sitting right in front. It’s the only universal app that automatically discovers all computers on a local network. One can view websites with Adobe Flash. Or, view any application on the desktop, control media players and PowerPoint presentations, access important documents on a new system, among other things. Get started at 675.

The presentation application for the Mac has been redesigned to suit the iPad. It helps build appealing presentations, complete with animated charts, and transitions with a few touches and taps. It is easy to use—one can use the pre-defined text styles, or pick from a selection of text options to personalise slides. Or, add photos and videos from the photo app using the Media Browser. It makes photos look great with designs that match a theme, or add masks, shadows, or picture frames. Get started at 450.

If you use the printer often, then this one’s a must for you. It will print, no matter how the printer is connected to your machine (LAN, Wi-Fi, 3G, USB, or Bluetooth). The application detects and diagnoses a printer, and the best possible, and available route to reach it. You can also print from pages or numbers directly via mail, transfer docs and files via iTunes using USB cable (Apps Tab), and do many other things. It is best summed as the Swiss Knife of printing applications. Get started at 540.

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  2 1

the goods

Products + Services

Easy on the Eyes But what about the wrist? If you are still using the mouse that came with your desktop computer, it’s time to upgrade. More than anything, it’s time to give your wrists some rest! Here is a look at three mice that deserve some space on your desk. Microsoft Arc Touch

We liked the sculptural design of this wireless mouse, which is sensitive enough to work on marble. You can scroll up and down a webpage by sliding a finger over the sensor, but we felt more comfortable moving the whole mouse. The mouse connects to a computer using a USB adapter. COST: 3,200


A technophobe’s guide to the what, why and how of the big W

2 2   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Apple Magic Mouse

The most precise mouse, this wireless device has a highly responsive MultiTouch surface that lets you scroll through a website or flip through photos with the swipe of a finger. Unlike the other devices here, it uses a Bluetooth connection, making it ideal for netbooks with just one USB port. cost: 3,000

Logitech G500

The sides of the mouse are sculpted to fit right-handed people. The scroll wheel is aluminium, with a textured rubber grip on the top to add purchase for your fingertip. Its side scrolling feature is a positive for those working with large Excel spreadsheets. A button behind the mouse wheel switches between ratchet and free spin. COST: 3,795

a new service

Be economic, stay connected Nokia, in association with business management service provider, Intuit, has launched a subscription service for small enterprises—those with less than 10 employees. The service helps organisations strengthen relationships with customers and increase repeat traffic. The new service works via mobile phones and web. It is aimed at the millions of Indian micro, small and medium enterprises. The service is available through Nokia Priority Dealers, as well as Intuit’s India website. A six-month subscription for the service will cost 2,400 and includes 10,000 SMSes, while a year’s subscription costs 3,600 and includes 20,000 SMSes.

Courtesy company (4)

Chances are that if you are from the old school, you dread working on the PC or web, or anything that reverts in Java. Here’s the scoop: as a business owner, you have to keep abreast with the times and the competition. You have to change your technology-is-forgeeks self to technology-isfor-everyone-including-me. Google has an open online book that answers all web queries (anything that starts with www), including why a business owner pays “so much” for the computer engineer. Explained in layman terms, this one’s a text book for every entrepreneur who bunked computer classes, in some cases to coin that “big idea”. This is perhaps the only book that explains in a simple way why a truck can crush the laptop, but not the data. Or, why one should care about web applications­­­—Yes! We are referring to Facebook and Twitter, too. There’s a lot on how these apps breach data security. The way you regulate which of your employees should chat to one another at work, in the same way, you can dictate and regulate how, when and what PCs at work should communicate with each other. And, if you are wondering why despite spending a pretty penny, your website comes nowhere close to your rival’s, it will probably answer that one for you, too. And, give you the tools to jazz it up.—A.C.

Work + Play

Some for the Road Gadgets for your fancy set of wheels

the goods

first person

For a business man, life’s like a constant commute between home, office, clients, meetings

and family. Since most of you are on the go most of the time, here are five gadgets that you can get fitted in your car to help you make the best of the commuting time. Recline on the back seat and enjoy! —A.C. Direct-to-car-TV

Watch television on the go. Install an antenna provided by the DTH players, and your car’s tracking the satellite. This special dish is connected to the Set Top Box inside the car to the AV port of the LCD screen. Dish TV and Airtel offer this service. Installation + hardware cost: 1,50,000 onwards Navigation-cum-entertainment device

How about games? You could install a navigation-cum-entertainment device at the rear that would spoil you with features such as navigation, DVD, Bluetooth, Windows compatible gaming, TV and many more. SatNav and MapmyIndia provide such devices. Price: 10,000 to 35,000 Tablet PCs

Today, the newspaper’s changed. It’s gone digital. And it’s time that entrepreneurs upgrade to one of the many tablet PCs that work not only as an electronic paper, but double up as the phone, a video conference and multimedia device, and a notebook. Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Dell Steak are a few names doing rounds. Price: 15,000 to 50,000 3G USB Stick

With the magic 3G Stick, one can work from anywhere with real-time access to information, minus installation hassles. Plug it into the laptop and get connected to the internet at a speed that’s faster than the traditional dial-up or broadband. The 3G USB stick is sold by all major telecom players. 3G monthly plan starts at 5,500 Multi-gadget car charger

In the world of multiple gadgets, where do you plug in when all those batteries run out? In most gadgets, a standard USB port is used for charging. With multiple USB ports connected to a simple cigarette socket (12V to 24V) at disposal, one can keep PDAs, phones, tablets, PCs and the MP3 well-fed. All, at the same time. Available at throw away prices on ebay.


courtesy company (5)

Gamer’s delight Microsoft has launched its motion gaming console for Xbox 360 in India—Kinect. It is a stand-alone sensor bundled with the Kinect Adventures game suite. Kinect uses a motion sensor that tracks the gamer’s entire body— and not just the body part that is in contact with the motion sensor. So when you play, it’s about all of you; arms, legs, knees, waist, hips and so on. It creates a digital skeleton of you based on depth data. So when you move left or right, the sensor captures it and makes you part of the game. You can also control movies and music with the wave of a hand, or the sound of your voice. —A.C.

My favourite tool for delegation

deepinder goyal founder, zomato.com gurgaon, delhi ncr

Zomato has a distributed workforce. We have offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Kolkata and all of us need to work as a single unit. The tool which we use to keep track of what we need to do is Scrumy.com. It is a relatively unknown and essentially a glorified version of sticky notes. It has a company-wide dashboard with hundreds of sticky notes with different colours for different people. Each sticky note is basically a task for someone to do. Anyone can add a task for me to do, and vice versa. Many people can make changes to a Scrumy project at the same time. Whenever you make a change, everyone who is viewing the board will see the change instantly. So if your tasks suddenly start moving around and glowing, don’t worry, they’re not radioactive. We also divide tasks by departments—so our sales, marketing and tech teams have separate sticky note dashboards. And to maintain transparency between different functions, every dashboard is free for anyone to see and add tasks to. Scrumy keeps everyone at Zomato reinvigorated and on the hook for getting their job done. If anyone gets sloppy, it shows up there for everyone to see. However, due to Scrumy, everybody has always been quite efficient. Over time, we have realised that this is the best tool that we have deployed at Zomato and it has resulted in the whole team working together as a seamless unit very effectively. —As told to Anoop Chugh

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  2 3

the goods

Beyond Business

Things I Cannot Live Without... My Tata Safari It’s like a portable house. From a fresh set of clothes to plates and glasses—I keep it all in my house with wheels. Internet connection I do a lot of research on products and designs on the net. Wiki uncle (Wikipedia) and Google God are two entities I cannot do without.

Tool set I carry 142 tools which are neatly packed and organised in a briefcase. I carry my tools everywhere. I like to have my hammer handy.


Nihar Mehta

Kaju Katli I have a sweet tooth. I love kaju burfis and jumbo rasgollas from Kolkata

2 4   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Nihar Mehta gave up his successful career as an interior designer to open Tribal Route—a mini art factory that recreates Indian traditional crafts in a fun and functional avatar. His shop, opened four years ago, sells quirky crafts, ranging from Bollywood-inspired furniture to jewellery, and looks as rustic as its name suggests. With almost everything placed on the floor, “just like the Janpat street stalls”, he seems to have captured the essence of a good-old Indian flea market. This 38-year-old iconoclast does not believe in hierarchy and often sits with the carpenters to share a cuppa. Of course, Parle Kismis toffees, which he keeps in his shop for customers, add a bit of sweetness to it all. —Sunaina Sehgal

...and What I Covet Range Rover or 4X4 SUV Someday, I would love to drive across the globe—like a vagabond business gypsy!

PHoTOgraph by Jiten Gandhi

Passionate about Indian arts and craft,

Everything you need to know to run your business in today’s economy

: : : : : : : : : : : A monthly guide to policies, procedures and practices

Remove booklet along dotted Line


Plan for Hiring in 2011 A few months ago, Tata Consultancy Services announced that it would step up campus hiring by 50 per cent next year. The IT major also revised its hiring target for the ongoing fiscal to 50,000 people, as against its earlier target of 30,000. It isn’t the only one. Most well-run companies think ahead and draw up plans well in advance—keeping in mind the expansion planned for the coming year, current attrition rates and existing human resources. Planning ahead is important for any company—no matter what size or domain. For one, such an exercise ensures that recruitment managers have a clear handle on the sort of candidates they’re looking for, and thus, do not land up force-fitting round pegs in square holes. Also, it’s a way to identify redundancy within the current staff, thus, get more done. This is significant because salaries account for a major chunk of an organisation’s overheads. Lowering the salary outlay can help improve bottom-lines. Moreover, hiring is complicated, to say the least, irrespective of whether the hiring is done internally, or outsourced to a staffing company. It takes up time and money; therefore, a sound plan can help save both. If you are one of those lamenting the difficulty of finding the right person to fill a critical position, here’s how to take the first step towards better hiring.—By Charu Bahri Vol. 01 No. 12 | inc. guidebook


plan for hiring in 2011 : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Filling up the ranks 1

Plan Ahead

Where do you stand: People are the power that drives organisations forward—that’s why it’s best to take a scientific approach to staffing. Those in the know calculate measures, such as revenue per employee and costs per employee. Then, they compare these indicators with industry benchmarks to determine where they stand—over staffed, or under staffed. “We track revenue per employee and benchmark this figure with peer groups in the industry,” says Babuji Abraham, senior vice president and global head, people function, MindTree. At Somany Ceramics, Biju Sebastian, general manager, corporate HR, monitors these indicators on a monthly basis. “So far, we’ve been calculating how we measure up against our own past performance. Going forward, we propose to evaluate our performance against the industry,” he adds. According to KS Bhullar, president, group HR, Anand Group: “We aim to keep our manpower costs below 5 per cent of sales, bearing in mind best-inclass figures for the automotive industry. We keep a close watch on overall manpower costs, and per person costs.”

increase as fast as revenue. Further, you’re unlikely to need, or even be able to afford, hiring all recruits at one go. So, Sunil Sarna, deputy general manager (HR), Ashoka Buildcon, suggests

Manpower need not be beefed up to the extent you expect revenues to grow.

Assess your needs: Your plans to expand your operations are bound to create some new positions in your frontline, as well as support operations. But as Sebastian points out, “It’s a mistake to assume that you need to beef up manpower to the same extent that you expect your revenues to grow.” Manpower costs should not inc. guidebook |  Vol. 01 No. 12

breaking down your manpower budgets for the year ahead to match your quarterly needs. This allocation should match the rollout of new product lines, or services, or projects. “In our case, the quarterly budgets take into consideration our ongoing construction project schedules, that is, the manpower we need at each project site to carry out the scheduled activities,” he adds. Prioritise staffing needs: When you draw up a detailed hiring plan, you may end up feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the requests for more manpower across departments. Understandably, financial constraints may not allow you to fulfill all these needs simultaneously. That’s why it helps to prioritise functional areas and then proceed to fulfill the needs of each, turn by turn. Common sense dictates that you should invest in revenue-generating areas first, such as sales and marketing, or in areas that correlate with strategic plans. For instance, if you’re looking to expand your production facilities, you may need to employ more hands for your manufacturing centre.

Abraham describes the prioritisation process at MindTree: “Our central operations team prioritises staffing allocations based on the start date and complexity of upcoming projects, and the strength of each industry group, that is, divisions dedicated to specific business domains.” Sebastian also suggests prioritising support departments by rotation to ensure the all-round development of your business. “Strengthening areas, like IT and human resources, helps ensure that they can support your core activities as your business grows,” he explains. 2

Manage Hiring

Draw up hiring schedules: “When candidates are interviewed, we insist on the presence of a functional expert, an HR person, and the immediate supervisor. That’s the only way the management buys in the support of the department the new incumbent is intended for,” says Bhullar. Hence, your hiring plan should outline the proposed dates of advertisements for new staff and subsequent interview dates. This plan should be circulated to the heads of departments well in advance so that they can block the proposed dates in their calendar. Being well prepared is also the best way to avoid the sorry scenario of losing a good candidate to a competitor, who simply moved faster. In addition, it sends out the right message to prospective recruits—it reflects a resultoriented corporate culture. Is temping an option: Put together, sala-

ries, allowances, and incentives account for the biggest chunk of fixed overheads in most organisations. That’s why it helps to consider the pros and cons of taking on new permanent staff. Sometimes, you may only need specific skills for a one-off project. Alternatively, you may be experiencing a positive response to new products and services, but be uncertain about sustaining the increased tempo. In such instances, it helps to consider hiring temporary personnel, or contractual staff to tide over the busy period. Your hiring plans should provide accordingly, with a proviso. “Temporary staff is a no-no in confidential areas such as finance and accounting, and design departments,” cautions Sarna.

Invest in existing employees: Hiring plans can also help you get more out of existing staff by identifying underutilised personnel. “At MindTree, we’ve introduced learning programmes targeted at improving productivity,” says Abraham. “Over time, employees who are given the right inputs can tremendously increase their capacity to handle increased workloads,” agrees Sebastian. At Somany Ceramics, some sales leaders have doubled their workload, thanks to the continuous learning programmes and the quarterly monitoring of their progress. From looking after 10 geographies, they are now comfortably managing 20 territories. However, cautions Sebastian, “Workloads must not be increased to

the point of over burdening the staff. ” So if you find your managers only getting through enhanced workloads by working overtime on a regular basis, reduce their responsibilities. 3

Stay Vigilant

The best hiring plans are flexible. As the year progresses, track the progress of projects and/or your revenues to determine if you’re expanding as planned. If it looks like the year is unfolding as you expected, then step up hiring as planned. “This calls for close interaction between the HR team and supervisors of core activities,” shares Bhullar. A well-defined hiring plan can spell the difference between business success and failure. Need we say more?


plan for hiring in 2011 : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Get expert advice

Manage human capital

Good consultants can help you set realistic goals, bearing in mind prevailing industry salary scales and the availability of the skill sets you need. These inputs could expedite the hiring process by swiftly identifying appropriate individuals.

It might be a good idea to entrust one person with the responsibility of managing specialist permanent manpower and contracted external consultants, especially those whose skills are in demand across departments. Here’s why. Keeping track of the work schedules of highly-skilled staff reduces the need to duplicate such hires. Scheduling helps maximise the value derived from their time. Besides, it ensures that their services are made available faster than if you’d have to go through the entire hiring process again to recruit a similar resource person. Such management helps avoid costly scenarios, where you end up bringing in outside consultants when the talent needed by a team is available for no extra cost just one floor down. It also helps retain specialists, because they feel more satisfied by making significant contributions to more than one team.

Consider fine-tuning your hiring plan by sharing it with an expert. Prashant Parashar, principal consultant, Potentia, an organisational development and human resource consultancy, shows how specialists can add value:

Specialists can help you identify the right educational institution or training services provider to tie-up with, to meet your long-term needs for fresh manpower. Such low-cost hiring channels are especially appealing if you have major expansion plans on the cards. The ratio of talent promoted in-house and externally recruited talent in a running company should ideally be 4:1. Younger companies, however, are unlikely to make the grade because they’re still working their way up the numbers scale. Consultants can help identify potential leaders within your organisation. “Promoting existing staff ensures that new leaders are preadapted to your corporate culture. It also helps motivate and retain existing employees,” adds Parashar. An expert can also review your processes and explain the benefits of doing things in-house (“made in house”) or outsourcing to specialised manufacturers or service providers (“bought out finished”). These strategies impact your hiring plans.



Microsoft Office business templates, Develop skills needs – hiring plan – hiring forecast, http://office.microsoft. com/en-ca/templates/develop-skillsneeds-hiring-plan-hiringforecast-TC001233087.aspx

Recruiting Plan Template, http:// www.docstoc.com/docs/2613394/ Recruiting-Plan-Template Read more about developing a Successful Staffing/hiring Plan, http://www.squidoo.com/ hiringplanforrecruiters

inc. guidebook |  Vol. 01 No. 12



Companies on the Cutting Edge

Heating things up

Nearly 20 to 80 tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced every year by the millions of street vendors who make up India’s unorganised food retail. The wood they burn releases CO2. This is where Svati Bhogle’s creation, the Pyro Tava Stove, comes in. It ensures that the food hawkers use efficient biomass fuel, such as coconut husk, to cook. It helps users save fuel costs by up to 50 per cent as compared to conventional stoves, and avoid the ill-effects on their health. Launched in July, it is exclusively designed for items that can be cooked on a flat surface, such as dosas and omlettes. Made of steel, the stove’s rectangular body has holes at one end that enable the maximum amount of air to reach the combustion chamber. An attached asbestos cement pipe carries the smoke away from the cook and his customers.

Wide menu Price: 16,400 Weight: 130Kg Length: 90cm Width: 60cm Height of the chimney: 6 feet to 10 feet Interesting choices Option to use wood in the form of twigs, or biomass briskets. Available as a table top, with legs, or wheels

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The differentiators Enclosed structure for fire does not allow heat to dissipate into air, and keeps it in direct contact with the vessel. High quality of insulation keeps the user safe, while ensuring that the tava remains hot. Optimum use of airfuel ration helps avoid sooting, or smoky fire.

Pyro Tava Stove

Sustaintech India

“Renewable energy was an unexplored territory. But we realised that this would be the future.”

Svati Bhogle, founder and CEO, Sustaintech India

Photograph by S. RADHAKRISHNA

reported by SUNAINA SEHGAL

Balancing Acts BY Meg Cadoux Hirshberg

The Romance of Good Deeds

I write a lot about how entrepreneurship complicates relationships and even

drives couples apart. Sometimes, though, it binds them closer. When the venture serves a larger purpose, through either its core business or philanthropy, spouses who may feel ambivalent about company building (isn’t there a less-consuming way to make money?) suddenly get it. Sometimes, they become part of it. And that shared passion—often more powerful than the shared hobbies that marriage counsellors recommend—can translate into greater passion for each other. When I met my husband in 1984, I was managing an organic farm. Gary and his partner, Samuel Kaymen, had just launched Stonyfield, the organic yogurt company. Our idea of fun was making compost together. I appreciated that Gary saw himself as an educator and each little cup as an opportunity to teach people about the importance of organics. But as we hemorrhaged cash for nine years, our small attempt to change the world began to seem delusional. That we laboured on behalf of a mission we both cared about made the sacrifice tolerable; I doubt I would have lasted long had we been cranking out Fritos instead. But eventually, although I still supported the cause, I felt disconnected from the company itself. In recent years, however, I’ve bonded again with the business. The catalyst

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has been Stonyfield’s philanthropic outreach. Its charitable arm, Profits for the Planet, has supported several causes about which I care deeply, including post-treatment cancer care and restoration of an agricultural building at a Shaker museum. And several years ago, Gary and I together created a loan fund to help New Hampshire dairy farmers through the high costs of transitioning to organic. I personally brought Gary into these and other projects that dovetailed his business mission with my interests. I now influence the company in ways that fulfill me, as opposed to the any-warmbody-will-do kinds of tasks I performed in the early days. And for the first time, I feel truly connected to Gary’s work and consequently more tolerant of his frequent absences and distractions. Something similar happened to Jill Kearney, a professional writer. Jill had no affinity for business when she married Stephen McDonnell, founder of the natural meat company, Applegate Farms. “I didn’t get the


A business with a cause can do good in the world. It can also be great for your marriage

balancing acts

vision and the drive,” she told me. “If you’re already making money selling X, why do you need to sell 2X?” At first, Jill believed she had nothing to contribute. Eventually, she started writing promotional material and “romance copy” for the products, becoming what she calls a “published pot pie poet”. As she worked in the company, Jill began to see the potential for creativity in business and to consider how Steve might apply his abilities to problems outside Applegate. Then, in 2005, the couple’s daughter, 13 at the time, travelled to a remote village in Ecuador as an exchange student. Nora McDonnell’s host family was part of a community of subsistence farmers who sold cacao beans. Most of the profits had gone to middlemen until an American researcher helped the farmers form a co-operative to buy the beans and fund the creation of a value-added product: chocolate bars. But the co-operative needed more markets. Jill’s interest was piqued, and she and Steve flew

A few arguments over process cropped up during the start-up. But those marital tensions were tiny compared with the salutary effects of building something together. Jill loved watching Steve focus his entrepreneurial intensity on a project that did not contribute to their personal bottomline. For the first time, she truly appreciated his business skills. “It’s no accident that Steve is successful,” Jill told me with fresh pride. “He’s detail oriented and extremely tough.” Kallari became “an unexpected thrill in my life,” Jill said. “We definitely grew into this together. In the early part of our marriage, Stephen’s work was the villain. Not anymore.” Perhaps more profoundly, the two discovered they were compatible professionally, as well as personally. While working on Kallari, Steve saw how Jill could be more useful to Applegate. And Jill realised that she had a lot to contribute. “Our work at Applegate became a more creative collaboration as a

In some cases, a spouse who helps with company mission winds up going all in. down to Ecuador to meet with the farmers. “Afterward, I joked with Stephen, ‘If you don’t help them, I’m going to divorce you,’ ” recalls Jill. Steve says, “When Jill has that level of conviction, I respond.” So, he created a for-profit entity in the United States to sell the chocolate, under the brand name Kallari, and loaned it money. Jill researched how to set up the company and do business in another country, and she applied her writing and art skills to Kallari’s packaging design. The farmers now receive a much higher price for their beans, and the profits—when there are profits—will flow back to the co-operative to pay for health and education projects. Steve and Jill are in the process of passing control of the company to the co-operative.

result,” said Jill. In the past few years, she has offered marketing ideas, helped Steve think through critical business decisions, and joined the Applegate board. In some cases, a spouse who helps with

company mission winds up going all in. Sheila Hollender gave up her legal practice in New York to move to Vermont, where her husband, Jeffrey Hollender, was building Seventh Generation, the natural home-care products company. Her career upended, Sheila joined Seventh Generation’s board and became the buyer for its catalogue. But when the catalogue business was sold, she said, “There was no place for me in the company.” At about that time, some of Sheila’s

good friends were receiving cancer diagnoses, and Sheila was growing concerned about the environment’s effect on women’s health. That became her cause, and she realised her husband’s business provided a powerful platform. In 2005, she began pushing senior management to develop organic feminine-care products. The male-dominated senior management team (there was only one woman at the time) was skeptical. But Sheila argued forcefully that the move would both advance Seventh Generation’s mission and enhance its bottom-line. “Ninety per cent of our customers are women,” she told me. At first, Jeffrey was leery of Sheila’s involvement, concerned his employees might think he was making decisions for personal rather than business reasons. But over time, he became her greatest champion. Sheila joined the company full time this year, to promote the feminine-care line, which is growing twice as fast as the business overall. “I’m grateful that I could use this company that I’ve supported for 25 years to further my own passions,” Sheila says. Sheila’s work at Seventh Generation, Jeffrey told me, has deepened his appreciation and respect for her opinions, ideas, and intuition. Applegate and Seventh Generation— like Stonyfield—are good, socially responsible companies. Yet for Jill, Sheila and me, that wasn’t enough to compensate for the perpetual strain they placed on our family lives. Now, however, those companies—once antagonists to intimacy—make it possible for us to spend more time with our spouses and to enjoy our spouses in new ways. For me, it’s like making compost with Gary again: layering our mutual talents, interests, and concerns and watering thoroughly with our organisational skills and drive. The result is a rich and fertile ground in which our marriage can thrive. Meg Cadoux Hirshberg is married to Gary Hirshberg, president and CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt. She writes a regular column about the impact of entrepreneurial businesses on families. She can be reached at mhirshberg@inc.com JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  2 9

sweet pills of success how DR. mukesh

Gutter Credit here

batra built a 86 cr empire on homeopathy

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by POOJA KOTHARI Photographs by Jiten Gandhi

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or a homeopath, it’s easy enough to attract a bevy of patients with those innocuous-looking bottles of white tiny globules. It’s also not that incredible that those white pills manage to erase some obstinate ailments from the human body without leaving many side-effects. But to pull a brand out of those bottles of therapeutic molecules, belonging to a system of medicine that lies in the backwaters of global medical science, and spawn a chain of hugely successful clinics is nothing short of genius. No wonder when it comes to Dr. Mukesh Batra, there is no confusing him with anyone else. The red-and-blue logo of Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic, a chain of more than 60 homeopathy clinics, has become ubiquitous—sprouting up everywhere from hoardings in swish markets, such as South Extension in Delhi, to newspaper and online advertisements. But the distinctive badge of honour that the 59-year-old founder of this eponymous brand wears is that of turning homeopathy into a household name. From what has traditionally been a “What Dr. Batra has done is to standardise homeopathy treatone-room practice set up by retired government officers charging ment across his network. There have been very good practitio10—or, thereabouts—for a consultation, Dr. Batra has engineered ners of this system of medicine, but none have managed to scale a business worth 86 crore in revenue. Unlike Europe, where it up like him,” says Dr. Rana Mehta, senior vice president, homeopathy is a speciality within medicine, and therefore, there Technopak Advisors. It took him almost three decades to get here, but today, Dr. are few doctors practicing it, India has doctors in large numbers Batra’s is a retail service business spanning 23 cities and four and homeopathy is almost like a cottage industry. Even today, countries. He’s also the first one out of the gate to have set up most homeopathy clinics are a mom-and-pop kind of set up runshop on Harley Street in London—a place known to choose its ning on the acumen of a single practitioner.

“I am not a gambler; I don’t gamble at all. I am an entrepreneur by nature. And, I believe that no

entrepreneur can be successful until he is willing to take risk.”

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sweet pills of success

tenants with care; and the Dubai Health City, where Dr. Batra’s 100 per cent subsidiary is the only Indian healthcare company, sharing space with Harvard Medical. There even a cyber clinic that’s featured in the Limca Book of Records for treating the maximum number of patients. The success of the Dr. Batra’s brand coincided with the rise in popularity of alternative medicine systems in India. Homeopathy is included in these. Estimates from newspaper reports suggest that the homoeopathic drugs market in India was at 500 crore in 2010, and is expected to grow to 800 crore by 2012. That does not include the cost of treatment. There are said to be 100 million people using homeopathy in the country, though this is an estimate. India also has the highest number of homeopathic doctors in the world—4,00,000 in all. “We see homeopathy becoming the first line of treatment in future,” says Dr. S.P.S. Bakshi, another stalwart of homeopathy and the founder of Baksons, which makes homeopathic drugs, and runs a university and a hospital dedicated to the science. The most important reason for this dizzying success has also been people’s growing disenchantment with allopathic treatment, and an increasing awareness about the adverse effects of synthetic drugs, such as steroids, antibiotics, and pain-killers. Most of these treatments, especially homeopathy, have no adverse effects and are safe to use. They are also comparatively cheaper than conventional treatments, especially for common ailments. And that is where Dr. Batra has played a crucial role by mating the demand for an alternative method of healing with a safer medical offering. “Homeopathy was a very downmarket subject in the 1970s, when I started, with neither social acceptance, nor economic gain out of it. I fought against all of that. I took that as a challenge and tried to overcome that,” he says, rather proud of his achievement. More significantly, this stream of alternative medicine is no longer the domain of just the grey-haired retirees. Young doctors have also moved in to the space, as is evident from the fact that the average age of practitioners at Dr. Batra’s is 27. But, more than any of this, he’s managed—like a true entrepreneur—to establish the entire system as something that goes beyond an individual’s skills. “People no longer ask to see me specifically, unless they are unhappy with the treatment they got, or the case is very difficult,” he says.

Did You Know… Homeopathy first came to India through Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was given Dulcamara by a French Doctor for a paralysis of the vocal cords. The alternative medicinal system was popularised in India by the missionaries, who set up free clinics for the poor. France is the world’s largest market for homeopathy, both in terms of production and consumption of homeopathy products. India has the largest number of homeopath doctors in the world. These white pills are also used to treat animals—50 per cent of veterinarians in United Kingdom practise the science.

The uniqueness of the entire operation is probably that it runs more like a business enterprise and less like a medical facility. There are professional managers taking care of each business venture—clinics, products, and hair care. Every clinic works as an independent profit centre. And, each business runs on its own steam. “It’s a good business model that runs on auto mode, so that we can go on to realise our vision of a crore patients by 2020,” says Dr.

“I have been a dreamer all my life. The only difference is that I worked hard

to make my dreams come true.”

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Lending a Helping Hand Doctors at Dr. Batra’s Clinics are required to volunteer their time and expertise through the firm’s social service programme. “I realised that although young people work hard, they are not exposed to the realities of the outside world. Some of them let it go into their heads that someone’s been waiting for two hours to see them,” says he. Volunteering their services at social service centres helps keep the young doctors grounded and makes them sensitive to people’s problems.

Every doctor has to visit one of these centres once a month. These include an animal centre in Delhi, where stray dogs are treated through homeopathy, or a school for the blind in Mumbai, or homes for the aged in other cities. The doctors visit these places

Batra, his words more in tune with that of a person who has come off a business school than a homeopathy one. Whether it’s his use of technology, or his ease with processes and systems, or, now, his company’s increasing use of internet marketing and online presence, there’s no denying the business acumen of this Mumbai-based homeopath. orn to two doctors—his father was a homeopath and his mother an allopath doctor—Dr. Batra’s initiation into medicine was almost destined. As a child, he had seen his parents lead busy lives, so much so that he had to be sent to Agra to live with his maternal grandfather in his early years. He had even decided that he didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. But as fate would have it, he finally ended up joining the graduate course at the same homeopathic college in Mumbai, where his father was also the principal. “Because of my father, I thought it would be easy, and I stepped into it. It was not really my calling,” recalls Dr. Batra. Having waded into the system, he decided to work hard. Post graduation, he chose to start out on his own instead of joining his father. “Unlike other professions, you can’t get a medi-

and give their time— completely free of cost. “We don’t even pay them for their transport for this. They have to do in their free time and at their own cost,” adds Dr. Batra. The idea is to teach them to give a little of their selves to society. In addition, the firm follows a

1 per cent formula. While the firm donates a per cent of its net profits, its employees and suppliers also donate a similar percentage of their salaries and contracts to charity through the Dr. Batra’s Foundation, which was set up nine years ago on the occasion of his 50th birthday. “As the company grows from one employee to a thousand, that much money comes back to the foundation and there is that much more to give. As we earn more profit, the bottom line increases, and we have that much more to give to charity,” he says.

cal practice as a legacy. Everybody wants his or her own doctor. You have to build the trust of people on your own merit,” he says. He joined a charitable clinic for a salary of 150 a month in 1974. “I would change three buses to reach my place of work. I used to get up at 4 in the morning to make my bed and wash the dishes because I couldn’t afford a servant. It was a very difficult time,” recalls the doctor, adding that he had not taken a single holiday during the nine years that he held the job, even if that meant wading through knee-high water, or walking into office sick. His perseverance paid. The number of people queuing up at the out-patient clinic soared from 25, when he took over, to 325. “I wanted to be at the bedside of a patient. I was offered the job of a lecturer in the homeopathy college that would have paid three times more. I turned that down, much to the disappointment of my father. I was very clear that I wanted to be a clinician and not an academician,” he adds. The geographical location of his clinic too helped. The upmarket Malabar Hill was home to film stars and politicians of those times. A chance meeting with Manoj Kumar led to several converts within the tinsel town and the acquisition of a celebrity status. “My association with Dr. Manmohan Singh’s family goes back 30 years, when he was the governor of RBI,” says Dr. Batra, rather matter-of-factly.

“It’s easy to build a brand, but difficult to sustain it. The biggest thing is not to become number 1, but to stay there for 10 years and still have no one around you.” 3 4   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

sweet pills of success

As he starting outgrowing the practice, the doctor heard the entrepreneurial clock ticking. He started looking for a place to rent. But there weren’t many believers of homeopathy in the eighties—and, most landlords balked at renting out to a homeopath who, they feared, would not be able to cough up a rent of 8,000 to 10,000. Thankfully, he was rescued by his neighbour, a famous paediatrician, whose assurances of timely payment of rent to another paediatrician led to a one-room space on Napeansea Road. “From one room, I took over the second, and then the third room,” recalls Dr. Batra. That lasted only a few years, since the landlord wanted the space back. It was a bolt out of the blue since Dr. Batra’s practice was thriving by then. The incident also made him realise the need for investing in his own space. He looked around and bought a 386 sq ft space at Chowpati in south Mumbai. Banks wouldn’t lend him money at that time since medicine wasn’t considered an entrepreneurial profession. “I was earning 25,000 a month in my practice, which was a lot of money in 1982 and among the highest any homeopath was earning in the country, not just in Mumbai. Even then, to move into this small place, I had to borrow money at 36 per cent—the rate at which money was available for financing a film. So, medicine was considered as risky as filmmaking,” he recalls. As Dr. Batra settled in, the patients’ list also grew to 300 per day. He realised that it would be difficult to sustain that pace. He could spend little time with a patient and, in most cases, couldn’t keep track of how the person fared after his treatment. And, that bothered him a lot. So, he roped in Lintas’ direct marketing arm to find out where homeopathy was making the most difference. Together, they worked for nearly 18 months, harvesting the data collected by Dr. Batra since 1982 to figure out the diseases that had been treated successfully in the past 15 years. “We narrowed down my treatment to 14 broad diseases—the conventional system of allopathy had little to offer in these diseases, while we could treat them well. So, I arrived at specialty practice in 1996,” recalls he. That was also the time his son was graduating as a homeopath. Although Dr. Batra wanted him to set up shop independently in Mumbai, he realised that the decision had an inherent flaw—comparisons between father and son would be inevitable, and also a possible hindrance. So he decided to settle his son in Bengaluru, where his brother, a builder, lived. “I couldn’t afford to buy him a

place in Mumbai. So I asked my brother to build one in Bengaluru. For a year, I spent every weekend doing up my son’s clinic—buying marble, taps and so on. I started practicing 20 days a month in Mumbai and the rest in Bengaluru. That whole experiment went so well that we had a higher turnover than a hospital in Bengaluru at that time,” recalls Dr. Batra. The seeds of a multi-city practice started to take root in his mind. So, when a doctor who had been with him for 10 years got married and decided to move to Baroda, he opened shop there. “There was never any internal marketing plan in the early stages. It was all unplanned,” he insists. At the start, the clinics outside of Mumbai acted more like “collection centres”—doctors trained under Dr. Batra in Mumbai would sit in those clinics and take case histories. Finally, it would be Dr. Batra who would drop by the clinic and prescribe medicines. “At one time, my state was such that Monday to Friday, I would practise in Bombay, and then, Saturday and Sunday I would be in some other city. I was working all seven days, except for planned holidays,” he recalls of his crazy schedule. That’s when he decided to corporatise the set-up. In 2001, Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic was formed. lthough most of his entrepreneurial journey has been more by chance than plan, Dr. Batra has left no stone unturned to make his operation an entirely professionally-run one. His sense of timing and instinctive approaches are as surprising as they are commendable. In the early eighties, when Rajiv Gandhi introduced India to computers, Dr. Batra bought one for a whopping 1.5 lakh to start keeping an electronic history of patient records. “I got a software program done that lasted me for 25 years till I got an ERP implemented,” he says. His beyond-the-box thinking also helped him get to this day’s model—practicing in specialty. “When I moved to specialties, my patient number tumbled from 365 a day to two a week. Nobody wanted to pay a homeopath for that kind of money, or pay up-front for an annual plan.” His gamble paid off when within a year’s time, his appointments were back to being booked for the next year. By then, he was omnipresent—from newspapers where he wrote columns on health issues, to his highly successful television show on “positive health” that he did despite predictions of it flop-

“What I really like about homeopathy is that it’s non-toxic and easy to administer, and has no side effects. There are no painful treatments.

I was really fascinated by that.”

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sweet pills of success

“A lot of my patients have been involved in my growth.

They have been a part of it, suggesting how I should go to the next level.”

ping badly. The first four episodes were, in fact, filmed at his own cost and shown to Zee TV’s Subhash Chandra, who liked it and agreed to run it on a profit-sharing basis. “My show aired with Shaimak Dawar’s at eight in the morning on Sundays. That show ran for three and a half years, and even went international. The Positive Health Show became a household name.” Years later, Dr. Batra undertook yet another market study. The study brought home the result that people were more attracted to his name, rather than the brand. Though flattering in a way, it also made him realise that fame was getting in the way of scaling up. So he made some quick changes. “I stopped writing articles and seeing patients. I had to make the organisation bigger than me,” he points out. His tenacity and focus on building the company is something that no one can accuse him of failing at. “There has been a huge change. It’s taken a very long time to achieve this,” he admits. Each of the 200 doctors among his 800-member staff has been trained extensively, including 500 hours of Continuous Medical Education (CME). “There are so many new diseases now that

didn’t exist when I was in college. Medicine is a part of the knowledge industry and if we don’t upgrade our knowledge, we will get outdated very easily. Such is the pace of change, even within diseases, that what was good for the patient 10 years ago might not even work now,” says Dr. Batra. Even now, a two-hour training programme is conducted every month by Dr. Batra. All training requirements of the company are looked into by an academician. Doctors are sent daily health quizzes and the company even sources international trainers to coach its staff. Top homeopaths with independent practices are also invited at times to share their knowledge. A complementary benefit of this continuous process of skill upgradation has been the low attrition rates among doctors, who know that it will be difficult to replicate this kind of training in a private practice. He has also leveraged technology in a way that few businesses in healthcare have. Even hospital chains do not have the kind of follow-up that Dr. Batra’s set-up has. “We have automated everything—from patient follow-up to pharmacy to cash collection. The

“There have been so many times when I didn’t get whatever I wanted. But I never let that bring down my positivity, or my strength. I have a lot of internal

strength and belief in myself.”

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entire patient life cycle is supported by technology,” says R.S. Rajan, chief technology officer of the firm. The three call centres in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru generate leads, and direct patients to the nearest clinic. The existing patients are allotted time slots, and their doctors informed in advance about the visit for preparation. Even the prescriptions are entered on the computer for the pharmacy, which keeps the medicines ready for the patient. The system is capable of sending reminders to patients about follow-up visits, and rescheduling, in case of a missed appointment. Outstation patients are given the choice to connect with one of the four doctors who are online round the clock, taking down the questions and helping arrange for the medicines. Those who fill an inquiry form online are sent an SMS informing them that a call centre agent will call them, who then books an appointment. “He has put patient records online, which allows access to them across the system. This continuity of care has given a lot of comfort to people,” says Technopak’s Mehta. Even his harshest critics will admit that such systems would be hard to find even in the conventional medicine space, forget alternative medicinal systems. Many of us know from experience how difficult it is to transfer records of a Delhi hospital to its counterpart in Chennai, or elsewhere. And, yet, Dr. Batra’s managed that. Within the organisation as well, Dr. Batra has put solid systems and processes in place. In the last 18 months alone, he has brought in professional managers for each of his businesses. There’s a FMCG hand for the products business, and a head for each of the important functions—HR, finance, and technology. Doctors are hired as much for their entrepreneurial bents as their skills with homeopathy. Though his son is increasingly getting involved in growing the business, Dr. Batra remains hands-on with the clinics business. Feedback forms from all clinics find their way to the head office, where at the press of a few keys, “CMD Sir” comes to know how many patients are satisfied or dissatisfied, and how were grievances handled. “He’s very IT savvy. He accesses all MIS from his mobile, no matter where in the world he is. He can see how many patients have come to a particular clinic, the collections made at a particular city, how many registrations, conversion rates, and even the feedback,” adds Rajan. Through all this automation, Dr. Batra has made sure that “patient satisfaction” remains central to the organisation’s functioning. “I understood very early on that we exist only to make people well. Our salaries come from them because that’s the only

business we have. If we don’t do well with them, we don’t do well at all,” explains he. oing by the ambitious plans of the company, the future definitely looks bright at Dr. Batra’s. The firm hopes to launch another 13 clinics by March next year, and close the fiscal with a turnover of 100 crore. Ninety per cent of its revenue comes from the clinics business, but it hopes to change that in the future. Although in its infancy right now, the products business, spun off as a separate company, is gearing up for a serious shot at the 10,000-crore market for skin and hair care products. At present, it’s selling its shampoo, hair oil and moisturising lotion through the clinics; in future, it intends to sell the cosmetic products through retail stores. “Products will help us grow further and faster,” says Hari Nair, chief operating officer of Dr. Batra’s Products. The firm has perfected its roll-out strategy for clinics such that every new clinic takes about 2 to 3 months to break even in terms of cash flows. “We get entire payback in a year,” says Madhav Agarwal, head, finance and accounts, “and, that helps us open newer clinics.” So, the plan to open 25 to 30 new clinics every year should be met easily. “We are a self-sufficient company in terms of capital,” adds Agarwal. Dr. Batra’s has not raised any capital externally, though it does have 10 crore in debt in terms of bank loans as of now. Its strategy of locking in patients through treatment plans and taking money upfront, which has many critics within the industry, has actually helped it remain cash positive. There’s a new business in the offing of hair transplant and cosmetic surgery, which will be called Dr. Batra’s Be Perfect. The firm’s hired four plastic surgeons who are being trained. Ask Dr. Batra if he’s moving away from his core business, and pat comes the reply: “It’s a good way to merge modern medical procedures with homeopathy. We’ll use homeopathy pre- and post operatively.” And the results are driving home. A survey done five years ago, covering seven cities, threw up some high scores. “It showed that more than 90 per cent of patients will never go to another brand. People trusted our brand as the highest in service healthcare, even ahead of Apollo hospitals,” says a pleased Dr. Batra. The only challenge for the time being seems to be finding people with an entrepreneurial zest. “We want more Dr. Batra’s—doctors who are good at homeopathy, and have an entrepreneurial drive,” says Dr. Santosh Bagwe, head, human resources. If only homeopathy had an answer to cloning.

“I work hard for whatever I want. And if I don’t get it, then I simply think

it’s not good for me.”

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  3 7

Smartphone applications aren’t just for fun and games anymore. An app can be a potent marketing tool. Here’s how an app can supercharge your business

App Time By Jason Del Rey

It’s hard to believe, but not so many years ago, it was easy to come across businesses that didn’t have websites. Today, of course, a website is something no company can live without. We are near the beginning of a similar cycle with the next game-changing technology: applications for smartphones. You may not think you need one now. But just wait: Before you know it, your app strategy will be a key component of your overall digital strategy. By the end of 2011, half of the cell phones in the U.S.—approximately 150 million devices—will be smartphones. By 2014, the smartphone-app market will total more than $40 billion. Sure, some of the most popular mobile apps are simple and addictive games like Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies. But a growing number are being created by entrepreneurs—such as those spotlighted on the pages that follow—who are using apps to find new customers, deepen relationships with existing ones, target people geographically, and even reinvent their business models. 3 8   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

phone: courtesy apple; screen: courtesy thrillist; martini: veer

1 As the founder of Thrillist, a New York City media company that prides itself on being an arbiter of all things cool, Ben Lerer knew his business needed to get into the newest “it” space—mobile apps. Thrillist’s core business consists of sending 2.5 million subscribers daily e-mails that highlight new bars, restaurants, and shops in 18 cities. An app, Lerer thought, would be a logical extension for the business. “We want to create as many opportunities as possible for our guys to interact with Thrillist,” he says. The initial question, as it is for most businesses, was, What to include? An ideal app would engage Thrillist subscribers when they were away from their computers and attract some new users as well. Lerer and the developers he hired also recognised that to stand out, the app would have to do more than solely reprint the daily e-mails in app form. “That would have been way too

Thrillist’s audience of busy young men is constantly on the go. Now, the company can be there with them

Thrillist’s iPhone app gives users shopping, drinking, and dining options based on where they are. Tap an icon, and up comes a review.

vanilla,” says Jesse Boyes, who oversaw the fourperson team that worked on Thrillist’s app. “We were looking to strike a balance of it being half-utilitarian and half-entertaining.” Lerer and his associates brainstormed possibilities for a few days. One idea was to design an entertaining app modelled after the Choose Your Own Adventure genre of books; the app would curate a night on the

town based on selections a user made on the app. For example, the app might instruct a user to enter a nearby bar and then choose between real-life actions like ordering a drink or approaching a single woman; based on the selection, more options would appear. But it became clear, rather quickly, that though the app may have been

amusing, it lacked a level of utility that Lerer sought. Lerer and Boyes shifted their attention to one of the most popular features on the iPhone: its built-in geolocating capability, which allows iPhone users to easily pinpoint their location on a map and allows apps to give users information based on their location. The group spent some time studying the mobile apps of other review sites, such as Yelp and Citysearch, both of whose apps were designed to capitalise on location. What it found was not surprising: Those sites contain reviews of all kinds of businesses, and their apps generally displayed just about all businesses near a given location on a map. Thrillist, on the other hand, differentiates itself by spotlighting only businesses of which it approves—about 150 a week across its markets. Its database had about 13,000 recommended businesses. Was that enough to power a useful app, Lerer wondered? He was tempted by the idea of having his editorial team write even more reviews to provide the breadth seen in other review apps. But it JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  3 9

app time

The touchscreen allows users to easily scroll to different parts of the city to view more businesses. The app also includes a few nonmap components, such as an index of recent reviews and a tab that marks a Thrillist subscriber’s favourite establishments. Just like the website, the app is constantly updated to reflect the latest reviews. An app designed for Android devices was set for release in November, and one for the iPad is also in the works; that software will focus on letting users organise and share reviews. Why the difference? “The iPad is not as much about location,” Lerer says. “It’s more about hanging out and browsing.”

The Platform Predicament

App designers have choice—Apple's iOS, RIM's BlackBerry OS, or Google's Android. That’s because the different devices each have their own operating systems. Until now, Apple was the obvious choice. But the others are beginning to catch up.

Number of apps Platform market share Percentage of users who have used at least one app













Sources: ComScore, 148Apps.biz, Google, RIM

4 0   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Put away the scissors: Celilo Group’s iPhone app gives consumers virtual coupons that can be redeemed without bothering with pesky slips of paper.


Nik Blosser’s coupon-book company needed a new business model. Can an iPhone app save the company?

You would be hard-pressed to find many adults who leave the house without a phone. For Nik Blosser, that’s at once promising and frightening. Blosser is the president of Portland, Oregon–based Celilo Group Media, which produces Chinook Books, print coupon books that contain discounts for hundreds of eco-friendly businesses in six cities. Sales of Chinook Books have steadily grown over the years, but Blosser is not blind to the fact that coupons available on smartphones are a lot more convenient than the print versions. In 2009, Blosser decided to address this looming threat to his business. After surveying customers to confirm the assumption that many owned an iPhone or iPod Touch, Blosser determined that Chi-

spread from left: phone: courtesy apple; screen: courtesy celilo group; scissors: veer; phone: courtesy apple; screen: courtesy promises; coffee: veer

didn’t take long to recognise that aggregating as many reviews as possible would pull Thrillist away from its core business. “Our strength is curating and filtering for a certain type of person,” Lerer says. “We decided we didn’t want to get into the game of creating new content specifically for the app. That focused us.” Lerer and Boyes decided that the app would focus on displaying Thrillis-approved businesses on a city map. The app, which cost about $50,000 to develop, debuted in June. Over the next four months, it registered about 160,000 downloads. Open the app, and a map appears with icons representing bars, restaurants, and retailers. Tap an icon, and up comes a review accompanied by a photo and, in some cases, video. Click on tabs labeled Eat, Drink, Shop, and More to search specific categories.

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nook Book needed an app if it was to remain relevant. Blosser turned to Small Society, a Portland-based firm that develops apps and helps clients create mobile strategies. Small Society’s president, Raven Zachary, ran Blosser and his team through a two-month-long, $15,000 process in which Zachary interviewed them about the intricacies of their business and then crafted a plan to address the two main challenges Blosser foresaw. First, the app needed to include technology that marked a coupon as used after it was redeemed. Second, the company had to find a way to avoid cutting out the schools and community organisations that sell the print Chinook Books. With Small Society’s assistance, Celilo settled on placing a Redeemed stamp over a coupon once the Redeem button is pressed. The team also agreed that the app would be free to download and browse, but customers would need to purchase a code to redeem coupons. A coupon code can be purchased through the app for $16; it comes free with the $20 print Chinook Book. (In the future, Chinook Book distributors will sell the print book and mobile coupon code separately. Celilo will also eventually charge merchants an additional fee if they want to be both in the print book and on the app.) Though Blosser was impressed with Small Society’s strategic consulting, he hired an experienced and well-regarded Russian team to develop the app. The company charged Celilo $20 an hour, which came to about $70,000. The entire app project cost about $200,000, including the expense of hiring a mobile design company, a freelance CTO to oversee the development, and Small Society’s consulting tab. “It’s a big number,” Blosser says, “but this is pretty core to our business.” The app launched in late September with coupons from 500 businesses in Seattle and Portland. So far, partnering businesses have been excited to experiment with the new technology. “We were interested right away,” says Michele Mather, marketing manager for Burgerville, a restaurant chain with coupons in the Chinook Book app. “Mobile coupons are becoming more and more popular, and they’re a convenience for our guests.” Coupons are displayed on the app in three ways: via

a map that marks the location of the business offering the deal; in list form, organised by proximity to the user’s location; and by category, in alphabetical order. Each coupon appears with a white background and the company name at the top with a description of the deal. When the Redeem button is pressed, an alert appears to ask the user whether the merchant is ready to view the activation of the coupon. When the user presses Yes, an animation is displayed, signaling redemption of the coupon. In its first three weeks in Apple’s App Store, the app was downloaded more than 2,200 times; about 550 coupons were redeemed. “Print coupons will be rare in 10 years,” Blosser says. “And mobile could be our whole business in as soon as five.”


Promises Treatment Centres relies on strong word of mouth and a sterling reputation. The right app, it learned, can generate both

Promises’s app includes a tool that lets patients keep track of their moods and urges, which helps prevent relapses.

Promises Treatment Centers’s business consists of

providing alcohol and drug rehabilitation programmes in cushy and picturesque settings that attract celebrities (Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan reportedly have checked in) and other big

spenders who can dish out as much as $2,000 a day for treatment. Yet despite the glitz, Promises’s success depends on helping patients avoid relapses when they go home. The company’s two Los Angeles area centres get about 60 per cent of their business from referrals from mental health professionals, former clients, and staff. After all, the centres— which treat about 350 people a year—can’t count on much repeat business (assuming they do their job right). Enter the iPhone, a device that a great number of Promises’s patients own and something that is always nearby when they venture into postrehab JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  41

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living. Why not, wondered David Sack, CEO of Promises’s parent company, Elements Behavioral Health, develop an iPhone app to help Promises’s patients, and others in recovery, battle the urges to relapse—and generate some buzz and goodwill for Promises at the same time? “Our clients tend to be early adopters,” Sack says, “and we had a tool that we weren’t using.” Last spring, Sack and his vice president of internet marketing,Vera Appleyard, got to work. After brainstorming different features, they decided to use the app to address two critical challenges faced by people in recovery. First, research has shown that alcoholism affects prospective memory, or the ability to remember to perform specific tasks. Withdrawal only exacerbates this condition. So the app’s developers designed a calendar to help users keep track of their meetings with 12-step groups. They can share those meetings’ times and locations with other app users and import meeting information from others. (An alert that notifies users of upcoming meetings is expected in an updated version.) Users can also scroll through a directory of regional 12-step organisations and with one finger tap call to get up-to-date times and dates of meetings. “At Promises, we take them to meetings every

4 2   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Before you spend a dime on an app, take these four steps Create a mobile version of your website. This isn’t an app, but it will come in handy when you build one. A mobile site will give you a presence on all smartphones, regardless of operating system, and provide valuable insights into how people interact with your brand and content on a mobile device. Think small. Just as phones are not computers, apps are not websites. The best apps are elegant and easy to use, and perform one or two core functions that make users’ lives simpler, better, or more fun. Remember: Smartphone apps are designed to perform on screens no bigger than the palm of your hand.

night, so they become familiar with those in the L.A. area,” Sack says. “But half of our patients are from outside California. When they leave, they are starting from scratch again.” Promises would have preferred to provide meeting locations and times. But no central database of 12-step meetings exists—and Promises

Decide on one or two key features to include in your app. “Companies have far more ideas than can possibly fit well in the context of a single app,” says Raven Zachary of app developer Small Society. “Successful apps tend to have a real core function.” Browse the various app stores for similar apps and read the user reviews. Apple’s iTunes and Black­Berry’s App World webpage make browsing and searching apps by keywords rather easy. Google’s Android Market webpage, however, does not include a search function (though one is in the works). AndroLib.com and AppBrain.com can be used until Google improves its app webpage.

decided that creating one would have been too onerous. The second goal was to address one of the toughest challenges of recovery: developing the self-awareness to recognise the feelings or situations that are most

likely to trigger the desire to drink or get high. The app’s Visual Journal tab includes a tool that lets users track their moods, challenges, and accomplishments. Appleyard understood from her own experience that the more she has to type, the less frequently she uses an app. So she created a library of 43 icons that can be selected with one tap of the finger. Two clenched fists, for example, symbolise frustration, while a blue smiling face represents contentment. “Recovery is about staying in the moment,” Appleyard says, “so having something available to you at all times is critical. The immediacy is really important.” Released in June, the iPromises Recovery Companion is free, and though it doesn’t generate revenue for the company, it is aimed at bolstering Promises’s reputation among patients and doctors. About 4,000 people have downloaded the app. “We didn’t expect it to be at the top of iTunes, because it’s for a very, very niche audience,” Appleyard says. “But we’re happy with initial adoption.” The company plans to increase that number by partnering with a popular recovery community social network on a contest to find the best feature to include in the app’s next iteration. The prize for the winner? An iPad.

If its iPhone app is any indication,

If laughter is the best medicine—for people and businesses— then HeadBlade’s new app is just what the doctor ordered

HeadBlade cares as much about making people laugh as about moving merchandise. But if that app, which lets users see what they would look like with shaved heads, is generating chuckles, it is also creating something you can’t put a price tag on: buzz. HeadBlade, based in Culver City, California, makes specialty razors designed for head shaving. The company generally markets via athlete endorsements and magazine ads. A few years ago, Todd Greene, the company’s CEO, came across OfficeMax’s popular Elf Yourself holiday campaign, which allowed people to upload photos and turn themselves and their friends into animated elves. Greene wanted to do something similar for HeadBlade, but he wasn’t sure what—until Apple’s App Store opened in July 2008. Then it became clear: HeadBlade needed a head-shaving mobile app. “It was about creating new consumer awareness,” Greene says. “Any current customer really wouldn’t have a need for this app.” Lacking the tech chops to build the software in-house, Greene turned to a development shop. “I knew what I was asking for wasn’t that tough technologically,” Greene says, “but I didn’t want to have to pay someone to re-create the wheel.” With that in mind, Greene hired Styler Design, maker of the popular iStylist Makeover app, given that the company was experienced in the image-layering technology needed to produce a realistic head-shaving app. Six months

and $30,000 later, ShaveMyHead was born. The app lets users import photos, crop their hair, and then select one of more than a dozen bald domes. Users can also choose from an array of facial hair options, as well as eyewear and headwear. Skin color is adjusted by scrolling across a palette. When a new photo is saved, I got shaved Have you ever wondered by HeadBlade what you appears at the botwould look like tom of the image. bald? The app does a Join the crowd: pretty decent job HeadBlade’s app is downof approximating loaded 1,000 what you might times a week. look like with a shaved head. But that was never really the point. The idea was to build brand awareness by inciting laughter. That’s the main reason the app is free and includes a screen that lets users share their photos via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. “For the money, we could have done a couple of magazine ads instead,” Greene says, “but this is just much more engaging.” The app averaged 1,000 downloads a week in the two months following its August launch. During that time, the company’s website saw a modest boost in traffic; most of the new visitors came via Facebook, where they had seen their friends’ hairless domes. Greene hopes to break the 100,000-download mark within a year. But he also isn’t concerned about measuring a direct return on the app’s investJANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  4 3

spread from left: phone: courtesy apple; screen: courtesy headblade; egg: veer; coins: getty


app time

app time

to charge, or not to charge? It may be tempting to charge for an app, but take note of the industry’s conventional wisdom on the matter: “Apps are either free or fantastic,” says William Clark, research vice president for Gartner. Unless your app is unbelievably novel or incredibly useful, it’s very difficult to get customers to reach for their wallets. About two-thirds of the apps in Apple’s App Store are free or sell for 99 cents, and more than a third of all paid apps are either games or books. Perhaps that explains why none of the four businesses featured in this story charge customers to download their apps. Thrillist considers the app an extension of its existing service, which is also free to users. Instead, Thrillist makes money on its iPhone app the same way it does on its email newsletters—by selling ad space. Similarly, HeadBlade, which designed its app largely to raise brand awareness, avoids charging because a price tag kills any chance of explosive, viral growth. “We could probably charge 99 cents,” says Todd Greene, HeadBlade’s CEO. “But then we’re already putting up a barrier”. By putting a price tag on your app, keep in mind that Apple, Google, and RIM take 30 per cent of all app sales.

ment: “Here’s the beautiful thing about owning your own company: You can make decisions you know aren’t going to make you money in the short run because you don’t have to answer to anyone, and you know for the good of the company, you should do it.” Download numbers should get a boost from print ads mentioning the app that HeadBlade is running in national basketball and mixed martial arts magazines. The company also plans to expand its partnership with the charity St. Baldrick’s, which encourages supporters to shave their heads to show solidarity with young cancer patients. With ShaveMyHead, supporters who don’t want to really shave their heads will be able to shave virtually. “This is just a real fun app, because people love joking about shaving their heads or being bald,” Greene says. “It also gets our name out there, and if one out of 100 people who use the app say, ‘I should go with a shaved head,’ that’s a bonus.” Jason Del Rey is Inc.’s senior reporter.


An Emotional Bond Deven Chachra has tears in his eyes at the first show of every new screen his company starts.

4 6   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

e h t y g B u B n e r t e t i t B kbus c o Bl

a inemby c e in th dream es. e i v a mocelluloid ultiplex h d e atch is own ain of m asi Sing ul w e a e h ipted h to a ch rey bhojit P T h m i S t u NIL b y s by S ry he scr am in e BY A v G h e p N y I ra IMAG star s later, sed Sat tog a Pho e r k elt limily. YeaDelhi-ba f a r hachby his fa venting C n rein Deve owned As an eight-year-old boy, Deven Chachra couldn’t believe his luck when his father, a thriving garment exporter, bought a cinema hall in New Delhi’s bustling East Patel Nagar in 1980. “I can’t tell you what the recognition was like at school,” recalls the 38-year-old managing director of Satyam Cineplexes. “We had a 26-seater proprietor’s box, and would get non-vegetarian food from outside, and stink up the place.” Though his parents packed him off to the United States for high school and subsequently a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Wharton Business School, Chachra remained a steadfast movie buff. That passion has taken Satyam from being a standalone hall in a west Delhi neighbourhood to a 20-screen multiplex chain across Delhi, Indore and Jodhpur. The chain is looking to close the current fiscal with a turnover of 65 crore. In 1994, when he returned home from the US, Chachra brought back in his

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  47

Bitten By the Blockbuster Bug

suitcase ambitious plans of converting the family-owned single UK. Everything was, and is still, imported—carpets, box office, screen theatre into an American style multiplex. The family’s gar- speakers, even the poster boxes,” says his father proudly. ment business didn’t excite him much—with clients like Macy’s, Getting the consumer to appreciate these frills or even underSears and Wal Mart, the export unit gave him little to do. stand what a multiplex meant was a rough ride, though. “It took two However, Satyam was another story altogether. Chachra years. People wanted to buy one ticket and watch all the movies,” realised that the Satyam site, essentially a risk-diversification recalls Chachra. “I’d stand at the ticket counter and be amazed.” investment for the family, offered tremendous opportunities. But, Like most cinematic gems, effusive word-of-mouth publicity getting everybody on board was no clap shot. “Our distributors ensured Satyam’s multiplex debut was a super hit. Quick on that were discouraging. None of us understood the multiplex busisuccess, Satyam opened its Janak Place site in 2004. “JP” as it is ness,” says Subash Chachra, his father, and chairman of the group. called internally, now does more than 10 lakh admissions annu“Had we listened to him, then he would have been the first ally, making it one of India’s busiest multiplexes. Satyam’s third person to start the multiplex business in India,” rues Chachra property in the capital, in the upmarket Nehru Place, came up in senior, clearly hinting at competitor PVR’s first mover advantage 2007. In Delhi, Satyam contributes to 15 per cent of all ticket sales with PVR Saket in 1997. from multiplexes. Together, the Nehru Place and Patel Nagar sites Barely 23 years old then, Chachra had to make do with renoadmit a whopping 1.45 million admissions every year. vating Satyam in 1996. He brought in plush seating, fancy foyers, But, the big thrills are still up ahead. By March next year, crunchy snacks and better audio equipment. But, the changes Satyam Cineplexes will have 39 screens in operation. And, by the transcended the cosmetic. For two years, Satyam released only end of 2011, the Chachras are targeting 60 screens. Most of this Hollywood pictures. “People told us that we were crazy. Nobody expansion will come from tier-II and tier-III cities. “We are openthought there was a market for English movies in Punjabi-domiing Rohtak’s first multiplex in February. Mysore comes up soon nated west Delhi,” he says. “I found that preposterous.” after,” says the son. This rapid growth is expected to lead them to a His contrarian view worked, and how. Satyam played the turnover of 150 crore in the next fiscal. blockbuster Titanic for 26 weeks, nearly 14 of them to packed In 2009, Satyam raised 50 crore from IFCI for an undisclosed houses through 1996-97. “We had the second highest share of equity share to fund its plans. While IFCI is confident of “outticket revenue in India for that movie,” says he, proudly. Other standing” returns, they know merely time-bound project compleHollywood hits like Independence Day also rocked Satyam’s box tions will not lead to a blockbuster box office. “Along with setting office in those years. up infrastructure, Satyam will have to move fast in giving thrust Buoyed by this success, Satyam finally decided to script its to occupancy across its multiplex sites, too,” says Rajeev Mukhija, multiplex story in 1999. Again, Chachra went against convengeneral manager, IFCI. tional wisdom. He razed the Patel Nagar site to ground to conSatyam has been successful in playing around with the revestruct a four-screen multiplex. Satyam enjoyed a brisk 68 per cent nue model to reduce dependence on footfall. Industry averages occupancy rate then. “To forego that seemed ridiculous. But, we suggest that ticket sales amount to 60 per cent of a multiplex’s turnover. Another 25 per cent had to bite the bullet,” he explains. comes from refreshments and 15 Converting a single screen into per cent from advertising. But, a multiplex was the only option ticket sales account for just about available to the other players in We owned the site. half of Satyam’s turnover. Adverthe game then. “We owned this We didn’t want tising brings in another 25 per site. So, we could experiment. We to compromise cent. “We are very gung-ho about didn’t want to compromise within within the four marketing,” says he. This mix four existing walls. That was a existing walls. helps them ride over “flop” weeks. sorry way to set up multiplexes. In fact, 50 per cent of Satyam’s Our screens were double the size revenue comes from top 20 films. of others,” he asserts. The only “Our focus is on profitability. It’s thing old that survived was the not about multi-crore turnover Satyam brand name. “We just plans,” adds Chachra. transformed the business.” To grow, the Chachras have In 2002, when Satyam finally been compelled to make critical launched its multiplex avatar, it changes to the business model as offered several firsts, like stadium well. Satyam is unique in the fact seating and interlocking. Few peothat it owns all its Delhi properties. ple had heard of such concepts then. They bought the Nehru Place site “He was very particular about for 22 crore. But, though the three quality. He hired architects from

That was a sorry way to set up multiplexes. Our screens were double the size of others.

4 8   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

courtesy company

strategically-located sites are like gold mines now due to a surge in real estate prices, Chachra confesses that this strategy slowed their growth. So, they have now gone the rent and lease way. “Getting the right location at the right price is the biggest uphill battle now. Location, location and location, is the key to this business,” says he. In fact, it’s the only business problem father and son thrash out at the breakfast table. “We have missed out on a few sites like Dehradun in the past,” says Chachra senior, who sold off his garment export business a couple of months back, and now devotes time to the multiplex business. “We did fall behind some of the other players. We won’t let that happen now,” he asserts. This growth thrust was planned for 2008, but the recessions pushed back plans. “Deven’s not stopping anywhere now.” Several exhibitors like PVR and Big Cinemas might have forayed into production, but Chachra isn’t interested in diversifying yet. There are chains in the US which run over 2,500 screens, he says. According to a FICCI-KPMG report, the penetration of multiplexes in India is likely to go up from 850 screens in 2009 to 1,405 screens by 2013. This year, industry observers estimate, major players like PVR, Fame, Big Cinemas and INOX, invested nearly 400 crore in adding 150-200 screens. It’s too early to talk acquisition and consolidation. “The critical mass is at least 300 screens for us. We are focused on creating band and brand width right now,” says Chachra. With the first round of capital deployed, the company is closing a second round “as we speak”, he tells us. An IPO is in the offing—hopefully by 2012. “Satyam plans to invest 60 crore to 70 crore every year for the next two to three years. The amount will be raised through private equity, internal accruals and debt.” Chachra also has a few brand-defining aces up his sleeve like an ambitious 11-screen multiplex in Bengaluru expected to come up in 2012, which will introduce bean bag seating for the first time in India. “It’s a phenomenal concept. It’s almost a bean bed, you can lie down. Can’t think of a better way to watch a movie,” he gushes excitedly. Says Jayendra Banerji, vice president, operations, Satyam Cineplexes: “His huge network of friends from the multiplex industry abroad is very useful. Since the business is nascent here, it’s great to get a perspective from outside.” To stay on top of new trends, Chachra goes to a multiplex in every city of the world he finds himself in, whether on holiday or work. “This is my life,” he says simply. The chain’s growth spurt isn’t without pain, of course. In many smaller towns, committed talent that understands the demands of modern retail is hard to come by, says Banerji. “We look for the right attitude and then put them through exhaustive training,” adds he. Chachra personally vets every recruit. That is a necessary focus, says IFCI’s Mukhija. “The exhibition industry needs to evolve itself as a hospitality business,” he explains. In crowded, over-screened markets, exhibitors who succeed in positioning outlets as customer-centric best value players will have an advantage, Mukhija adds. “Our hot dogs are a big hit.

Tinsel Town Trivia Q: Which is the one movie from before you entered the exhibition business that you wished you could release in your cinemas? Ben Hur Q: If you had to make a movie, which one would it be? Godfather Q: What’s the genre that works for you as a viewer? Thriller Q: If you could employ a director to make movies

only for Satyam, who would it be? Ridley Scott Q: Which has been your most disappointing release? Kites Q: Which movie’s release are you most looking forward to? Farah Khan’s Tees Mar Khan Q: If you could have a superstar endorse your brand, who would you pick? Al Pacino

But, we don’t serve them in Jodhpur, our new multiplex. We don’t want to disregard local tastes,” elaborates Banerji. The first mover advantage in new tier-II or tier-III centres is often invaluable. Indore was Satyam’s first site outside Delhi. “Occupancy levels were low. In retrospect, it never made sense to enter a market which already had four to five players,” says Chachra. Business models must be localised, adds Mukhija. Ticket prices in a non-metro have to be significantly lower, but there are few things in a multiplex that you can really “penny pinch” on. It’s a challenge to bring prices down. “Most things like acoustics, carpets, branding are fixed costs,” explains Chachra. In any case, differentiating markets on the basis of quality is myopic, he says. “When you are the first entrant, you should lock yourself into such a formidable position that competition is forced to say ‘what next’.” He laughs off notions of “low cost”, “people model” cinemas. “Ours is an aspirational product. We can’t dilute the brand by going cheap.” The arc lights, glitzy posters and movie masala gives the business a glamorous sheen, but it’s a blood and sweat game, says Chachra. “The actual physical exposure keeps me up at night,” he confesses. Each new screen is an investment of 2 crore to 2.5 crore. “I am a meticulous planner. In the construction phase, I even micro-manage. It needs to be perfect.” Every week, he pores over fresh batches of photographs from sites under construction. “I have tears in my eyes at the first show of every new screen.” The emotional bond is non-negotiable in a business that can’t be analysed on the basis of hard logic, he adds. “We get 3 to 4 per cent profit after tax. That’s nothing. You can’t do this, if you don’t love it.” Clearly, some childhood romances have enough of a story in them to last a lifetime. JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  49


DIARIES Tracking radical ideas from different cities

January 01-2011 elhi. A new avatar of online book D stores. Order books on phone and pay on delivery. Can this business model set the cash registers ringing? yderabad. After a five-month sell, an H IT firm bites the bait and rides in sync. If only more companies would do so...

Mayank Dhingra loved books. So, when his entrepreneurial cravings got the better of his geeky side, he started Dial-A-Book. His four-month-old company uses the pizza delivery model for books—dial a number, place an order and pay in cash. With deliveries across 26 cities, Dhingra sure is on a roll.

Delhi: Dial-A-Book Books seem like an unlikely business in these times of Kindle and e-readers. More so for Mayank Dhingra, who, in the five years since his graduation from Delhi College of Engineering, has worked in three companies and is now on his second entrepreneurial outing with Dial-A-Book, which is—what else? —a book order company. “I have found my niche now. This has sustained my interest,” he says confidently about the company he co-founded with younger brother Tarang in September 2009. Their idea is simple. The brothers want to make ordering books as effortless as ordering a pizza. So say, you want to read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, you phone the Dhingras, or text them, and it is home delivered. Dial-A-Book collects cash on delivery, just like your neighbourhood takeout joint. No internet pin numbers, or credit card verifications. “Many people are uncomfortable making internet transactions,” says Mayank. “There are others who don’t use the computer. Dial-A-Book is perfect for them.” It also critically differentiates them from biggies like FlipKart or Amazon, opening up a market that these portals might not always be able to access. In South Delhi where they have now taken up a small office space, Mayank says they have made deliveries within hours. “If we have it in stock and the customer lives close by, it’s easy to rush a book.” Mayank, Tarang or one of their five full-time employees make deliveries in New Delhi. They maintain “tiny” stocks of books at their two offices in Rohini and Shahpur Jat. They also deliver by courier to 26 other cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad and Bengaluru. Here, the courier companies collect payments. 5 0   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

As a college student, and after, Mayank often toyed with idea of furthering his love for books beyond just reading them. “I thought of a book cafe or a bar.” But, his engineering degree led him to a campus placement at Fidelity Investments where he coded software programme for a year-and-a-half. While there, he met the founder of SlideShare. “It was the perfect start-up. We worked in this amazing basement office.” While at SlideShare for a year, Mayank’s entrepreneurial cravings became stronger. “I got hooked to the social media, exploring how it could create brands. We had to promote SlideShare. It was looking at the whole picture, not just technology,” recalls Mayank excitedly. Intense conversations with two colleagues he met at SlideShare soon developed into a product idea they called Kwippy, which aggregated and archived G-talk messages as a tool. It was voted a hot start-up and got some great blog reviews. “But, things didn’t work out somehow. We left it soon,” he says simply. By then, he had as they say, tasted blood. Though he joined mPower, an American mobile transaction firm, he quit within a year to decide what he really wanted to do. An avid blogger and tweeter, he ran an informal survey on his Twitter handle to find out how people bought books. “I knew my own venture had to be around books.” He was surprised by the survey findings. “People told us getting books home delivered had definite value. Not everyone enjoys hunting for them in stores. Ease of purchase was a definite issue,” says he. There are also the advantages of being able to source an unusual book, not easily available. And, while fancy bookstore might not pass on wholesale discounts, his lean operation can. Online bookstores came up for flak, he says. “Many of them

start-up diaries

The Bibliophile’s Hotline Mayank Dhingra wants to make buying books as effortless as ordering pizza.

Photograph by Subhojit Paul

JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  51

start-up diaries

turned, or most likely will, into full fledged e-commerce stores. The market for a service exclusively for books seemed apparent. We’ll never sell movies or mobile phones on Dial-a-Book,” he asserts. Armed with this market research, Mayank got to work, tying up with suppliers, and getting stickers and pamphlets printed. The initial investment “couldn’t have been more than 50,000.” Coming from a service family, that was a key consideration. “My parents work in Bank of Baroda. I wanted a business with low investment. We don’t have access to capital.” Mayank roped in Tarang, who wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after his graduation from Delhi University. “It was also a great way for us to spend time together.” Their first order came from a friend with whom Mayank was discussing the idea. Within a few days, a second order trickled in. Since then, their story has developed much like a bestselling page turner. “We do an average 500 to 700 deliveries per month,” says the 28-year-old proudly. Dial-A-Book broke even within four months. By June 2011, they expect a monthly turnover of 5 lakh. He is also looking to expand to Mumbai because “the home delivery culture is so well entrenched there.” Innovative ways of generating demand takes up most of


Mayank’s mind space right now. Facebook, where Dial-a-Book has amassed 17,000 fans, has been a boon, he says. The brothers have also tied-up with Campfire Publishers, Vimanika, Inkblots and Manta Ray comics. Though a problem initially, tying up with suppliers isn’t something the outfit worries about. “Supply is secondary. Demand is foremost,” says the older sibling. This isn’t just about numbers for this bibliophile, though. “I am okay not being the biggest company in the world. We just want to create a niche.” Dial-A-Book wants to build a community of books, host book events and readings. It’s the joy of bringing books and people together that drives Mayank. And, he’s willing to do anything to find a book. A client was frantically looking for Antony Beever’s Stalingrad which wasn’t available in India. “I told a few of my friends abroad to keep a look out for it. A friend in Belgium picked it up from a local bookstore. It was their last copy,” he recounts. Now, they maintain a list of books that aren’t available in the market and hunt for them continually. Mayank and Tarang trawl through Nai Sarak regularly to unearth gems as well. That’s the biggest high in this business. “When somebody manages to find a book they haven’t for years, it’s amazing.”

On how the earlier entrepreneurs are faring on start-up land, as they build their dream companies

Hyderabad: RideNSync It’s companies like RideNSync that make chronicling start-ups so exciting. When we first profiled this Hyderabadbased firm in January, the venture was essentially powered by the idea of cab pooling to and from Hyderabad International Airport. Commuters could log on to its web platform, check who else was heading to the airport, and split a cab. A year on, the company has set itself on a somewhat different journey. “We still honour requests that flow in. People still use it. But, we don’t push it actively,” begins Deepesh Agarwal, RideNSync’s CEO. Now, Agarwal and his team focus com5 2   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

pletely on enterprise sales of their product, SyncToWork. A sophisticated transport management solution, it is aimed at helping corporates reduce their employee cab costs—sometimes by more than 15 per cent. However, the route planning and optimisation software has seen slow adoption. After five months of hard-sell, it has finally got a client on board—an IT company that has deployed the solution for its 120-people Bengaluru office. “Their transportation cost has come down by 11 per cent. It’s had other major advantages. Employees are happy because pick-up routes are shorter and there is

more transparency with the vendors,” says Agarwal. For SyncToWork, this has been a critical development. Because its offering is sophisticated, many companies have shown an “extremely encouraging” response, but have preferred to wait for others to test the software out. “If I am selling purified water, I should be judged on the quality of my water, its cost and packaging. However, the big companies are more interested in knowing how many employees it has taken me to do this. I just don’t understand why,” says an exasperated Agarwal.

start-up diaries

Strength in Numbers Deepesh Agarwal (second from right) is confident that RideNSync will find takers for its corporate solution because he has the ‘the best team in the country’. His colleagues, Abhishek Srivastava (left) and Akash Maheshwari (second from left) are engineers from IIT with more than 10 years of experience.

That hasn’t taken the fuel out of his determination, though. “Entrepreneurship is a game of patience. In the business of enterprise sales, that is the nature of the sales cycle,” he adds, admitting in the same breath that client conversion is an issue. What keeps the momentum going is the positive client response. “You have to be hopelessly hopeful,” he chuckles. According to Agarwal, he needs five clients on board to mitigate the “newness” risk. So, that’s what he and his seven-member team will focus on this year. He’s confident that will happen. “We have seen traction. Our product is a category changer. Approvals and processes take time,” he justifies. Much of this assuredness stems from Agarwal’s confidence in his team. He claims he has “the best team in the country”. There’s little to argue on that. In an

age where even giants like IBM have to fight for talent, RideNSync has attracted IIT and NIT engineers. Its two senior managers, Akash Maheshwari and Abhishek Srivastava, are IITians with more than 10 years of experience in companies such as Microsoft, Google and Persistent Systems. Having reached “operational break even”, RideNSync, which has been incubated by Indian School of Business’s entrepreneurship centre, now wants to seek funding soon. Agarwal affirms that his original idea of individual, user-generated cab pooling has only been put aside for now, not forgotten. “Yes, the platform did not result in money for us. But, it was not a failure. It’s given us a lot of credibility,” he says. His second client, a company based in Singapore, came on board because of that.

“RideNSync requires a lot of upfront investment. Once our revenues are steady, we will come back to it,” he adds, though he admits that’s not on his radar for “at least the next six months.” Despite the bumps en route, Agarwal, who co-founded RideNSync with an ISB batch mate in April 2009, wouldn’t trade the last year for anything. “Unless I make this into a 100 crore company, I will not stop,” says the 32-year-old passionately. “If I wanted to call it quits, I would have done that on the first day. That would have been the easiest thing to do.” For somebody who promises his clients the shortest, most efficient commute, he has clearly set out for himself a long, slowmoving, and often, arduous route. And, red lights won’t stop him. “We have seen light at the end of the tunnel now. I know where I am going.” JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  5 3

how i did it

U.K. Gupta Holostik India A tale of many firsts

I was born and brought up in Dhampur in Uttar Pradesh. My

father was a freedom fighter, who turned to business—instead of politics—once India became free. I am one of four boys.

I did my graduation and postgraduation in management from the Benares Hindu University in 1977. Post that, my father decided that I should not join the family business. He thought it best that I start a venture of my own, so that the cyclical ups and downs of one business did not affect the overall fortune of the family. So, I moved to Delhi to join my brother, who was studying to be a doctor. My father gave me 2 lakh to help me start up. I collected information on industries that I could get into. There were reports from government departments that were freely available. I was looking for industries that were village-based. IPCL was starting a new plant and getting into polymers. So, I decided to start a venture under its seed programme to manufacture polypropelene, which was a new product then. My small-scale project was inaugurated in the winter of 1978. Over the next few years, I decided to build businesses that are not

related to each other. That way, if recession axed one, the other would not sink as well. It was a kind of insulation against bad times. So, I started a number of businesses, from manufacturing plastic bags, to sulphur grinding and water storage tanks.

I started each of these businesses with limited capital and knowl-

edge. I firmly believe that no business can fail, if you work hard and with passion.

5 4   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

U.K. Gupta has tried his hand at many businesses—from plastic bags and water tanks to steel warehousing and real estate. But his most famous achievement has been to the hologram industry in India. Not only did he introduce the technology to firms in the country through Holostik India, his nearly twodecade old company, but he also encouraged localisation in the form of locally-made machines and raw material. With seven companies and 800 people in the group, and his two sons shouldering the burden of the 82 crore business, Gupta is now looking forward to hitting 300 crore in turnover—and getting a public listing in the next three years.

As told to Pooja Kothari photograph by Subhojit Paul

Colour Of Money UK Gupta went for a colourful bargain with the hologram business.

how i did it

It was in 1991 that I came across holography. I was at an exhibition, and saw a machine that was being fed polythene and something shiny was coming out. I thought that could be quite an attractive packaging material. I hadn’t come across holography for brand protection. I didn’t have much knowledge about the field, but I was excited at the prospect of starting something that was the first in the country. So, we placed an order for that machine. It was only in the coming months that I was to realise how expensive a product a hologram is. Mastering, which involves creation of plates for embossing, is the most important part of the process of creating a hologram. This process cost about $8,000 to $9,000 per plate. On top of that, I had to source a ‘master’

from the United States. Since people didn’t want to sell directly to India, I had to ask a relative of mine there to buy them for me. It was a difficult time for the company. We didn’t have the technology. People abroad didn’t want to work with companies in India, and no one wanted to buy such an expensive product to pack their goods.

“Whatever technology we brought in, others followed suit. I feel proud that I have a big hand in creating the holographic industry in India.” Seshan knew many companies abroad, but found their price too high at 1.50 per hologram. We approached him and offered to do this at 50 paise a piece. He approved the use of holograms on voter IDs, but not before telling me: ‘If you fail in supplies, I’ll put you behind bars. Accept this challenge, and I’ll give you the order’.

the IDs of 18 states in India. That was a huge turnaround for us. Once it reached the public, and they realised what a hologram is, we started being approached by those from industry. We were accepted as a solution for brand protection.

We have six companies in the group, but I remain hands-on with the hologram business. It needs me to be so. We have to upgrade technology frequently, for which, I have to travel all over the world to look at the latest developments. I especially keep an eye on which technology is going to China—and stay clear of that. I source those that have either not reached China yet, or will take a long time going there.

The second big project for us was the

I have always kept a difference between

We did. And, we supplied holograms for

office stationery, such as carbon papers, got in touch with us. It was he who taught us that a hologram is used for brand protection, not as decorative paper. He was using holograms on the inks and toners he was supplying for photocopying machines. And importing a hologram was very costly.

excise departments of state governments. They used our product to keep an eye on revenue from liquor production in their states. For every state, excise revenue from liquor industry is the highest. But there is a lot of theft as well. So, we introduced holograms with a unique serial number for each unit. Manufacturers are supposed to use a hologram on the neck and cap of every bottle they sell. Once the bottle is opened, the hologram is destroyed and cannot be reused. The excise department collects duty from manufacturers based on the number of holograms used by them. We even provide them different colours for different types of liquor.

Our big break came at the beginning of this decade. TN Seshan was introducing voter identity cards (IDs) into the country, and looking for a way to avoid duplication. It is quite difficult to duplicate a hologram—and even then, you cannot achieve its exact replica. A 100 countries use holograms in their currency notes.

Since then, we’ve come a long way in not just building the business, but in giving shape to the industry in India. We started the Indian Association of Hologram Manufacturers and invited others to it. We’ve been at the forefront of all innovations, whether in technology or in business practices. I promoted many machine

But, then, that is what it means to be an entrepreneur. You have to welcome difficulties and challenges. That’s a basic quality of entrepreneurs. In 1993, the owner of Kores, the makers of

5 6   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

manufacturers in India and helped them make holographic machines locally. We helped kick off the registry of hologram images, so that no one creates the same product, even by mistake.

me and the next player. Whatever technology we brought in, others followed suit. It gives me immense satisfaction to know that we have introduced new technologies and products. I am known as the first one in each and every field that I have started a business in India. I feel proud that I have a big hand in creating the holographic industry in India.

The future looks good. We are working to introduce holograms in a big way in the pharmaceutical industry. My own business group is working on developing a roadmap for the coming years. Our ambition is to become a listed company in the next two years and to achieve a turnover of 300 crore, or more—for it is only then that we can get listed. Personally, my ambition, apart from busi-

ness, is to set up an old age home—a good quality four- or five-star facility that runs on a no-profit-no-loss basis. Hopefully, that will be another first in its field.

Going Global The challenges of international e-commerce this page Sales & Marketing How can 10on10 make its maths worksheets appeal to more parents? page 59 Elevator Pitch Fizzy Goblet sells hand-painted shoes. Can it raise 50 lakh? page 60 Leadership Getting employees to embrace your vision page 62

Ask the Expert Srikant Sastri of VivaKi answers some tough questions on marketing page 63

The Way I Work

Rajat Tuli's day is spent thinking up ideas that will make people laugh. page 64

strategy Going Global Clicks from around the world Simplifying international e-commerce Forecasted growth:


Forecasted growth:


Forecasted growth:

Annual e-commerce spending, in billions


Forecasted growth:




Forecasted growth:


$90.5 $54.5 $9.5 $8.9 $2.4

Forecasted growth:


Forecasted growth:



Source: Euromonitor International

The World of Online Shopping Although the U.S. and Canada lead the world in e-commerce spending, other countries are increasingly shopping online. By 2014, global e-commerce spending is projected to increase more than 90 per cent. A sizable portion of that growth is expected to come from Latin America, where the amount spent online is projected to more than double. When MotoSport made its first international sale, things didn’t go smoothly. The Portland, Oregon–based online retailer of motorcycle parts and accessories had received a $99 order from Canada. It seemed like a no-brainer to fill it. But after the delivery truck arrived at the customer’s house, the driver immediately demanded $100 worth of unpaid Cana-

dian taxes and tariffs. “It was more than what the guy paid for the item,” says Jarrod Rogers, MotoSport’s director of marketing operations. “Of course, he didn’t want it.” It turned out that the item was subject to a particularly high tax, of which the company had been unaware. As MotoSport quickly discovered, global e-commerce has its JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  5 7


challenges. But international markets are becoming too big to ignore. Though the U.S. accounts for about $90 billion of the $309 billion global e-commerce market, other countries are zooming ahead on some key measures, says Daniel Latev, who studies global internet retailing at market research firm Euromonitor International. In annual per capita online spending, the U.S. ranks third ($355 per person), behind the U.K. ($578) and Denmark ($466). And when it comes to e-commerce growth, China, Brazil, and Mexico are all expecting to see increases of up to 30 per cent a year for the next five years, excluding inflation. The U.S. e-commerce market, by comparison, grew 6 per cent in 2009. “There is a lot of opportunity in foreign markets,” says Latev. Cashing in on that opportunity wasn’t easy for MotoSport. The company discovered that its products were subject to an encyclopedia’s worth of government fees and regulations, all of which varied depending on the type of product, what country it was going to, and where it had been made. That was bad news for a retailer with more than 100,000 products from about 400 suppliers worldwide. So MotoSport turned to FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, a company that handles international shipping and logistics and

So far, Zazzle has created standalone websites for 15 countries and offers shipping to another 70 or so. Karns keeps a close eye on Zazzle’s Web traffic to determine which markets to target next. When Zazzle began its international push in 2008, it devoted most of its resources to developing an internet platform that could easily be reconfigured to match the tastes of a local audience. Then, it invested in translating each site, changing its Frequently Asked Questions sections to reflect specific concerns in each country, hiring multilingual customer support teams, and analysing customer preferences in each region. Germans, for example, buy a lot of custom skateboards, while Japanese customers prefer Zazzle’s custom sneakers. Another critical area to figure out is logistics—actually getting a product from Point A to Point B. That’s easy for a company like HoMedics, which has long worked with overseas distributors. Before it began selling online, the 25-year-old Commerce Township, Michigan, company, which sells personal wellness items like back massagers and sound machines through large retailers such as Target and Bed Bath & Beyond, already had a global distribution network. HoMedics had to integrate its e-commerce software with the disparate order-fulfillment computer systems at each of its international outposts. After that, shipping was a cinch, says Phil Jacokes, e-commerce manager for HoMedics. But even if you don’t have overseas distributors, you can still sell internationally, says Michael DeSimone, CEO of FiftyOne. He says it’s a mistake to assume that customers overseas wouldn’t be willing to pay higher shipping costs. DeSimone points to an example from his family. His sister-in-law, who lives in Australia, can’t find 1,000-thread-count sheets for a decent price anywhere nearby. So she buys the sheets online from American retailers and pays what might seem like exorbitant shipping rates. “But even with that high shipping cost, she’s paying half of what she would anywhere in Australia,” DeSimone says. Plus, he says, after an international order comes in, companies often receive multiple orders from people who live in the same town. “People start telling their friends and neighbours where they can finally get 1,000-thread-count sheets,” he says. “There’s a viral marketing aspect to it.” That’s encouraging for businesses like MotoSport that aren’t yet marketing to other countries. “If we ever decide to promote MotoSport in local markets,” says Rogers, “we expect that it will only grow from here.” —Ryan Underwood

It's a mistake to assume that customers overseas wouldn't be willing to pay higher shipping costs. also makes sure online customers see prices displayed in their local currency. For a $20,000 setup fee, FiftyOne linked MotoSport’s sizable inventory to FiftyOne’s database of country-specific taxes and updated MotoSport’s website with pricing information for various regions. MotoSport now sells online to 84 countries. When an order comes in from overseas, MotoSport ships the products to one of FiftyOne’s warehouses in Ohio and New Jersey. FiftyOne takes care of the rest and pockets a percentage of the sale. Rogers says, at this point, his company has not made a concerted effort to draw in international customers—it hasn’t translated its foreign websites into local languages, for example. Even so, Rogers says MotoSport views international sales as one of the biggest sources of potential growth. One company that has worked hard to reach foreign customers is Zazzle, a Redwood City, California–based business that specializes in customised T-shirts, mugs, and other sundries. Like MotoSport, Zazzle has faced some challenges with tariffs and government fees, but its main focus has been on tailoring its online shopping experience to each country, says Michael Karns, the company’s head of international development. 5 8   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011


Sales & Marketing Math: My new best friend Will this formula work with kids? How would you sell that?

When Vivek Madappa saw his four-year-old struggling with maths, he began thinking of

ways to make learning fun. He designed maths worksheets that required only 10 minutes of her day. Based on Harvard University’s “Multiple Intelligence Research” it encourages visual and spatial thinking. Illustrations of animated animals, say a cute and angry crocodile, make the worksheets interesting. For a sum of 1,500, these are couriered to parents. Every month, 40 such worksheets find their way to children struggling with the subject. At the end of a month, sheets are collected and according to a child’s performance, a new set is made and delivered. Founded in 2009, 10on10 has close to 4,500 customers across 125 cities. Madappa fears that his worksheets may be copied. How can he sell his product better? —Sunaina Sehgal

Courtesy company

pitch no. 1: Encourage copy-cats K Ganesh, founder and CEO, TutorVista.com, a Bengaluru-based education services company This is a great idea! Get teachers to use and endorse the product. Give them access to online worksheets, which they can print out and give to students. Make sure that the worksheets have the 10on10 logo, so that students and parents get exposed to the brand. Giving only a fraction of the total worksheets will tempt parents to sign up for the rest. Use SEM and SEO to attract users from around India. Watermark the worksheets with 10on10 logo. Don't worry about them being copied. The more they are copied and distributed, the more the brand will spread. Vivek can provide additional access online. pitch no. 2: Print in dailies Amit Jain, CEO, Cardekho.com, online auto portal Create a buzz through advertising in prime-time soaps. Reach out to reputed supplement material publishers, who have established record of their reference material being used along with approved course books. Work on a royalty model with them. Vivek can also tie-up with newspapers where he can have these worksheets published regularly along with Sudoku and other puzzles. This will result in a countrywide penetration and faster realisation of sales.

To sum it up Can 10on10 make children and parents love maths more?

FEEDBACK ON THE FEEDBACK: We have tried to get teachers to use it; but had to discontinue as many schools started photocopying and distributing the learning material in complete violation to copyright IP. All the worksheets have a logo. We are introducing PDF downloads as an option for international markets to save on distribution costs. We are exploring “real-time online” model for SEA countries in their languages, as the penetration of internet and computers into homes are higher there. We are in talks with play-schools. This may get us quick wins, but we have chosen to build an independent brand. We are a start-up and self-funding to advertise is not an option. Though schools recognise the quality of our product, they don’t want to recommend it to parents, as there is a conflict of interest.

pitch no. 3: Leverage websites Bindu Rathore, CEO, Web Total Marketing, a digital marketing firm Vivek can go for online portal with “maths maps” and give access to paid users based only on monthly or yearly membership plans. Children can take out printouts, or solve problems online and submit them. He should tie-up with any of the VSAT technology centres, like Everonn or Educomp, so that maps can be accessed by thousands of schools at a time on a revenuesharing model. Use social media marketing to reach a wider audience faster. Also consider advertising the portal on a third-party website such as Mathguru or Visual Math Learning and on Google Networks to get more leads. pitch no. 4: Lure in the children Nirmala Sankaran, co-founder, HeyMath!, e-learning programmes Try tying up with pre-schools. In that way teachers will make sure that a child spends 10 minutes on the worksheets every day. Also, pre-schools are sprouting everywhere. These are on the look out for strong curriculum. Collaborate with them. Establish acceptance by tying-up with established schools with a universal brand name. Try selling the worksheets in schools during PTAs, or at the end of term. Give an incentive, say goodies, to a child to continue using your sheets. JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  5 9

A Colourful Play Laksheeta Govil and Abhinav Mehra want to start a designer storecum-studio.

6 0   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

Photograph by Jiten Gandhi



Laksheeta Govil and Abhinav Mehra LOCATION:



July 2010

Elevator Pitch Fizzy Goblet sells hand-painted shoes. Will investors give it the green signal?




1,500 to 3,500


5 lakh (since July)

pairs SOLD:

250 (since July) sales PROJECTion for six MONTHs:

500 pairs

projected REVenue for six MONTHs:

10 lakh


50 Lakh

The Pitch “In the world of shoes, there’s a huge gap between Bata and

Jimmy Choos. We fill that space by offering customised, yet affordable, shoes. Our business model is simple: once we get an order, we buy plain shoes from vendors, and get them painted by our in-house team. Our young customers can either use their own designs, or pick one from our portfolio. Since people have to book in advance, we don’t need to maintain inventory. Also, our costs are low since we only have a team of painters on our rolls. Most of our marketing is through exhibitions, or online. All this has allowed us to be cash positive from the beginning. Our steadily growing social media following reinforces our faith in what we are trying to achieve. We hope to start a designer store-cum-studio soon.”—As told to Sunaina Sehgal

The Experts Weigh In


Income from online orders and exhibitions held at college fetes and fashion shows; and, from sales made through shoe stores. IN THE NEWS:

Gutter Credit here

Fizzy Goblet is one of the three finalists in UTV’s The Pitch.



make the brand visible

Constant innovation on new ideas should be the key focus of their brand. Extending their customisation, say, to women shoes could add variety and expand their user base to a more premium and fashion conscious segment. Tie-ups with big designer labels would help build brand credibility. Online is a great place to bootstrap their distribution. But, they need to experiment ways to keep their inventory low and idea customisations intact while leveraging other distribution mechanisms. The Pitch should a focus a fair bit on the team’s ability to further build differentiators to justify their pricing model.

Fizzy Goblet faces competition from many small players. Individual shoe makers offer customised shoes depending on material and design at a price range of 500 to 7,000. Increase the variety of shoes and custom designs. This will help to expand the customer protfolio. Say, those from mountaineering groups, schools and corporate houses. This will also help Fizzy Goblet to keep adept with new fashion trends and competition from freelancers and boutiques by offering a one stop solution for customizable shoes. Increasing the portfolio of designs should help in expansion and increasing market size.

I like the premise of the idea. Immerse your target audience with your brand; interact with them. This will spread the word around to their friends and college mates. Create a proper e-commerce platform on top of your social networking sites. Have feedback options to collect their ideas. You can even create a creative and cool shoe lover community. Maybe even create auctions for art shoes online. Be innovative and a trail blazer in marketing ideas to stand out further. Be in the new and publicise your brand. Get a cool, well-known artist to do a limited edition.Your brand is all about ideas. Think outside of the (shoe) box.

Prakesh Prashanth, partner, Accel Partners, Bangalore, India

Padmaja Ruparel, vice president, Indian Angel Network, Delhi, India

SHEIKHA MATTAR-JACOB, founder, Masala Tee, New Delhi JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  61


Leadership Don’t you see my vision? Getting employees to buy in You may have a brilliant new business strategy, but unless employees are stoked about the idea, it won't succeed, says leadership guru John P. Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor and author of several books on organisational change. Kotter's new book, Buy-In (Harvard Business Press), promotes a counter-intuitive way to build support for a new idea: by encouraging employees to criticise it. If you are good at playing defense, Kotter reasons, you will win employees over. In the book, Kotter and co-author Lorne A. Whitehead teach CEOs how to deflect common criticisms, including comments like, "If this is such a great idea, why hasn't anyone done it already?" Senior editor Bobbie Gossage spoke with Kotter about this strategy.

Why is buy-in important?

Seventy percent of major change efforts either don't get started or fail. If you look at the most successful cases—the top 5 per cent of leaders who actually made something terrific happen—they were very good at communicating in a way that won people over. In your book, you say it's important to invite criticism of your idea. Why is that helpful?

Modern life is an information overload. The single biggest problem in trying to make big changes is simply getting people's attention. One of the most effective ways of doing that is to invite people to throw rocks at you. It causes sparks. Sparks grab our attention. Isn't there a danger in that?

Sure, if you don't know how to deal with it. We all go into fear mode if we're afraid we're going to be embarrassed or hurt. Or we'll get mad, because people are attacking something we care about and think is right. That's why it's important to know how to respond to these generic attacks. What is the most common attack?

The ultimate is always: We've been successful—why change? People will say something like, "We've been doing terrific with our current strategy for years. Nothing 6 2   |  INC. |  JANUARY 2011

against the new idea, Boss, but isn't it risky to change something that works so well?" That one comes up almost every time somebody is trying to sell a new idea. The most effective response to that is: Life evolves, and to continue to succeed, we must adapt. Most of the responses you suggest in the book are surprisingly brief.

When someone attacks our idea, we've been taught to drill down and give the 16 reasons why it is good. If we've worked hard on something and believe in it, we know 16 reasons—or even 116 reasons— why it's a good idea. But after somebody lists the 43rd reason, people just tune out. The most effective counterstrategy seems to be simple, commonsense answers that don't drag you into quicksand. It almost seems as if you have to think like a politician.

Maybe a good politician. But these are not spins. That's what makes us all mad about politics. Someone throws out a question, and the guy doesn't answer it, or he outright lies. These are honest, direct, commonsense responses. Is it natural to avoid criticism?

Most CEOs are very cautious about walking into public forums and making it easy for someone to stand up and attack their

idea. If you go around to employees and make 19 speeches in a setting where it's hard to ask tough questions, it feels as though you are spending a lot of time communicating this strategy. And you see people's heads nodding, so they must be buying in, right? But you walk away with a total misreading of the situation. If you go back to those same people a month later and ask them to explain what was said in that meeting, they can't. And the first time that person is put in a position where he or she needs to do extra duty to make that strategy a reality, it doesn't happen, because there's no emotional energy behind it. So how can you tell if employees have truly bought in?

You make yourself accessible. You ask questions and don't just make speeches. You give off signals, verbal and nonverbal, that you are interested. This isn't just, "Tell me what you think I want to hear." Often CEOs don't want to hear employees say, "I don't get it" or "I don't believe it." They have a mindset of, Let's go! The competition is coming at us, and the window of opportunity is closing! It's easy to let yourself believe that people have bought in when they haven't.


Ask Inc. Tough questions Smart answers



Your sector won’t grow, if the technology is not known, but you can’t really spend your own money to let the sector be known. So what should you do?

is no one sure shot formula to determine category vs. How should one A: There brand efforts while launching a new technology or product allocate resources category. Different brands have been successful in creating a space for themselves through different tactics to reach out to their cusbetween online tomer. Brands like Xerox and Bisleri have been successful in not (advertising & just launching categories, but achieving cult stature and becoming with the category itself. Synonymity is the key in marketing) tools synonymous building brands for emerging categories. The key therefore lies in and traditional four aspects of building brand-led categories: a) Have a clear brand focus: Create a unique positioning for the ones? brand and aspiration value in the minds of the consumer.

The trade-off between digital and traditional media should : be based on two criteria. (1) How is the media evolving and A interacting with your consumer? (2) What is your brand goal in

the short run and long run that the marketing effort ought to fulfill? Traditional media moves beyond eyeballs, reach and awareness to involvement and engagement. Digital, which has been till now seen as a lead-based medium, is now also being used for branding and communicating directly with the consumer—it is more interaction-led than ever before. Therefore, the allocation of resources will depend on a deeper understanding of brand-consumer connects and long-term brand objectives; and the longterm return on investment that marketing efforts offer, be it customer engagement or word-of-mouth referrals.


How do you know which part of your advertising dollars are getting the sales (and which aren't)?

Most current tools available for impact measurement work : in silos. Marketers struggle to holistically measure results to A integrated marketing spends in traditional, digital, ambient and

direct customer-led activities and their impact on sales. Globally, Marketing Mix Modelling (MMM) on sales has been the only scientific approach to provide directional return on investment to marketing effort. In India, adoption could be slow­—modelling is data intensive, and in an unorganised retail environment, data is not just scarce, it is often unreliable. Moreover, marketing mix measures past efforts. The future is unreliable, as we have seen in the last downturn, where all our sophisticated projective techniques were exposed to our lack of elementary wisdom.

b) Communicate brand benefits: Create a pull from the customer end. c) Target core customer niches: Outline your customer segment, B2B or B2C, or both and reach out directly to them. d) Build advocates: Most successful buzzy brands have built on word of mouth and promoters. If our customers start speaking about the brand as if they were selling them, we know the category and the brand can only grow synonymously.

How do you build a brand for an : Q industrial product, which is now

ready to be sold as a consumer product?

The approach to marketing and positioning of brands remains the same, irrespective of the market segments or sector that you are active in. The only difference is that in an industrial product, we are talking to a very educated and knowledgeable audience. But the whole premise of building a brand and its equity among the relevant audience remains unchanged. The only key differentiator between industrial marketing and consumer–led marketing is the channel of communication. For the former, it will be essentially trade media, direct marketing and B2B channels. For consumer-led, it will be essentially mass media. Therefore, the scale of investments in consumer-led communication will be much larger than when you are talking to the industrial segment. For instance, solar heaters need to be positioned to the consumer as an energy- and cost-saving device that could replace the conventional electricity providers. Srikant Sastri is the India chairperson for VivaKi, an enabling community created by Publicis Groupe to bring together the combined strength of its media and digital entities, namely Digitas, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia. He can be reached at srikant.sastri@vivaki.com JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  6 3


The Way I Work | Rajat Tuli, co-founder, Happily Unmarried

“I am the funny man and I love to make people laugh.” It irks Rajat Tuli when someone suggests that it must be simple being in the business of selling fun. That’s what he does at Happily Unmarried—a firm he founded with his fellow design graduate from MICA, Rahul Anand. But as this former stand-up comedy writer likes to point out, it is a lot easier to make people cry than to make them laugh. Now happily married, Tuli, 35, packs fun and funkiness in quirky products. A strong believer in freedom at work, he allows his staff to work on terms that they are most comfortable with—be it the location of work, or the way they handle a project. Here, he talks about how difficult it can be to think of fun ideas, his love for brainstorming sessions and his hope of some day writing smart taglines in Urdu.

As told to SUNAINA SEHGAL | Photograph by Subhojit Paul

I am not much of a morning person. I try and get up by 7am and usually pat myself for

having done that. I like to think that I have actually woken up before the break of dawn. Once I am out of my groggy state, I go for a 45-minute run. My best ideas come to me when I am out in nature. A hundred thoughts flash through my mind, as I whizz past things. In fact, Rahul, my business partner, and I were out for a run when we came up with the name “Happily Unmarried”. That was nine years ago. We were young, reckless and “happily unmarried”. I don’t run on Fridays, though. I learn Urdu instead from a personal teacher who comes in at 7.30am to teach me. I have been learning the language close to a year now. My

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Work in Progress Rajat Tuli working out a graffiti design with his colleagues on the terrace of his office.


roots lie in Srinagar, which is probably one of the reasons I wanted to learn Urdu. Once I am back, I grab my breakfast. I usually eat eggs, toast, milk and fruits. While training for the Airtel Half Marathon, I was on a high-carb diet. I used to gobble up any known carbohydrate available—rice, potatoes wheat, and dalia. All the members of my family—dad, mum and my wife—are working, so there is a mad rush every morning. It’s quite chaotic. Everyone is in a rush to get dressed, eat and leave for office, and we often end up bumping into each other. My wife is the first to leave, followed by my dad and me. My mum, a chocolatier, works from home, except on days when she has to deliver products to her clients. I usually get out for work at 9.30am, drop my father off at his grocery shop and head straight for my office at the Okhla Industrial Area in Delhi. The commute from home to work usually takes around 25 minutes. On the way, I like listening to the radio. It makes the drive less boring, and definitely easier. I usually tune in to 95FM and 104FM, mostly because the radio jockeys on these channels talk less and play more music. I sometimes like listening to “dhin chak” songs, or what are called item numbers. The catchy music peps me up. As of now, my favourite song in that category is Munni Badnam Huyi from Dabaang. By 10am, I am at my desk, sitting on my “thinking chair”, which is actually a bench. The first thing I do is check my e-mail. I avoid checking mails or answering work calls at home. My house is like my sanctuary. I do not like work invading it. Of course, urgent matters are an exception to this time-and-place rule. Typically, my inbox fills up with different sorts of e-mails: online orders from customers, requests for supplying products to any of our 70-odd stores, product designs and ideas from our designers, payments from our vendors, invoices and such other things. As a rule, I tell my staff to include me on every mail interaction with clients, projects or orders. This helps me to be in the loop and be ready with a plan. We have a team of 14 people and 23 designers. My work begins by checking the progress and schedule of the day. Once I am done with stuff like that, I sit to do my bit. I am in the business of selling fun. It may sound simple, but isn’t exactly that. I do not just sell glasses, CD racks or ash trays; I sell fun experiences. We are being recognised as a bunch of people who can inject fun into the mundane things of everyday life. Recently, we got a project to design the interiors of a bakery. From

the menus to the sitting spaces, we were responsible for conceptualising every aspect. Now, for Christmas, we are doing a desi Santa, who will travel not on a reindeer, but in an auto. My role in the enterprise is primarily to communicate those “fun interactive” ideas. I am constantly trying to come up with creative ideas that pack in the punch; it may be the product itself, it may be taglines that need to be witty, or a design that is arty as well as funky. For instance, we are developing a tissue-paper holder in the shape of an examination clipboard. The clip holds the tissue papers. To create the link between the two ideas and yet retain the out-of-the-box creativity, I thought of writing funny things that were in the same style as notes you would write to cheat in an exam paper. So we came up with something like, “The historians divided the world into two equal parts—BC and AD, meaning Before Cellphones and After Dat”. My lunch time usually goes into that—thinking such absurd, smart, yet funny ideas—stuff which will make people take notice of boring things, smile and enjoy a product. Funnily, that’s also the hour when I am the least productive. My mind tends to wander off to what I am going to eat, whether I will be going out for lunch. I really enjoy my lunches. Though I carry food from home, Rahul and I often order in, or eat out. There have been occasions when we have travelled 18 kilometres from our office just to eat the delicious thali at Andhra Bhavan. If I am anywhere near Connaught Place, I will stop to grab a quick bite at Wenger’s, the bakery, or pick up a milkshake at Caventers. Food is something I can discuss all the time.


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y work is mostly divided into two aspects: firstly, keeping tabs over the existing products, or those that have recently entered the market, and watching how they fare; and secondly, introducing new items to our existing bouquet of products. The new ones are sold from our two stores in Delhi and Shillong, which are our product-testing labs. Depending upon how quickly the shelves get empty, I can gauge the popularity of the product. That’s the best way to understand the pulse of the market. I visit the Delhi stores every 15 days, to get feedback from store managers. Shillong managers send feedback mostly on e-mails. I also check the posts on Facebook to know what people are saying about our new product. My job is fun, but many people think that because I enjoy my work, it must be frivolous in its content and essence. They do not realise the amount of hard work it takes to come up with something so radically different and funny—all the time! Nor do they realise that it is very easy to make people cry; but making them laugh is one hell of a task. That task is made harder by the lax attitude prevalent among us Indians. We are not very good at sticking to deadlines and time


“It is very easy to make people cry; but making them laugh is one hell of a task.” commitments. We feel that we can get away by just saying “sorry”. Even I do that sometimes; yet, I feel there are no excuses for that. Come 4pm, and I’m a much happier man. Unlike other organisations, we keep our brainstorming sessions for the evening. I do not like to compromise these sessions for anything. If business meetings have to be done, I prefer to schedule them in the latter half of the day. By afternoon, all distractions—e-mails and calls—are out of the way, and we are all free to focus and get into the zone. From catchy oneliners to product designs—we hash over every aspect. Sometimes, working with designers can be a challenge. They are a stubborn lot and think their designs will sell. In such cases, where the creative guy is absolutely sure of his design, we ask the person to fund the manufacturing of the product. I remember a colleague was once pushing hard for a funky set of salt and pepper shakers that he had designed. Given our condition, he got 500 units manufactured. Luckily for him, they sold like hot cakes. Many are not that lucky. We, of course, compensated the designer. My partner and I attend business meetings twice or thrice a week. Besides the Music in the Hills festival, which we organise twice a year, we do not travel outside Delhi; though, I wish we did. Last year, I won the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur Award and got to travel to London, Glasgow and New Castle. I browsed through many stores and interacted with a host of designers, which helped me broaden my vision. Though I keep myself fairly updated, through magazines and newspapers or by just observing things, the trip was an eye opener. My friends in the design community also help me track the latest in trends and styles. Sometimes, despite clocking 20 hours in a day, I will have no ideas up my sleeves. Actually, there is no fixed time for ideas to flare up. It is difficult to pin down creativity to a particular time. My thoughts on designs and products can sometime be as crackling as a packet of hot popcorn, or as boring as a flat cold soda. Whatever be the case, I find the process of thinking extremely relaxing. Sometimes, I bounce ideas off my wife, who is a designer

by education. I discuss a lot of my content and product designs with her. In the end, it is usually my partner and I who freeze the final decisions. I have the same persona at home and in office. I am the funny man and I love to make people laugh. I like to keep things happy around me. It’s the same philosophy that dictates my work life. I want my staff to be happy and enjoy their work. We do not believe in being dictatorial here. You have to give freedom to people at work and believe they are capable of executing it. Our staff and designers are free to work on their briefs in whichever way they feel most comfortable. We also encourage our designers to work from any place they want to. They do not have to come to office and discuss ideas every day. As long as the delivery dates and deadlines are met, I have no issues. I am not overly ambitious. Of course, I want to grow my business, but I am not into doing the 100 crore business in 20 years thing. I want to enjoy the ride as much as I can. A journey is truly enjoyed when one is travelling through every moment of it, right from the start till the end. Reaching the destination is not the most important thing; it’s the whole journey which has to count. One of the things I want to do, some day, is establish an institution that supports young athletes and sportsmen, by providing infrastructure and training. I also want to write funny one-liners in Urdu. I think I am getting there. I can read road signs in Urdu. We have a huge fan following in Pakistan. I would, one day, want my products to go where I could not. I usually wrap up all our idea-generating sessions by 7pm. An hour later, I am home, and I am single-minded in my mission— tasting my mother’s chocolates. That’s my excuse to gobble them up. My favourite flavours are walnut, peanut and honey. Once dinner is over, I like to vegetate in front of the television, watching sitcoms, both Indian and Western. Nowadays, I am addicted to the series How I Met Your Mother. I am ready for bed by 11pm. Tucked in my bed, I look forward to sitting on my “thinking chair” the next day. JANUARY 2011  |  INC. |  67

I wish I knew then...

M.M. Gupta, chairman and MD, Jagran Prakashan

Mahendra Mohan Gupta helped his father steer a Hindi daily through the Quit India Movement. If there weren’t lessons in that, there were unstable environments and uncooperative governments that taught a thing or two about perseverance and hard work. Lessons bore fruit with the birth of Jagran Prakashan–now one of the largest media houses in the country with an exhaustive list of products and services, and a readership in millions. Some of the valuable life lessons come from closer home. I grew up in an extended family of 45 members. I am used to opinions, discords and arguments. What Indian families teach you is empathy and patience. This served as the basis of my business acumen. When it came to the A-B-C of business, my father, Late Shri Puran Chandra Gupta, who published Dainik Jagran in the late 1940s, was my guru. He taught me the ropes, as I helped him after school. He made sure that nothing was too big or small for me: from handling the press to distributing copies, I did it all. And, I learnt that saying no lessened one’s chances to learn something new. The publication faced several problems in its early days: a restrictive Indian government of that time, limited resources— human and financial—and issues of distribution. But, my father remained resolute. From him I learnt that dedication and hard work bear results; therefore, fruits of labour are best left to destiny. Eventually, we did succeed. Though we were focused on India’s Hindi-speaking belt, I wanted to expand. We launched Kanchan Prabha, a magazine that focused on social issues. Unfortunately, soon we had to discontinue. Life’s

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the importance of being loyal to customers and maintaining organisational integrity and credibility. The next big challenge was to grow with limited resources – and I discovered that a penny saved was a penny earned. Since I had not worked outside my father’s printing press, I had limited experience. But, I did not let that stop me from growing. I read and observed the strategies used by established media houses. I learnt that constantly questioning things and having an open mind makes one’s journey easier. Sound Advice From respecting different views to Over the years, we started expecting the least, M. Mohan Gupta learnt it all. new businesses with the objective of becoming a media conglomerate. It was challenging to lesson number two was that it’s never find synergies between old, the printing enough to just echo social sentiment. Mag- part of the business, and the new—adverazines should start with a more holistic tising, branding strategies and the internet. research to include readers’ needs. But we managed. Our belief and perseverIn the 1970s, during the Emergency, we ance helped. It took time, but eventually, were put behind bars for writing “against we reached our destination. the government”. Our printing press was Finally, learn to give more, and expect under threat. However, we continued to less. —As told to Sunaina Sehgal print what we believed was happening in the country. We sought the help of friends to create a media firm, Jagran Prakashan, which prevented a takeover. It taught me