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may 2013

Meet these quirky business cards!

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Le

Beyond Juga ad!

Chaardership go ism yourod but da is o t knoewam reaes miss your lly Pag ion? e 43

The Magazine for Growing Companies

Beyond

Jugaad! How to build an innovation culture in 8 Steps Page 22

Get More

The magazine for growing companies

Done New research on how to achieve peak productivity MAY 2013 | `150 | Volume 04 | Issue 04 A 9.9 Media Publication | inc.com Facebook.com/Inc

@inc

Page 30

The Way I Work

How Rahul Mirchandani of Aries Agro gets his team to work in his absence Page 44


contents

May 2013

12 Innovation Imagine Indian roads that were congestion and pollution free? Sounds Utopian? Well, this bamboo bike might come in handy. by ira swasti

22 The Innovation Ladder

Simple jugaad is passé. Institutionalise brilliance with these eight simple steps on “how to” build a culture of innovation for your company.

06 Behind the Scenes

Salsa, Bachata and Cha Cha. Companies with great moves on the India Fiesta Latina 2013. by sonal khetarpal

by shreyasi singh

30 Get More Done

Lots of people have quirky systems for maximising their productivity. You know what we have? Science. Here is the latest research on how to do more in less time—and be happy doing it. by issie lapowsky

This edition of Inc. magazine is published under licence from Mansueto Ventures LLC, New York, New York. Editorial items appearing on pages 11, 17-18, 30-38 and 43 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.

2   |  INC. | may 2013

on the cover

Rahul Mirchandani, executive director, Aries Agro. Photograph courtesy subject. Cover design by Shokeen Saifi.

imaging by shigil narayanan


May 2013

contents

14

42 06 17

04 Editor’s Letter

09 Launch

  Celebrating entrepreneurship at the Inc. India 500 Awards On a hiring swing. Are we?  The Inc. Data Bank: Think employees are less productive when they work from home? Think again. A Skimmer’s Guide to Give and Take, by Adam Grant

14 All Things People

By Hari TN Five key attributes to watch out for when hiring. Listen up: for they augur success in a dynamic, fast-paced firm.

17 The Goods

 Great rugged tablets Backpacks for business Tech-free work retreats Evade Spam Spawning

Strategy 41 Branding Creative business cards that are sure to make your clients want to meet you again. And again. And again. 43 owner’s manual By Jeff Haden Charisma is nice in a leader. But the ability to articulate a mission is crucial.

44 the way i work Rahul Mirchandani, executive director of Aries Agro, determines his success as a manager by the amount of work his team can handle in his absence. The lesser the work, the better they have learnt. as told to sonal khetarpal

48 I Wish I Knew Then...

Gaurav Aggarwal, founder, Savaari Car Rentals shares the lessons learnt while scaling up from a five-people company to a hundred-plus team. as told to ira swasti

may 2013  |  INC. |  3


editor’s letter

MANAGING DIRECTOR: Dr Pramath Raj Sinha Printer & Publisher: Anuradha Das Mathur Editorial managing Editor: shreyasi singh assistant editor: Sonal Khetarpal feature writer: ira swasti

Really looking at yourself…. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if mild delusion is a necessary entrepreneurial trait. To be able to look beyond the perils of doing business, and the need to beat away anxieties of growth (and survival!), certainly requires a bit of shutting out of the world, and a deep faith in one’s own instincts and abilities. But, doesn’t this strong self-belief also come in the way of objective analysis? Especially, when it comes to training a critical eye, and/or actually evaluating the people policies, branding philosophies and workplace culture that flow from the founder? The main stories in this issue, Get More Done and The Innovation Ladder, give you an opportunity to do that—take stock of the way you work, ideate, and eventually devise processes that help you (and your company) do not just more, but do it better! For example, a study quoted in Get More Done pronounces multitasking to be a weakness, and not a strength. The study, carried out by neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm, shows that when people focus on two tasks (let alone, juggle three to four activities) simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task. Apparently, our brains come with two-task limits, and taking on more only increases the likelihood of errors. High-growth entrepreneurs are called in not only to constantly multitask, but also to multithink. Where do you stand on the multitasking spectrum? And, when was it last that you assessed its impact benefits, or loss? Similarly, our feature on building a systematic innovation process (based on the recently launched 8 Steps to Innovation: Going from Jugaad to Excellence) suggests how you can move away from episodic brilliant ideas, and build an innovation culture at your firm. I hope you’ll find both these pieces useful reading.

Shreyasi Singh shreyasi.singh@9dot9.in

4   |  INC. | may 2013

DEsign Sr. Creative Director: Jayan K Narayanan Sr. Art Director: Anil VK Associate Art Directors: Atul Deshmukh & Anil T Sr. Visualisers: Manav Sachdev & Shokeen Saifi Visualiser: NV Baiju Sr. Designers: Raj Kishore Verma Shigil Narayanan & Haridas Balan Designers: Charu Dwivedi, Peterson PJ Midhun Mohan & PRADEEP g nair MARCOM Designer: Rahul Babu STUDIO Chief Photographer: Subhojit Paul Sr. Photographer: Jiten Gandhi community team assistant product manager: Rajat gupta Sales & Marketing senior vice president: krishna kumar (+91 98102 06034) business development Manager: arjun sawhney (+91 95822 20507) assistant regional manager (south & WEST): rajesh kandari (+91 98111 40424) Production & Logistics Sr General manager (Operations): Shivshankar M Hiremath Manager Operations: Rakesh upadhyay Assistant Manager (Logistics): Vijay Menon Executive Logistics: Nilesh Shiravadekar Production Executive: Vilas Mhatre

Logistics MP Singh, Mohd. Ansari OFFICE ADDRESS nine dot nine mediaworx Pvt Ltd A-262, Defence Colony, New Delhi–110 024 For any queries, please contact us at help@9dot9.in 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 printed at Tara Art Printers Pvt ltd. A-46-47, Sector-5, NOIDA (U.P.) 201301 Editor: Anuradha Das Mathur


BEHIND THE SCENES

Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life

Organisers To tap the growing popularity of the Latin dance form, Salsa, entrepreneurs Sunil Chopra and Neeraj Maskara collaborated to start Slice Entertainment, a live entertainment company to host the India Fiesta Latina (IFL) in April 2012. For the 2013 edition, the company brought to India a host of world-acclaimed photographers, artists, creative directors, participants and instructors from 35 countries. More than 4,000 people came to watch the IFL across three days.

Developing creative concepts and managing production requires entirely different skill sets. For IFL 2013, both the domains were managed by the experiential marketing and brand communication company, The Circus Entertainment. Founded by five friends, this 27-people company is based in Delhi. It has worked for corporate bigwigs such as Moen, Yatra.com and has executed product launches for Philips Haircare and Samsung Galaxy Camera.

6   |  INC. | may 2013

Gutter Credit here

Production


India Fiesta Latina 2013, Greater Noida

12.04.13 9:00 P.M.

Promotions The Delhi-based school, Mundo Latino, does what it literally means in Spanish, create a Latin World—by teaching the most spoken Latin American language, Spanish and one of the region’s major dance forms, Salsa. Founded by Shalu Chopra in 2009, the school supports the IFL by reaching out to different schools and colleges in India, and get them to participate in the event. To encourage amateurs to try this performance art, it launched the ‘Anybody Can Dance’ initiative this year at IFL. With its 12 employees, the school also teaches Hindi and facilitates enculturation to introduce key Indian customs to non-natives.

Venue A combination of sports, health and lifestyle is Atlantis-The Club at the Jaypee Integrated Sports Complex in Greater Noida. The sports complex sprawls across 15 acres of land. It housed the event’s 60-plus workshops, 60 performances from over 80 renowned global artistes and the night-long party. Started in 2010, the complex has played host to a variety of high-profile events such as the Formula 1 race after party that saw performances by Lady Gaga.

PHOTOGRAPH BY Subhojit Paul

reported by sonal khetarpal


News. Ideas. People.

launch

Go, Win! Another year of celebrating entrepreneurship

It was that time of the year again when we at Inc. India, abandon

our writing pads to come together and celebrate the greatest growth stories of high-growth midsize companies with the Inc. India 500 Awards. The fourth edition of our annual ceremony gave us the opportunity to host nearly a hundred CEOs of India’s fastest-growing midsize companies on March 23, 2013. The Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort in Greater Noida proved to be the perfect setting for an evening commemorating success and sustainable growth in a slow-growing economy. The Inc. India 500 ranking has over the past four years become a list committed to discovering and highlighting companies that are the future of the Indian economy. As Anuradha Das Mathur, publisher, Inc. India, said in her welcome speech, this exercise gives the magazine an incredible opportunity to witness the dynamism and challenges of the Indian economy. A highlight of the evening was the keynote speech by Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai, author of the bestselling book Corporate Chanakya, who talked about the seven qualities of a great leader,

Leading All The Way The Inc. India 500 awardees (top); Executive coach Santhosh Babu during his session at the Inc. India 500 Conference (right)

as derived by Chanakya in the treatise Arthashastra. It was fascinating to observe how the kingmaker’s centuries-old principles resonated with our Inc. India 500 CEOs of present day India. However, the hall witnessed that energy many times over, when the time came to award our winners with certificates of excellence in recognition of their business acumen and entrepreneurial can-do. The enthusiasm and applause of their peers was perhaps one of the biggest compliment for the winning brigade. As the evening wore on, the Inc. India 500 coffee table book that chronicles the journey of some of our winners, was unveiled by Dr Pramath Raj Sinha, managing director, 9.9 Media. Post which, the floor was opened for cocktails and dinner continued on the next page

may 2013  |  INC. |  9


launch

The turning economy

Hiring Swing?

10   |  INC. | may2013

An Evening of Success In clockwise order: Unveiling of the 2012 Inc. India 500 coffee table book; Jury member Frank Hancock awarding the winners; Guests at the ceremony

Go, Win! ... continued

This year, for the first time since our launch in India, we also co-hosted the Inc. India 500 Conference on the sidelines of the awards ceremony. A premier business networking event interspersed with five curated sessions and workshops, the conference saw an impressive line-up of speakers on topics such as innovation, personal leadership and building high-performance teams. Akanksha Pundir’s workshop on innovation kicked off our conference. Dr Pillai stayed back after the awards ceremony to also take an expanded session on lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Indian mythology about good and great leadership. His keenly-heard session concluded on the perfect note when he signed copies of his bestselling book, Corporate Chanakya, for our delegates. The rest of the afternoon saw experts such as executive coach Santhosh Babu, chairman of Tranzmute Capital Narayan Seshadri and Wockhardt CFO Giri Giridhar gave out advice on issues ranging from handling loneliness at the top, to building a great C-suite. It was heartening to see our winners “go back to school” as they jotted down notes and listened to their peers’ experiences. New age wisdom dictates that each one of us should be ready to constantly, learn, unlearn and relearn. Our CEOs at the conference certainly demonstrated they were more than up to that task. We hope to have a livelier, more energising conference and awards ceremony next year. Till then, congratulations once again to all our winners! (Note: We will soon begin to accept applications for the 2013 Inc. India 500 Awards. If you are an independent Indian company (not a subsidiary of a non-Indian company), have an annual turnover between `50 to `1,500 crore, and have recorded a positive sales turnover in the three years from FY 2008-09 to FY 2011-12, apply online at http://www. growthinstitute.in:81/incindia500/)

PHOTOS.COM

The latest Business Confidence Index by Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, reveals that 94 per cent of Indian businesses are planning to increase or maintain headcount in 2013. The survey of more than 26,000 businesses across 99 countries highlighted a strong emphasis on recruiting more sales and marketing staff in India. These figures bolster a roughly stable business confidence index score, which has slipped 4 points in India since October 2012. For example, 63 per cent of Indian businesses report rising revenues and 54 per cent increased profits over the past twelve months. Nearly twofifths (39 per cent) of businesses plan to increase headcount by more than 5 per cent, and 67 per cent think firms will hire more sales & marketing employees and 49 per cent highlight operational staff. Madhusudan Thakur, regional vice president—South Asia, Regus says, “The stand out figures are not just that firms are looking to recruit, turning around the loss of five million jobs from 2005-2010 but to invest in sales and marketing. This shows that companies feel it’s the right time to go out there and sell. Businesses need to consider how to recruit and retain the best in the field, ensuring they can remain competitive.” —S.S.


inc. data bank

Let them wear pajamas Marissa Mayer told Yahoo employees they couldn’t work from home because it hurts “speed and quality.” The data begs to differ. It also suggests that following her lead could cost you—in productivity, rent and the happiness of your work force.

More and more employees are telecommuting. If you don’t offer it as a perk, they may find another company that does. Number of employees who telecommute several days a week:

60%

Increase

And, no, it’s not just moms.

79%

In fact, the majority of telecommuters are men…

53% male

of all workers say they want to work from home at least part of the time.

47%

teleworkresearchnetwork.com

Jennifer L. Glass, University of Texas; Mary C. Noonan, University of Iowa

female

…and employees with children are about as likely to work from home as the rest of the population is. 2005 2011 1.5 million 2.4 million

77% of telecommuters have children 75% of nontelecommuters do

TeleworkResearchNetwork.com

Jennifer L. Glass, University of Texas; Mary C. Noonan, University of Iowa

Telecommuters are almost twice as likely to work more than 40 hours a week.

53% 28%

Telecommuters

Nontelecommuters

Jennifer L. Glass, University of Texas; Mary C. Noonan, University of Iowa

Lister: Courtesy subject; book: viking/penguin; Photos.com

However, the nature of the work affects productivity. Working from home is bad for rote tasks... Remote workers are 6% to 10% less productive than on-site employees when doing repetitive work.

...but it’s good for creative work. Remote workers are 11% to 20% more productive when performing creative tasks.

Another big bonus? Telecommuting is cheaper for you and your employees. $11,000 Your average annual savings on rent, etc., if an employee with a telecommute-compatible job works at home half the time

$2,000 to $7,000 Amount each telecommuter saves annually on transportation and other expenses TeleworkResearchNetwork.com

E. Glenn Dutcher, University of Innsbruck

Because of these benefits, experts say entrepreneurs should let most workers telecommute, not just a select few.

“The people who are allowed to telecommute now tend to be the oldest, highest paid, and most trusted employees. I call it the 5 per cent privilege. Businesses need to get past that.” Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics

—Compiled by Francesca Fenzi

A skimmer’s guide to the latest business books The book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant. The big idea: Our approach to personal interactions—whether we try to seize value from others or contribute to it—greatly influences our likelihood of success. Those who are generous with time, connections and expertise tend to fare best in their professional lives, so long as they also hold ambitious goals for advancing their own interests. The backstory: Grant is a rising star at Wharton, where he is a management professor. If you read nothing else: Chapter Two recasts networking as a humanistic enterprise motivated by kindness rather than a mechanism for getting ahead. Chapter Three explains how great leaders subdue their egos and help others achieve greatness, in the process creating cultures in which everyone tries harder. Chapter Seven introduces “sincerity screening”: assessing the motives of potential partners, employees, and others. Nice guys: Grant’s gallery of givers is more accessible than are the usual business-book role models. Who wouldn’t at least try to follow the advice of Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur who is the most linked-in person on LinkedIn: “You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody.” Rigour rating: 9 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Give and Take is exhaustively reported. And Grant conducted, with assorted colleagues, an impressive number of the original studies cited in the book. —Leigh Buchanan may 2013  |  INC. |  11


innovation

Companies on the Cutting Edge

The price quotient The price of the bicycle starts from `25,000 for a basic version and can go up till `50,000 for customised designs. “People expect bamboo to be cheaper than steel but each of these bicycles is handcrafted requiring effort to treat bamboo to make it borer-safe and weatherproof. Moreover, it’s a piece of art,” Sharma says. However, this pricing is still less than what one pays for a bamboo bike abroad, which cost upwards of `1 lakh, according to Sharma As good as it gets The bamboo bike can reach the same speed as a conventional bike. Moreover, it successfully completed the Japan Industrial Standard test at a TI cycles factory in Chennai, where the bamboo frame was intact even after undergoing 2,00,000 rounds of vibration.

12   |  INC. | may 2013


Bambike

Vijay Sharma

A green ride

Two years back, the central government proposed a public bicycle scheme to promote non-motorised transport across 10 cities, mainly to curb road congestion and pollution. Even as a group led by E. Shreedharan chalks out a strategy to carry out the plan, a Bangalore-based furniture designer has developed an eco-friendly avatar of a bicycle, already a low-polluting vehicle. Vijay Sharma, a graduate of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad, has developed a bicycle that substitutes the 3.5kg of steel used in a typical bicycle with bamboo, a renewable, low carbon footprint material. In contrast, manufacturing of steel is considered one of the most polluting industries in the world. Because bamboo is lighter and more elastic, Sharma says it also makes for a better shock absorber than steel. Each Bambike takes almost a week to be built, and Sharma is currently busy training craftsmen in Manipur to build them for their local communities.

“I hope this bike inspires others to use alternate materials to minimise our carbon footprint.” courtesy company

—Vijay Sharma, creator, Bambike

imaging by Shigil narayanan

reported by Ira Swasti


All Things People BY

HARI TN

Hari TN is the global head of human resources at Amba Research, a Bangalore-based investment research outsourcing firm.

The Perfect Gene Code Five key attributes that determine success for a dynamic, highgrowth business

insurance against failure. In fact, people who are extremely successful in a particular context can be miserable failures in a completely different context. Having worked in fast-paced firms for the past 11 years, I’ve seen people who were successful in their previous avatars fail very badly. On the contrary, individuals who were not marked as stars in their prior companies come into their own and take on leadership roles very successfully in smaller, more fast-paced environments. As I looked at data (successes and failures) and reflected on what it takes to succeed, I figured out that there are five traits that distinguish those who succeed from those who fail in the context of a start-up. Not unsurprisingly, initiative is the single most important trait. In growing companies where execution is critical, initiative is highly valued. Those with low initiative tend not to have the energy and skill to get closures when the situation becomes a little ambiguous, where there is insufficient data, or where viewpoints are varied and strong. They tend to get paralysed by obstacles easily and may not even realise that closure is eluding them. They are unlikely to do something different or even seek help by escalating appropriately. As a result, things

14   |  INC. | may 2013

tend to drift along for too long before someone figures out, by when it is too late. A small company can be a very unforgiving place. No one has the time to help you, solve your problems, or even check if you are on track. A significant difference between a start-up and a mature firm is that in a start-up, it is clear whose neck is on the block whereas in a mature firm, that is usually a little hazy. Some people get uncomfortable in situations where ownership is so clear and consequences so swift. They would tend to wrongly argue that this is not good for collaboration and team work. But, being able to recognise people with

initiative is more art, than science. Once they’re in your system, people with initiative stand out from a mile. First, such people always go beyond their brief. They don’t limit themselves to their responsibilities. Instead, they try and figure out the bigger picture. If you don’t define their goals, they will define them and run them past you. They will have their eye on the outcome, not the intermediate steps. They’ll anticipate what is expected of them from their key stakeholders, even if these expectations are not explicitly stated, and work on them. The second trait is the clarity of thought, which is the ability to cut through smoke

photos.com

Past success isn’t always an


ALL THINGS PEOPLE

and noise, and is the defining characteristic for success in a small firm. This is because such companies invariably work in an atmosphere flush with ambiguity and chaos. Teams are often grappling with problems and situations they may have never encountered before. This calls for a rare ability to make the right approximations, ignore the less important factors and take the right calls. The ability to simplify is therefore crucial. In the military, it is believed that smart and lazy officers often make the best commanders because they are smart enough to figure out the goal and keep their eye on it, and too lazy to work on any activity that does not advance their goal. They prioritise by ignoring distractions which may run them short of their goal. While smart and lazy officers make great commanders, it’s smart and hardworking officers who make great staff officers. They are devoted and tireless, but don’t always have an ability to discriminate judiciously. Dynamic firms can do without staff officers though. People who do this well are those who ask the right questions in meetings (even if they don’t completely understand the domain)—questions that help clarify and get to the root of an issue— and can always bring insights in a discussion. Such people also often find surprisingly simple solutions to a complex problem, and can understand the big picture beyond their own functions. At more senior levels, they usually foster strategic thinking in the organisation. Perhaps the rarest trait, but one that is instrumental in smaller firms, is an ability to build high-performance teams, teamed with people who are better than you. Managing those more competent than oneself is one of the most difficult professional challenges. People who can do this aren’t insecure about being outshone or displaced. This isn’t an easy ask though—more often than not, in company after company, I’ve seen otherwise very bright people unable to build a strong team simply because they feel threatened by those who were more competent than them. But, as the CEO, how can you identify people with the ability to recruit those better than them. A good indicator is if they can easily say, “I don’t 16   |  INC. | may 2013

know”. You would notice that they are asking a lot of questions and learning from everyone, senior or junior. You would notice that they are a magnet for bright people. They invariably demonstrate an ability to balance delegation with hands-on because no other approach works with the kind of people they surround themselves with. They are good at giving and receiving constructive criticism, can have difficult performance conversations easily and generally set high standards. In a team led by such an individual, everyone is learning from everyone else. The leader does not have a monopoly of being the teacher. The above three are dominant attributes for success in a fast-paced environment. Yet, two other factors—ability to communicate and influence people, and an internal customer orientation are key as well. See, large firms have the luxury of having com-

firm, whose collective satisfaction or dissatisfaction can make or break one’s career. In very large firms, SOPs (standard operating procedures) can override customer orientation. But, in companies like yours, internal customer orientation must override SOPs, and in fact, everything else. Those that use process and bureaucracy to undermine service orientation towards internal customer will eventually be cut to size. Those that take personal responsibility for correcting customer pain points, and actively support the interests of the customers by making choices and setting priorities to meet their needs will stand out. These are people who’re not constricted by SLAs and SOPs. They ask questions to understand the needs and expectations better. In a lot of small companies that I’ve worked in, or consulted for, there were enough examples of these attributes having

Initiative is the single most important trait in a growing company. Those with low initiative tend not to have the energy and skill to get closures when the situation becomes ambiguous. plementary skills in a team. If you were good at conceiving and developing an idea, but poor at communication, someone else could perform that role for you. If you were not good at getting buy-in for a great idea, someone can do that for you. Smaller companies don’t have this luxury. You need to be your own salesman. In the fight for ideas and attention, you need to fight your own battles. People who can do this well have an ability to articulate even the most complex concepts simply. Similarly, demonstrating internal customer orientation is an acute advantage in smaller firms. Most of us believe that customers are those that pay us for our services or products. Therefore, we tend to ignore our customers within the

been compromised to staff a position quickly. Each time, doing so didn’t result in a happy ending. The wrong decision would always show up, and the time duration before the problem manifested itself depended proportionately upon the extent of the compromise. As a thumb rule, being below the acceptable level on one or more of these traits without being exceptionally strong on any of the others would mean an accelerated failure. Those who end up being very successful are often outstanding on three or more of these traits and not terribly short on any. Contact Hari TN at haritn@ambaresearch.com.


Your Business Toolbox

The Goods 3

2

1 4

Tough Customers Great rugged tablets for business When you think of tablets, the word rugged doesn’t usually spring to mind. These durable models are

designed to withstand a range of abuse, including drops, spills and even full submersion in water. We roughed them up to see if they’re as tough as advertised. —John Brandon

best for:

Smaller budgets

Dell Latitude 10

A great option in the business-rugged category, the 1.47-pound Latitude has a magnesium-alloy case and durable 10.1-inch LCD screen. The speedy Windows 8 tablet has front- and rearfacing cameras, as do the other models we tested, and an optional fingerprint scanner. It comes with a trial version of Microsoft Office 2010 and lasts 10 hours fully charged. During our test, it survived a 4-foot drop onto a low-pile carpet. One complaint: The screen was hard to read in direct sunlight. cost: $649 for a 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, plus $100 for the docking station pictured above

Tablets: Courtesy company (4); dirt: Nicholas Cope/getty; screens: clockwise from left: Franz aberham/getty; Raj kamal/getty; wallace garrison/getty

1

best for:

Extreme conditions

GETAC Z710

This fully rugged Android 4.1 tablet has a soft plastic outer shell and a 7-inch LCD screen. Unlike the other tablets here, the 1.7-pound Getac is fully waterproof and can operate in sub-zero temperatures. During our test, it survived a 6-foot drop onto carpet. The screen was less responsive after we dunked the tablet underwater but returned to normal when it dried. The tablet, which lasts 10 hours fully charged, comes with custom apps and has an optional bar-code scanner and radio-frequency identification reader. Downsides: It was a bit slow, and the screen was hard to see in direct sun. cost: $1,499 for a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage

2

best for:

Fieldwork

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1

This 2.1-pound, fully rugged tablet has a magnesium-alloy case and a 10.1-inch antiglare screen that was easy to read in direct sunlight. A plastic insert popped off the camera when we dropped the tablet 4 feet onto concrete, but it was otherwise unscathed. It also withstood a dousing with a bottle of water. Another plus? The Toughpad, which runs on the Android 4.0 operating system and lasts 10 hours fully charged, can be equipped with a bar-code reader. It also comes loaded with a few apps, including Google Maps and Adobe Reader. cost: $1,299 for a 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage

3

best for:

Versatility

Fujitsu STYLISTIC Q702

You can use the 1.87pound Stylistic as a tablet or attach it to an included QWERTY keyboard to transform it into a laptop. The business-rugged tablet, which runs on Windows 7, has a magnesium-alloy case, an 11.6-inch screen, and a fingerprint scanner. It survived being dropped 4 feet onto a carpet and sprayed with a sink hose. The Stylistic, which comes with a trial version of Office 2010, was the fastest tablet in our test group. Two drawbacks: The tablet’s screen was unreadable in direct sunlight, and it lasts just five hours on a full charge. cost: $1,399 for a 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage

4

may 2013  |  INC. |  17


Products + Services

Must-Haves

My favourite tool for creating presentations tze chun founder uprise art new york city

In 2011, I founded Uprise Art, an online gallery that aims to make collecting art easier and more affordable. We’re raising our first round of funding, so I’ve been giving presentations to investors. I use a free iPad app called Haiku Deck to make beautiful image-driven slide shows, which are important for an art company. Haiku Deck is simple to use. First, I choose a layout and enter a text for each slide. Based on that text, Haiku Deck searches the Internet for related images (with Creative Commons licenses), which help inspire me. I can also do a keyword search or upload images from my iPad or from Facebook and other websites. The most recent version of Haiku Deck also lets me create charts and graphs. Once I finish a presentation, I can email it or share it on social networks right from the app. Haiku Deck is perfect for working on the go. That’s ideal for me, because I spend much of my days outside the office, meeting clients or visiting artists at their studios. Recently, I participated in the InSITE NY fellowship programme. I used Haiku Deck to create a slide show for my final project, which I pitched to a group of VCs. Afterward, many of them told me my presentation stood out because it was so visual. —As told to April Joyner

18   |  INC. | may 2013

Backpacks Grow Up New options with sophisticated style Backpacks have long been associated with tech geeks and teens. These grown-up versions are packed with features and look great. —Adam Baer best for:

Going eco-friendly

House of Marley Lively Up Scout Pack

This military-inspired rucksack is made from reclaimed organic cotton hemp and recycled water bottles. The 2.4-pound bag, which features recycled aluminum hardware and a water-resistant coating, has a padded compartment for laptops measuring up to 15 inches, an iPad sleeve, and three outside buttoned pockets for gadgets. Available in green, dark grey or light grey. cost: $130

best for: Charging up anywhere

Timbuk2 Power Q

Keep gadgets charged with Timbuk2’s roomy 2-pound backpack, which has a built-in USB charger that can power iPads and most smartphones. Made from rugged ballistic nylon, the bag has a ventilated back panel and multiple compartments for gadgets. A padded side compartment, which fits laptops measuring up to 17 inches, lets you access your computer without taking off your bag. The charger can fully power an iPhone twice and charge the newest iPad to about 75 per cent. Available in black. cost: $199

best for: Briefcase styling

Tumi Beacon Hill Brimmer leather Backpack

This 3-pound, soft-leather backpack features brass or gunmetal hardware. It has a padded compartment for laptops measuring up to 14 inches, as well as an accessories organiser and pockets for an iPad and phone. The bag’s interior includes a metal tag with a tracking number and instructions for returning the bag in case it is lost. Available in brown, black or green. cost: $495

From left: Courtesy Subject; Courtesy company (3)

the goods


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the goods

Stop Spam, Save Time Ways to keep your business life garbage free As cliched as this may sound, time is money. And to reduce any precious second of it being

wasted on spam spawning from increasingly online activities and digitally dependent lives is important. Having said that, spam is notoriously difficult to evade. So, in our collective fight against digital spam at the workplace, we outline few steps that can go a long way in keeping that all intrusive spam at bay. —Jayesh Shinde, thinkdigit.com

off the grid

Detox retreats for gadget junkies Stop spam FROM Entering your company blog

If your company’s blog is hosted on a custom WordPress installation, make sure you sign up for a Wordpress.com account for a free Akismet authentication key. Just copy-paste the key details into the Akismet plugin on your company’s blog to block 99 per cent spam that comes its way in the form of malicious comments or trackbacks.

Stop spam coming into your inbox

If you or your team uses a desktop email client like Outlook or Thunderbird, you could try SpamBayes—a cross-platform spam filter. It requires users to train the filter, as you classify spam and ham (non-spam, legit) emails in your inbox. To deal with newsletter spam in your inbox, check out Unroll.me, a beta service that lets you easily fight newsletter spam in your Gmail, Google Apps and Yahoo mail inbox. Or, you can also add the Unsubscribe.com Chrome extension which lets you easily drop out of mailing lists.

photos.com; courtesy company

Stop spam from hitting your social platforms

For Facebook, an app like the Norton Safe Web automatically scans through Facebook feeds to weed out and eliminate nefarious, spammy links. For Twitter, the manual way is to visit the profile page of the suspected spam account and select “Block” or “Report for spam”. Alternatively, you could use services like http://stoptweet.com which identifies all spam accounts following you and deletes them, protecting your company’s Twitter account from spammers in the future.

Tired of competing with gadgets for attention during staff meetings? A new class of company retreats encourages employees to take a “digital detox” by leaving their smartphones behind and reconnecting with the physical world. Lake Placid Lodge in upstate New York offers a twonight team-building package called Check-In to Check-Out. Participants hand over their gadgets at the front desk and take part in cooking classes, snowshoeing expeditions, yoga classes, and other tech-free pursuits. The package costs $1,340 per person. A West Coast option, Digital Detox of San Francisco organises three- and four-day retreats at various locations in Northern California, including the Shambhala Ranch in Mendocino County (pictured above). Retreat-goers take part in a variety of Zen-like activities, including yoga, hiking and silent meals. Digital Detox, which has hosted retreats for Airbnb and Toms Shoes, also runs stress-relief workshops. Retreats start at $700 per person for three nights. If a full-blown getaway isn’t in the cards, consider treating your employees to a device-free happy hour hosted by Digital Detox in Oakland or San Francisco. (The company plans to expand to New York City and Los Angeles this summer.) Revelers surrender their phones at the door, get mini massages, and play board games. Monopoly, anyone? —Jennifer Alsever may 2013  |  INC. |  19


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Innovation Ladder

A new book lays out 8 Steps to build a culture primed for ideas and action In India, we pride ourselves on our aptitude and appetite for jugaad. It enables us to find smart fixes for thorny problems—often, on the quick, and on the cheap. Transported to the workplace, jugaad has helped Indian companies deploy what is now celebrated in management mantra as frugal innovation. Yet, as a new book, “8 Steps to Innovation: Going from Jugaad to Excellence” asks, is episodic jugaad enough to really be considered innovative? Authors Vinay Dabholkar and Rishikesha T. Krishnan definitely don’t think so. In their book, they lay out three broad themes—building an idea pipeline, increasing idea velocity, and increasing batting average—along with eight simple steps to help companies figure out “how to” build a culture of innovation. As the authors point out, innovation need not be limited to erratic brilliance. An organisation can practise systematic innovation—where there is a disciplined way of generating, selecting, nurturing and implementing ideas. In this feature, we pick out these eight steps, and see how a variety of companies have demonstrated great success from having done this in the past. We hope these case studies (excerpted from the book) will urge you to take a hard look at your own innovation mindset, and decide on why and how to work towards a more systematic process. By Shreyasi Singh

Design by Shokeen Saifi

2 2   |  INC. | may 2013


Photos.com

may 2013  |  INC. |  2 3


The Innovation Ladder

Planting Ideas Nurturing a stream of ideas can help create an innovation mindset at the workplace.

An 1 Build Pipeline

idea

The book believes that the idea funnel begins with first managing the idea pipeline. The following steps contribute to this management process, right from nurturing ideas to creating a buzz around them.

a. Lay the Foundation

Begin by starting an innovation programme. Put down a process to invite ideas from business units, functional teams and employees. Put a positive premium on coming up with an idea, any idea, rather than focusing on eliminating the negative impact of failure. It’s the small ideas that can weave a cumulative impact which is potentially revolutionary for a company. In Practice: Toyota launched its famous idea management system in 1951. Employees clocked 20 million ideas in the 40 years till 1991, as Yuzo Yasuda’s book, 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas highlighted. In its first year (1951), there were 789 suggestions and a participation rate of 8 per cent. Yet, the quantity and quality of ideas were poor because employees believed that “ideas” meant great inventions. So, the management clarified that not everything had to be a great idea—that it was the quantity, not the quality that mattered. In fact, it’s this emphasis on participation and learning, not just business impact that differentiates Toyota’s system from western counterparts. Over the years, the programme has obviously been fine tuned, and is the backbone behind Toyota’s grand success.

b. Create a Challenge Book

Dabholkar and Krishnan believe one way businesses generate good ideas is by focusing on one or two key problems. They call a place where business lists its key problems a “challenge book” which is an important step in generating good ideas. Most of the challenges can be traced to three sources of inspiration—pain, wave and waste. Or, more specifically, “feeling the pain” of the consumers, “sensing the wave” of technology, demographic, social or regulatory trends, and finally “seeing the waste” to identify

2 4   |  INC. | may 2013

areas where either human effort or critical resources like water or energy can be saved. In Practice: Mysore-based Vigyanlabs is a good example of this. Its patented Intelligent Power Management systems are focused on reducing energy consumption of laptops, desktops, smartphones and large data centres and cloud providers. Founded in 2008 by Srivatsa Krishnaswamy and Srinivas Varadarajan—both of whom have decades at blue-chip technology majors between them—as a consulting organisation to help companies build high-performance systems, Vigyanlabs soon realised that the big problem wasn’t really cutting-edge technology—it was the lack of power. “We were waiting for a big problem to solve. And, it was obvious that power was a real constraint,” recalls Varadarajan, the company’s CEO. He cites some figures, including Gartner’s research finding that at the current pricing, the energy expenses on a x86 server will exceed the cost of that server within three years. Or, that data centres use only 6-12 per cent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations, according to McKinsey & Co. Clearly, it was a problem hunting for a solution.


The Innovation Ladder

Photos.com

Most challenges of a business can be traced to three sources of inspiration— pain, wave and waste.

So, Vigyanlabs set its aim on working on an innovation in power management. “We began by looking at the root cause applications of all devices (networking equipment, laptops and servers) to see how we could optimise power usage”, Varadarajan explains. By 2010, the company had filed for a patent to what is now the Intelligent Power System (Plus). The patent was awarded in 2012, and IPMPlus claims to demonstrate 30-50 per cent savings. The innovation has completely altered the start-up’s original trajectory to one where the mission is now of utilising “clean and green” technologies. “The turning point for us was last year when the patent got awarded. We didn’t want to market it without that, but now people are coming to us—chip manufacturers, phone OEMs,” the CEO says proudly. Today, IPMPlus has been implemented on more than 55 large networks and enterprise installations, and more than 5,000 home or SME installations in 250 cities in 12 countries. They claim to have had an energy saving sufficient to light 4,000 homes for a month. In FY 2013, their projected energy savings are 2,000MWh, the equivalent of 50,000 trees. They also launched a smartphone version of the IPMPlus two months ago. In fact, it was because the mission of the company turned to something as grand as saving

power that Vigyanlabs never had a problem attracting best-of-thebreed talent to work out of their small office in Mysore, asserts Varadarajan. “What we were fortunate to do was not only take a real shot at a huge problem, but we also created a vision that would last beyond us.” According to Dabholkar and Krishnan, Vigyanlabs has combined all three sources of building the challenge book—by reducing the energy consumption of data centres which was a pain area of data centre operators, by recognising that cloud computing as a wave is leading to proliferation of data centres, and by saving energy (the critical source getting wasted here).

c. Build Participation

As was seen in Toyota’s case, broad participation makes an innovation programme vibrant. Subtle nuances such as separating brainstorming sessions from idea evaluation sessions so as to maintain creative confidence are important ways to do this. Of course, management attitude to discussion, and a consciously formulated rewards and recognition programme go a long way in building participation. As does creating positive role models, or what the authors call innovation catalysts. may 2013  |  INC. |  2 5


The Innovation Ladder

2

Improve

idea Velocity

Consider that by following the first step, you’ve managed to create a steady stream of ideas to work on. But, the speed at which ideas move to benefit from the context in which they were thought up is critical to an innovation programme. How do you accelerate how ideas move within your company, and why is it important to focus on organising yourself better to improve the velocity of your ideas? Below are a few methods of doing this well, and doing it in time!

a. Experiment with low-cost at high-speed

During the initial stage, there are two key reasons why ideas don’t move forward fast. One, the idea author doesn’t know where to begin. And; two, there is a fear of failure. What if this idea fails? Low-cost experimentation addresses both these issues. It also helps kill not-so-good ideas early. Forrent-laboratories in incubators such as Venture Center at National Chemical Laboratories are helping small businesses perform rapid experiments at low cost. In the IT world, Amazon’s cloud services platform is enabling technology based start-ups to get new ideas prototyped and in the hands of users fast. In Practice: At Galaxy Surfactants, the Navi Mumbai-based, `900-crore company that provides surfactants, rheology modifiers, pearlising agents and soap base for personal and home care industries has instituted a carefully laid out innovation programme. Key to the success of this programme at the Galaxy Research Centre which was founded in 1984 is their adoption of the Innovation Funnel Model. The funnel structure ensures ideas are screened as they progress through various developmental stages before getting converted into successful business. So, at Galaxy, an idea for, let’s say an aging pathway, will first undergo a feasibility study. A proof-of-concept will be built quickly and cheaply, and will be validated by customers before the idea moves forward. 2 6   |  INC. | may 2013

b. Go fast from prototyping to incubations

A crucial way to make ideas move is by identifying a champion who can sell them well. The champion is effective in helping to overcome the expected resistance to new ideas most organisations have. Not just who, how ideas are communicated is equally important as well. Tell good stories, Krishnan and Dabholkar recommend, to make ideas accepted and popular.

c. Iterate on the business model

Constantly explore your company’s business model to spot areas of innovation. This experimentation basically involves answering four questions—who is the customer, what do we offer him, how to reach him and how to make money? The authors recommend identifying the dominant business models in the industry you operate in, and exploring dimensions with which you can tinker with them.


The Innovation Ladder

Authors’

corner

A Q&A with Vinay Dabholkar and Rishikesha T. Krishnan What was the purpose of writing this book? What triggered your research?   We have been exchanging ideas on innovation since 2008. However, the book became a serious project after Rishi published his first book “From Jugaad systematic innovation: the challenge for India” in Feb 2010. A response from managers in India was—how do we go from jugaad to systematic innovation?” Around this time, I was working on a similar problem with a client of mine. HarperCollins approached Rishi around the same time for a possible project for his next book, and Rishi and I decided to collaborate to address this question.

Photos.com; images courtesy subject

At Top Speed Just coming up with great ideas isn't enough. You need to ensure they don't get stuck in a jam. Good ideas that don't go anywhere are worse than no ideas at all!

How do you want the book to be used? This is a how-to book and hence its primary user is a manager who wants to run an innovation initiative. In smaller and mid-sized companies, that push often comes from the founder entrepreneur. We believe it can be used in one or more of the following ways— to assess where a company stands in its innovation journey, decide which area to focus on (pipeline building, velocity or batting average), and then to design specific interventions to get to the next level. The action maybe directly related to any of the 8 steps— e.g. building a challenge book, championing an idea or creating an innovation sandbox. Or, it may involve running a challenge campaign or setting up of an incubator which will involve combining a number of steps.

that, on an average, Indian companies have some distance to travel before they are looked upon as world class innovators.

Vinay Dabholkar

Rishikesha T. Krishnan

How robust is the aspect of innovation in Indian companies? How would you map it to their global peers—say, similar companies in the US, China, Brazil or Turkey?   These are early days for innovation management in Indian companies. There are some sectors like manufacturing where management of small ideas (sometimes called suggestions) is more mature. However, when you look at innovation holistically— where you manage both small and large impact ideas, most Indian companies have a long way to go. Good news is that we have companies like Titan which are ahead in this journey and setting benchmarks for others. If we look at the 2012 Global Innovation Index published by INSEAD, India is at the 64th position, below USA (10), China (34), Brazil (58) and ahead of Turkey (74). What this means is

Is innovation top-driven? If so, how do entrepreneurs individually prepare themselves to cultivate an innovation mindset? Systematic innovation involves both top-down and bottom-up approaches and not necessarily in that order. The first step we talk about is what we call —lay the foundation. It involves setting up of three processes—idea management, buzz creation, and training and development. We believe that an innovative mindset is cultivated through all the three processes. Buzz creation highlights the successes through events, rewards, newsletters etc. What are the other obstacles in building the "innovation culture"?   At a basic level “resistance to change” is the key obstacle in building the “culture of innovation”. It manifests in several forms. For example, it may show up in how a manager may respond to an idea his team member has brought up. It may also show up as to how an organisation may respond to a failure of an innovation project. It can also show up in one department not accepting a good idea generated from another department. “Resistance to change” also known as the status-quo bias among social psychologists is present in all individuals and organisations perhaps in varying degrees. What matters is how an organisation works around the obstacle.

Breakthrough innovation is usually a result of several failures. In your research, did you find that Indian companies were prepared to truly empower their employees to make mistakes? We feel that when Tata Motors set up the team for designing Nano or when Biocon decided to start the oral insulin programme, it was assumed that the path will be paved with several failures. In fact, we feel that the structure of an “innovation sandbox” makes failures legitimate and yet provides a safety net for the players inside the sandbox. Tata Group has started a “Dare to try” award to celebrate failures and reward smart risk taking. We hope more companies follow such practices.

may 2013  |  INC. |  2 7


The Innovation Ladder

Increase the

batting

3 Average

Big bets form important milestones in the history of

any organisation. To use a cricket analogy, the authors liken big bets to sixers in T20 matches—it’s impossible to win the game without them. But, big bets are risky and hence need better risk management. Essentially, how do you increase batting average, but not get caught out in the rapacious appetite for sixes. 8 Steps offer two ways to seed in caution.

a. Build an Innovation Sandbox

It is useful to think of the innovation process as a sandbox: there are constraints and boundaries within which experimentation takes place, much like children choosing to build castles, dig trenches, or throwing sand around, all within the sandbox. It’s a useful way of thinking about containing big losses. As is another important idea outlined in the book—thinking about building platforms. Creating a platform enables technology businesses to spread the risk by enabling multiple applications from different domains. Platforms, essentially, create easier and faster access to underlying technology and data, like the Microsoft Windows platform does for the PC hardware and data stored in the hard drive. In Practice: Strand Life Sciences was founded in late 2000 (it was called Strand Genomics then) by four professors of computer science of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Strand began as a consulting firm with biotech companies in the US as clients. Strand’s team would build computational models for these companies. Slowly, this exposed them to what Dr Chandru, the founder, chairman and CEO of Strand, calls the “data deluge problem”. 2 8   |  INC. | may 2013

Varied Thinking Counting too much on one great idea might not be the best bet. You need to work on different formulas to minimise risk.


The Innovation Ladder

Photos.com

Businesses manage risk by building an innovation portfolio i.e. betting on more than one big idea, assuming that not all will succeed. “Data was doubling every six months in life sciences, mainly because of the human genome project of 2001. Every time a human genome is sequenced, it would generate two terabytes of data. Biologists couldn’t possibly use this data meaningfully themselves. Bioinformatics was getting a lot of attention,” Dr Chandru explains. So, Strand took what he calls “a leap of innovation” although at that time it would have been easy to just do a lot of lightweight products and consulting, says Chandru. “We thought building a well architected platform could help us be differentiated in this sector although it meant giving up short term revenues to create a product (IP).” The team architected a modular software platform they called Soochika which would enable data mining and classification. A core platform development team that was shielded from the consulting or services side of the business was created to do this. Of course, it helped that Strand was fortunate to have in its founding team a high-calibre cadre of computer scientists. The company also managed to raise Series A funding of $3.6 million from UTI Venture Fund, WestBridge Capital Partners (Sequoia India) and eight angel investors in September 2002. “Gradually, we deliberately shrank the services business and the transformation happened. It was painful in phases though. We actually had to retrench a bit in 2003 because of these adjustments,” Chandru recalls. he admits that the development process did lead to some frustrations for the business development teams, as they had to wait to have a product to sell,

But, the plan didn't waver. And, an award grant of

`2 crore by CSIR in March 2003 further enabled

Strand to add “visualisation” capabilities to the Soochika platform, and make it more than just a data mining platform. By mid-2003, they rebranded the new Soochika platform to AVADIS (an acronym for Access, Visualise, Analyse to Discover). Unexpectedly, early successes in Japan, and winning the DST Innovation Challenge by the Technology Development Board helped AVADIS get off the ground. By 2005, it had gone global. “About 80 per cent of our total revenue (about `30 crore in FY 2012 and 35 crore in FY 2013) comes from AVADIS-related license fees and subscriptions,” Dr Chandru says.

b. Create A Margin of Safety

Another way businesses manage the risk is by building an innovation portfolio i.e. betting on more than one big idea. The assumption is that not all will succeed. However, the ones which succeed will create an impact that will more than compensate for the cost of building the portfolio. In Practice: Ittiam, a Bangalore based pure-play IP company, followed this approach. In the beginning, Ittiam put its bet on three areas: (1) digital video (2) wireless LAN and (3) wireline modem. The first two bets turned out to be successful and the third one didn’t. However, that was sufficient for the company to propel forward. Being an IP-focused company, Ittiam also built an IP portfolio. This involved filing patents and also creating demonstrable reference designs. may 2013  |  INC. |  2 9


Deadlines piling up? Fear not. Out of the latest brain science come tips for getting the most out of your day and your employees

M

by issie lapowsky

photographs by Phillip Toledano

ost entrepreneurs suffer from the sense that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As chief strategist, marketing officer, technology czar, and bottle washer, you’re expected to outwork everyone in the office. You set goals for everything: sales, spending, new customers, product rollouts. However, one goal seems to hover just out of reach: maximum productivity. There’s a booming industry dedicated to helping business owners do more. Tech vendors swear their apps will turbocharge your output. Consultants preach (and bill for) the gospel of efficiency. Motivational gurus promise to unleash your inner superhero. Yet a growing body of research shows that no amount of gadgets or inspirational slogans can alter the performance limits of the human brain. So how do you work within those limits to check off more to-do items in the time that you have? We had conversations with the world’s leading neuroscientists, psychologists, and behavioral economists, who told us how to get more done without losing your mind.

3 0   |  INC. | may 2013

Prop Styling: Rob Strauss; Wardrobe: Luke Langsdale/Bernstein & Andriulli; Grooming: Gregg Hubbard/Bernstein & Andriulli

get more done


Think Fluffy Staring at cute images for 90 seconds a day can sharpen your focus and reduce your error rate, studies show.


get more done

The productive office

Design tips to boost employee output

Optimise Your Space Tweaks to the environment can yield outsize gains in productivity

W

hat’s happening

around you can be just as important as what’s going on in your head. Open floor plans might promote collaboration, but they are clearly hotbeds of distraction. Other research has yielded more surprising results. It turns out, for example, that bad weather is good for productivity. It all comes down to distractions, according to a Harvard Business School study. The more distracted people are by the opportunities good weather offers, the less they get done at work. Though no business owner can control the weather, there are ways to work with it. Orienting desks away from windows can boost productivity, for example. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School associate professor and co-author of the study, also suggests allowing employees to work shorter hours on good weather days, provided they clock out later when the weather is bad. Décor also matters. Do you cringe at cloying posters of adorable kittens? Get over it. Several recent studies have made the peculiar claim that cute imagery enhances mental focus. The first, published in 2009, came out of the University of Virginia’s psychology department and showed 3 2   |  INC. | may 2013

Make It Cute Finally, a business case for watching all those adorable puppy videos. Staring at cute images can narrow your focus and make you less error prone.

Turn Inward Good weather is distracting, according to a Harvard Business School study. To boost employee output, try orienting desks away from windows.

Crank the Heat Employees who work in warm offices make 44 percent fewer errors and increase their output 150 percent, a Cornell study found. Around 77 degrees is optimal.

Allow employees to work shorter hours on good weather days, provided they clock out later when the weather is bad. that viewing “very cute images” of puppies and kittens enhanced fine motor skills. Then, last year, researchers at Hiroshima University found that subjects who viewed pictures of baby animals, as opposed to adult animals or pictures of food, performed better on both dexterity tests and a visual search test. That last finding suggests that viewing cute images doesn’t just heighten our evolutionary instinct to be physically careful around babies. It makes us mentally careful, too. “If people can concentrate on the task at hand

without being distracted by other things, their productivity should increase,” says lead researcher Hiroshi Nittono. Simply turning up the thermostat can increase productivity throughout your workplace. A study of office workers at a Florida insurance company, conducted by Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, found that as office temperatures increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, typing errors decreased 44 per cent. Meanwhile, typing output improved a whopping 150 per cent. illustration by MCKIBILLO


Build a Nap Room Multiple studies show that napping anywhere from six to 90 minutes a day improves memory and learning ability.

Choose Power Colours Red rooms improve performance on detail-oriented tasks, while blue rooms enhance creativity, according to a study out of the University of British Columbia.

focus on what matters Filter Out Distractions Colleagues with headphones on are being productive, not rude. Constant exposure to noise and office chitchat makes you less likely to persist at difficult tasks, according to research at Cornell.

S

Judgement is a finite resource. Here’s how to replenish your ability to make smart decisions elf-control is critical

to productivity at work. It keeps you from zoning out, losing your cool, and giving up easily. However, a large body of research suggests that exercising selfcontrol in a broad range of situations, including resisting chocolate and choosing which household products to buy, can make you a less motivated and responsible decision maker. This phenomenon is known as ego depletion. So how can that self-control be restored? One promising avenue is selfaffirmation, which has been proven to make people less defensive. Because defensiveness is an impulse, researchers are now studying whether self-affirmation affects other impulses as well. In one recent study, subjects did a self-control exercise that involved writing a story without using

Focusing on basic values (like your mission statement) can replenish your self-control.

the letters a and n. Some of the subjects were then asked to write about a value that was important to them. The other subjects were instructed to write about why one value might be important to the average student. Finally, all the participants took a pain tolerance test, holding their hands in freezing water. Subjects who had just affirmed their basic values lasted about 30 seconds longer on average than members of the noaffirmation group, according to Texas A&M’s Brandon Schmeichel, a coauthor of this study. Thinking about values encourages abstract thinking, which has long been considered a key factor in self-control. This research has implications for the workplace. “Self-control is about competition between immediate and delayed gratification,” Schmeichel says. “If you’re tempted to take a shortcut instead of a principled decision, reminding yourself of your mission statement or anything that reorients you to the long term should help you make the right choice.” may 2013  |  INC. |  3 3


get more done

Don’t multitask

don’t reward failure Your employees will work harder to avoid a loss than to seek a gain

A

s the Marquis de Sade taught us long ago, penalties are far more motivating than rewards. Economists argue that we are more inclined to avoid actual loss than to strive for conditional benefits. This tendency is called loss aversion. It has been measured for decades, but only recently have researchers begun studying its influence on workplace productivity. In a study of 150 public-school teachers in Chicago Heights, Illinois, University of Chicago economist John List split the teachers into two groups and told both that their bonuses would be linked to student test scores. Teachers in the first would receive a bonus at the end of the year if student test scores improved. Members of the second group received a cheque for $4,000 in September and agreed to return the money if test scores failed to rise by June. Loss aversion worked: Teachers who faced the threat of having to refund their bonuses produced student test scores that were about 7 percentage points higher on average than the scores of students with teachers in the conventional bonus plan. Since then, List has favoured revising the traditional bonus

3 4   |  INC. | may 2013

structure. Although he doesn’t recommend business owners actually give out money and then take it away, he suggests telling employees up front that the bonus will be theirs if they meet their goals. If not, it will be reduced or retracted completely. Warning: Don’t set the stakes too high. Studies on choking

» Set targets Impose consequences » for failure Don’t set the stakes » too high show that the more pressure people are under, the more likely even seasoned professionals are to screw up. As a business owner, you can boost your own productivity by setting consequences. Online services like stickK.com let users sign up, set a goal, appoint a referee to track their progress, and pledge money if they fail to reach their targets. That money can either be donated to a favourite charity or, to really up the stakes, a so-called anticharity. For example, do you hate guns? Miss your goal, and stickK will kindly donate your cash to the National Rifle Association.

Your brain will thank you

T The ability to juggle work is a standard job requirement. Researchers have another name for this supposedly desirable skill, however: chronic multitasking. If this sounds more like an affliction than a resumé booster, that’s because research has shown again and again that the human mind isn’t meant to multitask. Even worse, research shows that multitasking can have long-term harmful effects on brain function. In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass challenged 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching among tasks, filtering irrelevant information, and using working memory. Nass and his colleagues expected that frequent multitaskers would outperform nonmultitaskers on at least some of these activities. They found the opposite: Chronic multitaskers were abysmal at all three tasks. The scariest part: Only one of the experiments actually involved multitasking, signaling to Nass that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively. Multitasking is a weakness, not a strength. In 2010, a study by


neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm showed that when people focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task. This suggests a two-task limit on what the human brain can handle. Taking on more tasks increases the likelihood of errors, so Nass suggests what he calls the 20-minute rule. Rather than switching tasks from minute to minute, dedicate a 20-minute chunk of time to a single task, then switch to the next one. His second tip: “Don’t be a sucker for email.” The average professional spends about 23 per

» Limit email on one task for » work 20 minutes, then switch » Get more face time

Avoid Juggling Chronic multitasking degrades mental focus, working memory, and the ability to switch among tasks.

cent of the day emailing, studies show. Inspired by that statistic, Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleague Stephen Voida infiltrated an office, cut 13 employees off from email for five days, strapped heart monitors to their chests, and tracked their computer use. Not surprisingly, the employees were less stressed when cut off from email. They focused on one task for longer periods of time and switched screens less often, thereby minimising multitasking. Mark and Voida encourage business owners and their employees to check emails a few scheduled times per day and turn email notifications off the rest of the time. Adds Voida: “Quick questions are often better asked face to face or by phone, where they don’t add to the huge amount of email we’re already dealing with.” may 2013  |  INC. |  3 5


get more done

invest in health Exercise is good for your brain, not just your body

E

ntrepreneurs fre-

quently complain about sacrificing their health to the business. Big mistake. It turns out that exercise can actually improve brain functioning. In a recent study published in the journal Neuroscience, researchers compared mice that lived in a cage with a running wheel with mice housed in an empty cage; a cage filled with toys and food; and a cage filled with toys, food, and a wheel. Within a month, the mice in the running-only group were crushing their peers in cognitive tests. Those mice also showed growth in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s critical to learning and memory and that shrinks with age. Aerobic exercise can be particularly helpful as you age. In a 2011 study led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Kirk Erickson, 120 older adults were assigned to either walk on a track three days a week or participate in toning exercises. After a year, hippocampal volume had increased 2 per cent in the walking group. The other group experienced the standard shrinkage associated with age. Aerobic exercise, the study

3 6   |  INC. | may 2013

Get Pumped Working out can actually improve brain function, studies show. Aerobic exercise can even reverse some of the effects of aging.


get more rest You’ll accomplish more if you give your body sufficient downtime concluded, reversed at least some of the effects of aging on the brain. There’s more to health than exercise, of course. Research suggests that lower out-of-pocket health care costs tend to make employees more productive. In September, researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School published a study on health care costs and employee absenteeism. Using a national database of insurance claims for 25,000 employees

Employees with health insurance are far more productive than their uninsured peers, according to a major recent study. being treated for chronic pain, as well as absentee data provided by employers, the researchers found a direct correlation between higher costs to the patient and work hours lost. For every $5 increase in health care costs incurred by employees, absences increased by one hour. The authors speculate that the higher the costs, the fewer prescriptions employees filled, so they experienced more pain and missed more days of work. Although the study doesn’t entirely prove causation, its findings should interest you if you’re wondering whether you can afford to cover health benefits for your employees.

T To make the most of your day, take a nap. Entrepreneurs often claim to need minimal sleep. Yet the vast majority of people actually require six to seven hours, according to Michael Chee, director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. In a 2008 study, Chee and his team used functional MRI technology to observe sleep-deprived brains. They appear to function normally at certain times, which is what tricks people into thinking they need less sleep. However, lack of sleep suppresses activity in parts of the brain that control attention and filter distractions. Chee’s team showed both sleep-deprived and well-rested subjects a series of large letters made up of smaller letters and asked them to identify either the large or small letters by pressing one of two buttons. Responses from the sleep-deprived group were both slower and less accurate. Lack of sleep also affects your ability to control your emotions. In 2007, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Berkeley, used functional MRI imaging to see how sleep-deprived brains react to viewing disturbing images and found that they are more than 60 per cent more reactive than well-rested

brains. The good news is that prolonged sleep can boost performance. Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has studied the influence of sleep on college basketball players. Her research showed that when the players slept for at least 10 hours a night, longer than usual, their shooting accuracy improved 9 per cent. Sleep isn’t the only break people need. Recent studies have shown that spending time in nature dramatically improves higher-level cognition. Last year, psychologists at the University of Utah and the University of Kansas published a study on how hiking influences creativity. The subjects took a standard creativity test, in which they were given three words and asked to think of another word that could

» Sleep as much as possible » Unwind in nature » disconnect link them all together. For instance, if the words were round, tennis, and manners, the answer could be table, because it fits for all three: roundtable, table tennis, and table manners. One group took the test before a four-day hike. The other group took it just after the hike. The results were staggering: The posthike group scored 50 per cent higher than the prehike group. “Some combination of disconnecting from the constant rat race of multitasking and interacting with nature showed significant restorative properties,” says co-author David Strayer. “When you clear your mind, you come at a problem from a new perspective, and the solution becomes obvious.” may 2013  |  INC. |  3 7


get more done

duke it out

true confessions

“Checking in with the product team to look at work they’re doing that isn’t ready for me to see yet.” Ben Lerer, CEO of Thrillist

“Randomly bugging my team with questions about yesterday, today, six months from now.” Katia Beauchamp Co-founder of Birchbox

“Constantly refreshing Twitter and Instagram. However, it has dramatically improved my smallmuscle control.” Neil Blumenthal Co-founder of Warby Parker

“Listening to Spotify and Pandora. I love finding new addictive songs and broadcasting them to the office.” Jennifer Hyman CEO of Rent the Runway

“Fiddling with my to-do list and Evernote. Ironic, isn’t it, that I use my productivity apps to procrastinate?” Brian Wong CEO of Kiip

3 8   |  INC. | may 2013

B

rainstorming ses-

sions often begin with the assertion that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. That sounds lovely in theory, but research has shown that it’s lousy for productivity. Teams produce many more ideas when team members are encouraged to challenge one another in a debate setting, according to a 2004 study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. When participants were instructed to debate, they produced far more solutions to a given problem than when they were instructed not to. The debate group also produced more ideas after the brainstorming session was over. “Debate makes people diverge, so it reduces conformity,” says co-author Jack Goncalo, a professor of organisational behaviour at Cornell University. “It also fosters competition.” Goncalo notes, however, that excessive competition can stifle productivity. “There’s a point of diminishing return,” he says. “A little bit of competition is good. Too much can get out of control.” That’s particularly true when you have several dominant personalities on one team. Organisational psychologist Richard Ronay of VU University Amsterdam addressed this topic in a 2012 study on links between productivity and hierarchy. Ronay and his team first conducted a manipulation to put some subjects into a highpower mindset and others into

a low-power mindset. Some subjects were asked to describe a time when they held power over another individual. Others were told to write about a situation in which someone had power over them. A control group wrote about a trip to the supermarket. The subjects were then divided into three types of groups: all high-power, all low-power, and a mix of highpower, low-power, and control subjects. The members of each group played a collaborative word game designed to show

» Encourage debate... » ...but limit status rivalry » Don’t put all your stars on one team

how well they worked together. It turned out that the mixedpower groups were nearly twice as productive as the high-power groups in any task that required collaboration. The takeaway: Top performers won’t necessarily work well as a team. Similar trends have been observed among NBA players and Wall Street analysts, two communities with fierce status competition and a preponderance of Type A personalities. “When you have too many star players on one team, it promotes status conflicts within the team, which kills the performance,” says Ronay. “You can’t have a group made up of all leaders. You need some people who are prepared to defer.”

courtesy subject (5)

Even the world’s most successful entrepreneurs aren’t exactly paragons. Go ahead, we said, you can tell us: What are your biggest time wasters?

Healthy conflict yields better work outcomes


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Tactics. Trends. Best Practices.

Strategy

Branding First Impressions Business cards that set you apart

courtesy subject

“Thanks Bill, it was a pleasure meeting

you. Here’s my card. Let’s stay in touch!” Variations of this conversation can be heard at most business networking events. And, this card too is likely to join the carelessly abandoned stack of business cards in your drawer. With an unending stream of networking events and meetings, most first-time conversations have taken the shape of a template e-mail; not to mention, an exercise in memory to remember each name and face. Yet, as an entrepreneur, it’s critical to cut through this clutter, and create a first impression strong enough to survive the onslaught of business cards and faces. So say hello to unconventional, quirky business cards that could help introduce you in a way that is fun, clever and most importantly, leaves an impression. “It takes about 30 seconds to a minute to register all details about every new person you meet. It’s in this time that one makes a judgment about whether you’d get in touch with them again or not,” says Kiruba Shankar, founder, F5ive Technologies, a Chennai-based web development company, who has designed 11 different sets of business cards for himself. “The

098415 XXXXX

way you speak, dress and walk create the first impression while your business card creates the lasting impression.” Shankar has multiple personalities—he’s an entrepreneur who runs a web development company and a social media consultancy. He’s also authored four books, has been a speaker at several management colleges, and is a weekend farmer at his venture Vaksana Farms. To customise his communication to the varied groups of people Shankar would typically run into, he has a unique set of business cards to go with each of his identity. His four Facebook-themed cards appeal more to the college audience he speaks to while his more formal corporate CEO cards are perfect for meeting potential clients, or pitching for

work. (See photos for a peak into some of his designs. An open source advocate, he’s put his portfolio of cards under the Creative Commons licence). Not just that, he even differentiates his visiting cards by creating custom ones for separate events. For instance, when he was invited for the Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards, Shankar thought it was “worthwhile” to print 200 business cards especially for the event. One side of the card had his photograph in monochrome along with his contact details, and the flip side had a huge colourful logo of the event itself with a small “We met at” on the top to remind people of the context of their meeting. However, the most ludicrous card from Shankar’s collecmay 2013  |  INC. |  41


strategy

Front

Back

tion is his “Google Card” which might actually mislead you to believe that Shankar works for the search giant. There is no designation or contact information on this card except a Google search box in the centre that contains “Kiruba” as the keywords, and the entrepreneur’s photograph on the back. What is the point of a business card if you don’t wish to share any important information about you or your company with others? “Well, this is the most popular business cards of all the ones I have used so far. It just makes a statement. If you sincerely want to know more about me, you’ll go look me up on Google later and will find all relevant information in the first few links that pop up,” Shankar says with confidence. Although barely used in that way, business cards can also offer a window into the owner’s personality. Kuber Chopra, founder of a Gurgaon-based youth marketing start-up Rasta, says he wanted to strike a balance with his company’s business cards. Although he wanted to appeal to his target audience, and not be considered as boring “men in suits”, it was important to cut a professional image as well when pitching to clients. So, Rasta’s team designed, square-ish “mini Polaroid-like” visiting cards for themselves, that are a departure from the regular 3.5 x 2 inch rectangular company cards. Each Rasta visiting card has a photograph of the employee on one side, and contact details of the person as well as the company on the other. These photographs not only resolved the perpetual issue of forgetting people’s names or faces when you meet them for the first time, but gave a sense of ownership to the company’s employees. “Our team loves using these cards and their friends 4 2   |  INC. | may 2013

Front

Back

often tell them that they would like to work for us just to get these cards,” he laughs. The cards also carry funky designations such as the “brand trooper”, “brand steward” and “youth-bag” right under the employees’ photographs that add an element of intrigue and fun, reflecting the company’s culture. “These designations may not be self explanatory but they help

communicate youthfulness and hint that our work has something to do with brands,” Chopra says. In fact, business cards are a great opportunity to provide a sneak peek into the company’s work culture and core talent of the team. A case in point is the award-winning business card designed by well-known designer Ashutosh Karkhanis in 2009. It was basically several batches of vanilla- and chocolate-flavoured biscuits made by The Bombay Bakery (now known as Food Boutique) with the name and phone number of the owner embossed into it. Even though the cards had a very low shelf life and were “backbreaking” to make and store, they proved to be a great way to do some effective marketing for the bakery. “These cards told a story. They talked about perfection and innovation that our bakery stood for,” says Pia Promina, the owner of the bakery, who carried the biscuits in an air-tight box to distribute samples among people. “People asked me—do I eat it or do I keep it?” But the idea was never to store these edible cards anyway as people were meant to save the number quickly and eat the card instead of storing it somewhere and never looking at it again. The best part? You don’t have to shell out tonnes of money for these extremely effective networking and marketing tools. Shankar paid `1,000 for a batch of 100 cards while Chopra got an even cheaper deal with `500 for 500 cards. Unsurprisingly, Promina refused to disclose how much the biscuit business cards cost her. Shankar sums it up well though. “If designing and printing a bland, white card takes the same amount of effort, time and money as a colourful, creative one, why not go for the latter and stand apart?” —Ira Swasti

courtesy subject

Top to bottom: Entrepreneur Kiruba Shankar’s customised event card; Bombay Bakery’s biscuit business cards; A 2.7”x2.1” card for youth marketing firm Rasta


strategy

Owner’s Manual | Jeff Haden

What’s your mission? If you can’t answer that question, all the charm in the world won’t inspire people to follow you Passion and charisma might make you more fun to work

for (at least, for a while), but they alone can’t make you the kind of leader everyone wants to follow. For that, you need a strategy made of more lasting stuff. To identify that elusive stuff, I talked with Jim Whitehurst (left), president and CEO of the $1.1 billion open-source software company Red Hat. Before joining Red Hat, White­hurst was the COO of Delta Airlines as it emerged from bankruptcy.

Most people who are widely considered to be great leaders are also seen as highly charismatic.

Possibly so, but charisma goes only so far, especially if you’re leading a big company. As an employee, I can get inspired by a great session with my boss, but that quickly wears off, and a few weeks later, I forget why I’m getting out of bed. Great leaders lay out a mission. Some are charismatic, others not, but every great leader creates a sense of mission that doesn’t rely on force of personality to sustain. That’s easy: Isn’t the mission always just to make the company money?

missy mclamb/courtesy subject

Absolutely. But that’s not inspiring. A mission has a larger meaning. Delta was and is an institution, and when it was struggling, we were on a mission to ensure it didn’t fail on our watch. At Red Hat, our mission is to provide free content and functionality and information to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Every great leader helps all employees feel their job plays an important role in something bigger and more meaningful. It’s hard to extend a sense of mission to all levels, though. When I was an entry-level factory worker, I felt my only mission was to get out the door on time.

At Delta, I felt there had been too much

focus on air travel as a commodity. When the entire focus is on cost and price and you are a flight attendant or mechanic, you’re basically being told you don’t matter. I used Starbucks as an example: a lowcost operation—paper cups, customers bus their own tables, etc.—but a high-class experience, because its employees make it high class. Even though we weren’t serving steaks in coach, by being intensely customer focused, we could still deliver a high-class experience to our passengers. A lot of business owners feel their sole mission is to enforce employee accountability.

Good leaders do want their employees to feel accountable. Great leaders feel accountable, too, but they feel even more accountable to their employees. Every year, we hold a huge Red Hat party, and I see our employees and their families and think, Holy crap; I’m responsible for all these people. It’s a great reminder that every single decision a leader makes has more than just professional repercussions. I feel accountable to Red Hat employees, but not just for my performance: I’m accountable for explaining results, for explaining my decisions, for apologising if things don’t go well.

I spend way more time explaining decisions and results to our employees than I do to our board. So, show you’re accountable to me and I will feel accountable to you—and a lot more motivated?

Engagement is everything, and that’s especially true with knowledge workers. You worked in production, so you know because of the nature of the work an energised and jazzed line employee can be, at most, maybe 20 per cent more productive than an average worker. An inspired creative or knowledge employee can be 10 times more productive. The difference is not incremental; the difference is exponential. Even though you’re steeped in operations, you talk a lot about emotions.

We often say emotional like it’s a bad word. Inspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, excitement—those are emotions, too. Why would you want employees to check those emotions at the door? Use the power of positive emotion. Be authentic. Connect. Provide meaning and context to the company’s mission, and make sure all of the employees know the specific role they play in achieving that mission. Ultimately, your job is to get people to do what you want them to do. When your employees believe in what they’re doing, they’ll walk through walls for you— and your job is really easy.

Jeff Haden is a frequent Inc. contributor and ghostwriter who likes to interview smart entrepreneurs. may 2013  |  INC. |  4 3


Fostering Bonds To ensure his son understands the value Aries Agro creates, Mirchandani takes him along on business trips during his school holidays.

Rahul Mirchandani never had a minute’s doubt about joining Aries Agro, a speciality plant nutrition solutions company his parents founded in 1969. The office was his playground growing up, and the employees a second family. But, Mirchandani, who is now the company’s executive director, hasn’t let familiarity limit his skills. He teaches at Mumbai University and is the founding member of two global youth alliances. He’s a doting father, and frequently uses anecdotes about his nine-year-old son. His work-life balance is difficult not to envy as is his humility that he credits to his regular interactions with farmers across the one lakh plus villages Aries Agro reaches. With a schedule that keeps him on the road, it isn’t surprising that Mirchandani judges his success as a manager by the amount of work his team can handle without him. As told to Sonal Khetarpal | Photographs Courtesy Subject

4 4   |  INC. | may 2013


strategy

“Giving my team the authority to work in my absence is the best learning so far.” The Way I Work | Rahul Mirchandani, Aries Agro

I travel 20 days a month. The 10 days when I am home in Mumbai, I get seven hours of sleep. I get up around 7.30am everyday and wake up my nine-year-old son who is usually cuddled up next to me. We both get ready after which we have our usual south Indian breakfast of dosa or idli. Home is my sanctuary. I rarely, if ever, work from home. When I’m at home, it’s strictly family time. Office starts at 9.30am but I usually get there by 9.45am. It’s only 10 minutes away from home, and a short ride. I intentionally delay getting there by 15 minutes so that the staff gets some leeway to settle in. Once I reach office, I expect everyone to be there. We strictly follow working hours here. In the evening also, everyone leaves by 6.45pm. It’s only sometimes that people stay back till late, typically around the year end, when the books are being closed. When that happens, I stay back with the accounts team too. My perfectly orchestrated routine in Mumbai is in strong contrast to the days when I may 2013  |  INC. |  4 5


strategy

“If I am in office for an entire week, it makes me feel unproductive.” am travelling. When I’m travelling, I never get enough sleep as I take early morning flights so I can save up on travel time. Since I look after the company’s marketing across 26 states, I try to visit each state every two months. In each location, I usually have a review with the sales team of that state after which I’ll have meetings with customers and dealers. I thoroughly enjoy that I am connected to the farmers. They have taught me all I know about agriculture as I was not trained in agriculture. I’ve done my MBA from University of Canberra, Australia and am also a chartered financial analyst. Meeting them helps us understand their habits which enables us to design products relevant for them. Being in the field keeps us in touch with the ground reality and helps to pick up the pulse of the market. It gives us a lot of product ideas and scope for innovation of our existing products. It allows me to keep a tab on outliers as well. Once, during a visit, I heard that the yield in a particular village had tripled. We later found out that it was due to a glitch by the production team which had led to the increase in the concentration of a nutrient in the fertiliser by manifolds. This unintended consequence helped us realise the increased deficiency in soil and helped to create our flagship brand. Field visits are a very important exercise as all our 85 brands of speciality fertilisers are conceptual products for agriculture. We have to educate the farmers on the importance of these micro-nutrients like zinc, iron and boron and creating their demand. We do this through systematic demonstrations and extension activities. The demand creation exercise in a village takes upto three to four crop cycles which is usually a year and a half long. It starts with recognising the highly respected farmer in the village and taking a small plot of his land where we use our products. At the end of the season, we compare the produce from the two fields so the farmer can judge for

himself. On an average, we have seen a benefit of `6 for every rupee invested. Not only is there an increase in the quantity of output but it is of better quality too. We then organise farmer meetings so that the selected farmer can talk to fellow villagers about his experience with our product. I am a part of this process often. In spite of this, some farmers still aren’t convinced. So we talk to them individually or do a trial on their land. It is usually by the third season that we get maximum demand from a village. Uptil now, we have managed to cover 1,20,000 villages but it is only one-sixth of the total villages in India. We do this with the help of our marketing team of 600 people. 150 of these only do such extension activities. We hire a lot of temps too. They can go up to 1,000 during season time. Mass media advertising does not help as farmers are not able to figure it out. In the last 42 years, we have not spend even a single rupee on it.

A

4 6   |  INC. | may 2013

fter my visits, when I go back to the office, the first thing I do is to look at the dispatches made and the sales report from previous days. This is the most critical part of my work. Being the marketing head of our company, I also look at product cost sheets, product profitability and branding decisions. I have realised that I have to learn to trust the management information system (MIS). Even now, I want to be present everywhere and see things for myself. If I am in office for an entire week, it makes me feel unproductive. I like going out to meet customers and solve their problems. But as our business grows more, it will be difficult to be outside this often and I will have to trust the reports and reviews given to me. Currently, I am in the office for not more than three days a week. Since I am away most of the time, it is important for me to let my team work independently so that they can get work done during my absence. Initially, I used to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s. But, I learnt that I need to free up my time to do more important things. Giving them the authority to


strategy

work in my absence is the best learning so far. I ascertain my success as the manager by the amount of work my team has piled up for me during my absence. The lesser the work, the more they have learnt. We have been growing at almost 30 per cent year on year for the last nine years. But, only our scale of operations has increased. The way we do things in the company has not changed. In fact, the company’s culture is still very grounded. This was instilled into me by my parents and we still live up to it. To ensure that I understand the work, they would take me to office and let me work with our staff right from the days when I was in school. I would type tenders, be a telephone operator or sometimes sell like a salesman. They would also take me along on their business trips. I learnt a lot working with almost every function. Now, I take my son along whereever I go The Right Connection Talking to farmers gives Mirchandani a lot of product ideas and scope during his school holidays. I hope it does for of innovation for their existing 85 brands of specialty fertilisers. No wonder, he enjoys him what it did for me when I was growing. travelling to the 1,20,000 villages that Aries Agro reaches. Travelling with my parents helped me understand the value our company creates and made me proud of it. So, preneur summit in France in 2011. Later, I was given the responsibilsuccession was never a problem for me when I joined the company ity to connect Young Indians globally. I managed to connect it with in 1999 after finishing MBA. Everyone was already used to my pres28 youth organisations from around the world. These youth bodies ence. Due to the familiarity with the staff, the only problem was the looked at entrepreneurship training and skill development related transition from Rahul ‘baba’ to Rahul ‘Sir’ that took almost five activities. Later, I became the founding member of two global alliyears. I did not ask for it though. It just happened gradually. ances of young entrepreneurs—G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance Apart from handling Aries Agro, I teach on Saturdays at and Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs. WritMumbai University. I love to design and teach my own courses. ing the governance code of both these alliances gave me an instituPreviously, I have taught marketing finance, rural marketing, tion building exposure and I could experience peer-leadership at entrepreneurship, marketing research and agri-business manageits ultimate extreme. What struck me the most was that these young ment at IIM Ahmedabad and Narsee Monjee Institute of Manentrepreneurs from each of the 28 participating countries, whether agement Studies. Overall, I have lectured at over 50 Business it was the US, Europe or Pakistan, face similar problems and schools in India. Our company is also launching an MBA prowanted the same five things. They want better access to finance, gramme in agri-business and we are now designing the course entrepreneurship culture-building, mentorship support to advice material and training teachers for it. Teaching forces me to be during risk-taking, a system that taught entrepreneurship right updated and motivates me to add value to the class. For that, I read from school level and a better innovation and incubation infraa lot. It is mostly restricted now to business journals, newspaper structure. So, as a group we focus on advocating and developing a or non-fiction. But, John Grisham is one author whose books I more conducive entrepreneurship ecosystem in each of the respecalways find time to read. I hate ‘How to’ books. I believe I have to tive countries. We not only give suggestions and recommend polmake my own path and no one can customise it for me. I also get icy interventions and solutions to the government but also carry a lot of insights from my students who are mostly working profesout action projects that demonstrate success. If I see a development sionals. I end up learning a lot more than I teach, to be honest. problem, these are the platforms that enable me to do something I have a very strong bond with my students and they were the about it and being a change catalyst is a very satisfying experience. ones who got me involved with Young Indians, the youth arm of These activities do take up a lot of my time. But, if I don’t do it the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 2005. There I now, I perhaps never will. This is the time when I have the energy started working with 82 student networks across India who and capacity to do multiple things. And, these are the things that would get-together for leadership training, skills development excite me. I do not want to look back later and regret not having and community service projects. In 2009, I led CII’s Young Indidone something I wanted to. This motivation keeps me going. If by ans as their National Chairman and was the President of the the end of the day, I am both physically exhausted and mentally Indian Delegation to the Group of Twenty (G-20) Young Entreexhilarated, I know my day has been worth it. may 2013  |  INC. |  47


I wish I knew then...

Gaurav Aggarwal, founder, Savaari Car Rentals In the 10 years he spent in the tech haven of the Bay Area, Gaurav Aggarwal became used to a comfortable life until a Eureka moment on a trip to India forced him to address his entrepreneurial calling. In 2006, Aggarwal couldn’t find a reliable taxi to travel from Mumbai to Delhi. At that time, there were only a few organised national players in the car rental industry. Aggarwal, whose parents run a transportation business, saw a business opportunity in starting a standardised pan-Indian car rental service. Now, in almost seven years, his company has spread a network that includes 60 cities across India. Here, Aggarwal shares the lessons he learnt while scaling up. My family runs a business of buses because of which I had access to sufficient insights on how to run a transportation business. When I told them about my decision to start Savaari, they warned me of potential challenges or roadblocks in the business. The most important advice that I received was about the importance of local context. From experience, they had learnt that if I wanted to build a pan-Indian transportation business, it wouldn’t make sense to buy cars in every city, and run them. Pragmatism was in tying up with local vendors in each city who knew the infrastructure, traffic conditions and roads well enough to ensure the best, most efficient service possible in that particular city. And that’s the model Savaari works on too. But, not all business lessons can be seamlessly passed on from one generation to another. You learn some things from your own experience. Since I had worked on coding for 10 years in highly complicated systems such as router development in the US, I thought I could manage the technological side of the my company with ease too. Surprisingly, it was here that I was most wrong. When you become an entrepreneur from a technology professional, your priorities change. Or at least, mine

4 8   |  INC. | may 2013

Change, The Only Constant Gaurav Aggarwal now knows how to transition from a five to a100-plus firm.

did. I was handling everything from marketing to business development. That didn’t leave enough time to work on the technology side of things. As a result, the launch of some of our backend as well as front end products got delayed by several months. This delay taught me that as a company grows from five to more than a hundred people, roles and responsibilities for each person become fewer, yet more specialised or demanding. I realised I could not lead every department of the company as before

and needed to focus on one aspect of business alone. So we hired another individual to lead the technology front full-time in 2012, someone who could cater to highly diverse and specific needs of various departments while I concentrated on investor relations and business development alone. We also got another senior team member to lead marketing. When I had started Savaari, I wasn’t aware of this transition that you need to make as you scale up. We could have avoided the costs of delay if I had learnt to delegate well much earlier. But for delegation to work, another crucial learning is the focus on hiring the “right” people. You shouldn’t invest in people blindly by expanding your team based on the “number” of people you need. We did that mistake of hiring a few people who were not upto the mark because we wanted to scale up. Instead, it is always better to invest in those few individuals who’ll provide a multifold output. They may be costlier to hire but the return on investment on such individuals is also extremely high. —As told to Ira Swasti


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Beyond Jugaad!  

Inc. India May 2013, Vol. 04, Issue 04