Thursday, February 22, 2007

"It is in Indian genes to be good entrepreneurs!"

Meet Your Buddy, Vol 6: PC Narayan

Prashant (Orizin) said, “RECTians are second to none!”. We agree. After bringing you the top notch entrepreneurs and industry personnel, we present a corporate-turned-academic whose profile would dazzles even the highest achievers in industry. It was at the prime of his career that he decided to call it quits and work fulltime in an academic setting.

PC Narayan currently holds the Banking Chair at Finance and Control area of IIM Bangalore. He is a 1973 Batch alumnus of REC Trichy and went ahead to get a Business Management degree from XLRI Jamshedpur. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at IFAP Rome, Italy.

He started his career with Telco (now Tata Motors) and worked with several other organizations before joining Standard Chartered. After serving the bank’s South Asia region for several years out of Singapore, he moved into full time academics joining IIM Bangalore. He is one of the most sought after speaker at Banking fora and travels regularly on consultancy assignments.

PC Narayan (left) with Anand (MYB, Vol 4) at Reconnect 2006

Why doesn’t IIM prefer experienced people as is the trend in many business schools internationally?

There are two schools of thought: There are people who say that experienced people are able to appreciate better the business and processes that they are exposed to. While those in favor of fresh graduates contend that as people gain experience, and with the number of years they are kept out of curriculum, they lose their ‘native intelligence’ – a prime requirement to produce quality research work.

The younger a student is, the more academically inclined he/she is. It is felt that practicing managers have modeled their brains in a more congested way.

Even in a lot, engineers are preferred. They have a much practical view of business than, say, a student of purely humanities background.

Nevertheless, there is a widely held view that management is all about managing people. How does experience in production or software engineering help in managing a business?

I believe that this is the greatest misconception about business management. Yes, people management is a necessity. However, the core functions of a business – marketing, finance, productions, operation – remain the same in all companies – be it in a software company or a FMCG giant. All these functions can be visualized as rooms in a building of organization and ignoring the importance of anyone is something like giving importance to corridors rather than rooms. Corridors are a necessity but all rooms are equally important.

In fact, plain experience may not be enough. What is highly sought is a domain level expertise. Such an experience comes only after some years of working in an organization and in a cross-functional role.

As you grow in an organization, your core knowledge helps only to a limited extent. After that, your ability to co-ordinate across business functions becomes important.

How can one conclusively decide about his/her area of competence? Further still, how can one be sure about his innate liking?

I believe the intuitive inner knowledge tells you what you should do in life. Intuition may not be strong after one-two years in industry. However, as you grow up in organization and responsibility, you begin to realize what your true nature is. Intuition, in reality, has to do a lot with the level of experience a person has.

Three things together make a person successful – Intuition, Persuasion and Conviction (ICP). Intuition is the first link in the chain. Without it, nothing else can exist. However, Intuition without any real Conviction is scrap. A person who does not have the requisite amount of Conviction cannot dream of persuading anyone. However, this is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for good Persuasion. It is only when a person learns to persuade people to his line of thinking he is successful. In fact, as you would appreciate, Conviction without Persuasion brings only frustration in the mind of an individual.

How did you decide to leave a fledgling career in industry to join full time academics?

I used to enjoy delivering guest lectures and the intellectual challenge of talking to young people. In corporate life, 90% of time, you order and things get done. The challenging environment of a classroom gives you an opportunity to learn a lot. Then, there is a possibility of putting theory into practice – by consulting. One fine day, I heeded to my inner voice. I decided to do what I enjoy the most! This was a moment when everything – intuition, conviction and persuasion – fell into place.

Only in an academic setting, you can realize how practical life gives birth to sound research. For example, it is very difficult to say what came first – research or practice – in the case of outsourcing from which India is benefiting heavily.

It makes an interesting case to study the impact of outsourcing by American companies to Indian companies. I had once made a strong case of transfer of economic axis from US to India due to outsourcing.

How helpful is it, for an Indian manger, to get global experience? Should foreign MBA be preferred?

International experience is certainly helpful in this globalizing world. However, it may not need a full time degree to gain that. A bright person can learn to manage all the cross-cultural differences in one or two assignments abroad. There is no need for us to be arrogant and impertinent about ourselves. Given the same conditions, an average Indian stands a much better chance to learn things faster. There are differences in the way international business is done. An American client would appreciate you asking for some more time to finish the task rather than committing failure to meet the deadline later on. This scenario can be different in India or any other country and here experience comes into picture.

Where do you feel Indian economy is heading in the long-run?

I am bullish about the prospects of India. The best thing in India is its robust democracy. There is a freedom of criticism of everything – and all Indians know how to cope up with it in our day-to-day lives. This gives a major boost to developmental economics in India. Whenever there is a famine, the leader of opposition will be the first person to reach on ground zero, while the leader of government will ensure that his representative reaches there even before that!

On the other hand, an autocratic government has no such pressure to deliver. Therefore, it can sustains itself only till a viable alternative to it is not shown to people – this is what happened in Nepal last year and happened in Iran with the Iranian revolution. The ground reality is that the Chinese communist government is the best at practicing capitalism!

Our PM, Mr. Manmohan Singh said in an industry conference, “We are building a very transparent system. We cannot target an ambitious target of 11% GDP growth in the first year itself. That would make the growth unsustainable. We have, therefore, chosen the path of being slow but steady and sure”. He adds, “Indian entrepreneurship is strong. It is not the MNCs who are setting up industry in India, as is the case with China. We would therefore like to promote a system which facilitates a lot of learning.”

Can you throw some light on the prospects of ‘Microfinance’ in India?

Its one of the area I am deeply involved into and the prospects are really booming. I have personally visited villages near Bangalore and other parts of country and I was amazed to see the attitude and knowledge of villagers. There are instances where I felt they know a lot about concepts like ‘high interest and low interest debt’ and practically apply them. Very often, I quote the same while I am teaching in IIMB. Indian villagers and farmers are intelligent have greater self respect than their counterparts in any other country. The only threat to microfinance in India is the absence of a regulatory authority. There were cases recently when a well running organization met a deadlock because of lack of awareness about the standard procedures.

What do you think we should do to build a better brand for NITT?

I am very confident of the talent of the students of our alma mater. There are many instances when their grasping power proved it. You should get hold of alumni from senior batches. We, then, need to approach some top performing alumni and do a seminar of sorts – ask alumni to talk only about their successes – may not be directly relevant to RECAL but this will create a goodwill in society for NITT and its brand. All this should be coupled with an engagement with a good PR and Media company.

Such a ‘leadership series’ will certainly add a lot of awareness and brand-recognition. This should always be taken all over the country and to the highest end of media spectrum.

We should also recognize old and new faculty members - people whom we all can associate with. In addition, I feel that RECAL has still not grown up – we should allow leadership at RECAL to evolve.

What do you think takes for a NITTian to be successful at entrepreneurship?

It is practically in Indian genes to be good entrepreneurs. All that you require is to have high energy levels, a sense of commitment, aggression to succeed, determination and tenacity to find a solution in every problem.

Men at top do matter in everything that they do. An entrepreneur should be ready to stop being a geek and don a leadership role. Most successful entrepreneurs are good leaders. Even Narayanmurthy jokingly says that he is glad he was not the best programmer around.

These days, even though there is a high availability of funds, it is coupled with a high mortality rate too. We should actually teach about pros and cons of entrepreneurship as a part of curriculum.

[PCN would love to get in touch with you. Please email him at pcn at iimb dot ernet dot in. He is actively looking possibilities of consulting large organizations.]

[Yes, we have taken an awful lot of time to publish this one! We do intend to be more regular, if time permits. Please bear with us and keep suggestions flowing in.]

Anurag Saxena (2005 Meta), IBM India Pvt. Ltd
Arpit Agarwal (2005 ECE), Ittiam Systems Pvt. Ltd

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