A minute for your feedback please

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lessons from Mr Manish Sabharwal of Teamlease and ICAP

One of the benefits of studying at IIM Ahmedabad, is the sheer quality/number/variety of guest speakers who make a beeline to address students, often at their own costs. Be it business school conferences, student club organized events, faculty organized guest speaker sessions or institute organized seminars, one gets to hear firsthand from extremely busy people. Yesterday was another such case in point, where the guest speakers for an elective Securities Regulation(taught by visiting faculty and eminent legal eagle Prof Sandeep Parekh) were the PwC national tax practice head, and Mr Manish Sabharwal. At first, having just heard of Manish's achievements at Teamlease(for which he was listed among the most innovative leaders in India by Forbes in Dec11), I wondered what he would have to say on securities law. But like most successful people, he dons multiple hats. For the past 12 years, he has run a interbank broker ICAP in the bonds/currency/derivatives(BCD) market. Due to the exigent regulatory framework, that broker has remained small. But his venture Teamlease has grown to Rs 6000 crore turnover and 80,000 employees within just 6 years, despite the archaic contract labour laws. He very interestingly contrasted the two ventures, trying to analyze why one grew from a baby to an adult, and the other remained a dwarf. His 1hr session held the audience rapt bound, helped also by his pithy one liners.
DISCLAIMER:-Please DO NOT quote before checking with Manish himself, since this being based on notes/memory, verbatim accuracy is NOT guaranteed.
  1. When  you set up a checklist, you set yourself up for being gamed:-This was in the context of explaining why Indian regulators like RBI prefer a principles based regulation to the rules based regulation prevalent in USA and elsewhere
  2. Regulatory cholesterol:-While explaining why a certain Indian financial sector regulator(can't take the name since it may be politically incorrect!) was resistent to change, he compared it to regulatory cholesterol, stating that since its talent selection was incestuous with very little new blood, such lack of innovation would be the result. 
  3. The Satyagraha argument:-If you find a law irrational(like Gandhi found salt laws), you break it and fight for changing it. Manish contrasts his efforts at Teamlease on reforming India's contract labour laws, to this
  4. In India, if you wait for all the lights to turn green, you will never leave home:-He mentioned this in the context of navigating the bureaucratic red tape and inertia in India. It is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. 
  5. Entrepreneurship is the art of staying alive long enough to be lucky: He paraphrases the Calvin and Hobbles comic, where Calvin says that he's in the right place but does not know the right time, and so will sleep at that right place till the right time comes! He also compares it to the story about the prisoner who, when sentenced by Mughal Emperor Akbar to death, promised to make Akbar's horse fly within 6 months. Intrigued, Akbar delays the sentence for 6 months. When asked by a fellow prisoner about this seemingly mad promise, the prisoner explains that he brought time in the hope that within these 6 months-Akbar could die/change his mind, horse could die or maybe be made to fly!! These stories show the importance of handling risk, and staying solvent/buying time when you know you are right. 
  6. When you get THERE there is no there:-He mentioned this in the context of how chasing happiness is elusive, since that moment of success itself is very transient. 
  7. Life is NOT a fixed income security, it is a call option whose value is maximized with volatility:- While encouraging us to take risks/leap of entrepreneurship, he used the metaphor as life as not a safe risk free security,but an exciting call option! We would repent the risks we did NOT take, rather than the ones we took.
  8. Who you define as your competition often defines how big you become:-This was in the context of strategy/dreaming big. This phrase explains itself, as broadening the scope of competition avoids tunnel vision.
  9. When in Rome, don't do as the Romans do:-This was in the context of business ethics, not bribing and not employing the Nuremburg defence that you were 'just following orders!'. As Murthy says, the softest pillow is a smooth conscience. 
  10. Playing to win is NOT playing dirty, 100-0 are BAD odds:-This was again in the context of fair play in business/avoiding practices like insider trading. One may rig the playing field/squeeze partners but that is not sustainable in the long run.
There is plenty more from that session, which I'll share in future posts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment