Sunday, September 20, 2009

Future companies for the adventurous

Before I begin, my heartfelt tribute to the man who saved us all - the father of the Green Revolution - Dr Norman Borlaug. His fantastic story can be read here!

Across B-school campuses, it is placements time. Or it will be, soon. And the same questions will haunt students and professors alike - Which companies are the best to be chosen as role-model employers? Which companies are to be skipped? 

But a little reality check, and context-setting first. The terribly rude shocks of the past 12 months have destroyed most of the artificial intellectual arrogance that had gotten built across B-school campuses. In the period 2002-2007, even otherwise ordinary institutes with average output were on a high. The upward swing of the market was being construed as the lift generated by their own hard work and talent (which was not the case). Since placements were happening anyway (as companies were desperate to recruit anyone resembling a human being), everyone was consistent in one belief - markets have been tamed, vagaries are under control, and anyone with an MBA tag attached is hot property. Naturally, students and institutes alike were very choosy about companies and packages.

Those rah-rah years are gone for good. They won't return in a hurry. Maybe they won't ever return. And personally, I feel it is a great thing. Sanity always is.

So let me try and answer the question "which company to join". From all my experience, this is what I feel.. take this as "my advice for all young leaders/managers" -
  1. The choice is personal - safety v/s growth
    This truly is tough. For a young person, the safety of a large corporation is quite attractive, especially when loan instalments are to be paid. But look beyond the first few months, and for some of you, maybe a different (and unexciting) picture may emerge. For many, however, a large corporation is the final call, with safety and predictability taking precedence over everything else. That's not wrong, it's just a matter of personal choice. So when you  make a certain choice, please accept in good humour the baggage that comes with it. No point whining.
  2. If you want growth (and adventure), the best bet are small, upcoming companies
    The way the world is going, one can say that the most disruptive ideas will emerge from the least likely quarters. Since scale is no longer a prerequisite - in fact in many cases it positively hinders ideation - it is likely that the next killer idea is being shaped by a garage entrepreneur right now! Small, unknown companies are the best places where great ideas are getting nurtured today.
  3. Companies that are unheard of today, will be masters of the world tomorrow
    This sounds cheeky, but is the truth. There are strong reasons for this. i) Extremely cheap and almost free computing power (clouds), ii) large-scale global collaborative work tools (e.g., and iii) crowd-sourcing. All these were simply absent 10 years ago. Smart entrepreneurs are making full use of these tools.^
  4. Ten hot sectors to look out for
    • Renewable energy
    • Education services
    • Services management for services-sector
    • Bottom-of-the-pyramid microfinance
    • Bottom-of-the-pyramid FMCG & Telecom
    • Micro-medicine (Nanotech)
    • Low-cost mass housing
    • Budget hospitality solutions
    • Africa!
    • Personalised media services

So before you decide, think carefully. The world is a beautiful place, with multiple opportunities. To understand this better, you may wish to view Venture Capitalist John Doerr's views on Entrepreneurship (and hence the way companies are run), and Disruptive technologies.

Disruptive technologies - click here 

Enterpreneurs are missionaries - click here

Choose wisely!

* at most b-schools, they used to have a "week" for placements
** Witness a typical scene in the corner office - "Get me 500 post-graduates", thundered the boss of an MNC subsidiary in India. "We have aggressive growth plans". The HR head meekly nodded his head. He had to get 500 heads, anyhow.
*** remember Google? In 1997, no one had heard of them. That's a mere 12 years ago. A mere 12 years! I distinctly remember a colleague of mine asking "what is this google thing? many students are talking about it.." In those days, the first set of employees to have joined this company have reaped the richest rewards of the company's blistering growth over the years. It's always that way. But not everyone can be Google. So what did you expect? That's how the world is. Most die. Some flourish. Few are blockbusters.
^ The tools, per se, do not guarantee success. They accelerate it, facilitate it, make it cheap. But luck, political sense and right timing are needed in equal measure to become a market success.
^^ Entirely my personal opinion. These are all relatively new or unknown sectors, with few talented people contributing. Take renewable energy for example. That's a sector whose success will determine the fate of the planet! Imagine!! And what do we have to show for that? How much coverage does media offer this sector? Relatively less. Another Google is waiting to emerge in this sector. It will happen suddenly. Out of the 6 major areas that companies are working in - Wind-energy (Esp. High-wind, using turbing bearing balloons), Algae fuel, Wave farms, Nuclear fusion, Geothermal systems, Solar satellites - anyone can be the winner. And the potential is boundless. Fossil fuel companies are truly dinosaurs. We have together destroyed much of our beautiful planet, and it's time for big change. Change so big, we cannot contemplate its size now. The only problem is no one knows "when" the change starts to happen. It can be tomorrow, or 20 years later! Well, that's the price of adventure. A word of caution - Bio-tech was touted as a gamechanger 10 years ago. Billions of VC dollars later, nothing much has emerged. It takes time.


pankaj gangwani said...

Hello Sir,

I have heard from the people who are there in premiere institutes that, they join startups because that is the place where growth, adventure and the bigger part "learnigs" lie. And today heard from you as well that small upcoming companies of today, will be masters of the world tomorrow.

Thankyou Sir for the motivation and hopefully after MBA I may join any startup or start my own venture.

Thank you
Pankaj Gangwani
Spring 09

mohitdalmia1987 said...

Respected Sir

After reading your blog, I felt flexibility towards all roles a company offers, should be our first priority. But sir I have a query related with the negotiation on the pay packages offered by the company.

As I have also taken a loan, what should we do if the CTC offered by the company is low? Should we negotiate for the CTC before joining or I should first perform for 3 or 6 months in the company, and then should ask for the revise of pay?


Proton Mohit Dalmia

Ravi said...

respected sir,
this blog is indeed a great worth for me as it give me a chance to strength my desire to work in renewable energy sector.
thank you, sir for this great inside.
Ravi Malviya

Kapil Gehani said...

True for one that Africa is the place with biggest ever growth possible. It comes with lot of adventure and culture change. For example you may call an African a "BLACK" which is fully acceptable by them, but NEGRO the word which we associate with them is quite harmful to use. So one has to study the place well before he travels there for work and live. At least learn and study the basic culture it helps you in not offending someone unknowingly.

Yes, small enterpise come with a very huge growth but a very adventurous enterpreneur is also very harmful. Hence one should do a realty check on the enterprise while joining. Such a enterpreneur do not run with the norms of business and they are short of basic working capital all the time. Its basically walking on on a very thin ice with a promise that if you get through, then theres no stopping of growth. The path is highly demanding and quite stressful.


ritesh said...

Dear Sir'
This is a wonderful insight and this will help me a lot in finding way to career, I also got some valuable inputs from the economist session and started finding the companies that are emerging in these fields.

Thank You Sir

Manika Juneja said...

Dear Sir,

You correctly pointed out in your post that "Future Companies for the ADVENTUROUS", because employees cannot predict the near future after such a big global turmoil. The people who are ready to take risk will be able to seek jobs.

As mentioned in yesterday's Economic Times "Wanted: Reasonable candidates for top jobs". Recruitment is there in market but employees have to do tough bargaining.

So, the students have to seek the job opportunities with an open mind and they should decide their priorities i.e. "Safety or Growth".

Sir, thank you for an eye opening post.

Proton Manika Juneja
Fall '08

Anurag Khandekar said...

Respected Sir,
This blog was a real life example it came and went like a realization to many of us who are headed for corporates in the near future. We need to hone our skills to meet their standards, simultaniously we need to understand that education will be available to us at PROTON in the best possible form, its upon us how to capitalize. The emerging trends explained here were very enriching and fulfilling from a budding manager's perspective. Sir i would like to thank you for sharing such a deep insight. At the end i would like to summarize with a quote that states -"No Pain No Gain".

Warm regards,
Anurag khandekar,
Carnegie Hall,

sanjay said...

Hi Sir, the insights being given by you upon how companies use to recruit people and what the scene will be in the coming future are true reality check for all of us. The things like educaitonal loan and all which also haunt us at the time of choosing companies is also rightly pointed. But we need to understand in which companies should we go bigger or better in future. The sectors are also rightly pointed out as most lucrative sectors in the coming future period. May be some amongst us will be "Sergey and Larry" for any unknown company in future.

Test said...

Hey guys, thanks for writing! Great to see so many wonderful thoughts.

Pankaj - what you have heard from those students of "premier" institutes is their personal opinion. You may or may not want to take it seriously. I wish you the best for your own venture!

Mohit - whatever negotiations you think you can do, please do it at the time of the interview. Then, till the first official appraisal falls due, do not even think of negotiating. It is not only bad manners, it is downright unprofessional. Employers hate one thing - an employee breathing down their neck in the middle of the stipulated contract period hankering for "revision". The trick is - keep performing, and what is due will come to you. Ask for it (blatantly) and it won't ever.

Ravi - go ahead, conquer the world!

Kapil - thanks for pointing out the need for cultural sensitivity. (I had hinted at one such case when I wrote about the insensitively designed IIMCAT training video launched by Prometric in India - they used American accents!) Thanks also for hinting at the risk of entrepreneurs running out of cash. That is correct. It happens.

Ritesh - glad that you are using the Economist sessions (World Vision sessions) to the fullest.

Manika - good to see that you are reading Economic Times so seriously!

Anurag - 'No pain, no gain' is a wonderful axiomatic truth.

Sanjay - you definitely can be the 'Sergei' (Sergey) and Larry of tomorrow. Who's stopping you?

Unknown said...

Respected Sir,
Its really a very good blog. Thanks for giving guidance. I want to enter in telecom sector. I request you to guide me.

Proton Ankur Verma
Fall 08

ravi jain said...

Dear Sir,
In previous edition of ‘The Economist’, on page number 59 articles ‘It still pays to study’ forced me to think on my decision of doing MBA. This article indicated that today employers are just avoiding hiring Professionals because of following reasons.
1. They have to pay higher remuneration.
2. Resistant attitudes towards adaptation.(not ready to change mindset)
This article further suggested that an employer is more interested to hire people at school level who have basic skills (Computer and communication) as you also suggested in the last Economist session. So that they can mould (Train) them according to job requirements.
It really provoked me to think that “Does Education Matters?

Ravi Kumar Jain
Fall 08

Vipul kothari said...

Dear Sir,
Warm Greetings.
Definitely it is an eye opening and shaking insight by you. As I have understood,that growth,learning and place to show creativity and talent lie in start-up's. This post forced me think about future in renewable sources like solar energy and wind energy. This will surely bring a revolution and will change the face and fate of the world. Great opportunities and scope lies in this.
thank You very much for this great insight.

Proton Vipul Kothari
Fall' 08

Unknown said...

Hello Sir,
Its really true one has to make choices but as according to my opinion for the starting young people one should try to opt for growth over safety beacause
1.readyness to take risks
2.provides great learning
3.growth opportunities
I also feel when you are in small enterprise you do take risks but even if one belongs to the category of failing ones it is the true test of character of those who have it in them.I hope so recession has happened for good to bring out the greats out of meagres.
With Regards
Proton Nikhil Sukhlecha

Unknown said...

Hello sir,

Great post again!! As you are absolutely right, "If you want growth (and adventure), the best bet are small, upcoming companies"..There are numerous examples of it irrespective of Google. Like; "Motif India Info tech Private Limited...(Founder: "Kaushal Mehta"(Ahmedabad) is growing at such a higher scale that it grabs many of the contracts from the IBM-Daksh as well".

Well Sir, as I had previously mentioned that I was the student of PT and currently I am pursuing MBA in IT from Symbiosis(F.Y.)

We as a part of student activity, organize the regular "GUEST-LECTURE" in our college campus. So, as a part of Guest Committee I (Keyur Joshi) am welcoming you to our college campus as a "Guest Lecturer" at your suitable date and time.

Well, Sir, it will be great pleasure for us if you share some of your precious time with us out of your schedule.

My college address is mentioned as below:

Symbiosis Institute Of Computer Studies And Research,
Atur Centre, Gokhale Cross Road, Model Colony,
Chatushringi Rd, Yashwant nagar, Pune, Pune, Maharashtra 411016
020 25675601

Hope for your positive reply.

Thank you,
Keyur Joshi.

Test said...

Hello Ankur - please survey all telecom and related companies, and try to match your education with what they want. So if you are a techie (an Engineer, for example), you may want to join the hard engineering part of those businesses. Similarly the rest. Of course, there is more to it. Stay in touch with the Placement Secretary for more guidance.

Hello Ravi - thanks for commenting. Well, be optimistic and positive. Employers "always" valued these virtues that the magazine mentions. It's not something that's new. But what's indeed new (and different) this time round is the pressure on employers to genuinely seek out candidates who add value constantly to their businesses which are hammered by recessionary forces all around. So we cannot really blame the employers. As markets start picking up, and the scenario turns bullish, slowly but surely, things will improve. One word of caution : you may be reading it all wrong. The article never mentions that technical skills are useless. In fact, they are a given. Best of luck.

Thanks Vipul and Nikhil for reading and commenting!

Hello Keyur, good to see you back. Well, we can link up through video coferecing on the coming Monday. We have a full setup of VC at PROTON campus, and if you have a similar VC setup, we can link up successfully, rather easily. Please revert. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Hello sir,

Thank you Sir for your reply. I have doubt that we have setup of VC in our college. Anyways, if it is not there, we will arrange it for sure.

Well, Sir on Which topic you will be addressed to us monday?

Furthermore, if it may not be possible, can you come at least for one time to our college for sharing your valuable knowledge? Sir, it will be great pleasure for us to welcome you.

Thank you,
Keyur Joshi

RAMJE Manish said...

Thank You Sir,
You always frame real world in front of us and no fantasy world.

Saurabh Soni said...

Entrepreneur a 30 year old magazine of US launched its edition in India..Their sept'09 edition has 16 sectors which are considered hot for 2day & future..The 16 sectors mentioned are :-

2)Green Transport
3)Organic Food
4)Carbon Credits
5)Alternative Energy
6)Social Entrepreneurship
7)Micro Finance
8)Low Cost Housing
9)Discount Retail
11)Lifestyle & Wellness
14)E Waste
15)Digital Technology
16)Radio Taxi

The article gives a good idea about these sectors and individuals can explore them according to the choice & taste..

Would also like to wish Good Luck! to the Proton Students for placement season..


learnig from life-By Divyesh Dodiya said...

Respected sir,
I found this particular blog very interesting and very helpful.It certainly will help us in making decision to which company go for as we are going to approach to placement season soon.

Thank you sir,

Have a nice day,Sir...!

Proton Divyesh,
Fall 08'.

Test said...

D-square (Divesh) and Manish - thanks for reading and commenting.

Saurabh - wonderful list. Loved it!

Hi Keyur - please finally confirm about the VC thing. If yes, then we can go for it quickly. Or else, I need to confirm my dates in a while.

Unknown said...

Respected Sir,

Thank you for your reply. I asked today our college authority and according to them we have VC set up in our college and we all are welcoming your valuable knowledge on that occasion.

However, they asked me to confirm whether the "Proton Business School" is under cover of "ISRO-EDUSAT". If yes, then there wouldn't be any problem. Furthermore, if it's not then also they have other alternatives like VC through Google Chrome is also possible.

Well, Sir, on which topic you are going to enrich us? Additionally, on what time on monday you will be delivering the lecture so that we make our adjustments..

Thank you very much again for communicating with me.

Keyur Joshi

Unknown said...

Dear Sir
Its our pleasure that you are appreciating and prodding us to read and give comments on. The 'icing on the cake' being that you are taking out time for reading our comments and appreciating and replying to us so. You are supporting us at the starting phase so that we feel motivated do not fall or stop somewhere.
Heartily Thanks
Proton Nikhil Sukhlecha
Fall 09

Ashok Kumar said...

Dear Sir,
This was wonderful insight about the new alternatives available to an entrepreneur and situation prevailing around us in the market.
Thank You.
Proton Ashok Kumar

Test said...

Nikhil and Ashok - great to see you are seriously reading.

Keyur, we have the regular Video-Conferencing equipment, with leased line internet connections.

Unknown said...

Respected Sir,

Thank you for your reply. I will confirm with our college authority by today only about the VC thing.

However, to connect with "Proton Business School" for VC, we wil be needed ur VC IP address.

Thank you,
Keyur Joshi.

SHAILESH said...

Hello Sir, It was wonderful insight for me. it will help me for my placement because i always thought to start carrer with a big name. one thing i would like to ask u sir as we know today indian goverment only focusing on infrasture. they are spending lots of money on that sector. so sir what you think for this sector, is there any scope for us. thank you

Menal Lunawat said...

Respected Sir,
Thank you sir for sharing your views on this particular topic, as this is the area where students are in need to help.I think that freshers should look at the growth aspect rather than safety. "Miles to go before you sleep",is the phrase one should remember to cope with this fast moving world.

With Regards,
Menal Lunawat,