The fourth edition of the Fortune India 40 Under 40 Summit in Bengaluru on April 29 celebrated the entrepreneurial success of young achievers in the country with a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and a private-equity investor who decided to deep-dive into the changing dynamics of entrepreneurship in India.
The three-member panel—comprising Krishnakumar Natarajan, co-founder & executive chairman, Mindtree; Samit Ghosh, CEO & managing director, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank; and Mukul Gulati, co-founder & managing partner of private equity firm Zephyr Peacock Management—spoke on why it is important for a founder to build a culture that inspires his or her employees rather than just setting out to build the next unicorn, a privately held company valued at over $1 billion.
“A founder-driven company still could be a professional company and as an investor I look for those businesses,” said Gulati, adding that before writing a cheque he looks for companies that have a culture, which can sustain beyond its founders.
Ghosh, a torch bearer of social entrepreneurship, echoed the sentiment. He said it is one of the key responsibilities of a founder to ensure that the organisation continues after he or she is gone. “Succession planning is the key to a successful business, which the founder has to ensure. The job ends when the successor is in place,” said Ghosh, who set up Ujjivan Financial Services, a micro finance company in Bengaluru in 2005. In February 2017, Ujjivan began its banking operations as Ujjivan Small Finance Bank.
“K.K. (Natarajan) and I, we both are entrepreneurs and we feel the emotion of the founders, yet we have come to a stage where we have realised that founders have to move on after a certain period. It is very difficult to give up and move on, but it has to be done,” said Ghosh.
Natarajan feels over the two decades since he co-founded IT-services firm Mindtree in 1999, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country has “clearly” evolved. “Not just in terms of access to funds, but the ability to get mentorship from people, who are willing to spend time and energy to help startup founders scale their businesses. Today there are lot more platforms available for entrepreneurs to get visibility, which is a major motivational push for entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level.” Mindtree was one of the first venture capitalist-backed IT firms in India.
According to Gulati, technology and globalisation have been the key growth catalysts fuelling entrepreneurship in India. Take, for example, India’s largest e-commerce retailer Flipkart or leading cab-hailing company Ola. Both homegrown unicorns have managed to leverage technology to garner scale to such an extent that they are giving global giants Amazon and Uber a run for their money in the Indian market.
“Today local entrepreneurs are competing with global competitors in their home markets as they have access to a larger pool of capital (venture capital and private-equity funding),” said Gulati at a packed house attended by startup entrepreneurs, corporate executives and business honchos. The session was moderated by Deepti Chaudhary, senior editor, Fortune India.
The Fortune India 40 under 40 list every year looks at unique business ideas and the people powering them. This year’s list not just featured seasoned entrepreneurs, startup founders who started disruptive businesses but also executives from large companies who have taken over key leadership roles early in their career.