Book offers all-important lessons for start-ups
Inspired by the secrets of 'shinise' or Japanese companies dating back to the time of samurais, corporate leaders R Gopalakrishnan and R Narayanan take a deep dive into the art of growing and sustaining a business in their new book.
"Wisdom for Start-ups from Grownups: Discovering Corporate Ayurveda" is the culmination of their collaborative effort to bring the best of what grown-ups have to offer to start-ups, presented in the form of all-important lessons.
If start-ups are one side of the coin, representing new-generation business, grown-ups are the other side of the coin, they say.
"The physical, psychological and emotional connection between start-ups and grown-ups is important to the economy and to society. Start-ups are connected delicately, a bit like the corpus callosum that connects the right and left parts of the human brain," the book, published by Penguin Random House, says.
According to the authors, if one follows the public commentaries and perceptions about long-standing companies, it would seem like the last few nails are being hammered into their coffins in light of the rapidly growing start-ups.
"One almost imagines these companies to be on Easter Island, the once-prosperous island inhabited by the Polynesians, who went extinct in an apparently mysterious manner," they write.
The authors explore the motivations among entrepreneurs and also narrate the stories of nine start-ups. They say they tell these stories to "elucidate the pulls and pressures, the compelling desire to do well with whatever they have chosen and some of their near-death experiences and lessons".
Over the 48 years of his close association with Unilever and Tata, Gopalakrishnan has gathered experiences and know-how about what makes companies tick, while Narayanan, having worked with Coca-Cola, Nestle and then two start-ups of his own, has developed keen insights about angel investing and mentoring.
The authors say in India, some commentators think that start-ups hold the key to the national issue of unemployment.
"The background and skills of those who need jobs contrasts with the atmosphere of start-ups like the e-commerce ones. The most admired e-commerce start-ups have modelled themselves on 'spend now, profits follow' model. The jury is out about the likelihood of success, but that is essentially what entrepreneurship is," they write.
The book is divided into two sections, the first focuses on start-ups and the second on grown-ups.
The authors also take a close look at 'shinise' or long-lived companies in Japan and whether they have a secret formula.
Some of their characteristics are: clear in their values and mission over a long period of time, focused on people and the human merit system, customer oriented and having a sound business model, socially responsible and nation-building, adaptive and innovative, and frugal in using resources.
Gopalakrishnan and Narayanan also stress on corporate Ayurveda. They say the basic Ayurveda principle advocates that a balance must be achieved among wind, bile and phlegm in the human body for good health and energy.
"Translated into organisational language, this can be interpreted to mean that sustainable organisations achieve a balance among energy, mind and the soul of the organisation.
"In short, the lesson from ayurveda and grown-up companies is that if an enterprise can develop its business inclusive of its social responsibilities while delivering a sense of well-being to its stakeholders, it can enjoy a long life," they write.