How to be a High Performance Entrepreneur

How to be a High Performance Entrepreneur
By Subroto Bagchi

Subroto Bagchi is best known for co-founding MindTree Ltd. in 1999, where he is currently Gardener & Vice Chairman. He has written hundreds of articles on management and technology issues in leading newspapers and magazines. He has lectured at management schools and industry platforms the world over and featured on PBS, CNBC and BBC World. Recently, his first book "The High Performance Entrepreneur" has been released as a Penguin Portfolio publication to great critical acclaim.

Most entrepreneurs, every day, face problems: never enough time, or money, or people. Some entrepreneurs face even more dire constraints: old businesses, new competition, or falling prices. Sometimes it?s so tempting to roll over, and give up.

Weathering the storms, being able to look beyond a crisis and maintain freshness of thought to find a way out, to spot the opportunity - hard to do. But certainly one of the keys to successful high-performance entrepreneurship, believes Subroto Bagchi. He calls it "big picture thinking."

Subroto Bagchi, one of India's most successful entrepreneurs and co-founder of Mindtree Consulting, believes that high performance entrepreneurship is all about tapping an opportunity behind an inventive thought. He has examined some clear successes to see where those thoughts originate.

In particular, Subroto shares the story behind one of India's best known leisure brands: Cafe Coffee Day. How many of those sipping the brew, chatting with friends at any one of the 300-plus outlets across the world, know that Cafe Coffee Day has its roots in potential failure?.

Subroto recounts, "Siddhartha's family comes from Chikmagalur in Karnataka, and has grown coffee for generations. Siddhartha studied commerce in Bangalore and while doing his Masters in Mysore, left his studies midway and took a bus to Mumbai. There, in a departure from the family occupation of growing coffee, he started trading in stocks and made money, and got drawn to the world of investment in a big way.

Eventually, he returned to the family business but was not happy with the size of their ambition. He wanted to make it really big. Over the years, the cultivation grew from a few hundred acres to 10,000 acres!.

The reason for the growth was partly driven by his desire to increase the cultivation, but in part it was because traditional growers were fed up with the fickle coffee prices. Many coffee estates were up for sale. As with any other agricultural crop, coffee-growing is a lot of hard work. The coffee requires year-round care: you raise it from a seedling to a berry-bearing shrub. You irrigate the plants only when it is needed, and to exactly the rightly the right extent. You shade them and keep wild animals at bay. After the crop is harvested, you get to know that the international coffee market has a glut and no one wants to buy your coffee even at the cost price. The cycle became so unpredictable that many growers just gave up.

Estate after estate started closing down. An EI Nino, thousands of miles away, could decide a coffee grower's future in India. Siddhartha started buying up coffee estates that were going out of business.

At the same time, Siddhartha was feeling helpless. How do you carry on with a business in which you have absolutely no say regarding pricing? When he looked at the basics of coffee cultivation, he found that an average grower grows about 120 million bags of coffee every year. The price of that crop is approximately $7 billion. But when the same bean is retailed and becomes coffee in your cup, the value becomes $100 billion! The grower cannot determine his price, but nobody ever has gone and haggled over the price of a cup of coffee anywhere in the world. You pay whatever the person at the counter asks for.

Siddhartha thought to himself that instead of moaning about EI Nino and international coffee cartels, the thing to do was to chase the $100 billion opportunity and not the $7 billion problem. He called in his advertising agency and they heard him out, but cautioned him against retailing coffee. They said, and rightly so, that the coffee market was growing at a mere 2 per cent annually. The mom-and-dad-two-kids in a south Indian home were actually even reducing their coffee intake. To Siddhartha, however, that was not the market.

He wanted young boys and girls in cities and towns, college-going teenagers, to drink his brew. He wanted them to come and hang out in bright, fun places where they could drink their choice of coffee, watch music videos, snack on a piece of cake or a sandwich, and check their e-mail.

In 1993, cafe coffee Day was born to the tagline 'A lot can happen over a cup of coffee'. Today, the Cafe Coffee Day chain has 302 outlets in 65 cities and towns all over India. While coffee-drinking in homes was either coming down or stagnating, Siddhartha saw coffee becoming a 'lifestyle' drink. More than just the brew went into the creation of the Cafe Coffee Day enterprise. This is what is called the big-picture thinking."

"The germination of an idea can happen in solitude and may not seem workable to people around you, but if you strongly, passionately believe in it with a big picture perspective, then you can certainly make it happen," concludes Subroto.

Source: The High Performance Entrepreneur, by Subroto Bagchi, edited and reprinted with the author's permission.

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