It was 2005. I had started asking questions around the purpose of life and the frugality of leading a life in the pursuit of profit. I wanted to do something dramatically different that had a purpose. Once again, I did not know what and how, but I knew the why. My mother, Anupama and I formed Sampark Foundation so that we can give back to the disadvantaged India when we had the energy to do it. At that point, Shiv came to me and said why don’t you come and lead the transformation at HCL Technologies? I thought that would be a bad decision from Shiv’s point of view; predominantly because I had never run a large company. And a turnaround is different from a start-up. I told him I was the wrong candidate for that role. But Shiv is very persuasive. Once he wants something, he gets it. So, a few long dinners and months later, I agreed; and I am glad I did.
Heading the transformation at HCL was like home-coming but also a difficult challenge as I had to learn, adopt and execute fast. I had a fantastic team, the best in business and the board, led by Shiv, was very supportive of bold moves. So, I was the only weak link in the chain and that is how I saw life in those early days. Yes, I was nervous and had a fear similar to the one I had felt while running behind the train at Ratlam.
We had to choose our battle in terms of who we wanted to fight. I decided to fight the big ones. My 10% rule! Let’s fight IBM. Let’s not fight with Indian IT. So, we started gunning for large total outsourcing deals. That change in focus had high risk but was a blue ocean strategic move that worked for us. The second question was ‘how do we fight this battle?’ We fight it with a new management thought — employees first, customers second. The ‘employees first, customers second’ as a disruptive management thought came about by asking three fundamental questions. Question one: what is our core business. The core business we are in is to create unique experiences for your customers, and thereby deliver unique value to our customers. Question number two: who creates these unique experiences, the unique value? The obvious answer was, the employees. So, the third and final question: if the employees create the uniq