Midway into my conversation with Portea Medical CEO Meena Ganesh at her company’s office in start-up capital Bengaluru, she excuses herself to silence a reminder buzzing insistently on her cell phone. Ganesh smoothly turns back to our conversation, pausing only to confirm the next in a series of meetings that lay ahead of her on a busy weekday evening. The alarm is a permanent fixture in her daily routine and is meant to remind her to call her daughter.
Not that Ganesh, who made it to this meeting despite recovering from a bout of viral fever, really needs reminders. The 51-year-old serial entrepreneur, one half of what is arguably India’s most successful start-up couple, has demonstrated a sense of being clued in into her businesses, which is probably why the duo exited from their start-up Tutorvista with a cool ₹1,100 crore and count Ratan Tata among the investors in one of their many ventures.
Tutorvista and BlueStone are only two among the countless start-ups the couple has nurtured over the past decade. Ganesh caught the entrepreneurial bug not long after her IIM-C batchmate and husband K Ganesh did. But she had a long stint in the corporate world with NIIT, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Microsoft, interacting with application developers and companies working for finance and HR verticals in her role at Microsoft. This was when Ganesh realised she enjoyed working with entrepreneurs. “That’s where the whole desire to be an entrepreneur started. But it didn’t make sense to do yet another software service-IT start-up, so I looked at other potential areas and honed in on customer support, launching Customer Asset — one of India’s first BPOs — in 2000,” she says.
Start, build, exit
In 2003, the couple took one step in their series of successful exits by selling Customer Asset to ICICI and Meena taking over as Tesco’s India operations CEO. “While I was a part of a large corporate at Tesco, it was also a start-up role. We had to buy land, build offices, determine what to outsource and offshore and coordinate with the entire organisation,” she says.