No longer a lonely path

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on May 17, 2011

Mr Rajiv Deep Bajaj, Vice-Chairman and MD, Bajaj Capital   -  Business Line

Mr Rajiv Deep Bajaj, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital, was at business crossroads some time back. His dilemma: how he and his brother Sanjiv could grow the business founded by their father Mr K.K. Bajaj – what should be the strategy? Should one go for listing in the market or not?

Help came from the peer to peer network he is member of – the Entrepreneurs' Organisation (EO). At one of the forum meetings, he posed this question to his peers, and was promptly mentored. “I got a three dimensional view with all the options, pitfalls ahead. Now, I have a clear three year plan for the company,” he says, delightedly.

As India gets into the entrepreneurial superhighway, more and more networks such as EO and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) are handholding start-ups and mid-level companies, taking them up the growth ladder – saving them the big expense of hiring consultants. But, why so many networks and does it make sense to be part of more than one?

Different from others

Mr Bajaj, who is also a TiE member, thinks each network has its own distinct advantage. He claims that the EO is a bit different from other networks because it not just tackles business problems but personal ones too. Besides, we engage spouses and families too and have a special programme for spouses, he says. “We also do a lot of personality development and even invest time on issues like how can industry cope with the Naxal problem,” he adds.

Also, he points out, while at TiE the biggest issues discussed are how to raise capital, at EO, where more members are from mid and large-size companies than start-ups, the issues are more related to growth. “We are also faced with issues like evaluating your own role in business – should one step back or step forward, when to professionalise and so on,” he says. Mr Bajaj is a board member at EO's Delhi Chapter (EO has nine chapters in India).

To be a member of EO, one has to be an owner, founder/co-founder or controlling shareholder of a business that grosses $1 million or more annually. Also, unlike TiE, where membership fee is nominal, here the membership fee is steep (Rs 5 lakh is the induction fee and Rs 90,000 is the annual fee besides which one has to shell out $1,400 to be part of the global EO network and an annual fee of $700). In addition, there is a rigorous selection process. “This varies from chapter to chapter. In the Delhi chapter, only one in four candidates who apply for membership is selected,” says Mr Bajaj.

He rejects suggestions that EO is a clubby organisation. “We are selective,” he admits. “But that's because, we want to avoid idle or passive membership. We only choose members based on the contribution he or she can give to the organisation and how much we think they will gain from being part of the network.” Members have to set aside half a day in a month for EO activities, he says, besides which there are retreats (for instance a trip to Japan was organised) where they can bond more.

With affiliations to all the other ‘O' organisations – the Young Presidents' Organisation, the World Presidents' Organisations, and the Chief Executives' Organisation (CEO) – Mr Bajaj describes how being part of the network can help a member rub shoulders with the likes of Mr Mukesh Ambani and Mr Azim Premji during exchange events.

So – unlike TiE which is so visible – why have we not heard much about EO till now? “That's going to change now – we now have a public relations and communication strategy,” says Mr Bajaj.

Executive programme

Now, also taking a cue from the global EO, which offers an Entrepreneurial Masters Programme (EMP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston for its members, the India region is stepping up educational activities. It has introduced an executive Business Growth and Leadership Programme at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad that is custom made for its members.

As another EO member Mr Shamit Khemka, CEO and founder, Synapse India, puts it, the entrepreneurial path doesn't have to be a lonely one. “There are tonnes of people who can help you on your journey - you just have to know where to look.”

Published on April 24, 2011

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