New Manager

People worked with me, not for me: Deepak Parekh

| Updated on: Feb 26, 2012
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Committed team, larger purpose — success mantras of business leaders.

Deepak Parekh chaired the jury of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for the first three of the property's 13 years. As he cut across the sea breeze on a pleasant evening last week, on the lawns of the Taj Lands End in Mumbai, to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award of the awards' 2011 edition, the audience stood up to applaud.

In his acceptance speech, he noted that he had commenced his career 47 years ago as an article clerk in Ernst & Whinney, London, which is now Ernst & Young.

“I would not have achieved what I have without the support, help and co-operation of all the people who have worked in our organisation (HDFC). And I must say that people worked with me — not for me,” added Parekh, in a characteristic tone that did not betray emotion.

As some of the winners took centre stage, we listened in for learnings from these inspirational leaders. Edited excerpts:

‘I remember our first borrower’

“The biggest challenge (when we started HDFC) was how to raise money. No one trusted us with their money. For the first 10 years of our existence, we had to depend on wholesale funding to lend retail.

“We had to experiment with how to lend money — we found that you can trust a man on the street, particularly if he is using that money to buy a house, when his family is involved.

“I even remember the first borrower — he bought a place in Thane. He took a loan of Rs 30,000.

“In the 90’s, as liberalisation took place, we started HDFC Bank, opened branches across the country, and now we have 250 branches across India. Today, HDFC is the largest lender in mortgages.

“It has been very satisfying to fund millions of people who now have their own homes.”

(From a video on Deepak Parekh prior to him being awarded.)

Capacity utilisation for

universal cancer care

— Dr B.S. Ajaikumar, Founder and Chairman, Healthcare Global Enterprises

“As a doctor-entrepreneur you want to make sure the patient gets the right treatment. On the other hand, you expect to satisfy the investor group that expects a certain return. But we believe that so far we have successfully met that challenge.

“Our pledge is not to refuse treatment to anyone.

“Cancer is perceived to be a debilitating disease, but cancer care also affects the economics of the individual. By taking cancer care to the nooks and corners of the country, we want to ensure that the patient can take the treatment and go home.

“The challenge is in capacity utilisation. If CyberKnife is the treatment, which costs Rs 4 or Rs 5 lakh, why not see how it can be done at a reduced price — or for free — at 11 in the night? What do I lose? Nothing, except electricity and a technician's charges.”

The right team will be able to navigate the course

— Deep Kalra, Founder and CEO, Make My Trip (India)

For entrepreneurs:

“Entrepreneurs need to focus on building something of value, of building a service that customers will like. They shouldn't be thinking too much about the exit. That's going to take a while — it took us over 10 years (2010, NASDAQ IPO). The only way you can last the journey is if you love it. Don't focus too much on that pot of gold which may or may not be there.”

And investors:

“Investors are rushing in; people are spraying all over the place, especially in the early stage. Some of them are going to be hits, some won't be.

“The fundamental point for investors is to focus on the team, focus on the entrepreneur. Times can change, the environment will change, but the right team will be able to navigate the course.”

Don't manage

— Vivek Chaand Sehgal, Founder and Chairman, Samvardhana Motherson Group

On managing 36 JVs:

“The most important rule is: ‘don't manage'. The moment you start managing, you get (too) involved. The truth is that I have a wonderful team and it is the team that manages. My job is just to give direction.”

Find, select — and reject — opportunities

— Analjit Singh, Founder and Chairman, Max India Group

On regrets, if any, on exiting the telecom business:

“After all, I am human, and I can't say that I haven't thought about that question (exiting telecom). It's been 11 years since we divested that business. In creating 4.5 to 5 million customers, touching the lives of people in businesses of social good — and building shareholder value — I have absolutely no regrets. And I can assure you that this has nothing to do with the events of the last few weeks.”

For entrepreneurs:

“To entrepreneurs, I would say, it's important to do the right thing at the right time — for you, your shareholders, and the team that you build around you. This is a huge country, there are so many opportunities. You have to carefully find them, select them — and often reject them.”

We challenge our teams all the time

— N. Chandrasekaran, MD and CEO, Tata Consultancy Services

On balancing long-term vision with short-term results:

“We've been in business for long. It is hard to keep posting great numbers quarter after quarter. What we do is… we form entrepreneurial teams. We like to think of each of our teams as smaller units and give them the freedom to operate under a broad overall framework; and we try to challenge them all the time. That's what we do and we hope to continue to do that.”

Published on November 14, 2017

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