May 16, 2012

B-Plan or B-School?

Manish Sabharwal again - this time in Inc India
Soon after, I incorporated my company, India Life, and went off to Wharton to study management. I got professors from there involved in my business. Most people want to make it to a business school to get a lucrative job. They have the math all wrong. A business school is like intellectual wine-tasting. These places are the best incubators in the world; the alumni, the professors and the resources for developing abusiness plan are just amazing. I think people should go to a business school, write their business plan, find an investor and come out ready to execute. That’s what I did. I found the View Group at Wharton, and got USD$2 million to start a health insurance company. That morphed to pension fund management, and then, finally to pension fund administration, before becoming an outsourcing company that was bought out by Hewitt in 2002.
Aah, the MNC Life
As the clauses with Hewitt would have it, I spent the next two years in Singapore managing their Asia outsourcing business. Every Monday, we would be locked in a conference where everybody could say no and nobody could say yes. As soon as the lock-in period ended, I called it quits and relocated to Bangalore. After all, the king of a small kingdom is still a king. We had built and sold a company. That gave us enough credibility to start the next one. We knew what we wanted our next company to be—profitable, fun and good for India. Thus, was born TeamLease, India’s first temporary-employment company. We have hired someone every five minutes for the past five years. So we consider ourselves good for India. We are profitable. And we have had fun.
Power of Policy
In India, our primary and vocational education systems are messed up. People in the Northeast can speak English and are, therefore, hired at a higher salary compared to the migrants from UP and Bihar, who have been taught in Hindi. The children in these areas didn’t do anything different. These are implications of policy decisions, which allowed English to be taught in one state, but not in another.
The PE/VC Meter
In many ways, TeamLease was a child of India Life. In hindsight, we probably sold our first venture a few years earlier than we should have. But then, with external money, the meter was always ticking on us. That’s why we did things a bit differently the second time. For TeamLease, we didn’t take any external money till last month. We wanted the runway and space to craft this venture differently. We got senior people in much earlier. We decided to focus on public policy, which has been great for the company. People recognise us as someone who has the backbone to stand up. We also scaled up much faster since we were working with a good team of people. Most of them, we knew from the India Life days.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.