Let's just suppose, you are a bit down and out. Your start-up company is beginning to show signs of a little wobble. The clarity of thought with which you plunged into your venture is beginning to look hazy. The idea was good but you can't figure out "what next". In short, you are beginning to feel a wee bit shaky. You have two choices. Read about Jeff Bezos, TIMES' "Man of the Year". It's inspirational stuff and could help to calm down nerves. Better still, have a chat with Subroto Bagchi, co-promoter, Vice Chairman & Chief Operating Officer, MindTree Consulting. An hour or so with him is highly recommended. You will see better the vision you have in mind. Your thinking (if muddled) will get straightened out. In general, you'll go home more confident and determined. We guarantee you that.
Subroto's early days were spent in the tribal districts of Orissa and he first went to school when he was 8 years old, because there wasn't a school nearby, in the village. Tutored by his mother while she worked in the kitchen he learnt the alphabets writing on a slate. His father's job in the state government meant frequent transfers. Hence, change of schools was but natural and all in the districts of Orissa. College education, however, was different because he studied in Bhubaneshwar, which was "much more organized". A degree in Humanities from the College of Bhubaneshwar tucked in his pockets and having a national scholarship option available, Subroto could have walked into the army. When in college, he was quite active in the NCC and was declared the Best Cadet at the 1975 Republic Day parade. Instead, he appeared for an entrance test and got selected as a Low Division Clerk in the Orissa government secretariat at a salary of Rs. 305.25 per month.
One cannot imagine Subroto sitting behind a wooden desk pushing files in a government department. Somewhere down the line, one supposes, he realized this and joined DCM as a management trainee. He was aware that the future was in computers and so, five years later he moved to HCL and when his boss joined PSI, Subroto went along too. "Most respected R&D organization in the country," says Subroto, "you couldn't get a better learning opportunity than working at PSI." A short stint with the Mahindra's at Calcutta and in 1984, along with a few others, he set up "Project 21" a consulting company. His involvement was "more intellectual with no financial stake". It was here that he had his first encounter with Wipro who were on the verge of coming out with PC's. At Project 21, differences on investment issues had begun to crop up and the Board was divided in their thinking. "Although the company did extremely well, I was caught in the crossfire," says Subroto. Meanwhile, Wipro had come out with their PC's. They were conversant with mini computers but not used to high volumes which the PC's were bound to bring in. Having been impressed with a presentation that Subroto had made on an earlier occasion, he was roped in as Customer & Sales Support Manager, with additional responsibility of Training and Data Management.
Wipro was keen to partner GE and Subroto handled the presentation. The deal went through and the condition was that Subroto works on the joint venture. Eventually, Wipro GE Medical Systems came into being and as it was taking off, he was asked to head the marketing of this division. Wipro Infotech's basic strength was R&D. With liberalization coming in, Subroto's recommendations were "why do R&D just for Wipro? Why not globally? Why not a set-up in the Silicon Valley?" That's precisely what happened. In 1993, he was given charge of setting up Wipro's US operations working with a great set of people and converting R&D from being a cost center to a profit center. Around that time he took over as Chief Executive of Wipro's newly formed division "Global R&D". Says Subroto, " Mr. Premji's vision was to make Wipro a world class organization and learn the language of quality." Soon, "Mission Quality" was set-up with Subroto as Corporate Vice President and shifted headquarters to the Corporate Office. Top-tier companies talk of total quality of the organization and he was determined to study the best in class companies such as Toyota, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, etc. His charter was to basically lay the foundation of Six-Sigma level because of his strong conviction that a company can be world class only when it reaches that milestone.
A decade with Wipro and then Subroto moved over to Lucent Technologies in April 1998. Lucent were keen to start their Bell Development Centre in Bangalore. He was part of the team that presented a white paper on the future of the software industry in India. While working on this strategic study it became apparent to him that in software services lay the future. Like an artist's first brush stroke on an empty canvas, Subroto began to put together the thoughts embedded in his mind. Two things were of paramount importance. Firstly, to build an international organization. Secondly, a company that thrives on excellence and works towards high standards. The more he mulled over it, the more convinced he became. All he needed to do now was find like-minded people.
That's when he decided to call to KK.