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Making of the MindTree

PART IV - Page 2 of 4 | Go to Part I | Go to Part II | Go to Part III | Previous Page

The world was reeling in front of my eyes and I had to pinch myself to believe that this was not a fantasy. My mind went back to August 6, 1998. Ashok Soota was to attend a meeting of a sub-committee of the National Information Technology Task Force. During an earlier meeting with him, he had invited me to join the deliberations in Delhi along with people like Rajendra Pawar, Ajay Choudhry, Pradeep Gupta, Dewang Mehta and a few others. I was quite honored and we agreed to take the morning flight to Delhi on that fateful day. After we settled down and the Indian Airlines flight was at cruise altitude, Ashok asked me, "So, Subroto, after Lucent, what?" It was typical of him and having worked for him close to a decade, I was not surprised with the question. By that time, KK and I had met probably half a dozen times and had a preliminary picture in our mind. The crucial part was our desire to build a world class, top end software services company that would create wealth and share it substantially with all our people and make an up-front, substantial commitment to society as part of our business model. Ashok listened to me in all seriousness. It was his profound grace that he did not ask his laser sharp questions that every one in Wipro learns to cope with during reviews. Not that I was scared. The truth was, we had not thought through details. He said that he was not surprised at my goal and noted that I always had the altruistic trait in me. Food was served and the discussion was winding down. It was my turn now. I asked him, "After Wipro, what?" He laughed and said, why do you ask such a question? I explained to him that he has done all that he could to bring Wipro to where it is today. As a national resource, he would be wasted in Wipro doing incremental things. I told him that there were two other assignments he could try his hand and make spectacular impact for the country. One was becoming India's Ambassador to the European Union. Second, set up his own software company and build one more winner. He listened to my impassioned plea intently. Then he said that an IAS Officer from Karnataka, Mr. K. Jairaj had been saying the same thing to him for years. Many Venture Capitalists have been prodding him from time to time too. But frankly, he had work left undone at Wipro. But who knows, it is an interesting thought, he said. May be we should talk about it another time. "I am off on a vacation to the Canadian wild in fall why don't you give me a call after that", he concluded. When fall came, KK and I had moved forward so much that I did not pursue the dialogue with Ashok. Besides, soon after, he became Vice Chairman of the Board and was given the charter to make Wipro the No.1 software company out of India. Why fool around with him? Very casually though, I asked KK, how would you like to have Ashok Soota as Chairman? KK thought he would make a fantastic Chairman. We dropped the subject. Until, I heard Som Das say what he did.

We settled down for dinner at the Afghan restaurant. I was excited and in my mind a thousand things were exploding at the same time. Som broke the silence. He said, what do you think? I told Som and Sudhir that this is great news for the software industry. I also saw that a convergence such as this was an opportunity to make history. However, none of the other founders knew and I had to speak with them. I promised to revert after we all came together on the subject. On highway 101, the ongoing traffic and the headlights in the opposite direction all blended mystically and I had the feeling I was getting teleported in time and space. After checking in at the airport, I called Ashok Soota. I could barely speak. We agreed that we would meet the following Sunday. He did not know who the others in our team were. We felt that could wait. Before boarding the Singapore bound flight, I called KK and broke the news to him. The flight from San Francisco took off in to the Pacific night all the way to Hong Kong and then Singapore and then after a night in Chennai, I reached Bangalore. Throughout that long, endless flight, I did not sleep a wink. Two long sleepless nights, in anticipation of God knows, how many more!

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