Monday, April 14, 2014

How I met Father Son Duo of Gulu and Sasha Mirchandani?

In late December 2006, few great things happened for me - TIME magazine named me as "Person of the Year", I joined Onida after leaving my job in Asian Paints and for the first time in my career, I was introduced to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship!

Gulu Mirchandani, the Chairman of Mirc Electronics, is a simple person, fondly referred as GLM. At that time, he was looking for some IIT-IIM guy like me as a special assistant to take care of his variety of responsibilities as head of a ~1500 crores venture, which sells nearly 10 lakh TVs even now! I had a first cut interview with HR Head of Onida and immediately after that he said let me take you to the 2nd floor for a meeting with GLM. It had 2 large cabins, one for GLM and another for VJM (Vijay Mansukhani, MD of Onida). And there was a large boardroom where GLM welcomed me with a warm handshake. He had a glow on his face, and so much energy we did not need lights to lit up the room. He started by asking me about my work in Asian Paints and immediately started referring to market share, volumes, revenue, brand, performance - things which even I was not aware outside of my branch. That day I decided I will definitely take up whatever role he offers me - the time spend with him will compensate for every other stress or work quality issues. And so it did - for next 3 years, I went through a roller coaster ride in my career while at Onida.

Just a week after joining, GLM told me to join him for a day long trip to his farmhouse at Khandala. It was for a review meeting with Algorhythm Technologies - one of the first few companies that GLM had invested as an angel investor. On the way from Mumbai to Khandala, GLM picked up Sasha Mirchandani, his elder son, founding member of Mumbai Angels (India's premier group of angel investors) and currently heading KAE Capital (early stage venture capital firm). And we hit it off immediately! Sasha is one of the best listeners in the world that I have met, and he is one person who can connect with a kid to old people with equal ease. During the review of Algorhythm, he was so keen to understand how software business works (he was from consumer electronics business), what are the metrics to measure performance apart from finance, and how do you scale up a supply chain consulting venture from India. For this small startup, he was having a vision of making it the next Infosys! And at the end of it he invited me to join Mumbai Angels, and take care of its operations in a part time manner. I was anyways getting my salary from Onida, so this was going to be a part of my job role, Sasha told me ;-)

What I learned from GLM?
I can write a PHD thesis for this, but here are my top learnings:
1. Patience - do not hurry in doing something, think through a situation before taking a decision.
2. Treat people well - GLM is himself a BITS Pilani engineer and a successful entrepreneur for 4 decades, but there is no attitude around him. I hardly saw him shouting at people to get work done.
3. Passion - even while being a 60+ year old person, GLM was in office around 9 AM and never left before 6 PM. And whenever there was a pending work, he used to call me while on his way home to ensure it gets completed before deadlines. Imagine - with his money, achievements, respect, experience and accomplishments, he did not even need to work, but he still did - that is passion!
4. Give sensibly - GLM had to mortgage his property to start his venture decades back, and today when he has funds, he turned into angel investor. But he does not spend to show off. Being value conscious and respecting your hard earned money while giving back to the society is a mark of a true statesman.

What I learned from Sasha?
I observed a lot about Sasha, and still trying to learn few things and apply them:
1. Managing time - In a country like India, where people do not have respect for time (of others or their own), Sasha was like a stop watch. No chit chat about faltoo stuff, to the point, focused on the agenda at hand and continuously taking notes - thats what makes him so efficient.
2. Identify talent - Sasha made some of the best early stage investments in India (Myntra, Inmobi, Greendust, Healthkart, Canvera among others). And he always looked for the team behind the big ideas!
3. Learning ability - Sasha's handwriting is like Indian doctors :-) But he made it a point to write as much while in meetings and always willing to learn new methods for improving his handwriting (for example - writing in capital letters instead of small).

There are many more learnings but may be I will tell that in some other story. Between December 2006 and December 2009, I had some of the best net practice in entrepreneurship, before I resigned to start my own venture.

It has been now over 4 years since I left Onida and started Nurture Talent Academy, but these 2 are my mentor, friend, guide and well-wishers and will always be.

If you need any help in connecting with GLM or Sasha, I will be glad to make an email introduction.

I have met over 30000 people personally, and everyday I will tell a story about someone who has been a part of my life.

If you have a suggestion or feedback, feel free to connect with me on my social networks or mail me.

Till then, just be awesome!

* Time magazine made "You", the people as their Person of the Year
* Image courtesy world wide web