A Spiritual Entrepreneur

By Sankrant Sanu.

Art of Living is a spiritual foundation. Started from scratch by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar about 25 years ago, it now has a presence in over 140 countries, with over 20 million people worldwide having taken its programs. Even by the measure of entrepreneurial success alone, that is an amazing story. 

Sankrant Sanu (SS): Art of Living is an example of a very successful entrepreneurial organization. How was this success achieved?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (SSRS): The success of any institution is in the efficacy of the product. When the product is very useful to people, it brings benefit; success, then, is natural. That is one aspect. The second aspect is that of philosophy. There are many people who “talk the philosophy”, but don’t “walk the philosophy” That has very little impact on people. But when you walk the talk, that makes a lasting impact—and it helps people walk the talk, too.

SS: Is there an aspect of marketing in the way you are spreading ideas?

SSRS: Actually, we are very low in marketing. We don’t need it, and are not interested in it.

SS: This is because the product [speaks for] itself …

SSRS: Yes. Moreover, we can’t cater to the demand as of now. We are unable to find quality teachers; we need to train more and more teachers. And we are already busy doing that.

SS: There has been some criticism about Art of Living charging for its programs, because it’s a not-for-profit organization.

SSRS: People expect charitable organizations to do charity work. And they want the charity work done by taking charity…

SS: By asking for charity…

SSRS: By asking for charity, which we don’t do. Art of Living charges a small amount for its programs, and whatever money comes from that, it spends on charity. Charity cannot happen from an empty bowl—it needs funds. There is no point in taking charity to do charity. We believe in working, earning, and doing charity from that.

SS: There is a notion that Indian traditions are world-denying and earning wealth is bad. Is that a misplaced notion, or is it true?

SSRS: Not at all. Lakshmi, wealth, is regarded here as a devi, as part of divinity. So here, wealth is always worshipped, honoured. We have never said that wealth is bad. We need to create wealth. This notion is the result of an impact from the outside; it is not in the Indian ethos. When you give blessings, you say, dhandhandya smridhirastu (which means, “Let there be an abundance of everything.”). Our country’s wealth has been plundered so many times in its history; in spite of this, it is really marching ahead. If Hinduism believed in poverty, it would never have had so many riches.

“There is no point
in taking charity
To do charity.
We believe in
Working, earning,
and doing charity
from That.”

SS: So the businessmen engaged in wealth creation should, in fact, feel good about their part in society?

SSRS: Definitely. That is their dharma. If you are in business, you have to create wealth not just for yourself, but for the whole society.

SS: Is there any message you would like to give entrepreneurs as they are creating this wealth?

SSRS: Entrepreneurs should also support the buying power of people.

SS: What does that mean?

SSRS: The buying power of people has to do with corporate social responsibility, or CSR. This has been a part of our ethos for thousands of years, but these words have been coined only now. Almost every business house you see has always been engaged in charitable work—they have built schools, tanks, dharamshalas, temples.

SS: So are you saying that, traditionally, CSR has always been there?

SSRS: Yes. Traditionally, it was always there. Hospitals, schools, tanks and dharamshalas have always been built by these institutions. I would like them to continue doing that, and keep 10 percent of their earnings for education, health and social welfare.

SS: How can the Art of Living programs help entrepreneurs?

SSRS: To be an entrepreneur, you need to have creativity and intuitive power. Art of Living can provide both—creativity and intuition. Meditation and pranayama bring out these two [qualities] from within.

SS: There is a shift seen in young people today, from being job-seekers to wanting to do something on their own.

SSRS: This is what we need to provoke in them, to create in them. Usually, people want to be in the comfort zone, so they seek out a job. Once they get comfortable in a secure job, their creativity dies. Then, there is no enthusiasm left in them. That is how people get into depression. Here, [at Art of Living], we encourage people to stretch out of this comfort zone and see the Spirituality gives you the strength to stretch out of your comfort zone and be an entrepreneur.

© 2010 Sankrant Sanu, all rights reserved.

Opportunities Beyond English

To liberate Indians from self-imposed colonial shackles.

A few weeks ago I was giving a talk at a college in Gurgaon in Haryana, India, when a young student raised her hand. Urvashi was visibly nervous; I could see that it took a lot of courage for her to speak up in Hindi. “Where can I take computer classes in Hindi-medium?” she asked. I had no proper answer, but I had come across similar questions in rural settings, though not in the heart of the neo-urban metropolis of Gurgaon. On the one hand, we credit India’s success in software to our knowledge of English, on the other we fret about India’s relatively low level of Internet penetration relative to China. Looking beyond English in India provides opportunities to social and business entrepreneurs alike. But first we must take off our English tinted glasses.

A recent Supreme Court judgment on the Right to Education Act suggested that we are falling behind China since “children in China are learning English”. This is a fallacy—the Chinese may be learning English but they are not switching their medium to English—all higher education takes place in Chinese. The obsession with English-medium education, particularly for technical and higher studies, is keeping millions of Indian children behind. The top business and professional schools in India remain English-based—their entrance exams are not only in English but specifically test English-language skills. A child in China, or for that matter, Japan or South Korea, does not have to deal with debilitating switch in medium to go to engineering, medical or business school. Yet, this has not prevented these countries from creating some of the largest multinationals in the world—all on the basis of higher education in local languages of higher education in local languages. As demand for education in the rural and semi- urban markets picks up, it is worth remembering that only four of the richest 20 economies in the world, by highest per-capita income, are English-based. Universal education, not English-medium, is what gives China the advantage over India. Over 300 million people use the Internet in China—in Mandarin.

It is also a fallacy that our software success is built on knowledge of English. Israel’s population is half of Delhi’s, yet its software exports rival our own. It is true that many people in Israel do know English, though not many know it well. When I was a manager for Microsoft visiting my team in Haifa, I was surprised to find that the medium of communication—written and oral—within the Microsoft Israel office was Hebrew. In this office of a major multinational, internal communications were all in Hebrew, as is Technion, Israel’s top engineering college. A culture that values knowledge—similar to that in India—not the medium of education, has driven Israel to create some of the most innovative software companies in the world.

“it is worth remembering that only
four of the richest 20 economies
in the world, by highest per capita
income, are english-based.”

However, every mismatched supply-demand situation creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Here are some obvious ones. The first is there is a market for technical education in Indian languages that is under-served. Some weeks ago someone from Tamil Nadu sent me a proposal for creating technical education institutes. “Make sure you offer Tamil-medium,” I suggested. While initially these classes may need to have lower fees, over time there is a much larger base of students to tap. It is up to us to respond to that opportunity once we start looking beyond English.

The second opportunity is in hiring. When I was working at Microsoft, Redmond, we flew software engineers from as far away as Russia for interviews. Some of these people did not speak a word of English—I interviewed them through interpreters and they were some of the best hires I made.

Yet, in India, we may overlook talent if we insist on conducting interviews for technical candidates only in English, rather than the language they would be most comfortable speaking. The goal—to evaluate them based on their technical proficiency, rather than their knowledge of English.

The third opportunity is to spread back office operations from the large cities to smaller towns and semi-rural settings, affording lower cost and access to a broader talent base. Again, flexibility and openness about language use will allow this opportunity to be tapped. If specific language skills are required, these can be imparted as part of on-the-job. Why restrict ourselves to the English opportunity alone? BPO and call centres from France to Japan beckon. The opportunity to get a complete education in our mother tongues, combined with the ability to learn any language as a skill as needed, will bring greater, more-broad based economic opportunities and liberate us from self-imposed colonial shackles of English. This will help to propel us towards a developed economy—and lift all entrepreneur boats—in which every Urvashi can participate.

© Sankrant Sanu., all rights reserved.

Passion and Entrepreneurship

What it takes to follow your dreams

Many years ago, I attended a seminar in Seattle called Source. It was taught by Mike McManus, a colourful personality. He had been a bartender, a jazz pianist, a school teacher, a men’s suit sales- man, a corporate executive, a Washington state senator, and was now a seminar teacher. In Source, Mike taught people how to find and follow their passion. His dictum was that most career analyses are done on the basis of skills, rather than interests. It would be far more satisfying—and successful—to do what you love. The skills and rewards will follow.

Mike’s advice is equally useful for entrepreneurs, as the following stories will underline.

On a recent flight to India, I met a Dutch architect called Rein Jansma. He owns an architecture firm in the Netherlands and has been chartered to design a township near Pune. Jansma loves puzzles and the visual and 3-D medium. When he was 15, Prof. Moshe Zwarts, a renowned professor of architecture, visited his home. The two got into an argument about the number of possible variations a 3-D puzzle can have. Prof. Zwarts insisted that there were six variations; Jansma saw one more. Eventually Jansma ended up building a model to prove his answer. And there began a friendship that would last for many decades.

Jansma went on to join an architecture college, but became dissatisfied with its conventional pedagogy and dropped out after six months. However, he continued to experiment with different kinds of 3-D designs. When he was barely 30, he was invited by Zwarts to be an equal partner at a new architecture firm he was starting up. Their firm, Zwarts and Jansma Architects, has designed grand sports stadia, office buildings and major townships across the globe; it has an annual turnover of nearly Rs. 30 crore.

My friend Steffan Soule is another source of inspiration. Steffan is Seattle’s fore- most magician, performing for companies such as Boeing and Microsoft. He was also the creative director of Seattle’s longest running magic show at Illusions. Steffan has never done any other job in his life. He started performing magic when he was five, did his first paid performance at 14, and has never looked back since. He didn’t go to college, yet he makes more money in a year than most college graduates. But that is not the point. He loves seeing the wonder and excitement in his audience when he performs. He loves the idea of connecting people with a sense of mystery. It’s not all easy, though—performing magic to perfection takes hard work. He practices for hours a day so that the moves on stage would be smooth. But he would be doing the same thing even if no one paid him to do it—much like Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft and, incidentally, went to the same school in Seattle as Steffan did.

But this column is not about dropping out of college. It is about following your dream. A college student wrote to me recently about an entrepreneurial idea; I advised him to build on it while pursuing his college education, rather than drop- ping it. Develop the passion while you have a job or while at school. If you were ready to drop out, you wouldn’t need to ask. At some time, you will need to make the decision to go full-time. There is no simple answer for when to do that—except when you have mustered up enough self-belief and faith in the idea to take the leap.

Mike, in his Source seminar, also used to talk about the idea of ‘simultaneous activation’. We are often in the habit of postponing dreams: I will do it after I retire or after I have this much money, or after the children grow up, etc. Mike spoke about acting on all areas of one’s life simultaneously. It is a misplaced notion that we lack time. Instead, we lack energy, because we are not doing the things that give us back energy. We get stuck in unrewarding jobs and drop our childhood dreams—to be a singer, a drummer, a writer, even a good friend—and forget to nurture ourselves. I learnt from Mike that I could be an entrepreneur and, at the same time, take voice lessons in Hindustani classical music, practice my Aikido, do my Kriya Yoga every day, write a regular column, and take my children to watch live theatre. These activities increase rather than take away time, as they bring back manifold energy. In simultaneous activation, dreams are lived today.

You may end up making a lot of money as an entrepreneur. But if you count your rewards only by the amount of money you make, you will be poorer for it. Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovering, of learning, of stretching one’s limits. When you do it because it is what you want to do, and you follow your passion, the work becomes its own reward. Everything else is a bonus. And don’t forget to take that guitar for lunchtime at the office. As Mike would say, if you are passionate about it, you will learn to get good.

Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

© Sankrant Sanu 2009-2010, All rights reserved.

The State, Entrepreneurship and Culture

Culture and success of a venture—or indeed, of a country—are inevitably connected. India’s dysfunctional systems that hamper rather than enable growth are so often pinned down to cultural problems. Is this accurate, and is there a way out?

An article in a business daily some months ago claimed that Indians don’t give back to society because of the influence of Hinduism on Indian culture. A couple of months later, the author of that article wrote that the British left India too early (“because we could have learnt how to run cities”), so we could discount this worldview as coming from a traditional lackey for colonial rule. However, the role of culture in economics, entrepreneurship and management remains a worthwhile topic of study. Getting it right could make a huge difference in the success of your business.

Let’s examine the facts. As we look at the chaos in our cities, the venality of our public officials, the problems with getting things done with the government—and we see and hear of a relatively smooth-functioning system in the West—it is easy to ascribe this to an inherent cultural shortcoming in India. However, this analysis is superficial at best. Nothing succeeds like success. A couple of decades of high growth in India will have the same writers scrambling to analyze the “Indian model” of economic success.

After all, there was a reason why the Europeans were so keen to find a direct sea route to India. They coveted Indian goods; India was the land of riches. Europeans had little to offer in return, and the markups by the Arab traders on the land route were devastat- ing their economy. As late as 1700, India and China accounted for nearly 70 percent of the world’s GDP. Our towns and villages functioned well and were clean, while Europe was a cess- pool of dirt, disease and plague. Two hundred years of European colonial rule and, by the 1900s, our share of the world GDP had dipped to less than 1 percent. Our education system, our waterworks, our civil structures were in shambles. Worst of all, we had been taught to consider our culture, rather than colonialism, as the culprit.

Why, then, do our cities not function and our government system appears, most of the times, to be working against us? The answer is not so hard to find. The entire structure of the government—from the Civil Service to the District “Collector” to the centralized nature of our governance—is a creation of the colonial era. Post independence, we replaced the viceroy with the office of the Prime Minister, but there was no fundamental change in governance. The colonial state, of course, was never designed for service. It had a singular purpose—extortion—to extract tax revenue from the people while keeping them under control with the power of force. Little wonder, then, that the enterprising natives keep trying to find ways around a system that they don’t perceive as their own.

We can see these in the simplest of examples. While our government-managed cities are dysfunctional, our gated developments managed by co-operative societies of residents work reasonably well. While Indians are stymied at every turn by the government apparatus, Indians with the same cultural traits form the most successful expatriate communities in a relatively well-functioning system like the U.S. A few years ago, getting a telephone line from the government-run exchange was a nightmare; now, you can walk into a store and get a mobile phone number from umpteen private operators. Our culture did not change in this short time to start delivering phones—instead, the overbearing state, faced with an economic crisis of its own making, simply loosened some control.

A cultural trait comes into play here: our enterprising spirit that chafes under too much centralized control. In India, the power of the kings over the people in earlier times was very limited and taxation rates were relatively low. Local governance at the level of villages and jati groups wielded a lot of power; some of this power was pledged to a king. In our religious systems, too, we did not have an overbearing centralized church that told us how we must think; rather, we had the spiritual entrepreneurs, the gurus whose success lay in liberating the disciples who came to them, so that the disciples would be eventually independent— entrepreneurs in their own right.

The large centralized corporation, like the large centralized government, is not well-suited to Indian cultural conditions. The best models of the corporation would allow for enterprising individuals to share directly in business profits at every level. If people are able to use their jugaad to manage their mini-businesses within the corporate umbrella, “corruption” in a corporate context simply becomes performance-based rewards. Our social entrepreneurship, too, happens within family networks. For individual corporations, it is much harder to change culture than to adapt to it.

It is our state that has been a liability; it needs reform. Our culture is our strength. Management and entrepreneurship that operate in sync with culture have a better chance at success.

Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

© Sankrant Sanu 2009-2010. All rights reserved.

The Way of the Entrepreneur

Naveen Jain, CEO of Intelius, shares his unique, minimalist and highly
effective approach to entrepreneurship.

I was on my way to Naveen Jain’s office when I realized that I only had a vague idea of where his office was. Usually, when meeting with ‘big’ executives, a secretary or assistant would schedule the time and send me detailed directions; but Naveen and I had exchanged e-mails directly to coordinate the interview.

Naveen Jain is the CEO of Intelius, the new 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. identity and background check space. I tried to find a corporate number for Intelius, but the toll-free number led to a sales line with a 20-min- ute wait for an operator.

Desperate, I sent him an e-mail via my iPhone from the car, asking for exact directions. The reply was prompt and personal. As I would later find, he gets along well without any secretaries or receptionists.

Naveen has always been controversial and feisty, never one to hold back an opinion. In 1996, he had left Microsoft, where we briefly crossed paths, to start Infospace. By 2000, his 4-year old company sported a peak valuation of nearly $30 billion. Then, in 2002, he left Infospace to start Intelius in a space already crowded with thousands of small companies. By 2008, Intelius had over a $100-million revenue-run rate with a nearly 25 percent profit margin. It was named one of the fastest growing companies in America. How does he do it? My goal was to pick Naveen’s brain about entrepreneurship.

True to form, when I reached the Intelius office, there was no receptionist. Someone noticed me from a conference room behind the reception desk and called Naveen. It was a lesson on frugality. Later, Naveen would tell me, “Spend every [company] dollar as if it is your own.” We tend to let the idea of being aCEO or an ‘executive’ get to our heads. Having a personal secretary can become an ego massager, rather than a business need.

Even before I started the interview, then, I had learnt something about Naveen’s approach to successful entrepreneurship: pure business, pure bottom lines and no frills.

SS: What makes a successful entrepreneur?

NJ: The foundation of a successful entrepreneur is based on three things: integrity, education and humility. When you have humility, it is amazing how many people want to help you when they feel that desire, that openness, in you. The moment you say, “I know what I want, I know what I need. I am here for a specific purpose,” people say, “Get out of here.” So, humility is certainly part of the foundation. Once you have the foundation, you need certain other things to build the building:

1. Focus. Most startups die from indigestion, rather than starvation. Do a few things and focus on them.

2. Execution. Don’t get discouraged that 10 companies are already doing it. When we started Intelius, there were 10,000 companies doing public records. What I need to do is out- execute everyone; I don’t need to be the first to market. If I am the first to market, I wouldn’t know whether the market exists or not.

Let’s say you build a mousetrap and you start marketing them in Seattle, where there are 10 people selling mousetraps. Then you go to Portland and there is no one selling mouse-traps there. You are happy, because you are first to market [in Portland]. But the reason no one is selling mousetraps in Portland is because there are no mice there!

As an entrepreneur, it is very expensive to create a market, to change the behavior of people in a particular region. Your job, as an entrepreneur, should be to figure out what the pain points are and what your solutions to them are, rather than saying, “Here is my great technology. What can I do with it?” Find a problem that already exists.

3. Enjoy what you are doing. I have execution, and I have the focus. The next thing is to really enjoy what you are doing. You must have a passion to win. The idea itself may change, but the passion to win allows you to be both flexible and persistent.

 

SS: Is there a secret code to figuring out when to be flexible and when to be persistent?

NJ: Yes, there is a secret code:

Listen to your gut; be honest with yourself. You can fool everybody—your investor, your employees, your partner— but in your gut, you will know when it isn’t In a relationship, your heart tells you when it isn’t working.

But your brain tells you: she’s from the same caste, we have the same family friends, she is rich—everything is right. It should work, but it isn’t. Your brain has a tremendous veto power over your heart. That’s how it is in entrepreneurship, too. So, trust your gut.

SS: What’s the secret to execution?

NJ: The secret is to constantly learn and analyze the information you are getting. In the beginning, you have a certain set of information—the hypothesis or data. As you start to move down the path, you are constantly collecting new sets of information, constantly testing your hypothesis.

People are so focused on writing their business plans. To me, that is a fundamental problem, when you start telling everyone that this is your path without even knowing what lies ahead.

SS: You have to adapt, don’t you?

NJ: Constantly. You have to have a great vision—like you want to transform the real estate market. But when it comes to execution, you need a very narrow vision. Have a plan for the next six to twelve months, and don’t think about anything else. Execution becomes good when you slice a great vision into very narrow things; then start executing these small slices. If you start executing on your vision directly, you will never make it.

SS: this is true for life too, isn’t it?

NJ: Absolutely. Whatever you are doing in entrepreneurship really applies to your per- sonal life as well. But as an entrepreneur, your brain is designed to see opportunities where others don’t. That is a problem, because you are always seeing opportunity wherever you go. It causes you to lose focus. If you see an opportunity, you need to shoot down something that you are doing before you move on and execute the next one. That, by the way, we follow that to the word. There are times when people come to me and say, “We see a big market here.” I say, “Look, we have products that are mature, products that are growing, and products that are being nurtured. If you want me to nurture something new, we need to shoot down something that we have been nurturing. And we do shoot it down.

SS: that’s where the issue of flexibility vs. persistence comes in.

NJ: Exactly. When you listen to your heart and it says you have tried everything and it still isn’t working, it’s totally cool to move on. Another thing that’s really important is to find people you trust. You spend so much time with these people that you have to enjoy your time with them and trust them. If you are constantly watching your back, you cannot be moving forward.

Trust goes beyond saying that I trust them to not steal my or the company’s money. Trust has to do with trusting them to do their job, without having to monitor them. For example, it took me a long while to realize that I don’t need to be in any meetings. If our management team needs me, they will ask me to join them.

Right now, there is a meeting going on where they are looking to acquire a company. The CEO of the [other] company is here. I didn’t even talk to them; I know that they will ask me for my help if they need it. The fact don’t ask me does not hurt my feelings. I trust that they will make the right decisions—and if they make the wrong decisions, it would be no different than me making the wrong decisions.

Another thing that I tell my managers is that they and their direct reports should never be in the same meeting. If you need to be there, let your direct report leave. If he is in the meeting, trust him to deliver; stay out of the meeting unless he asks for your help. That’s what I mean by trust: trust them to do their job, to ask for your help when they need it, to make decisions on their own.

SS: are there any institutional practices that should be ingrained in people who are starting and building new ventures.

NJ: I believe in following these five practices:

1. Think that every company penny you spend is your own money.

2. You will need more people in business and marketing than you will in technology. Many people start off with six people in technology and think that the CEO will take care of the whole business aspect. But I have seen many people fail because of that. Building a product is only 10 percent of the problem; 10 percent is luck and 80 percent is just marketing the

3. Know your weakness and find people whose skills will complement yours.

4. Manage the growth. There’s always the temptation to tell the world that you now have 50 employees. Never have that ambition. When I have seven people, I am happy with seven people—I don’t need an eighth person. When I need the eighth person, I will bring him in.

5. Keep the management structure as flat as possible. Don’t create hierarchy and titles. As far as possible, let the structure come into place when people demand it. VCs often make you create the structure—they ask who your VP of Engineering is or who your CEO is. If you are the CEO as well the CTO, so be it.

Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

© Sankrant Sanu 2009-2010. All rights reserved.

 

On Leadership and Government


Recently, I was privileged to hear Dr. Abdul Kalam speak at The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) event in Seattle on the topic “Entrepreneurs in a nation’s development: Vision 2020.” In the context of Vision 2020, his vision of a developed India, Dr. Kalam spoke on leadership and his ideas on how to counteract corruption in India. His thoughts on leadership are useful for entrepreneurs, who must also be good leaders—both by choice and necessity. His ideas on fixing the problem of corruption, however, I would respectfully dispute.

A leader, according to Dr. Kalam, must first have a vision. Dr. Kalam himself is an entrepreneur and a leader by this measure with his Vision 2020 document, a roadmap to a developed India by the year 2020. A central aspect of Vision 2020 is the concept of PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). The idea is to harness the entrepreneurship potential in rural areas by providing knowledge, electronic and infrastructural connectivity through centralized hubs. With some of these, PURA is starting to become operational, it is an important development for entrepreneurs to take note of. It provides new market opportunities for expansion into rural areas.

The second quality of a leader is the passion to translate ideas into action. Dr. Kalam himself travels around the globe and speaks tirelessly of Vision 2020, helping to galvanize people into action. I found it interesting how he appealed to higher ideals and didn’t shy away from getting the audience of hard-boiled business professional to repeat pledges and statements after him. It may have sounded odd, but his passionate enthusiasm was hard to refuse. Here, he was demonstrating a third quality—of forging a new path and dispensing with the clichéd speech- making we are accustomed to. Sometimes, faced with a new audience, we may feel sheepish about trying an out-of-the-box approach of presenting something. If Dr. Kalam can make a roomful of business leaders repeat pledges after him like children learning by rote in a rickety village school, we can certainly muster the courage to go out on a limb in our presentations to advance our ideas.

Of all the stories Dr. Kalam related at the event, one struck me as the most inspiring. Dr. Kalam highlighted an important quality of leadership by giving the example of his ex-boss, Dr. Satish Dhawan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Back then, Dr. Kalam was the project director for SLV-3, India’s satellite launch program. In August 1979, when the first SLV-3 launch was a failure, Dr. Dhawan called a press conference to accept responsibility for it. The following year, the satellite launch was successful; this time, he asked Dr. Kalam to address the press conference, rather than seeking the limelight himself. A good leader, Dr. Kalam noted, takes responsibility for failure and passes the credit for success to his team. As managers, we often do exactly the opposite. A leader must inspire his team to loyalty and commitment.

Dr. Kalam concluded his speech by touching upon the issues of transparency and integrity. The problem of corruption in India, he said, can be solved by teaching moral values at home. I completely agree that one should run one’s business with integ- rity—it makes you feel good about yourself and helps you sleep better at night. But it is simplistic to suggest that the problem of corruption in India can be solved with moral science lessons. In countries like the U.S., the average citizen faces far fewer problems of corruption while trying to get services from the local government. This isn’t because people in the U.S. are morally superior to people in India; it’s because our government machinery is fundamentally a continuation of the colonial setup. It was not designed to serve people, but to control them. The district official was called a collector, a reminder of his extortionist role.

Reducing the power of the government through increased privatization and redefining its role through structural reform is the way forward. Entrepreneurs would be the natural catalysts— and leaders—in this much-needed transformation.

Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

© Sankrant Sanu 2009-2010. All rights reserved.