Foreword by Arjun Malhotra

Foreword by Arjun Malhotra

In conversations with fellow managers, one remark surfaces over and over again: ‘Nothing prepares you for your first day on your first job.’ Whether you’ve earned your MBA degree from an Ivy League business school or from one of the top trinity of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), or you chose to skip an MBA programme altogether, it has no bearing on your level of preparedness for your career. The place, the people, the demands and the nuances of a workplace are all strange new elements you must gradually decipher.

When my co-founders and I created HCL, we were role-playing as managers. We were all between twenty-five and thirty years old, each with just a few years of work experience. Recruiting the right people for our start-up was one of our biggest challenges. Initially, we experimented with lateral recruitment from outside. We experienced 100 per cent failure.

After some brainstorming, we changed our approach. We developed unique recruitment methodologies and training modules—our own differentiated strategy to win. To persuade sharp minds to join our company, we offered adventure—of being pioneers and opening up a completely new market.

Armed with this strategy, we recruited from the best engineering and management schools. We aimed for the sharpest, brightest minds in India. As managers, we had to sell our dream of adventure to convince top-tier graduates to come on-board. We pursued candidates who fit our profiles and work culture, and would help us achieve fast growth.

Our strategy worked. We recruited a team of sharp young minds and in 1981 we launched the HCL System-2. We realized a dream that year. Little did we know that we also created the foundation of a $100-billion industry that would contribute to more than 7.7 per cent of India’s GDP in times to come!

HCL’s impact on the country’s now-flourishing IT industry shows what can happen when an employer empowers its workforce through good management. Empowerment can not only strengthen an organization but also help create an industry. Many of the young people who worked for HCL in its early years went on to become highly effective managers, founders, chairmen, CEOs, presidents and thought leaders in their own rights. As managers, we truly and passionately empowered these employees to chart their own courses.

Fostering our company culture did not happen overnight. Training was integral to our success. We adopted the mantra ‘train hard and fight easy’. A critical success factor for HCL’s decades-long position as number one in the industry was the quality of our talent and our training programme. We built a cadre of loyal, diehard, persuasive people with a high achievement need.

Cultivating a successful recruitment, motivation and mentoring strategy is a key part of any organization’s success. You don’t learn this in business school, but you do through real-life business and personal challenges. Even after earning a business degree, entering a managerial role for the first time is truly an intellectual, attitudinal and emotional transition.

The world of companies, organizations, departments, functions and expectations can be bewildering. That is precisely why this book is so necessary today. It shows new managers how to think more clearly, and shows them the path to a fulfilling career, with or without an MBA. This book is by a hands-on manager and successful entrepreneur who generously shares his wealth of experience and insight with lucidity and a distinctive style.

Rajeev takes the reader through the roller-coaster ride of a manager’s life, from hiring, retaining and motivating teams to effectively managing time, while growing as an individual. I have often felt that too many promising team members get so caught up in the minutiae of daily life that they forget they have a mind that needs nourishment, a brain that is craving to grow. Rajeev shows young professionals not only how to be an effective manager, but also how to grow into an inspiring leader. A good leader attracts great minds and builds awe-inspiring companies. Rajeev demystifies this process with an assured touch and genuine sensitivity.

As students in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, neither Rajeev nor I knew where life would take us. For me, it is very satisfying to see my fellow alumnus emerge as a thought leader and a teacher. This is how he is making a difference.

Arjun Malhotra
Co-founder, HCL Technologies