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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Review: The Elephant Catchers


of ordinary and extraordinary
KS NARAYANAN | New Delhi, September 27, 2013 10:54
Tags : The Elephant Catchers | Subroto Bagchi | Hachette India |

Subroto Bagchi needs no introduction. Bagchi is chairman Mindtree Ltd which he cofounded in 1999. Besides being a successful IT entrepreneur, Bagchi is the author of best sellers like The High Performance Entrepreneur, Go Kiss the World, The Professional, MBA at 16 and The Professional Companion. All these books have been translated into many Indian languages and as well as into Korean and Chinese.

In The Elephant Catchers, Bagchi synthesizes years of his experiences and collection of hard-earned lessons on a spectrum of issues around the core idea of scaling an organisation.

Bagchi narrates the book with real life experience from his own and from the life of those who struggled against all odds to achieve their goals. For instance the book begins with Siddaganga Institute of Technology set up in 1963 by Sree Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, Karnataka. The Mutt has been in existence since the 15th Century BC. Here Bagchi points how the Mutt take care 8500 students and more Swamiji is at peace with size. “The idea of scale does not daunt him. Just thinking of all the risks one could run into in trying to manage 8500 boys between the ages of Five and sixteen could have made anyone a nervous wreck”, he writes and adds in the following pages a simple communication is more powerful than a complex one.

Writing on ‘Strategy’ Bagchi cites the example of Mahatma Gandhi’s two ideas of ‘Non-Violence’ and ‘Non-Cooperation’. ‘These ideas were as naked and simple as the Mahatma himself. That is why, sans embellishment, they were understood and adopted by an entire nation, from the Harrow-Trinity-educated Nehru to the illiterate indigo farmers in Champaran, Bihar” he observes.

The book is arranged in six Parts. In Part I, author presents the need to build comfort with the idea of scale. Part II is about scaling your business by getting large deals, about the need to stay away from certain customer engagements and business models that could prevent growth and the subject of mergers and acquisitions that invariably engages everyone at some time or the other. In Part III, the conversation shifts to scaling your intellect; after all, the enterprise is an intellect game. The capacity to get to the next level often depends on a leader’s ability to augment the organizational intellect by tapping into external expertise. Not everyone knows how to do it.

Part IV deals with the idea of scaling reputation. Reputation is a form of capital and growing it right, beyond just good public relations (PR), helps an organization get to the next level. According to Bagchi many organisations often overlook reputation as capital. In part V, we focus on scaling your people because the modern enterprise is all about people.

Part VI deals with the aspect of scaling adversity. “A leader must scale his own “self”. We all know that behind every organisation there is the leader who set it on its path. A time comes when the leader himself is required to pass tests that come in his way in the form of certain rites of passage and bolts from the blue. The response of leader, sometimes deeply personal, defines the destiny of the organisation.”

Of course Bagchi talks about the need to focus on doing ordinary things extraordinarily well when extraordinary events overtake the enterprise.

Explaining the catchy title ‘The Elephant Catchers’ the author notes unlike an operation to catch rabbits, trapping an elephant calls for great expertise and intensive planning over enthusiasm. Those who hunt rabbits (clinch small deals/customers) are rarely able to rope in elephants (big business deals/customers). To achieve scale and grow our business, we need to attract and groom elephant catchers. Weaving around the concept of elephant catchers, Bagchi goes to explain concept of doing business. Interestingly both the title and chapter is an inspiration when Bagchi was a young boy and his father was posted in tribal districts of Odisha and grew up in places like Koraput, Keonjhar and Ganjam. Many of young Bagchi’s friends came from tribal families growing crops, catching fishes and hunting fowl.

Equally interesting is the chapter on consultants. Peppered with anecdotes Bagchi tells us how to hire consultants, what to expect of him, how to respect him and make use of consultants. Of course if need be fire them as well.

The book is easy to read and enjoyable. Having authored half a dozen best sellers, Bagchi is well adept in the art of story-telling and holds readers attention.

Author: Subroto Bagchi

Edition: Hardbound

ISBN: 978-93-5009-583-6

Pages: 232

Price: Rs. 499

Publisher: Hachette India

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017