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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tips from gurus to succeed in your career

Being good at anything takes effort but when one wants to master the world and come out on top in competitive sports or a chosen career it becomes a whole new ballgame.

So what has been former World Billiards Champion, Geet Sethi secret to success? He told CNBC-TV18, "You can't start in a game and say that I am going to be a world champion in seven years, you may not have the talent, you may not have the dedication to pursue the whole thing, you may get distracted in between.

"So you've just got to take it one day at a time, one week at a time and just keep improving your benchmark, I think it's very important to keep raising your own standard, till you reach a point where you are just below a world championship standard, and then you just kind of step into it."

So where does this inflection point come for companies, when they feel the need for change that is more in keeping with the times. Chief executive officer, CEO, & MD of Aptech, Pramod Khera explained, "Definitely, there is a right time for these sort of things. But I think in addition to that, one needs to have the conviction and the passion that yes one wants to do something, one wants to really take on the world and if that sort of conviction exists, then there is no reason as to why one can't do this."

He added, "You definitely do need to do some sort of planning, you do need to set out a goal, the only thing is that you have to do it stage-wise right through. When you are successful in the Indian market, then you start looking at the international market and you see which are the markets, where your product or your company can succeed and then you plan it out in such a way that you become a global player."

It does help that Aptech had a business that had proved successful in the domestic market. So when it began its international operations in 1993, it found a lot of takers in the expat market. Khera elaborated, "Indians living in the Middle East were interested and said that if you start something in the Middle East, we would be interested in taking such courses and that's how we really started off and we did well in the Middle East and then we started looking at the rest of the world."

That's the story of India, where the country has suddenly embraced the latest technology and built globally successful businesses - Infosys, Wipro instantly comes to mind. In sports too, it's not just cricket, which can claim its fair share of champions but chess, tennis and even billiards has its own share of heroes. So how come India is producing champions in non-core sports and business?

Sethi has a theory about this phenomenon. He said, "I believe it's got to do with tradition. And when I say tradition, I mean that when I was playing billiards, I had a Michael Ferreira to look up to, and when Michael Ferreira was playing, he had Wilson Jones to look up to.

"There is always one pioneer, one revolutionary person or a company, who comes on the scene, breaks all the rules and wins and becomes a world leader. I think that one pioneer has great inspirational value, he inspires the whole generation, which is following him and inspires the generation, not only to be world class but he, kind of, gives a subconscious belief to the youngsters and he is interacting with the youngsters, so the youngsters say that 'hey he is a world champion and I am playing with him and I almost beat him the other day, so maybe I can be a world champion too.' I think that is very important."

Sethi added, "I don't think I ever had a goal to be a world champion when I started in the game. This was way back in 1974-75, but I think, I just progressed from one step to the other and from the district level to state level and one day I just won the national title and winning the national title meant that I had an opportunity to represent my country at the world championship.

"And really at that time, the thought of even winning the world title never came up. So it was only after 1980-83, when I had defeated Michael Ferreira in the national championship, that thought came up. Otherwise, it was just work all the time."

Khera agrees, "Well to some extent, what Geet is saying is true but in a business, it's slightly different because today the world is becoming highly globalised and if, for example, Aptech has to succeed in India, it has to be globally competitive in India itself because there is global competition over here and the best way to prove that you are globally competitive, is to succeed outside the India.

"It makes a lot of sense for Indian companies, which are doing well to start looking at the international markets, and that's what Ranbaxy is doing. That's what large organisations, which are succeessful in India, apart from IT, are doing."

"While, there will always will be somebody who is a pioneer and that definitely motivates others to follow suit and excel. I think as far as IT is concerned, in India, people had the inherent skills. TCS was there much before Infosys, Satyam or Wipro came up and they were doing a lot of projects in India for the Indian government and also outside India and they also realized that if they have to do well, they have to succeed globally and that's how really the Indian IT industry has grown up today."

Another concern is allocating resources or even raising enough finances to venture abroad. Both corporates and sportspeople have to worry about it but that's where the similarities end.

Businesses go to the capital market while sportsman don't have the same luxury. They have to literally scrounge for sponsors, since they don't play the nation's favourite sport - cricket.

Sethi knows the feeling. He reiterates, "Absolutely, I think for every sportsperson from India specifically in individual sport, it's a big hindrance if I can call it that. Professionalism in sport has still not come into India in the same manner as it has in the more developed countries and today I think with media and globalization coming in, I find that resource crunch slowly easing away.

"So today, you have Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Narain Karthikeyan whose is getting millions of dollars to show his skills at Monte Carlo and at all the other races, but 10 years ago, he wouldn't have been able to do this, so he is at the right time at the right place."

Khera said that setting up Aptech abroad was as much of challenge because when they set up their training centre in the US, they were paying salaries in dollars and earning in rupees. But money questions apart, he says that learning about the local customs also pays, so you can customise your products.

He elaborated, "For example, our course material is translated into Chinese for the China market. But the examples that we are giving in those books also have to be changed into Chinese names, Chinese cities, Chinese customs etc. In the Middle East, we need to have a prayer room for the people, where they can go and pray, so these types of local sensitivities also need to be kept in mind."

Some sports are treated like stepchildren but not the IT industry, which has a strong industry body and the least amount of government interference. Khera has his tongue firmly in his cheek when he says, "In fact, we say that the greater service that the government has done, is stayed away from the IT industry!"

At the end of the day, it's one's convictions that the right thing is being done, that carries people on to greater heights. Khera explained, "One has to strike the balance and one has to look at the interest of the shareholder, stakeholder as well as the customers and the employees, who are working in your organisation, and not lose sight of the vision and the direction that you have set for yourself, that's a challenge."

Written for moneycontrol.com

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