Bandhu Speak – Narayan Balasubramanian

Bandhu Speak is an initiative to share candid views from experts in startup and corporate space. The first interviewee is Narayan, a long time mentor and a well wisher.

Narayan is a chairman at Abyantra, a startup providing Software Development and Consulting both in the Services and Products. Previously he had a 20 year stint at Infosys spread across multiple roles in technology and management. A strong believer in ‘technology driven innovation’, he began his career with Indian Telecom major, BPL. Narayan is an alumnus of NIT Warangal.

On most surprising aspects when transitioning from Corporate to your Own

The pleasant surprise was the feeling of freedom and ability to implement decisions quickly. Of course, the biggest plus was gaining time – no conference calls and minimal email communication – means that you gain 4 to 5 hours per day – which can be used for more productive and creative activities.

On Sales

Sales needs to be about honesty and trust – an entrepreneur should be able to build confidence in the customer that there is no need to double-check what has been delivered and that value is being delivered for what is being paid. Even in my corporate days, I found that customers connected better with people closely involved in development and delivery, as compared to those in sales. In today’s connected world, there is no real need for the stereotyped “sales person”.

On First Time Managers

Rather than managers, we should think of themselves as leaders. Though it may sound clichéd, there is no substitute for leadership by example.  The leader should also lead from the front – should be the best in his field and win the respect of the team.  Honesty, trustworthiness and openness ensure the team stays bonded. It is also important to “be there” in good times and bad whether professional or personal. 

On Folks Looking For a Job

If you are already in a job, be clear why you need a change. It is better if it is a positive pull rather than a negative push factor.  If you are looking for your first job, you need to be highly skilled – today there are so many opportunities to learn.

On Hiring

Aptitude is the necessary condition, but Attitude is the sufficient condition. Unfortunately, we may make mistakes while hiring on the Attitude front.  In such cases, timely feedback and corrective measures should be taken.

On Biggest Stepping Stone

Undoubtedly, my long career at Infosys.  Excellent ambience, culture, colleagues and seniors.  The founders set a high bar in excellence and integrity which we are trying to emulate in our startup.

On Most Important Trait Everyone Should Follow

Integrity – pretty much affects everything we do.  How we recruit and treat employees, deliver to customers and handle our personal lives.  Always try to do what is right rather than what is convenient.

On Success

Ability to offer unconditional help to others with no expectations – could be in the form of time, thoughts, guidance, material or monetary

On Mentors

I have been influenced by a great many people – though not in any formal manner. Probably, greatest influence has been my mother who used to say – you learn both “what to do” and “what not to do” from different kinds of people.

On Mentees

Always happy to share my experiences with others – not in a formal manner.  Many of my acquaintances have gone on to start successful companies and attain senior leadership positions in corporates.  It feels good when someone comes up to me in a public place, reminds me that he was in my team and how he remembers positive things. Makes my day.

On Most useful Advice ever got

“Never think the other person is a fool.” – by Rajiv Kuchhal, who headed Infosys – Nortel unit

On Books

I read a lot of general fiction (favourite is PG Wodehouse) and mostly avoid the self-help genre. However, I found “The monk who sold his Ferrari” very useful.

On Life Lessons

Self-confidence helps you do wonders – and this comes from the feeling that what you are doing is right – this comes from having Integrity.  Rewards may be delayed, but once you do the hard work, the law of conservation of energy ensures that you get the returns.

On Interests Apart from work

Many interests – running, karate, carnatic music – listening and playing, reading, all sports – watching mostly, playing a little, social work. Important not to stop any interest – but find time for it despite a busy schedule

If someone wants to reach out to you, what groundwork should they do?

Just think through what is expected we meet

Role model you would like to meet?

Rahul Dravid