Mentoring in recent times has become an essential factor in entrepreneurial success as mentors can help entrepreneurs overcome the commonly faced setbacks in their early stages of entrepreneurial ventures. Despite a surge in entrepreneurial mentoring programs, the entrepreneurship literature on mentoring is scarce. The full potential of mentoring relationships is rarely realized, despite its importance in helping entrepreneurs build a profitable venture.
Ajit Joshi, Founder, and CEO, Corporate Recipes, throws light on how the culmination of all this wealth of knowledge made him start his own consultancy wherein he helps various companies in the SME sector and start-ups to solve their problems and help them grow as per their vision.
Ajit has spent more than 33 years working in large diversified organizations from India and overseas. He has a unique advantage of working with more than 10 different industries. He has been a part of two start-ups which he helped nurture and grow in Asia and successfully created exist for promoters and investors. Apart from that he also conducts mentoring sessions in association with various incubators and co-working spaces.
Goal of Corporate Recipes
“The goal of corporate recipes is to give a perfect solution recipe for customers’ problems since they are unique to their situations. No two situations can be similar and therefore each one requires a customized solution and that is given by corporate recipes,” says Ajit. Corporate recipes also help start-ups by handholding them and ensuring that they are on the right path and avoiding the mistakes which will take them a few months back in their journey.
“Corporate recipes is only a brand name under which I personally get involved with the client so that they get the full value of my expertise,” he says.
Entrepreneurship, the backbone of future growth
“I have been through a long journey in more than 3 decades in the corporate and start-up world in many countries. I believe that entrepreneurship and the SME sector is the backbone of future growth stimulus and they would bring in new ideas, smart ways, brilliant technologies which will help the economy and country in the end. Sectors like agriculture and healthcare are core to any economy and any technology advancement here directly enhances the lives of people. After traveling throughout the country and many other parts of the world I feel motivated that young entrepreneurs must be given that support hand,” says Ajit.
Being a consultant is a constant process
Ajit believes that for any mentor all three C's of Mentor-ship that is, Role 1: Consultant, Role 2: Counsellor and Role 3: Cheerleader is extremely crucial and they have their importance and place at their opportune time.
“They need to be used based on the conviction and need of the hour. Mentors cannot play only one role and expect the results out of the mentee. Consultant role is a constant role which is far more deeply integrated with the progress of the project,” he says. He explains more about the roles, “Counsellor Role is more critical when there are problems and the situation has taken a downturn due to internal or external factors or both. It is the role of a motivator to ensure that the spirit of the entrepreneur is still intact. Cheerleader is an occasional role and which is really to appreciate and motivate the founder to scale the new heights. Cheering by mentor keeps immense value for the entrepreneur because the mentor is being looked at as a role model. Personally, I enjoy the role of the consultant the most since it is a constant process and where I am also involved in the project and its problems. The consultant role actually keeps my mind stimulated and ensures that I stay a step ahead and foresee the problems. Also, a constant process of searching out of box solutions keep me motivated,” he says.
Key for surviving in the New normal of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic was completely unexpected and something the world has not faced for almost 100 years. The rate, at which it spread throughout the world, brought everything to a standstill. “It is now amply clear that this is here to stay for a very long time and things have changed forever. Having said that, it was becoming a fight for survival not only physically but also emotionally and economically. The proposed solution on the COVID problem until we get the vaccine is creating social distancing and this has dramatically changed the lifestyle. It actually created a divide and especially in the way we operate and conduct our daily life. We need to become far more innovative in conducting our activities, especially economic activities. Business houses have changed their internal systems as well as external systems while delivering products and services. It is not only the technology but also the psychological and emotional aspects that are going to play a larger role. Lots of businesses were still sitting on fences with regards to digital transformation and they are now grappling to keep pace with it. Digital transformation and technology adoption will become the key for survivors. Having said that human beings cannot remain in a glass house and will have to come out and start adopting the change,” Ajit explains.
Corporate Recipes is really an interesting name
Ajit explains as to how he thought of such a unique name for his consultancy, “Each problem faced by a company big or small or by a start-up is always unique. The problem can be classified in many buckets as finance or product or marketing etc but deep inside two problems in marketing bucket or finance bucket or product bucket will always be different. This is where a consultant needs to deep dive and creates a unique and customized solution to the problems keeping in mind the requirement of the clients. I find it very similar to creating new recipes in the kitchen, where using more or less the same ingredients but doing some variations in quantity or method or some new ingredient a new recipe is created. Similarly, I create a unique recipe in the corporate world to address their problem½,” he says.
Experience of working in the corporate sector v/s start-up
Each of the sectors i.e. corporate and start-up have its own share of problems as well as fun elements.
“In the corporate world you are bound by a large chain of command, functional compartmentalization, set rules and norms within which one has to function. The scope for creativity is limited. The corporate world exposes you to systems, large numbers, and a huge scale of operations and diversified base. On the other hand in a start-up, the hierarchy is virtually nonexistent or almost flat. The team has to wear multiple hats and play different roles at the same time. The working style is pretty much informal and interpersonal relations play a big role. The team becomes cohesive and work hand in hand. Start-up also does not have defined rules and multiple fires would be burning at the same time. The goals and targets would keep moving and operational strategies would keep evolving. In the start-up world, the results of your action are known immediately and you alone would be responsible for the good and bad of your decision. But in the end, the whole journey becomes more gratifying,” explains Ajit.
Immense satisfaction in helping a start-up
Ajit enjoys the role of helping start-up the most. Helping a start-up gives a feeling of building an innovative product thereby creating an easier solution for consumers. It also becomes a part of the ecosystem which subsequently becomes a large value chain. Also, helping start-ups involved in agriculture or healthcare is immensely satisfying since these sectors make a direct impact on human beings for their betterment. “The reason being you also become a part of the team and believe in the goal or product. It gives immense satisfaction when you help a start-up to shorten the road to a particular target or provide a very genuine solution. These actions help them to speed up the process and keep them grounded to vision. Seeing the dream come to reality or scale up to build the value is very fulfilling. It gives you a sense of ownership of helping to build something out of an idea,” he says.
Concerns of working from home
Ajit throws light on how work from home might not be a great idea for certain corporate sectors, “There are some corporate who will find it extremely difficult to conduct work from home for various reasons. Few of them are:
- Inadequate digital transformation
- Inadequate technology adoption
- Not well funded to increase the technology infrastructure
- Culturally not equipped to function in a remote manner
However, under the current circumstances, the leadership has to play a large role. They need to define their short-term objectives and get their key leadership members in sync with the operating style. Constant dialogue with the teams will smoothen out the perceived operational challenges,” he says.
He puts down a few pointers on some of the immediate steps to be taken to conduct work from home:
- Open the channels of communication to constantly have a dialogue even with the lowest level
- Redistribute the technology assets by prioritizing the work portfolios
- Redefine the reporting mechanism for middle-level management which is more on line
- Conduct the training session for those team members who are not well equipped to handle the technology tools
- Create an environment of trust between boss and subordinate with respect to input/output
- Remove the fear element from the minds of junior team members with respect to the performance measurement
Priority is to survive and stay alive
This has been a trying time for everyone on the personal front as well as professional front. “Personally, looking after the physical well being of you and family is of utmost importance. Professionally there are enormous challenges for every person as well as for companies, start-ups, and professionals. The first priority is to survive and stay alive. But at the same time, it will be important that we think about the future steps and how to tackle the current problem rather than asking why. No one has an answer to why. Keep doing the efforts to the best of your ability. Success or failure will become secondary. You may not succeed 100% but even if 50% success today will help you to spring back with speed in a post COVID environment,” says Ajit.
(Edited by Rabia Mistry Mulla)