‘Employee or employer, entrepreneurial mindset essential to success’

What happens when a business strategist and out-of-the-box-thinker distils the lessons learnt from cinema, sports, music, poetry, politics, the corporate world to offer an alternative view of everything around us? “Fetch Your Own Coffee” (Penguin), is where Kaustubh Sonalkar expands on his mantra: “We do our best thinking when our minds are free to wander, and our minds are most free when we do routine tasks like fetching a cup of coffee or watering the plants”.

“Over the years, I have realized that management doesn’t come with a playbook. Even though one can find several books in the market that lay down invaluable principles for good management, I believe those are not the only ones. This is why I have penned down ‘Fetch Your Own Coffee’, to share my disruptive views of being a top manager and a great human being — based on lessons learnt from cinema, sports, music, poetry, politics, the corporate world and more,” Sonalkar, with two decades of experience across geographies and industry sectors, told IANS in an interview.

“Until now, I have travelled and worked across 78 countries, interacted with people across cultures including communities in sub-Saharan regions with no access and massive language barriers. This has exposed me to diverse conversations as well as helped me understand non-verbal cues and how to identify core human traits. I have tried to pen down the lessons I have learnt throughout my journey in this book, Sonalkar, added.

Subtitled “Lessons from Everyday for Everyone”, the book, to his mind, offers five principal takeaways though he “respects that the readers may have different ones”:

* Leadership is learnt more from life experiences than reference texts.

* Inclusive growth – across genders, geographies, age and language – is the most sustainable growth.

* Whether an employee or employer, an entrepreneurial mindset is essential to success.

* Interpersonal relationships and empathy are the secret sauce of successful businesses.

* It is important to question all norms and then decide whether to adopt or re-invent.

As a business strategist, what would he say are the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for the ‘new normal’ that we will henceforth be living in?

“The impact of COVID-19 had initially slowed down growth for businesses worldwide. While the apprehension amidst business leaders is natural, it’s also time for companies to look at what’s ahead – opportunities to pre-empt and re-imagine the future”, offering a “small checklist” that he says has the potential to deliver turnaround at scale.

* Chalk out a strategy and Think Big to action that strategy. Think of ideas to bring costs down while adding value. This has already been put into practice by several companies, demonstrating that organisations have the potential to be agile when situations so demand.

* Champion the adoption of digitisation and avenues for automation. It will simplify the processes and ensure efficiency. Get inspired by technology; ask yourself when your next upgrade is.

* Manufacturers need to focus on supply chain efficiencies and better quality of collaborations.

* Upskill your workforce, particularly on digital fronts. This ensures that high-performing team members can be given newer roles if operations change.

* Make exports and global business central to planning. Manufacturers around the world are rethinking their sourcing strategies and looking at India anew.

* Capitalise on the image India is enjoying in this period; India will be perceived as a far safer investment than China.

* Make sure your business is ready for emerging markets and evolved customer needs.

* Look at your business in its current state and evaluate its validity 10 years hence.

* Build in flexibility work towards a time and location agnostic business.

* Find opportunities on tax sops; the government has several tax sops for the MSME sectors, women entrepreneurs and certain business lines.

At the bottom line, Sonalkar writes in the Epilogue, “the whole point is to act, lead and live by establishing genuine connections with the people we meet on our journey. Let’s emphatise, bond and embrace. But, let’s also observe, question and live the best life that we possibly can. The population of India currently stands at 1.3 billion, so we tend to feel that individuals can’t really make a dent. The truth is that it is only individuals who can take up causes and make a difference. What they call the collective conscience is most often a movement started by an individual with a vision. Our role is to decide whether we want to lead the charge or identify a leader whose vision matches ours. The Time to sit on the fence is long gone”.