Letter from Managing Director, PMI India   |   Download a PDF version     

Inculcating Entrepreneurial Skills within the Team
Mr. Srinivas Kopparapu, president, PMI Pearl City Chapter, in conversation with Hyderabadís serial entrepreneurs and co-founders of Intergraph India, D. E. Shaw, and ADP India on their journey together.

Mr. Srinivas Kopparapu (extreme left) with Mr. Shakti Sagar, Mr. Thiagarajan Arunachalam, and Mr. Ganesh Sellakannu

Mr. Ganesh Sellakannu, director, ADP Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Thiagarajan Arunachalam, former director, ADP Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Shakti Sagar, managing director, ADP Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Kopparapu: Your journey began in the 1980s when the software industry was not in focus. What triggered your move to software?

Mr. Sagar: In 1984, we worked on an automatic ledger posting machine (ALPM) for the banking industry. Thatís when the idea to come up with independent software products took root. In 1986, we started developing software products. But it was very difficult those days. To get the cash flow going, we also undertook data entry type of jobs.

Mr. Arunachalam: We believed even in those early days that Hyderabad had the potential and we stuck to it. We also believed that software was the Ďiní thing. Though I have moved on to social work now, at heart Iím still a programmer. We looked for opportunities all the time.

Mr. Sellakannu: At the time, the market was hardware and capital intense, and the quality of manpower was also good.

Mr. Kopparapu: How did you incorporate project management in your work?

Mr. Arunachalam: Project management became an integral part of our work when we started working with banks. We started to improvise on solutions as we went. We were doing a mix of agile and waterfall techniques in project management, but we didnít know it as that at the time. Later Intergraph introduced us to project management.

Mr. Sagar: Getting the contract from Intergraph, a US company, to set up a center in Hyderabad was our first initiation into project management. That lit the fire in our belly, and we started from ground zero. We got the opportunity, we had to deliver.

Mr. Kopparapu: Give us some examples of how you planned for something and something else turned out.

Mr. Arunachalam: Plans donít fail; people fail to plan. Yes, we did go by the opportunity (even if the plan was something else). To deliver, we had to keep adapting to new scenarios.

Mr. Sagar: Once things are stabilized and you have a buoy, your planning process is different. Nine years after setting up Intergraph, we were approached by D. E. Shaw, another US organization, to set up their India subsidiary in Bangalore. We debated whether we could do it all over again. We took the opportunity and convinced D. E. Shaw to set up operations in Hyderabad.

Mr. Kopparapu: How was project management instrumental in sustaining growth in the organizations that you worked with?

Mr. Sellakannu: The running theme for us was to continue planning and make it happen.

Mr. Arunachalam: New ventures require a lot of planning. One cannot take anything off the ground without project management. Every time I had a new idea, I made a PERT (program evaluation and review technique) chart.

Mr. Sellakannu: Back then, status reporting was not practiced. Nevertheless, Mr. Arunachalam would ask us for weekly reports on projects whether the client had asked for it or not. This provided structure and others could infer easily from this framework.

Mr. Sagar: Undoubtedly, framework is great but flexibility is the key. You have to be flexible and adapt to every situation and be able to modify a dynamic plan.

Mr. Arunachalam: I would send consolidated reports to the client every week. Once a client told me that he would never read my reports but the fact that I sent the report assured him that work was progressing.

Mr. Kopparapu: During your journey, how did you take your employees and colleagues along?

Mr. Arunachalam: Just like our children, our colleagues donít do what we say but do what we do. Colleagues need to develop trust. Our values have been our big thing.

Mr. Sellakannu: We donít need to manage resources. We just need to lead them. This is where the fundamental shift occurred.

Mr. Sagar: When we moved from Intergraph to D. E. Shaw, the primary challenge was competing for the same human capital. Often, leaders make the grave mistake of game playing politics. Be open and transparent. Trust is the key to being truly successful.

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