Startup eSeries: Entrepreneurs Can Now Shadow a Leader - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Startup eSeries: Entrepreneurs Can Now Shadow a Leader

Apr 18, 2015


In my last article, titled Seek a Guru to Awaken Your Strengths, I spoke about the age-old tradition of learning from someone more experienced and accomplished - a new-age guru or mentor who can guide you in your professional journey.

For an entrepreneur, this need becomes an even more acute one, as very often you're in it alone and left to your own devices. To add to it, you're in unknown territory where you're uncertain of your customers and market share.

Competition is rife, trust is low but the business has to grow. At such times, it helps to learn from industry stalwarts who are seasoned in the tricks of the trade.

But how do you get access to leaders in your line of business? How do you get up close and personal with them, share your many doubts and fears, and get the guidance you need?

To fill this glaring gap for mentors, Young Bombay Forum (YBF) a youth wing of Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry has devised a mentoring program called Shadow the Leader, which allows professionals, entrepreneurs and management students a chance to get mentored for one full day by a leader from a selected panel. The program aims to nurture young leaders in India with a view to make them globally competitive and contribute better toward nation-building. 

The program is open to anyone wishing to get mentored; you can simply log on to ebay and bid for a leader of your choice. The bidding process begins on 22nd April and ends on 29th April, with a minimum bid amount of Rs. 10,000.

Shadow the Leader is purely a philanthropic and learning opportunity, whose net proceeds after all defray expenses will be used for the benefit of underprivileged children.

Educational NGOs like VIDYA, Akanksha, Apni Shala, Aseema and Salaam Bombay Foundation will benefit from the funds mobilized, and entrepreneurs will get an opportunity to meet some of India's top corporate honchos like - Govind Shrikhande, MD, Shoppers Stop Ltd; Anil Jain, MD & CEO, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd; Ashok Barat, MD & CEO, Forbes and Company Ltd; Ravi Kirpalani, MD, Castrol India Ltd; Ranjit Shahani, MD & VC, Novartis India Ltd; Cyril Shroff, Managing Partner, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co.; R Mukundan, MD, Tata Chemicals Ltd; Sunil Mathur, CEO and MD, Siemens; Zia Mody, Founder & Senior Partner of AZB & Partners.

Govind Shrikhande
I got a chance to talk to Govind Shrikhande, Managing Director, Shoppers Stop Ltd, one of the leaders in the program. Mr. Shrikhande moved from being Vice President to Managing Director of Shoppers Stop in a short span of eight years. He has helped Shoppers Stop emerge as a leading brand in 'the bridge-to-luxury' category of department stores in India.

Mr. Shrikhande himself has mentored many colleagues and believes that this program "is an excellent initiative with a social cause and a number of entrepreneurs will benefit from it." His own methodology for the program would be to first "understand the person and then decide (the mentoring process) in consultation with the individual."

In this interview, he talks about his own brushes with mentorship and his vision for tomorrow's leaders.

What were the turning points in your career?

My assignments at Johnson & Johnson, Arvind and Shoppers Stop taught me a lot of new things. At Johnson & Johnson, I learned the importance of detailed spec'ing, especially as per international pharmacy standards. At Arvind, I was part of the team that launched denim for the first time in India. This involved a lot of concept selling. Later on, I was part of the team  that launched Arrow Shirts. When I joined Shoppers Stop, the company was facing tremendous challenges. Within a year we were able to turn around because of focus and great team work. When the trillion-dollar global meltdown happened, we faced an existential challenge... we beat it again and continued to grow.

What role did mentors play in your own professional journey?

I was lucky to have some of the best bosses who acted as mentors and coaches. The ones that I will always be indebted to are Mr Anubhai and Mr Mogra at Mafatlal, Mr Sudhir Phadke at Johnson & Johnson, and Mr Mirchandani at Arvind. Each one of them helped in different aspects of running the business and dealing with people.

Who have you mentored in the past and what methodology did you use?

Through my career, I have mentored at least a dozen colleagues. Typically the methodology would be based on understanding their strengths and weaknesses. And then helping them in overcoming these through assignments and case studies.

What are your views on the burgeoning entrepreneurial scene in India?

Indians have tremendous talent. This is clearly reflected in the number of entrepreneurs we produce across many sectors and by the number of Indians who are heading global companies.

How do you keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive at Shoppers Stop?

We continue to identify high potential on a regular basis in various levels and roles. We have a long-running program called Baby Kangaroo to mentor customer care associates who want to take up higher responsibilities. We also run several programs like Innovation and Talent Hunt, which bring out leadership and innovative capabilities in individuals.

How can leaders like yourself guide young entrepreneurs through management and decision-making?

We can share our experiences, success stories and failures with them. We can help them identify the right path that they should take to become more successful. Although the future is more uncertain than the past, there are learnings from the past that can help navigate the future.

Why is mentorship important in one's professional career?

There are very few born leaders. Majority of industry leaders have learned over the years through experience, observation and guidance. Even little master Sachin Tendulkar, prospered because of (Ramakant) Achrekar Sir's guidance.

When do you know that a mentee is ready to chart his/her own path?

It is similar to the story of a butterfly, which comes out of its cocoon and starts flying on its own. Individuals realise when they can start running on their own.

The guru-shishya parampara had the guru dakshina concept, what would you like your mentee to gift you at the end of the association?

The only dakshina I would expect is, (for the mentee) to continue the parampara of mentoring new shishyas, when they are ready.

Is the learning in a mentor-mentee relationship measurable according to you?

If one practices it well, one can keep a record of the start, progress and end result. Yes, it is possible to measure the result.

Words of Wisdom from Govind Shrikhande

  • As an entrepreneur nowadays, the biggest challenges you face are: "Ease of getting finances, mentoring and the Indian bureaucracy."

  • Budding entrepreneurs should: "Dream big, keep customers in mind and not run behind profit only. Think of society and the nation."

  • The next generation of leaders should pursue: "Innovation, focus, human and social connect."

This is just a preview of what Govind Shrikhande and all other leaders on the program can teach you. To get a closer peek into what drives these leaders, shadow them to learn more about their success.


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3 Responses to "Startup eSeries: Entrepreneurs Can Now Shadow a Leader"


20 Apr, 2015

.Article is a revelation for a prospective entrepreneur written in a very lucid style. Please keep it up!! In words of wisdom, Mr. Shrikhande has talked about the biggest challenges faced by an entrepreneur -"Ease of getting finances, mentoring and the Indian Bureaucracy". You have talked about mentoring in this article. I request you to give more detailed inputs on the other two aspects i.e. Ease of getting finances and tackling the bureaucracy. Thanks for illuminating inputs given in the article


19 Apr, 2015

Ritika, you presented your interaction with Entrepreneur Govind Shrikhande in a succulent manner and his expression is a very clear message to the budding Startups. Any activity with human touch for human needs without overly greed is a right path for success. Balakrishna

Kiran Patil

19 Apr, 2015

This is an amazing initiative. I am sure many budding young entrepreneurs would get Immense benefit from the rich experience of these industry stalwarts. On different note, I would like to introduce launched by my 13 year old son. This platform encourages children in the age group of 9-16 yrs to read books and write reviews. From 6 th April 2015, over 2000 people have visited this website and 170 students have registered. Pl do visit the website. Regards Kiran Patil

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