Entrepreneurial Mindset in Corporate Roles– key to business growth

Entrepreneurial Mindset in Corporate Roles– key to business growth

Sridhar Rao

Management Coach & Business Mentor


In 2005, I took over as the CEO of the Hutch India telecom services in Kolkata and West Bengal circles. At that time, Hutch was already the market leader in Kolkata by a slender margin. In the Rest of Bengal(ROB), we were a new entrant at No.5, with BSNL as the clear leader.

Within a couple of years, we had overtaken all the operators in ROB to become the market leader and were highly Ebitda positive. In Kolkata our lead had increased significantly over other players while also being highly Ebitda positive.

The icing on the cake was the crowning of Hutch, which had by then become Vodafone, as the Most Trusted Brand in Kolkata by an ET survey in 2009.

Similar stories happened in Hutch/Vodafone India in many other circles in those days.

What made the difference?

What worked was the entrepreneurial mindset and determination which all of us in the company showed; from the then Managing Director Asim Ghosh, right down to the first rung executives in all functions; in breaking through mental barriers and evolving strategies that could make us disrupt the existing market hierarchy.

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Corporate jobs can be like a double edged sword – while on one hand they provide experience, insights, teams, systems and a sense of financial security; on the other, they can reduce our need to be alert and agile precisely for these reasons, thus affecting performance, specially in difficult times.

Any problem needs a 360 degree view to ensure all aspects are understood; and all good managers do so. But what we often don’t do is, to do a 360 degree solution search. Every corporate has some typical ways of handling issues and most business managers tend to fall in line and do just that.

What it does is to stop us from using our creative capabilities to find innovative solutions.

The managers and teams who break away from the set patterns of responses to situations, visualise, innovate and move quickly, have a lot of what is called the Entrepreneurial Mindset.

What is this Entrepreneurial Mindset?

Imagine if you had started your own business and invested your own money into it. You start with a vision. As you start building the business, you encounter setbacks. Maybe, an inability to acquire customers as planned; or the inability to deliver on orders due to resource issues.

What would you have done? Every time you hit a wall, you would step back, review, re-strategise and try once more; Because you have no choice but to do so!

With each setback, the strategy would change more and more, till maybe, your business model itself undergoes a change.

In a corporate scenario, on the other hand, the tendency could be to slow down and wait for the opportunity to bounce back; or leave it to the bosses to define the next step.

While for some routine issues, the approach of slowing down and waiting for the upturn makes sense, for larger and prolonged issues, the solutions need to be more dramatic.

This is where the entrepreneurial mindset needs to start working.

Key Elements of the Entrepreneurial Mindset

The key elements of an entrepreneurial mind are

  • An ability to view opportunities beyond the obvious
  • A zeal to drive to scale up despite all odds
  • Acceptance of a failure as one’s own responsibility to correct; instead of just attributing it to external factors
  • Willingness to look beyond the standard methods to get results
  • Willingness to take a calculated risk
  • Ability to take quick decisions without procrastination
  • Ability to build conviction amongst the superiors and the team for the plan and execution

It is a myth that this cannot be practiced in a large corporate. Every business has its boundaries no doubt, but within those boundaries, every manager has the scope to display agility, make changes, experiment with new ideas , convince the team and superiors to go for it and drive the change in a coordinated way.

This needn’t necessarily be a top down approach. The ideas could come from below, be evaluated rapidly and then moved upon.

If the senior leadership of the business values this capability, the results and change can be truly transformational, as happened with us at Hutch/Vodafone India.

Disruption is now a norm – adopt the right mindset

Over the last two decades, with the advent of the startup culture, a lot of change has come about in terms of introduction of new technology, designing and deploying innovative solutions, investment and financing solutions.

The kind of products and services, the way they can be delivered to customers, the marketing models; everything has undergone a huge change.

The rate at which existing practices in any industry get disrupted is now rapidly crashing; from once in 5-10 years to almost every year!

In such a scenario, unless people in the top management roles and the teams below, undergo a cultural shift and imbibe the entrepreneurial zeal to do new things and find new ways, the corporate is surely going to be left behind.

This is quite visible today – both, in corporates which have slowed down and lost the way; as well as startups that have been overtaken by other, more agile and flexible startups.

From an individual’s point of view, every ambitious management professional would do well to consciously bring about this change in her/his style, in order to be with or a bit ahead of the cultural shift coming about in the business world.

Entrepreneurial Mindset is the only way ahead – for careers, businesses and economies to survive and grow.

Sridhar Rao is a Management Coach and Mentor and is available for one to one sessions online as a part of the InfinumGrowth Coaching panel. Click to know more.

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mmSaugat kumar baanerjeeShobhana RaoGanesh Kumar R Recent comment authors
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Shobhana Rao
Shobhana Rao

Another element of an entrepreneurial mindset perhaps, would be conscious cultivation of a systems thinking approach. In corporates like you mentioned above one gets confined to their own team, their own function and their own work output. For many reasons looking at the impact your outcome has on other functions and how collectively these impact organizational functioning or outcomes is hardly encouraged or even taught.

Sridhar Rao

Very true Shobhana! Thanks!

Ganesh Kumar R
Ganesh Kumar R

Well articulated article Sridhar! Thanks!

Sridhar Rao

Thank you Ganesh!

Saugat kumar baanerjee
Saugat kumar baanerjee

Very insightful sir and i can relate to each and every aspect aspect of your hutch / vodafone turnaround story in kolkata .

Sridhar Rao

Thank you Saugat! It was a story which all of us including you contributed to👍