LESSONS FROM BOL­LY­WOOD FOR IN­DIAN IT IN­DUS­TRY

The In­dian IT in­dus­try has done the coun­try proud through its many achieve­ments but to­day, it needs to pause and re­flect on what it wants to be in the decade ahead

The Financial Express - - FRONT PAGE - The writer is chair­man, Mindtree

IAD­MIRE Bol­ly­wood for many valu­able man­age­ment lessons, par­tic­u­larly for us in the In­dian IT in­dus­try. Take for ex­am­ple the idea of rein­vent­ing one­self. From silent movies to the talkies, from black and white to Tech­ni­color, from ana­log to dig­i­tal, from cin­ema halls to mul­ti­plexes, Bol­ly­wood has made sure that tech­nol­ogy has never stayed more than a step ahead of the film busi­ness at any time. The same has been the case with sto­ry­lines; it is amaz­ing how scripts have changed even as the boy-meets­girl core is a con­stant. Fifty years ago, Bol­ly­wood wove magic and mes­merised au­di­ences with sto­ries of Rani Sahibas and the Raj Ma­hals; to­day it cov­ers a wide can­vas from cricket pa­tri­o­tism to counter in­sur­gency, and does not shy away from topics such as men­tal ill­ness, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and caste-based vi­o­lence. The he­roes and hero­ines, vil­lains and vamps have been con­stantly rein­vented; stereo­types have been chal­lenged with con­sis­tent reg­u­lar­ity.

In all th­ese, peo­ple usu­ally for­get to note a fun­da­men­tal thing: that Bol­ly­wood has never seen short­age of great tal­ent; there never was a famine for any sin­gle cat­e­gory, from light boys to mu­sic ar­rangers to ed­i­tors to screen­play writ­ers. But most sig­nif­i­cantly, there was never ever a dearth of he­roes and hero­ines. The in­dus­try has con­sis­tently pro­duced great tal­ent and has a su­perb sense of over­lay and smooth tran­si­tion so that nev- er ever any­one had to won­der what would hap­pen af­ter one su­per­star or the other was gone. Prithvi­raj Kapoor to Amitabh Bachchan to Ran­bir Kapoor, from Mad­hubala to Mad­huri Dixit to Deepika Padukone, there has never been a mo­ment of anx­i­ety about who would fill any­one’s shoes. Peo­ple have cer­tainly mat­tered, gi­ants have been born but they have not made them­selves in­dis­pens­able.

As a re­sult, the in­dus­try has pros­pered; it has re­mained re­ces­sion-proof, it has glob­alised, and it has re­mained as­pi­ra­tional. Like ev­ery­thing else In­dian, dy­nas­tic ad­van­tages have been there but those alone have not helped any­one to get to the top, far less, stay there. Au­di­ences and hence, producers, have been cold to any­one foisted upon them who did not bring more than DNA to the party. But fan­tas­ti­cally, Bol­ly­wood has done two re­mark­able things with un­wa­ver­ing con­sis­tence: it has men­tored new tal­ent, and though it has chal­lenged th­ese new ac­tors so they can ear n

THE FU­TURE OF THE IN­DIAN IT IN­DUS­TRY DE­PENDS ON SEV­ERAL THINGS: LIKE BOL­LY­WOOD, WE MUST KNOW HOW TO CON­TIN­U­OUSLY REIN­VENT OUR­SELVES; WE MUST LEARN FROM UN­USUAL NEW SOURCES AND WE MUST CON­SIS­TENTLY BRING IN FRESH NEW TAL­ENT TO PO­SI­TIONS OF LEAD­ER­SHIP

their own place, there are sev­eral sto­ries even in this hero­ine-eat-hero­ine world about how older tal­ent has showed younger ones how to act, and sing, and edit, and man­age the sup­ply chain of the cel­lu­loid. The other thing that Bol­ly­wood has done re­mark­ably well is that it has cel­e­brated its suc­cess and glam­ourised work. It has cre­ated its own Os­cars, and wip­ing a tear un­der the strobe lights while de­liv­er­ing an ac­cep­tance speech is as as­pi­ra­tional as hav­ing sold­out shoot­ing dates.

The In­dian IT in­dus­try has done the coun­try proud through its many achieve­ments over the last four decades but to­day, it needs to pause and re­flect on what it wants to be in the decade ahead. In do­ing so, we, in the In­dian IT in­dus­try, should lear n a few lessons from Bol­ly­wood. While Bol­ly­wood has never lost a beat when it came to tal­ent tran­si­tion, we won­der about what will hap­pen to com­pany A and com­pany B af­ter this leader and that is gone; un­like our thes­pian friends, ours is a pro­gres­sively age­ing in­dus­try in which he­roes and hero­ines are age­ing as against get­ting any younger. Un­like Bol­ly­wood, we have sel­dom seen our lead­ers from dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies come to­gether in pub­lic events where young peo­ple can see them and sigh and gasp and one day out­grow them and do even bet­ter. Men­tor­ing has been, by and large, HR jar­gon; our in­dus­try hasn’t seen lear ning as the very in­tense, per­sonal and some­times pri­vate af­fair that is en­demic in tin­sel town.

In­ter­est­ingly, and more than ever be­fore, 2013 has been the year of lead­er­ship de­par­tures for many In­dian IT com­pa­nies. Never be­fore have we seen as many se­nior peo­ple make news leav­ing com­pa­nies than for their un­usual new pas­sion in life or a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion in or out­side work. Many high pro­file de­par­tures in­volved abrupt, clumsy han­dling be­tween the em­ployer and the em­ployee; some have been self-im­mo­la­tion at the pub­lic square, not know­ing that such acts make news only for that day. As an in­dus­try we have not learnt to han­dle fame.

The fu­ture of the In­dian IT in­dus­try de­pends on sev­eral things: like Bol­ly­wood, we must know how to con­tin­u­ously rein­vent our­selves; like Bol­ly­wood, we must lear n from un­usual new sources. Like Bol­ly­wood, we must con­sis­tently bring in fresh new tal­ent to po­si­tions of lead­er­ship, and while we com­pete fiercely for ev­ery role, we must build a cel­e­bra­tory cul­ture, shake hands and laugh and hand over the awards to each other. We must spend more time with our next gen­er­a­tion so that they push the en­ve­lope fur­ther and fi­nally, our lead­ers must lear n to say their good­byes with grace and know how to ride into the sun­set, just a lit­tle be­fore the au­di­ence asks for it.

ILLUSTRATION: SHYAM

SUBROTO BAGCHI

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