Great Execution Is More Important Than Good Ideas

Updated: Nov 9 2003, 05:30am hrs
Today the dotcom may be dotgone, but cut back to 1999, when the dotcom was very much synonymous with the e lexicon, two young graduates from Harvard Business SchoolRaj Kondur and Ashish Dhawanfounded Chrysalis Capital.

The duo got everything right from the first step. The strategic investors of the fund included names like Microsoft, Harvard Endowment and HSBC, among others. At the height of the dotcom boom (January-April 2000) nearly 500 business plans were dropped into the offices of Chrysalis Capital in Mumbai. Their first fund was to the tune of $65 million. Some of their investments were in Spectramind (now Wipro Spectramind), bazee, egurcool.com, jobsahead.com and Transworks.

I couldnt go for any dinner party without being mobbed by people with business plans, chuckles 32-year-old Raj Kondur, who is now chairman and chief executive officer of Nirvana, a BPO (business process outsourcing) company.

So why did the boom go bust I think somewhere down the line a lot of us lost sight of some of the fundamentals. Investors take home net income, but many of us forgot that and instead we got carried away by things like eyeballs and page views, which were actually proxies for revenues, admits Mr Kondur rather candidly.

And what about the allegations that rocked the venture capitalists world post the dotcom bubble No one is doing early stage venture capital funding anymore, says Mr Kondur adding that he has learnt that great execution is more important than good ideas. Ideas can get copied but it takes a lifetime to build a good company.

Weve all had some hits and misses. We wanted Fabmart to be the Amazon of India and Baazee, the ebay of India, says Mr Kondur on a reflective note.

In mid-2001 he left Chrysalis Capital and in July 2003 he launched Nirvana in Bangalore. Nirvana is focusses on four main areastech and IT support, finance and account outsourcing, customer service (voice enabled service) and transaction processing.

All this while, (2001-2002) I assembled the management team and got investors to fund the venture, says Mr Kondur. Nirvana, her assures, wont be a run-of-the-mill BPO company. At Nirvana, we want to shift the image of the BPO world from one being a sweatshop to one where you can actually make a career and we are addressing all these issues upfront, he says.

Mr Kondur got a bachelor in business administration (finance, accounting and economics) from Georgia State University in 1992. But the young man is not all work. He also played professional tennis for nine months (between 1992-93 and was ranked sixth in India). He later opted out of the tennis circuit as he felt that he couldnt make it to the top 100. I always work on this gut feeling. When we started Chrysalis, the instinct was strong and the same is true for Nirvana now. The instinct is strong, reveals Mr Kondur.

But playing tennis taught Mr Kondur a few hard realities of the corporate world as well. Sports is a very good metaphor. It also teaches you to look at things from a very realistic perspective. There is a lot of hype before the match begins. But once the match is over, the score is what counts, shoots back Mr Kondur.

After graduating from Georgia State University, Mr Kondur worked at AT Kearney in Atlanta, USA, as a business analyst. He then went to Harvard to do a masters in business administration. After completing MBA at Harvard, Mr Kondur moved to Morgan Stanley, in New York, where he worked as an associate in the investment banking department from 1997-1999. But he felt a lot more complete in India and relocated back in 1999 and almost immediately co-founded Chrysalis Capital with Ashish Dhawan.

Mr Kondur is also the director of Akshaya Patra, a project that provides free mid-day meals to 45,000 school children in Bangalore. He is also the founder and chairman of Sahayta, a non-profit agency, which raises volunteer awareness and coordinates volunteer recruitment for various NGOs.

He obviously leads a very busy life. I reach office by 10:00 am every day and then go back home by 2:00 am-3:00 am every day. Stress Well, I still continue to play tennis and try to go to the gym at least three to four times a week, informs Mr Kondur.

We want Nirvana to reach the stature of Microsoft in the BPO space, says Mr Kondur as a parting shot.