Vinay Rai – the Head of Group Usha – and now managing the Rai Education empire – with colleges and MBA institutes under Rai Foundation – has written a book Think India.
Apart from being a top industrialist in India, he happens to be my ex-boss as well… and a very demanding one, if I may add. I still remember my interview with him for the new program Usha India had launched called "Potential Chief Executives". He asked me for my GPA in my MBA. "3.0" I replied (in a school where 3.60 was the highest ever in 11 years! – which I didn’t mention). That’s nothing. I expected 4.0, he quipped!
Then, I was barely 2-3 weeks into the new role as his Executive Assistant – which takes a much larger meaning in India than in the US. It is almost like the "right-hand" guy doing things for the top guy that no one else would do. I came one monday morning – and he looked at me (he was always before us into the office!) and said "Kapoor, your job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! I didn’t see you here yesterday!". My jaw dropped! Well, I soon learnt that this was not just a statement. The only time in my career that I have done an all-nighter was during my stint in his office!
He is an engineer by education (from MIT), but I can assure you that I have rarely seen anyone talk finance and accounting as well as he can! He can floor the best Chartered Accountants in India on the SEBI rules and the accounting rules.
During the time at his office, I was given the responsibility for selling the Malvika Steel IPO. Usha had not done well with Usha Rectifier IPO earlier and many were not happy with the group. However, Usha Ispat was doing well, and we saw a new beginning. I personally attended to at least 200 investment bankers, journalists and analysts in Lucknow and Jagdishpur plant! I was working with the then new Vice President of Communications.
Unfortunately, right around our IPO the market tanked due to Harshad Mehta scam and Malvika Steel IPO bombed! Then started a long road for recovery. By that time I had become a little dis-illusioned and also the politics of being in a hot seat had got better of me! I was in my first month, as his Executive Assistant, when a leading Director of the company told me "Kapoor, all guns are aimed at you now. One wrong move and you are gone!" Well, I had become a good friend of the new VP Corporate Communications and he acted in a way that Vinay Rai did not find very palatable and since I was close to him, I faced the brunt as well. Given the high intensity of work, I missed on a couple of deadlines as well.
In any case, I don’t have any regrets! My time at Usha and specifically with Vinay Rai was one of the best learning experiences I had in my life! It has stood me well all these years!
As far as his book is concerned, it is an interesting read, but if I had to write it .. I would have done it differently. He has made some serious mistakes – in my view. In one place, he suggests to have given gifts to the bureaucrats in India during the license raj earlier. Now, that is being honest. But for a person who is tainted and specifically who wants to work (and has worked) with an American organization later – this is serious "harakiri"!
Also, at some places, the writing style is belabored and circuitous. I was amazed that this book actually goes on to provide a synopsis of some other books as well – including "The World is Flat" from Friedman. Everyone who picks up this book from Mr. Rai would have read Friedman’s book anyways. All he should have done is given his view point!
Some of his observations are very interesting.. like this one – By 2020 one half of the world’s population of people under age 25 will be in India! Also, he makes an interesting case against China. Sometimes I feel that this may hurt him as businessman later if he were to think of doing business in the Red Empire! In any case, this book does not use much Political Correctness! 🙂 It is straight from the heart!
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