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'Only the fittest survive in the corporate world'

Last updated on: December 25, 2012 13:57 IST

'Only the fittest survive in the corporate world'


Partha Sarathi Basu, author of Make It Or Break It: Mantras For A Successful Career tells Prasanna D Zore in an e-mail interview why he likens the corporate world to a jungle and dishes out some novel yet simple mantras to help India's youth carve out a niche for themselves in whatever career path they pursue.

With two books – Why Not ...! Racing Ahead With Mentors and the novel With You Or Without You -- already under his belt, Basu has worked in leadership positions with Whirlpool India, Spice Jet Ltd, Coca Cola India, Tata Group and IFB Group and shares the lessons he learnt in these positions in Make It Or Break It. Currently, Basu works with Akzo Nobel as finance director, India and South Asia and on the board of directors of Akzo Nobel India and Akzo Nobel Paints Sri Lanka.

What are the main hurdles that a first-time young recruit faces in any organisation that she/he joins? How should they navigate the first six months in any new company to create a substantive impression?

Most of the organisations have a robust programme for young recruits to settle them into the corporate world. However the youngsters need to understand and agree that corporate world will be different and it is quite unknown to them. Thus first, they need to accept few realities as they move on to explore the new world.

Reality 1: There may be gap in expectation and reality

Reality 2: Most of us are not ready to face the new world and

Reality 3: This is the phase to un-learn and relearn

Till now, it was their own education, their own degree and their own achievements. But now they are not alone -- they will work for a company, in a team. One needs to place a team's goal, team's success before an individual's success. In simple words there will be less of 'I' and more of 'we'. And hence during the first six months they need to explore this new world, keep learning while understanding the culture, knowing their peers, their seniors, their juniors, and the corporate manners.

Do you think reading and following mantras on successful career tips is enough to become successful? What's the foolproof formula to succeed in any field that one chooses as a career?

Reading on successful career tips is definitely not enough to become successful. Moreover to every individual the meaning of success is different and hence I do not think there is any foolproof formula for success. My book is all about sharing some of the experiences and learnings that I had picked up during my journey through the corporate world. Knowing them and internalising them would help the young professionals in their journey. Reading stories from the practical world would help young professionals to relate to a situation when he or she would actually face them.

What kind of pitfalls should those in their first job guard against?

It's important for a young professional to settle down quickly and then excel in the first job. It gives us the assurance reminding us that we are good and we are there to succeed. Failing in the first job can often jeopardise one's confidence. It's a transition time and thus it is important to understand the way corporate world functions and adapt to its unwritten rules.

You have likened corporate career to a jungle in your book. What makes you think the corporate world is like a jungle?

I love jungles, so as the corporate world. And probably that was the start of my thinking of linking the two. I think the theory of the survival of the fittest could be applied to both these world aptly. This was the main reason why I linked the two worlds... it's simple, if you are the fittest; you will survive and move ahead in the corporate world.

Ten dos and don'ts that lead to a successful corporate career...

There are many mantras I believe that can be helpful as we walk through the professional world, hence isolating top ten would not be right. But in my mind, if I have to force-fit the top ten, I would go with the following (in no particular order):

  • Having an open mind to learn, unlearn and relearn
  • Living with the positives / never giving up attitude
  • Impeccable integrity including remaining apolitical
  • Understanding the expectation and delivering beyond the stated expectation
  • Ability to take risks, accept mistakes and embrace criticism
  • Careful preparation for any conversation -- ability to communicate effectively
  • Ability to look beyond numbers / analysis and ask the right question
  • Ability to look at things with simplicity and use of common sense to solve a problem
  • Putting organisation's interest before self, learning to work in a team
  • Learn to manage time and take care of oneself

Qualities that will help India's youth carve out a niche for themselves in whichever sector they are employed in...

I just spoke about the top ten qualities above. We are a young country and I take a lot of pride in the youths of our country. Even today our youth carves out a niche for themselves in whichever sector / whichever country they are.

Ten must dos for first-timers on their very first day in office...

  • Do not be late – the need for discipline starts from Day 1
  • Dress aptly – don't over dress, or under dress
  • Don't be tensed – no one is going to beat you
  • Have confidence – as you need the job, the organisation needs you equally
  • Remind yourself about your goal as you enter the office
  • Do not try to leave early – even when you may have been seating idle
  • Smile, greet people but do not rush to develop your network
  • Walk around and get accustomed to the office atmosphere
  • Listen to your presenter / guide carefully – even when you may not be able to relate to many things
  • Get organised; start a do list

Ten lessons you learned in your illustrious career so far and how have these lessons shaped your book Make It Or Break It – Mantras For A Successful Career

  • There is no magic wand for success. It is those small steps every day that will take you to a greater height. Hence there is no shortcut to success. We need to succeed, but not at somebody else's cost. Fairness should be part of the game
  • We need to keep learning and experience everything, it is important to dirty your hand, get grassroots experience
  • We should set a clear goal for ourselves, keep reminding ourselves of our goal and then lead our life with positive attitude
  • We need to learn to manage time
  • We need to learn to assume risk, take decisions that no one has taken before
  • If we fail to plan, we plan to fail is an eternal truth
  • We need to listen all the time
  • We must never lose our integrity
  • We should never blame others. It never works. We must deserve before we desire
  • We must enjoy every moment of our corporate journey and take care of ourselves

Click here to buy a copy of Make It Or Break It: Mantras For A Successful Career

Image: The book cover of Make It Or Break It; Inset: Partha Sarathi Basu