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Some Sizes Fit All

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Akhil Gupta, a chartered accountant by qualification with over thirty years of professional exper... Read More

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Akhil Gupta, a chartered accountant by qualification with over thirty years of professional experience, is the vice chairman of Bharti Group and executive chairman of Bharti Infratel Limited. He has played a pivotal role in Bharti's phenomenal growth right since inception and has been closely involved from the very beginning in its growth in the telecommunication services sector-both organically and by way of various acquisitions. He has led the formation of various partnerships with leading international operators like British Telecom, Telecom Italia, Singapore Telecom and Vodafone, in addition to the induction of leading financial investors like Warburg Pincus, Temasek, KKR, Qatar Foundation Endowment, AIF and Sequoia, among many other private equity funds.

An oft-repeated dictum every time a company fails to replicate its past successes when introducing a new product or entering a new market is that one size does not fit all. Business gurus advise that every new situation, market and environment calls for a fresh approach and requires 'unlearning' what one might have learnt elsewhere, even if that had met with great success. While this statement may appear to be obvious, it is often quoted out of context. The fact is that certain fundamentals of business-irrespective of line of business, geography or scale-are universally applicable.
Some Sizes Fit All is an attempt to explain these fundamental pillars for any kind of business. An authentic and lucid presentation of management concepts and practices-which Akhil Gupta has tried and tested first hand through his illustrious career-this is a must-read for anyone trying to build a robust and financially sound business.

Book review: The managerial basics of running a business
Akhil who has been part of the top management of Bharti Enterprises is the best bet on anything to do with numbers. Here Gupta draws the reader through three sections in the book at a managerial level
Akhil Gupta, vice chairman, Bharti Enterprises took two-and-a-half years to write his first book Some Sizes Fit All. Much of the book was written in longhand with pen and paper on long international flights. That's not something that he can do today with flights grounded. Like a professional writer, Gupta had the title of the book clearly in mind before he put pen to paper.
Akhil who has been part of the top management of Bharti Enterprises is the best bet on anything to do with numbers. Here Gupta draws the reader through three sections in the book at a managerial level. In a way, it is a grounds up view from someone who has seen the Indian mobile telecom sector evolve over the past 25 years. While there are many managerial learnings, Gupta has woven in his skills as a chartered accountant to maintain continuity and explains issues that most businesses tackle daily.
The first section on "Fundamental Pillars of Management", he tackles issues such as outsourcing operations (IT); what the DNA of a company is and organisational structure (OS). As Gupta points out: "A common mistake observed over the years is the tendency to change the OS based on favourite individuals. To my mind, a successful human resources function must fit the right persons into the OS and not the other way around."
Gupta's advice to start-ups is self-explanatory. "I would recommend to all businesses in the early stages to first focus on getting a commitment for equity (even if it is subject to requisite debt-raising) rather than vice versa, that is, first getting debt tied up and then looking for equity." He also suggests that for following high standards of corporate governance, listing is the best way forward for a company.
In the second section, he tackles issues faced by various disciplines in an organization. That includes human resources, finance, IT and legal among others. "A good organization must have it deeply ingrained in its DNA that as an employer, it is part of its duty to develop its people and help them grow and not destroy their careers. At Bharti, we take enormous pride that our former colleagues are in leadership positions in different organizations across industries and geographies."
In the last section, Activities and norms that comprise the "Way of Working" of an organization, is full of learnings. Gupta starts off mentioning that companies should keep communication lines open with competition. Secondly, it is important to get vendors to trust the company. Only then will they deliver the best. And on meetings, Gupta is clear - no meeting should exceed two hours and people have to come in prepared.
All told, Gupta has used his vast experience in telecom to bring out to the reader what one needs to do in managing a large enterprise that has to deal with intense competition and handle regulatory issues together. Management must-read.

Book review: The universal truth
Basic principles of running a business explained in simple terms
For business journalists, especially those dealing with the telecom sector, Akhil Gupta is a familiar and friendly face. Bharti Enterprises' and Bharti Airtel's journey through the telecom world is now part of history and in this journey Akhil, as he is popularly known, is an old traveller, always by the side of promoter-chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. Akhil's bonding with the Bharti Group and Mittal is so thick that he's often referred to as the fourth brother of the group-Rakesh Bharti Mittal and Rajan Bharti Mittal are the two other brothers, and the trio form the Bharti family.Akhil's USP is his ability to always calmly and logically explain any facet of Bharti's business and there's nobody who can equal his expertise if it's anything related to numbers. Apart from steering Bharti's businesses, Akhil has deep interest in public affairs and is known for penning articles in newspapers on governance and other public policy issues. Therefore, when I learned that he is coming out with a book, naturally I felt it would be his take on several macro issues dealing with businesses and policies and the way forward. A Bharti story was unlikely, as he rightly pointed out in the preface, that that's best left for Sunil Mittal to write.However, let me be frank in stating that I felt a trifle disappointed with Akhil's Some Sizes Fit All. While there is no quarrel with the content- one can't challenge Akhil on his facts, which he has lucidly narrated in the book in the most logical manner, the disappointment is that one expected him to take on a larger canvas, but he has limited himself to the basics of business and how to run it efficiently. Though that has been done brilliantly, Akhil could have pushed himself beyond the familiar boundaries of his daily work. The way the book has been written it can best be described as a management guide and would be helpful for managers and students of business management.
The basic concept of Akhil's book is that there are certain fundamentals of business that are universally applicable cutting across geographies and sectors, therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be faulted in this aspect. Of course, within the larger framework, there are micro aspects that require tweaking, depending on the line of business, which is explained in almost all the chapters. The one-size-fits-all approach is generally faulted in political economy where similar policies cannot be applied in different geographies because other factors- social, political, cultural, demographic, etc-may differ.
However, in public policy also, like businesses, several core principles like transparency, democracy, independent judiciary, sound regulatory framework, good governance, etc, are universally applicable across boundaries.
In his book, Akhil guides the reader on virtually every aspect of business, right from conceptualising it to delivery, taking into account the organisational structure, human resources, funding, accounting and audit, marketing, and communication. Certain case studies have been given from Bharti itself, especially the company's outsourcing of IT and networks to companies having core competency in these domains, something which subsequently became a standard practice in the telecom sector. Normally, in books on business management, case studies across spectrum make a better case, but since Akhil has spent his lifetime in the Bharti Group, he may have been constrained on this front.
The book is a good read from purely a business book point of view with the intricacies explained in a simple manner. One hopes that this is not Akhil's last book and he comes out with one that deals with macro issues and intersection of business and public policy.

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