My Proficorn Way (Part 54)

Hiring a CEO

It was mid-2007. Netcore had been in business for almost 10 years. And all we had to show was a small business in mail servers, and a long list of failed efforts to the product mix. My passion lay in tinkering and coming up with new ideas. But we could not pass the ultimate test – converting ideas into sustainable businesses with paying customers.

I started thinking that the problem lay with me. I could create, but not sell. Which of course also meant that I was creating the wrong things. I had become Netcore’s biggest bottleneck. I began to think about the possibility of replacing myself as CEO. Till then, for 15 years, I had always led from the front. I had a big success in IndiaWorld, so at times I thought of myself as invincible. But the reality was stark. Netcore was flailing. Unless I did something different, we were headed to becoming a zombie company.

I spoke to a friend, Rajjat, about my dilemma. He suggested I meet a few people and explore the possibility of bringing in someone from the outside to lead Netcore. I decided to keep an open mind. He introduced me to Abhijit, who was leading the digital business for a large media company. Abhijit and I were as different as chalk and cheese – and that was perhaps what clicked. We met a few times and I grew comfortable with him. He had led businesses in the past and came with a strong sales and numbers mindset. That was what was missing at Netcore.

As we spoke, I became comfortable with him and the idea of a new leader for Netcore. It was not an easy decision, but I also knew that if Netcore had to grow, I had to get out of the way. And that is exactly what I did. Abhijit joined as Netcore CEO in July 2007.

The one decision I made then was that in a company there should only be one leader. So, I stepped back. Abhijit was the CEO and I did not want to create a second power centre. If I disagreed with anything, I would tell him in private. This strategy of letting the CEO lead has worked very well for Netcore through the years. Abhijit, followed by Girish, and now Kalpit – they have all led the company to 13 years of growth.

As I look back, the decision to bring in an external CEO and replace myself was perhaps the most important decision in Netcore’s history – and one that laid the foundation for us to become a proficorn.

Tomorrow: Part 55

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.