Reputation over Revenue, Passion over Profits and Ethics over EBIDTA should be our mantra says Amit Khandelwal

“Reputation over Revenue, Passion over Profits and Ethics over EBIDTA should be our mantra.”

Amit Khandelwal Founder-Director, StarAgri Group

Lessons in Entrepreneurship   For me, entrepreneurship has been an exciting journey, an empowerment that lends a whole new dimension to my existence. However, I also know that many of my accomplishments as an entrepreneur would not have been possible without a great team. Our success is a result of our hard work towards realizing a common dream. This principle is true of any organization as promoters have limitations as individuals – beyond a point they cannot contribute to the businesses individually and need to rely on the skills of their team members and professionals if they wish to grow.

To achieve this, it is critical that promoters have a vision, a definite goal for the future and a strategy for success. A long-term view enables the stakeholders’ energies to be channeled in an appropriate manner. To realize the objective, it is important that team members across ranks have faith in the vision. These factors contribute to aligning intent with results. Along with perseverance, conscientiousness and belief, foresight and prudence are your best tools in this expedition.

A Team-driven Leadership Style As I said earlier, much of my success is due to the hardwork and diligence of my team members. My leadership style cruxes on this very norm – I handpick the associates in my team and work alongside them. I ensure that they believe in our vision as much as I do and that our joint efforts are directed towards a singular objective.

Over the years, I have seen that faith can do wonders to an individual’s performance. My colleagues often go out of their way to perform simply because they know I trust them. Delegation is the key to success but getting the right person for the right job at the right time is a challenge in itself. Once you have delegated a task, remember to trust their decisions.

As promoters, we treat employees as co-owners of this company–we expect the same sense of commitment from each employee. The day every employee starts to think, behave and take decisions as an owner of the company, nobody can stop us from growing to be a leader and winning in the markets.

At the same time, blind faith can be detrimental to an organization’s growth. Our faith in an individual’s talents and efforts needs validation at regular intervals. We have put in place competent review mechanisms to ensure this. Simultaneously, it is unrealistic to be over-dependent on a single individual ideally an organization should not dependent on any single person’s performance.

People make the Organization I can safely say that an organizational culture derives its essence from the people who work for it and this culture drives our performance and potential. Hence, a positive and can-do attitude is indispensable for success. On the other hand, the best skills with the wrong attitude are of little use. In my assessment as an entrepreneur, it is possible to upgrade an individual’s skills but his / her attitude is inherent.

Employee pride, trust and empowerment are the key to the culture we have built and continue to build. We trust our employees completely and empower them to unleash their entrepreneurial skill sets to the fullest. We want to create an eco-system of wealth creation and wealth distribution in a sustainable manner. We draw inspiration from global companies like Olam and Cargill and Indian companies like ITC and HDFC that have employees rather than owners leading from the front.

My Mantra for Success – A Healthy Work Life Balance I believe personal wellness, health and fitness are imperative to professional success. As professionals, we should be dedicated to our personal well-being and devote at least one hour everyday towards this objective. We can engage in any form of fitness-related recreational activity – exercising, yoga or cycling. I spend an hour exercising every morning – for me sports are important not just physical fitness but also for mental agility.

The fruits of our personal well being can be relished when there is a goal. Hence, planning – both long-term and short-term – is critical to one’s success. Most of us fritter our energy through our day doing host of inconsequential things. It is only by the end of the day that we realize that important tasks remain unfinished.

I plan my day and try to follow a ‘to do’ list. At the end of the day I check what has been accomplished, what is incomplete and what needs to be carried to the next day. Just as small drops of water make an ocean, small things make a big difference in enabling me to achieve my personal and professional goals.

Opportunities amid Challenges   We are on the threshold of an exciting future and innumerable opportunities. We have made organizational success possible by sheer determination and consistent effort. However, we need to pull up our socks and perform more effectively if we want to optimize the true potential of the organization. Superior planning, meticulous execution and flawless customer service should be integral components of our scaling up strategies.

As a part of the promoter team, I can safely say for all of us that our biggest learning has come from the professional team members at the organization. Hailing from traditional business families, we had our share of handicaps in professionally running a company even though there was no shortage of business sensibility. As the company grew, it required 360-degree competencies that went beyond business acquisition and customer servicing. We needed to comply with regulations, find our feet in a hyper-competitive landscape and account for business uncertainties.  It was imperative to develop a holistic approach to business and hiring competent professionals for each aspect of the business was the best solution.

As a member of the founding team, I think our biggest challenge and paradoxically our biggest opportunity is the embryonic levels of the sector’s development.

We are the leaders of this untapped sector and this leadership comes with considerable levels of risk even though the opportunities are colossal. Finding skilled talent is also a challenge in the absence of a pool of trained work force.

Another challenge is our limited control over factors that affect our business. Agriculture output in India is heavily dependent on natural factors, which are beyond our control. To mitigate the risk, a key strategy is to create multiple business sources so that the company is not dependent on a single source of revenue. Thus, other than warehousing, we are building competency in the trading, exports and financing (NBFC) domains. Going ahead, we plan to get into insurance and other areas. Our objective is to create a ‘one-stop solutions’ company for customers and become the most trusted agri-brand in the country.

Marching the Learning Curve As a leader, I thrive on the art of learning and urge my team to do the same since it is indispensable to my growth as a professional and as an individual. Learn from the people around you, their experiences and their skill-sets. The art of listening and humility are essential to your voyage as a learner as much as it is to your professional success.

We have industry leaders such as IDFC and TEMASEK as partners. In addition, senior professionals who have worked in the best companies guide us. Their knowledge, insights and expertise have evidently helped us scale our business competencies and gain a competitive edge. As a team, our collective efforts should be directed at delivering our promises of superior financial performance, high growth levels, management best practices and overall organizational performance. Let us ensure gold standards of corporate governance boardroom practices, the best ethics and integrity-led personal conduct and total transparency in professional conduct.

The Strength of Equal Partnerships Firstly, you need to think of your partner’s interest ahead of your own– they will reciprocate automatically. Trust and have full faith in your partner’s ability. Choose partners with complementary skills and ensure a clear division of responsibility since it helps in not stepping on each other toes and genuine performance reviews. Remember, the three Cs of making a partnership successful are Communication, Collaboration and Compassion (for each other)!

My Message Let us all work hard towards building a company that is not only a leader in the Indian agri-solutions space but a company looked up by others. Reputation over Revenue, Passion over Profits and Ethics over EBIDTA should be our mantra. We want the company to outlive the promoters and the people who started it. We aim to build an institution that will help India find its place of pride on the global platform.

I think our biggest challenge and paradoxically our biggest opportunity is the embryonic levels of the sector’s development.

About me  I stayed outside my home for the most part of my childhood as I went to a boarding school. Staying away from home for 16-17 years helped me gain an outsider’s perspective to life, which enabled me to adjust in any situation. It also made me a complete foodie – I love to experiment with local dishes and delicacies whenever I travel.

Jaldi Five

Favourite Dish: Aloo Paratha

Leader I Admire: Swami Vivekananda

Movie genre preference: Romance and Comedies

Little known fact about me: I am a sports person having represented school and college in cricket, football, hockey and TT. I also participated in athletics in school.

Jeevan Mantra: Regret nothing. Take life as it comes, live 100%

The art of listening and humility are essential to your voyage as a learner as much as it is to your professional success.