Corporate chatter: A Mumbai CEO caused a Covid-19 scare by coughing on a flight; Lenskart boss taking masterclasses from Manish Choksi

For Indian IT sector CEOs, travelling in the times of Covid-19 has become fraught with drama.

Agencies
Bansal (top L) is taking lessons from Choksi (Bottom L); A senior executive at a Bengaluru headquartered IT firm that has recently been in the news had a bit of a coughing spell while flying back from Australia and transiting through Singapore’s Changi airport.
ET’s weekly roundup of the wackiest whispers and murmurs in corporate corridors & policy parlours.

Playing with Fire
You would imagine those who have cut their teeth in corporate finance would be savvy with their own borrowings. Then we heard this. A first-generation founder took a short-term personal loan of around Rs 400 crore from an NBFC at a mind-numbing 14% to buy his own stock, expecting a pop at the IPO. Then the listing plans went awry as the markets turned. The lender, in this case a large conglomerate with interests in real estate, pharma and financial services, put pressure and hiked the rate, to as much as 18% effectively. The entrepreneur might finally have some good news in terms of a liquidity event.

Canvas Chatter

Their formidable art collection, Maseratis and Lutyens bungalows have already been sold, auctioned or distributed to square off payments to lenders and other sundry debtors. But their liabilities are so large that it may still not be enough. A little bird tells us that the private collections of these Delhi-based brothers are now being hawked around to European agents and collectors to gauge their interest. But it’s been a tough ask since most potential buyers are now wary of their reputation and worried about authenticity. Not a pretty picture.

Flight Risk
For Indian IT sector CEOs, travelling in the times of Covid-19 has become fraught with drama. One Mumbai-based industry CEO, who is known for his tech-free vacations, coughed on a flight from London and his co-passenger complained to the cabin crew. Thankfully, he said, his frequent flier tier was higher than the person complaining but he was kept under surveillance for about 20 minutes. Another senior executive at a Bengaluru headquartered IT firm that has recently been in the news had a bit of a coughing spell while flying back from Australia and transiting through Singapore’s Changi airport. He skulked around in various corners whenever he felt like coughing to avoid being thrown into quarantine. Throat clearing was never so fraught!

Paint Your Future

​Peyush Bansal has been taking masterclasses from Manish Choksi (R) about industrial automation and processes. ​
Peyush Bansal has been taking masterclasses from Manish Choksi (R) about industrial automation and processes.

It’s heartening to see a young founder rely on good old desi manufacturing success stories to master corporate best practices. Peyush Bansal of Lenskart, even after being backed by SoftBank, has been taking masterclasses from Manish Choksi of Asian Paints about industrial automation and processes. Bansal is even planning to visit the shop floor to see things first hand before he himself embarks on a big manufacturing play near Bengaluru. Nobody can doubt Bansal chose the very best to learn from.
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Picture Perfect
A recent request from a VVIP’s office stumped everyone at this storied advisory group. All photographs of a recent interaction had to be sent for a review of some kind. The unusual ask got everyone thinking – is anyone controversial sharing the frame with the important guest? Are the pics too candid for comfort? Last checked, the mystery had not been solved.

M&A Delay

​Birla (L) has to divest units in Europe to get anti-trust approvals. But it turns out his counterparty is Liberty House Group’s Sanjeev Gupta, who’s not followed through on bankruptcy bids in India such as Amtek Auto.​​
<p>Birla (L) has to divest units in Europe to get anti-trust approvals. But it turns out his counterparty is Liberty House Group’s Sanjeev Gupta, who’s not followed through on bankruptcy bids in India such as Amtek Auto.<br></p>

It’s not just telecom that is a pain point for Kumar Birla. Novelis’ multi-billion Aleris buy is also stuck in a regulatory quagmire. The worry here is a little different. Birla has to divest units in Europe to get anti-trust approvals. But it turns out his counterparty is Liberty House Group’s Sanjeev Gupta, who’s not followed through on bankruptcy bids in India such as Amtek Auto. The promised deal with Birla is said to have been extended. The delays are not helping for sure.

Good Neighbours
At the Nasscom event last week, Telangana’s IT minister KT Rama Rao got a surprise invite from a delegate from Bengaluru. Why didn’t he govern Karnataka, asked the person, as the state capital Bengaluru has been facing infrastructure woes for decades. Rama Rao, popularly known as KTR and son of chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, had been holding forth on how his government had focused on improving infrastructure in Hyderabad and quick decision making to help investors. The delegate, who took a selfie with KTR, wanted him to replicate his work in Bengaluru. KTR reminded him that Karnataka had elected a BJP government. Maybe next time it would vote for him, KTR joked.
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Diversity Drive
A Chennai-based group was keen on displaying its gender diversity credentials with the chairman tweeting about young women engineers being inducted into one of the companies. Not everyone was impressed and they responded by making their misgivings public. They called on him to make the boards of the group’s companies as diverse, if he really meant it.

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Checking the Queue
Investment bankers like seeing their names on offer documents, even if the fees may be low, as they fight for league table rankings. The bigger the offer, the more the bankers. A big InvIT is lined up but bankers, in general, are unsure of how strong the response will be. In fact, for an issue that’s aiming to raise thousands of crores, there’s only one lead manager. The issue is being keenly watched to see the investors who will line up for it.

Salad Days
His bank accounts are frozen and he’s in jail for about a year now. His kids, once in fancy schools are no longer pursuing their IB courses. Their grandparents have stepped in for support. A little bird now tells us that friends are planning a crowd-sourcing effort to raise funds to support the family and especially the kids who are suffering the consequences. Meanwhile, the organisation he used to lord over is still on the painful path of recovery. His family is upset that while he rots inside, some of the main perpetrators are still outside for alleged ‘health’ reasons.

Privy to the whispers in power corridors or juicy tips on India Inc? Do share with us at etsuits.sayings@gmail.com

Nadella's 3-Rule Method, Bezos's 2-Pizza Team Norm: How Top Bosses Make Meetings More Productive
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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has a three-rule method to make meetings more productive. The rules are: Listen more, talk less and be decisive when the time comes. Here is a look at other business leaders and their rules of engagement.

(In pic: Satya Nadella, Jeff Bezos)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has a three-rule method to make meetings more productive. The rules are: Listen more, talk less and be decisive when the time comes. Here is a look at other business leade..
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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a fun way to determine how big his teams that have meetings should be. “We try to create teams that are no larger than can be fed by two pizzas,” said Bezos. “We call that the two-pizza team rule.” Other meeting rules at Amazon include no PowerPoints (yes to well-written long memos) and starting meetings by reading the memos in silence.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a fun way to determine how big his teams that have meetings should be. “We try to create teams that are no larger than can be fed by two pizzas,” said Bezos. “We call that t..
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One rule mentioned by longtime Jobs collaborator Ken Segall in his book Insanely Simple was that Jobs kept meetings as lean as possible. Anyone who didn’t have a great reason to be at the meeting was excused. Jobs was similarly tough with himself and declined to join a group of tech leaders at a meeting requested by President Barack Obama citing too much crowd. Jobs held an accountability mindset and hence had a person who was the directly responsible individual, or DRI in Applespeak, for every meeting or agenda.

One rule mentioned by longtime Jobs collaborator Ken Segall in his book Insanely Simple was that Jobs kept meetings as lean as possible. Anyone who didn’t have a great reason to be at the meeting was..
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The COO of Facebook reportedly brings a spiral-bound notebook with her to every meeting. It has a list of everything on the agenda. Sandberg crosses off each task one by one and it has been reported that “if every item is done 10 minutes into an hourlong meeting, the meeting is over”. Sandberg also reported using a notebook to make personalised notes on her colleagues to help be a better mentor. In an interview, David Fisher, a colleague of Sandberg, said, “A key part of what Sheryl does in her life is helping people advance, to be seen, and to be heard.”

The COO of Facebook reportedly brings a spiral-bound notebook with her to every meeting. It has a list of everything on the agenda. Sandberg crosses off each task one by one and it has been reported ..
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The CEO of Nike doodles in meetings to stay focused and to brainstorm creatively. Parker reportedly brings a Moleskine notebook to every meeting. The left pages of the book contain business brainstorming while the right pages contain designs, which is Parker’s way to balance the company’s design and business needs. He said, “Most of us are out of balance, and that’s OK, but you need to keep your eye on the overall equilibrium to be successful.”

The CEO of Nike doodles in meetings to stay focused and to brainstorm creatively. Parker reportedly brings a Moleskine notebook to every meeting. The left pages of the book contain business brainstor..
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In 2011, Larry Page re-took the reins of Google as the CEO and reportedly sent out a company-wide email about how to make meetings more effective. In addition to keeping meetings as small as possible, Page said that every meeting should have a decision maker. Page also urged the company to not wait for meetings to make decisions, and if a meeting was essential to move forward, it must take place immediately.

In 2011, Larry Page re-took the reins of Google as the CEO and reportedly sent out a company-wide email about how to make meetings more effective. In addition to keeping meetings as small as possible..
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