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Debashis Chatterjee's leadership mantras

Debashis Chatterjee, CEO and MD of LTIMindtree, on making most of the opportunities, his faith in s-curves, takeaway from dealing with crises, and more

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Apr 11, 2023 01:24:54 PM IST
Updated: Apr 11, 2023 01:34:15 PM IST

Debashis Chatterjee, MD & CEO, LTIMindtree Image: Nishant Ratnakar for Forbes IndiaDebashis Chatterjee, MD & CEO, LTIMindtree Image: Nishant Ratnakar for Forbes India
Q. On leaving a larger business to be CEO of a smaller company
Yes, I was running a very large P&L in my previous organisation, but it was still a P&L. And what I got an opportunity to do is to look at a complete balance sheet of a company. And I think that’s something which excited me.

I must also say that I have built scale many times in my life, and I’ve also built scale and handed over to somebody else to build it further as well. Therefore, scale should not be the only consideration all the time. It’s also the specific situation, and the opportunity here was fantastic.

Q. S-curves and what they teach us
I always believe in s-curves. The first s-curve in Mindtree for me was to stabilise the company. I joined at a time when clients were threatening to walk away from my entry because of the so-called hostile transition. And just when I thought that the first s-curve was over, and I’ve stabilised things, the pandemic happened.

And then, of course, the third s-curve was the best one where we continued to do well with profitable growth and industry-leading as well. So, I think this was a fantastic opportunity where I had to make significant changes and get this company to grow profitably. I think the team that I have built, the leadership team, they did a phenomenal job in terms of almost eight quarters of profitable growth. That is quite commendable.
Q. Lessons from working at Cognizant and TCS
I worked for more than two decades in Cognizant and prior to that, I worked in TCS. That’s where my IT journey started, and, of course, I have learnt at every phase—as an individual contributor, as a manager, as a leader.

One thing I have learnt is that when you want to achieve something, you cannot be just doing it on your own. You have to have a leadership team surrounding you and you need to really find the leaders who can do things better than you. That’s what I firmly believe in. If you look at the leadership team I’ve assembled that’s exactly what I have done.

A well-kept secret, which I don’t think people got is if you look at all the leaders I have hired, they are people with tier-one leadership skills. And the reason I did that was if you want to really scale a company, if you have an aspiration to go very far, then you get those people in your leadership team who have seen scale and who have grown scale.

This should come naturally to them rather than having to struggle through it.

Also read: Inside LTIMindtree's $10 billion plan

Q. A takeaway from dealing with crises
Joining a company as a CEO, you have no transition with anybody else. And on top of that, you have lost your entire next level of leadership. I think that itsef is a situation in which you have to thrive to make the change and do something very different.

This was probably the most challenging situation I’ve come across in my career where you had to literally build everything from scratch and that too while the company was still functional.

I mean, you had to continue the journey of the company, but you had to change everything and make sure that the good things are present.

At Cognizant, when the global financial meltdown happened, I was right in the middle of it because I used to run the financial services for that company. If there is one learning I have implemented even in Mindtree, it is that when there is a crisis, stay close to your clients. You cannot lose focus on your clients. And I think that helps in the long run.

(This story appears in the 21 April, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)