Book Review: The Professional by Subroto Bagchi


A more appropriate title for this book would had been “The MindTree Professional”.

Subroto Bagchi has to his credit an excellent first book “The High-Performance Entrepreneur” and a mediocre second book “Go Kiss the World” (however, it must be noted that his second book was unique in many respects, and does deserve some credit for the same).

“The Professional” neither excels in the content department, nor is it unique in any respect. Mr. Bagchi has published what appear to be a set of policies adopted by his employer MindTree (of which he is a co-founder), and that is the reason I suggest he rename the book to “The MindTree Professional” and eliminate any misconception that may be generated by the current generic title.

There are several “way” books that have been published – for instance “The HP Way” or “The Toyota Way” – this book falls in the same category. If you wish to understand MindTree’s definition of a Professional, read this book. If you are looking for a more “universal” set of rules, don’t waste your time and money.

Mr. Bagchi fails on two counts:

  1. Presenting the relative as absolute:
    Mr. Bagchi presents his subjective views as objective universal truths.
    Certain organizational policies have no “right” answers – every organization has to find its own “right” answer.  Take for instance the policy of referrals – In Mr. Bagchi’s view, referrals are a big sin. If a vendor is related to someone in the purchasing department, Mr. Bagchi advices the vendor must not be entertained. In my view, referrals are priceless – if I know a vendor is related to someone within my organization, I can asses the vendor better. In other words, an organization has to do what is “right” for it.
  2. Presenting the absolute as if it were his discovery:
    The second count on which Mr. Bagchi fails is to present the time tested truths as if they were his brand new discoveries. Don’t we all know, since biblical times, that stealing is bad?

Mr. Bagchi has also indulged in some “below the belt” knocks by writing about Satyam. Hindsight is 20/20 – and it doesn’t take a “professional” to call a self-confessed conman a conman! Had Mr. Bagchi written this book prior to Ramalinga Raju’s confession, would he have mentioned the Satyam incident? Mr. Bagchi says he wondered what a retired income tax bureaucrat was doing serving on the board of Satyam – an IT company. I am not trying to defend Satyam (Raju is a self-confessed crook after all, and what he has admitted to doing is despicable), but I wish to use this point to highlight what appears to be Mr. Bagchi’s poor understanding of the roles and responsibilities of Members of a Corporate Board! I am not aware of any rule, written or unwritten, that forbids an industry “outsider” from serving on the board of an IT company. I would expect Mr. Bagchi to know this well enough, after all he is on the Board of MindTree (the MindTree website on 28th December 2009 listed him as a board member, and a Gardener & Director – whatever that means!!!)

My key takeaway:
After I set down this book, I was left with an impression that MindTree is a very narcissistic organization.
I could be completely wrong, because I am basing my judgment entirely on Mr. Bagchi’s comments about the organization that are sprinkled so very liberally throughout the book.

In an earlier post, I had blogged about the purpose of business and how it centered around customers and meeting or exceeding customer needs. After learning more about MindTree from Mr. Bagchi’s writings, I may have to add a third type of customer to my list (in addition to the “real” end customer and investor) – SELF!

MindTree seems to be founded by a group of individuals who decided they wanted to start an organization whose main reason for existence was to do business the way they believed was right – the end seems to be to serve themselves, to prove their concept and to validate their beliefs. The “paying” customers and investors are only means to achieving that end.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Book Review: The Professional by Subroto Bagchi

  1. Subbu

    Quite an apt review. As a long time employee I can vouch for the narcissistic tendencies of MindTree. Certainly Bagchi is the king when it comes to this. And there is only so much the reading, paying public can swallow of age old truths being recycled as new and innovative management principles.

    • phantombrain

      Hello Subbu,

      Thanks for validating my assumptions about MindTree’s narcissistic character – though I must add that MindTree may not be alone. I suspect there are several others who are as self-absorbed as MindTree, if not more.

      I have always admired organizations that “get things done”, and let their results do the miracle of “differentiation”, rather than coming up with fancy and sometimes silly titles such as “Chief Mentor” or “Gardener”!! What the heck is a Gardener anyway? Could you please enlighten?

      PB

  2. Pavankumar

    Interesting analysis. The bashing given to SB tempts to read the book (can you believe it – bashing leads to buying) 😉

    • phantombrain

      Hello Pavan Kumar,

      Talking about bashing leading to temptation, it does happen quite often – people do want to checkout really bad stuff. Ever heard of a film called “The Room”? Follow the link below to read more about how this awful movie became such a phenomenon just ’cause it was so awful!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Room_%28film%29

      In books, “How Opal Mehta. . .” comes to mind – this book started selling like hot cakes only after it got into a controversy.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Opal_Mehta_Got_Kissed,_Got_Wild,_and_Got_a_Life

      But these two illustrations aside, I want to clarify that my intent is not to indulge in Bagchi or MindTree bashing. As a reader of all his 3 books, I can’t help but wonder if people sometimes start taking themselves too seriously after a little bit of success. Mr. Bagchi’s first book *WAS* really good, and I will recommend or gift it to anyone who wishes to take up entrepreneurship – however, I will not recommend his second and third book.

      If you read the preface of “The Professional”, you may conclude that Mr. Bagchi himself may have wondered the same, ’cause he has admitted that after his first two books, there was not much to write about, and he (as I interpret it) pretty much scrounged the bottom of the barrel for this one – and the resulting book is pretty much content from the bottom of the barrel.

      Anyway, when you finish reading the book, I would like to read your comments as well.

      Happy Reading!

  3. KSK

    But wasn’t the book un-putdownable?? And I am sure it left you thinking for long hours about it’s contents even after you had shut the book…

    • phantombrain

      Hello KSK,

      One of the major reasons why this book is “un-putdownable” is because it is (thankfully) short; one can wrap it up in about 4 to 5 hours.

      Also, it is not a difficult read – the prose has an easy flow, the chapters are rarely more than 3 pages. However, “an easy read” doesn’t mean it is an interesting or useful read. One doesn’t gain much from the perspective Mr. Bagchi shares in this book.

      What is disappointing about this book is that it doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the author’s earlier writings. Also, as the author himself admits in the preface, it does come across as very “preachy”.

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