Srinivasan H.R., vice-chairman of TAKE Solutions, talks about the challenges of balancing business and sport and placing Indian corporate golf on the global map
“It’s more about what to be off than what to be on, isn’t it?” quips a lean and fit Srinivasan H.R., while responding to a question about his diet. Srinivasan’s responses to varied subjects during the interaction, largely pivoted around his efforts to promote golf through muscle developed from his entrepreneurial success, show this wisdom goes beyond suppertime, permeates his life, and keeps him grounded whether it is work or play.
One pitfall he has steered clear of, both in business (he is vision holder and vice-chairman of TAKE Solutions, an information technology company specialising in life sciences and supply chain management that he founded in 2001) and in his mission to bring more visibility for golf in India, is: keeping too many irons in the fire.
“Corporates can support any sport in three ways: develop sporting facilities, groom talent and generate corporate interest in the sport,” he explains. “Taking a realistic view of our strengths, we went in for the third option, accepting the challenge of running the Indian segment of the annual World Corporate Golf Challenge that involves over 40 Commonwealth countries. We stayed with this task for a long time.” The single-mindedness seems to have paid off. From a 80-player, single-venue tournament, TAKE Solutions World Golf Challenge (TSWGC), as the Indian leg is known, has grown into a 1,000-player championship that is staged across six metros representing various regions across the country.
Srinivasan, however, points out that TSWGC’s differentiation lies in quality, not size. “Right from the start, the focus was on sending two people (the ones that best their opponents in the Indian leg) as more than tourists, to the world finals. The best golfers should represent the country. To find quality, the net had to be cast wider, more venues added. Wherever the tournament went, it was received with great enthusiasm. Today, it is a given that the team that makes it beyond the Indian leg will stack up against international standards. The results speak for themselves: The team from India has finished in the top five four times in the last five years. In 2008, we won!”
After eight years dedicated to an almost single-point agenda of putting Indian corporate golf on the global map, the company has now taken on the additional responsibility of sponsoring promising Indian golfers on the pro tour. At present, TAKE Solutions supports S.S.P. Chowrasia, who has won twice on the European tour and Khalin Joshi, India’s number one amateur who has just turned pro, and owns a three-member professional Chennai team in the Louise Philippe Cup.
Like a leitmotif in a musical composition, the subject of ‘differentiation by capability rather than size’ recurs throughout the conversation. It comes up during a discussion of strategies adopted by TAKE Solutions over the years. From the beginning, Srinivasan wanted his company to be niche and this meant shutting the door firmly on general purpose software and catering to the technology needs of companies engaged in life sciences. “We focused on United States a lot. Now, it is Europe. All our expansion drives have always come after consolidating and securing our previous positions,” says Srinivasan, who served as civil servant in the Railways before moving on to the private sector. Before hewing out his own trail, he held positions of leadership in other companies, including those of executive director at Shriram Group, managing director at Sembcorp Logistics; and managing director at Temasek Capital.
This first-generation entrepreneur believes all aspects of life, even the apparently remote and insignificant, impinge on one another — nothing can really be viewed in isolation. This view of existence explains his faithfulness to a fitness programme structured by a personal trainer and a dietician. “If I am not fit myself, how can I be trusted to keep my company in good health?” asks the 48-year-old, whose office is packed with health foods, which go into his suitcases while he is travelling, which often accounts for a major part of a month.
From this information, a picture of a man in a hurry seems to emerge and he is quizzed about how he manages to create time for his family, which includes two daughters. In his household, the breakfast is a ritual that encompasses family bonding. Going to a temple with his wife every Sunday is a punctiliously observed practice. Golf at the Cosmopolitan Golf Club in Nandanam is another source of bonding. “I encouraged my wife to take up golf. Following her recovery from a back problem, she is making a comeback to the sport.”
Also, golf is valued for the time spent in a sylvan setting and the company of like-minded people that it brings. Unless hopelessly tied down with commitments at work, he never misses his round of golf. His responsibilities at TAKE Solutions include creating teams, and he believes allowing people enough autonomy within a framework of clear guidelines is a way to develop initiative and drive. Tongue-in-cheek, Srinivasan adds, “It has another benefit. It allows me time for golf!”