Skip to main content

MEETINGS! - By Sanjay Anandaram

Many years ago when I was young, not-yet-senior-enough-to-attend meetings and gainfully employed, meetings were, in my then innocent mind, attended by senior company executives who discussed serious and grave matters that could dramatically impact everything from my salary to perhaps even world peace. I was overjoyed one day when I was asked to attend a meeting the following morning. Nothing else was told to me except “there’s a strategy meeting tomorrow and please be present.” Two important words – strategy and meetings- in the same sentence that included an invitation to me! I was breathless with excitement and couldn’t wait to attend my first strategy meeting with senior management.

The day long meeting concluded with the Chairman sagely announcing “Lets form a task force that will create an approach paper on our customer support strategy that we’ll discuss in the next meeting.” I was perhaps not the only one who thought we’d achieved an unusual amount that day which was neatly captured by the Chairman’s terse summarisation. The lunch and coffee were great too. I was totally enamoured of meetings thereafter. A lot of presentations, discussions, arguments, snacks, coffee and tea, meals, and then some more. Going to or being in a meeting was prestigious and was a sign of having arrived. Words such as “brainstorm”, “agenda”, “strategy” acquire an ominous halo when coupled with “meeting.”

Many years later, I noticed the following poster on a meeting room of a well known company. The poster was headlined: Meeting Rules and then asked the following questions:
1) Do you know why you are here?
2) Do you know why the others are here?
3) Do you know what the objective of the meeting is?
4) If the answer to any one of the above is “NO”, get out!

I was shocked at the impudence! How dare someone ask anyone to get out especially when they were in a meeting?!

Of course since those days with a lot more experience in many parts of the world, I’ve learnt a lot more about meetings. Being involved with several young entrepreneurs for many years too has taught me a lot about meetings. Given the pressures on time and resources, entrepreneurs need to marshall the organization via, unfortunately, meetings! But the following points are critical to keep in mind:

a) Does the meeting have a specific agenda that everyone’s aware of?
b) Are the timings mentioned and adhered to?
c) Who’s responsible for ensuring that the meeting discusses the specific matters on hand and does not meander away to meaninglessness? Don’t confuse activities with outcomes!
d) Who’s responsible for taking notes?
e) What happens when the meeting ends? Who’s responsible for ensuring follow up action?

Many years ago, well known historian and satirist Prof Northcote Parkinson who’s writings on bureaucracy are legendary had this to say about meetings

"The time spent in a meeting an item is inversely proportional to its value (up to a limit)."

A Rs 1 crore capital expenditure plan for the sake of developing arcane technology that will give the company a “strategic” edge or a sustainable competitive advantage is discussed and approved in 1 hour. Primarily because hardly anyone understands it! However, a Rs 10L marketing budget will be discussed for half a day! For example, what colour should the brochure be? What should the company’s tag line be? Should we be advertising on TV also? And so on….All these is usually discussed in excruciating detail because everyone can understand this!

How many such meetings have you been a part of? What do you think?

Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture investor, faculty member, advisor and mentor. He’s involved with Nasscom, TiE, IIM-Bangalore, and INSEAD business school in driving entrepreneurship. He can be reached at The views expressed here are his own.

Popular posts from this blog

VC Interview: Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital India

In a recent interview to Venture Intelligence, Shailendra Singh discussed some of the firm’s newer investments in the early stage segment including in the online payments space, the progress at a few existing portfolio companies and the active role the firm is playing in helping its portfolio companies scale and succeed in India and globally. Prior to joining the firm in 2006, Singh was a strategy consultant at Bain & Company in New York and before that, an entrepreneur in the digital media industry. Venture Intelligence: How does Sequoia go about identifying potential early stage investments in India? Is there anything different you are doing today than, say, a couple of years back? Shailendra Singh: There is a lot more focus on technology investing and early stage investing. In general, as you might remember a few years ago, we were doing primarily growth investing but in the past 18-odd months, we have had a very strong focus on early stage and that’s continuing. In terms

ChrysCapital, Motilal Oswal PE & Sequoia named PE-VC Firms of the Decade

Press Release ChrysCapital, Motilal Oswal Private Equity and Sequoia Capital India have been named the top Private Equity & Venture Capital investors in India during the last decade, as part of Venture Intelligence’s APEX Awards. The Venture Intelligence “Awards for Private Equity Excellence” (APEX) is dedicated to celebrating the best that the Indian Private Equity & Venture Capital industry has to offer.  While ChrysCapital won the “Private Equity Investor of the Decade” award, Motilal Oswal Private Equity was feted as India’s “Growth Capital Investor of the Decade”. The Indian arm of the storied Silicon Valley VC firm, Sequoia Capital, was named the country’s “Venture Capital Investor of the Decade”. The APEX Awardees are selected based on both Self Nomination by the participating PE-VC firms as well as "crowd sourced" nominations and voting from the Limited Partner, PE-VC and advisory communities. (The main criteria were Exit Track Record, New Fund Raises & Fo

Ambit tops League Table for Transaction Advisors to Private Equity deals in 2019

Ambit Corporate Finance topped the Venture Intelligence League Table for Transaction Advisor to Private Equity Transactions for the year 2019. Ambit advised PE deals worth $2.4 Billion (across 4 qualifying transactions) during the period. Citi ($1.1 Billion across 2 deals) and  Avendus  ($969 million across 12 deals) took the second and third spot. Edelweiss Financial Services ($758 million across 9 deals) and  PwC  ($708 million across 15 deals) completed the top five in 2019.  The  Venture Intelligence League Tables , the first such initiative exclusively tracking transactions involving India-based companies, are based on value of PE and M&A transactions advised by Financial and Legal Advisory firms. Ambit Corporate Finance advised the $1.9 Billion buyout of Pipeline Infrastructure from Reliance Industries   by Brookfield Asset Management  and the IFC and I Squared Capital-backed   Cube Highways' acquisition of Delhi-Agra Toll Road from Reliance Infrastructu

Jio deals help PE investments climb 12% in H1'20 to $18.8 B

Press Release With Reliance Industries' communications unit Jio Platforms attracting 51% of the investment value, Private Equity-Venture Capital (PE-VC) investments in India rose 12% during the first 6 months of 2020 to $18.8 Billion (across 341 deals), shows data from  Venture Intelligence , a research service focused on private company financials, transactions and their valuations. Investments totaling over $9.5 Billion in Jio by a troop of global private equity firms, following social media giant Facebook's $5.7 Billion mid April investment in the company, helped overall PE-VC investments better the $16.8 Billion (across 503 transactions) invested during the same period in 2019. (Note: These figures include Venture Capital investments, but exclude PE investments in Real Estate).   Jio Platforms' $9.5 Billion Private Equity haul (excluding Facebook’s strategic investment) was led by Middle Eastern and American investors with KKR, Saudi Arabia's Public Invest

Inventus, Sixth Sense, Blume & Norwest win Apex'20 Venture Capital Awards

Inventus Capital Partners, Sixth Sense Ventures, Blume Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners were voted the top Venture Capital investors in India during 2019. The Venture Intelligence “Awards for Private Equity Excellence” (APEX) is dedicated to celebrating the best that the Indian Private Equity & Venture Capital industry has to offer. Other 2019 winners in the VC segment included  Axilor Ventures which was voted   the  Accelerator of the Year for the second year running, 3one4 Capital (VC Fund Raise of the Year) and Innoven Capital (Venture Debt firm of the Year). The APEX Awardees are selected based on both Self Nomination by the participating PE-VC firms as well as "crowd sourced" nominations and voting from the Limited Partner, PE-VC and advisory communities. (The main criteria are Exit Track Record, New Fund Raises & Follow-on Funding Rounds for Portfolio Companies).    " It is an honour to be recognised by entrepreneurs and investors as