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Yet there’s something that might well be bothering Mittal — something that goes beyond business and beyond Bharti. Once upon a time, he wanted to retire at the age of 50. He was passionate about nation-building and began talking about it long before it became fashionable. Today, that’s the new Holy Grail for successful entrepreneurs. Amassing personal wealth and incredible business success isn’t enough. There’s a yearning to contribute meaningfully through public life. That holds a special meaning for Mittal. “He would have watched Nandan [Nilekani] from the sidelines,” says Tarun Das, chief mentor of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Don’t think of this as management jargon. When we started out, we were an entrepreneur-led, entrepreneurpromoted company. We did a great job. In some companies, this phase lasts forever. Nothing wrong. But in my view, if you do that, you remain small. You can’t manage a large company using this model. So we moved to the next stage — entrepreneur-led and professional-supported. Over the last four years, we’ve moved to professional-managed and entrepreneur-supported. And that’s where we want to keep it. There is one more stage — professional-led and professional-supported. Vodafone is in this mould. To a certain extent, so is MTN. No single shareholder is dominant. Ownership was created among managers unlike Vodafone. I personally believe, the finest way to drive value for all stakeholders is from the position we are currently in.