The world is becoming so small that understanding cultural diversity is very critical in every business environment. Especially when one is trying to be successful in a cultural environment not native to them.
Having lived in 3 countries and worked with 10+ countries, Viren Shah, CIO and Vice President of Masco Cabinetry, had to go through something like that. Viren had to unlearn and re-train himself as he moved along his career. He found it the hard way that what makes you successful in one culture can be detrimental in another.
Starting Entrepreneurial Sparks
Growing up in a family that was business oriented, Viren got his entrepreneurship spark from his father, a real estate business owner. Viren’s father used to build multi-family residences in Mumbai suburbs. Viren realized early on, that if he wanted to be somebody someday he has to break out on his own. Though as Viren put it, “While it is a safe mechanism, it is always difficult for a small tree to grow much higher under a shadow of a large tree.” Viren used to help out his father in his business, while doing his graduation in Computer Engineering. Taking cue from his father’s business, Viren decided to understand how businesses are run. So, he left India to do his MBA from USA, in order to prepare himself to be a businessman someday. Though, his mission was always to come back to India and use his skills to start on his own.
The Success Story behind Viren
While doing his MBA, there was a whole aspect of survival and cost management Viren learnt, as he had decided to pay for his own education. Viren was working at a chain of clothing retail stores while doing his MBA. He also started a startup, selling clothes in the flea markets imported from India. Though, the startup did not work very well as all 3 of the partners, including Viren were doing it part time, which was a detriment in getting it off the ground.
All the business case analysis and the different papers Viren had to write for various business courses, helped him to understand what it takes to run a company as well as why his startup failed. Viren had also setup the entire computer system for the chain of retail stores in New York to make them efficient. This is when Viren realized, his career pursuit is going to be bridging the gap between technology and business operations to make organizations successful.
Hurdles and Personal Lessons Learnt over the Years
Being young and inexperienced in the starting phase, Viren had the disadvantage of, not being able to get his ideas forward because of his lack of credibility. He even saw many times that his ideas went on to be implemented by others with better experience as they could understand and navigate the system much better.
Now, after having more than 20 years of innovative technology and global leadership experience, Viren has learnt few important lessons in the business. According to Viren, the biggest lesson he has learned is to have a purpose, to be open minded and recognize, accept and correct a mistake as fast as you can. He says, “Being a business minded person first and a technologist second, has helped me to be successful.”
Crediting his Success
Viren is most influenced by his father, who has the ability to learn from others and have a risk taking appetite. Having seen his father succeed immensely as well as fail at many projects, Viren learned the importance of taking calculated risks. The value system from his mother and support from his wife have been the key pillars to his success in life.
Viren credits his career success primarily to all his mentors at Walmart and the company; as they taught him how to lead, how to operate and build a culture of entrepreneurial success. The experience has been the most important part of his life, as Viren was able to use his acquired skills to implement new methodologies successfully, while he was also able to gain many new skills through course corrections. “The most important lesson was to have a sense of purpose which as part of Walmart was to help people save money so that they can live better.”, says Viren.
Finding his true Purpose in Life
Explaining the reason behind him starting up in this industry, Viren says, “The industry I currently work in has a lot of opportunities to solve as it is way behind other industries in technology and the transformational initiatives we are working upon will surely help bring a positive change to the whole industry.”
Viren found his purpose in life while starting up Walmart stores from the ground up in India. He realized he wanted to make an impact by changing the paradigms in the industry and effecting positive change. Reflecting on his achievement, Viren says, “I will never forget how emotional I was when we opened up our first Walmart store in India as I understood how the people in India were going to have a better life, from the farmer to everyday consumer.”
Advising Startup Entrepreneurs, Viren has some Suggestions
Leverage all the people you know and find people who can help you on platforms like LinkedIn. Most people are happy to help you with their knowledge.
In startups, one does not have the luxury to make lots of mistakes, hence it is critical to learn from other people’s mistakes.
Follow your dream, and never give up. Patience is a virtue, especially in case of startups and one has to make sure they have the financial capability to wait it out.
Viren always believes in “hiring for attitude and train for skills.” A person with a positive attitude and perseverance can be taught the required skills.
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