Ajit Isaac, CEO of Quess Corp (formerly known as IKYA Human Capital), a subsidiary of Thomas Cook India Limited (which is a subsidiary of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited) delivered a fantastic lecture in my class today.
Ajit spoke from his heart to my students about his journey as an entrepreneur and how he grew his business from a one-room operation in 2007 to having 90,000 employees in 2014. He also covered topics such as how he thinks about businesses, the role of extreme focus, how he has build Quess organically and inorganically (his track record in M&A is fabulous), how important is integrity, how he thinks about profitable growth without taking unnecessary risks, and his aversion to debt and how the cultures at Fairfax and Quess compliment each other.
He also took great efforts to explain the fundamental economics behind each business vertical in Quess. My introductory slide before Ajit started addressing my class was this one:
That one word is “FOCUS”
I cited a wonderful book, titled “The Little Book of Talent,” and the first advice of its author, Daniel Coyle is that you should stare at who you want to become.
“If you were to visit a dozen talent hotbeds tomorrow, you would be struck by how much time the learners spend observing top performers. When I say “observing,” I’m not talking about passively watching. I’m talking about staring—the kind of raw, unblinking, intensely absorbed gazes you see in hungry cats or newborn babies. We each live with a “windshield” of people in front of us; one of the keys to igniting your motivation is to fill your windshield with vivid images of your future self, and to stare at them every day. Studies show that even a brief connection with a role model can vastly increase unconscious motivation.”
“The key to effective engraving is to create an intense connection: to watch and listen so closely that you can imagine the feeling of performing the skill. For physical skills, project yourself inside the performer’s body. Become aware of the movement, the rhythm; try to feel the interior shape of the moves. For mental skills, simulate the skill by re-creating the expert’s decision patterns. Chess players achieve this by replaying classic games, move by move; public speakers do it by regiving great speeches complete with original inflections; musicians cover their favorite songs; some writers I know achieve this effect by retyping passages verbatim from great works. (It sounds kind of Zen, but it works.)”
Ajit is a great role model for a future generation of entrepreneurs and value investors. He is worth staring at.
Disclosure: I own shares in Thomas Cook India Limited, which is the holding company of Quess Corp. This is not a recommendation to buy TCIL’s shares.