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CP, the team builder who resuscitated Satyam back to life, hangs his boots


Chander Prakash Gurnani, or CP as he is known in IT industry circles, has hung his boots after a dream run of 42 years, the last 19 of which were spent in Tech Mahindra. Though well-known in the IT industry prior to the Satyam saga, he shot to limelight with his flamboyant handling of the crisis, after Tech Mahindra won the competitive bid for the troubled Hyderabad-based IT firm.


His handling of the crisis – the acquisition, the knotty legal issues, corporate, human resources and the merger, can be a typical business management case study. He, along with Vineet Nayar, steered the ship safely out of the storm, and helped it emerge among the Top-5 IT majors in the country.

The powerhouse that he was, CP’s sheer presence could infuse confidence in the employees and help them overcome the stigma attached to a doomed firm. Taking into confidence leaders from the old guard, such as ASM and T Hari, he quickly rallied the employees around him, and the goals set for the firm.

He was a reporter’s delight. Throughout the Satyam crisis and its subsequent merger with Tech Mahindra, he never said ‘no’ to a journalist. He always had an answer to any question posed to him. And each of his answers sent a clear message to investors and the client – that they meant business and were serious about lifting the company out of the crisis it found itself in.

His smile is infectious, his voice booming, and his presence magnetic. Though Gurnani had a strong marketing and sales background, he was very aware about the need for technological excellence. He was among the first IT leaders to recognise the importance of newer technologies such as Blockchain, AI, artificial intelligence, and GenerativeAI, and set up dedicated practices to explore and tap opportunities.

When he set an ambitious target of $5 billion for the company in 2013, I asked him how the $2.7-billion company could achieve that goal in just two years. He replied: “It’s a stretch goal. When you stretch, you prepare your whole body for it. You need a push,” he said.

Though it took the company four more years to get there, the ‘stretch goals’ he set worked miracles, as the employees focussed on the goal, putting behind them the nightmare that shook the country in 2009. He told the employees – ultimately, it is about individual excellence, and you must build a team that can make up for your weaknesses.

“There’s grace in learning like it’s your first time at something, and beauty in delivering like it’s your last – and you need both every day,” Gurnani said in his parting message.

“My message to you is simple – at some point of time in my life, I’ve been each one of you. So, you must know that you could be anywhere, if you put your heart to it. This is about individual excellence, and you should aim for nothing but the first, top, best spot on the stage. It’s in your hands, make the best use of your talent and time. Build yourself,” he said.

In an interesting experiment in management, CP identified young leaders across the organisation and groomed them as ‘Young CEOs’ to head new businesses and groom future leaders. He headed Nasscom as its Chairman and was conferred four doctorates from different universities. He also played a key role in shaping Mahindra University, the academic initiative by the Mahindra group.

A chemical engineer from IIT Rourkela, Gurnani was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Perot Systems, before moving to Tech Mahindra.

His recent series of posts on LinkedIn – Monday Memories – have become an instantaneous hit in the IT industry and management crowd. From Anand Mahindra to Vineet Nayar, and from Shiv Nadar to some of his former colleagues, he ran a series of posts every Monday for over six months relating the lessons he had learned from them, through his 42-year-old career that ended on December 19, the day he turned 65.

A good team builder, CP believes teams play a big role in the success of individuals and organisations.

“At work, and in life, you will almost always need a team. You will lead one or be a part of one, or both, but it’s unlikely that you will accomplish something big alone. You may run and win without them, but you won’t go a long distance. Build your team,” he sums up in his parting message.





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