After an exciting and rewarding career in the IT industry, a prominent part of it as a founder of the IT services firm Mindtree, barely a few days after he had stepped down as its Executive Chairman on March 31, 2016, Subroto Bagchi got an unexpected call from the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. “He said, please come and help us with skill development.”
On April 2, just two days later, Bagchi, one of the best orators from the Indian corporate world, had been invited to address Odisha’s top bureaucrats at the Odisha Knowledge Hub on the topic of leadership.
The CM doesn’t attend these talks so the bureaucrats can have a free flow of ideas. Bagchi had no idea that the CM was watching the whole meet from his room through a video link.
“He took me completely by surprise as this is something I’ve never done in my life, and the skilling is for school dropouts… not fancy stuff… basic, hardcore work.”
In Tirupur alone there are thousands of Odiya girls; so if you buy a Polo or Tommy Hilfiger shirt in New York, chances are that an Odiya girl has touched it.
The State had promised employable skill development for 11 lakh school dropouts over five years; the programme was getting into its third year and eight lakh more children had to be skilled out of the promised 11 lakh.
“It was a very flattering proposal”; a Cabinet position was on offer, “and he said I’ll give you a completely free hand… you can bring in whoever you want. So I told him that is not my style. I work with people who are already there. But I need time to decide.”
The first one he consulted was spouse Susmita; “you know her, she is a very private, reclusive person wary of public life. I thought she’d say no, but surprisingly, she said: ‘You are born in that State and you should do it.”
Next he spoke to Infosys co-founder and the brain behind Aadhaar, Nandan Nilekani, then to Manish Sabharwal, co-founder of TeamLease Services. Both said: ‘Do it’.
When he asked his eldest brother, a retired bureaucrat from Odisha, “he fired me saying why are you even asking me? You guys in the private sector talk about government inefficiency and demonise it, so come here and prove yourself.”