Friday, July 31, 2015

mjunction - the story of a quiet giant

"I didn't know that!"

This is a thought that crossed my mind umpteen number of times while reading this interesting little book.

"Intrapreneurs @ mjunction - The Making of an e-commerce Giant" by Rajeev Kumar tells the story of Metal Junction, an e-commerce JV between Tata Steel and SAIL that succeeded way beyond the expectations of either partner. It is yet another tribute to the ability of the Tata Group to identify and nurture talent within the organisation, and then to give them the wings to deliver on a grand scale.

This time the man on the driver's seat was Viresh Oberoi, a non-engineeer, non-MBA who had joined Tata Steel as a salesman. As he climed the ranks and reached a stage where he wanted to leave and set out as an entrepreneur, the Tata's allowed him to do just that by setting up Metal Junction as a separate entity.

The book, however, is silent on what is under the bonnet. How did Oberoi's team go about creating a robust e-auction website? What were the teething problems? The book is sidesteps this completely.

The new company entered a space where there were already a number of e-commerce players. It had no first mover advantage, but what it did differently was to carefully learn from mistakes of others. Starting out ot with secondary steel products and scrap, it moved on to coal, and then to amazingly diverse areas that could take advantage from e-auctions, such as leasing of an airport at Bhilai, selling of repocessed residential flats, getting the best bargains from mobile-phone companies and transportation of over-dimension cargo. No wonder the name of the company had to be changed to a more generic "mjunction"!

This book reminded me of Porus Munshi's "Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen" which tells the story of 11 Indian who pulled off the impossibe. One of them was Xerxes Desai, MD of Titan Watch Industries who, in 1994, set his team an orbit-shifting challenge - 'to create the slimmest water-resistant watch in the world'. Six years later, Titan Edge was launched.

Everytime I meet a somebody sporting a smart Edge watch, I ask them if they have heard of the amazing story behind it. So far, I have not come across a single person who has answered in affirmative. This is perhaps a small reflection of our own failure at projecting and celebrating home-grown champions.

The story of mjunction goes a long way in turning our attention to the great work being done by Indians in creating world-class products and services.




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