How Indian Founders Learn to Let Go and Grow Their Business

India has a strong entrepreneurial culture, and a long history of successful business founders, including many who have spawned a family-owned dynasty.

While the environment is supportive of entrepreneurship, it’s the people who create and run businesses that actually make the difference. It is their creativity and skills that determine the longevity and success of these ventures.

In fact, at River, we go further. When it comes to understanding the reasons why some founders succeed and others don’t, we believe that leadership is the difference all the time, every time.

Image of Multiply Yourself research report

Because of that belief, we spend time studying leaders and leadership. In 2016, we conducted the first ever large-scale investigation into the experience of being a first-time Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – EXCHANGES. We interviewed 75 CEOs from organisations around the world. Some of those organisations were based in India.

And this time in 2017, as a follow-up from EXCHANGES, we decided to study the leadership journey of founders exclusively in India.

We wanted to know what leadership qualities enable them to successfully scale their businesses.

The question we asked was:

“How do you multiply yourself so that others are able to follow your vision for what your organisation could be?”

In this qualitative study, our focus was on conversations with founders to understand their leadership journey. But, to widen the perspective, we also talked to important stakeholders in founder-led companies: successor CEOs, venture capitalists (VCs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs).

We met and had rich conversations with 30 diverse leaders across sectors in India. Each of these discussions uncovered the truths and challenges of being a front-runner in the entrepreneurial scene of India. Our interviewees candidly shared their personal experiences of creating and growing their businesses. We heard stories of dreams, successes, failures and persistence. We were inspired by their passion and optimism.

Our mission with this study is to provide current and future founders a guide on what to expect on their leadership journey. And to offer advice to those who work closely with them, on how to get the best from that working relationship, and effectively play their role in enabling the organisation to realise its potential.

For a preview to the report, please email:

“Over time I realised that it’s not about hiring the best, but about hiring the ‘right’ leaders for us. The problem is that entrepreneurs struggle to hire people better than themselves. And yet this is absolutely critical. If you hire a good team, then they take initiative and it works. That gives the promoter confidence to start letting go.”
Harsh Mariwala,
Founder and Chairman, Marico
“A key thing for a founder to realise is that his or her individual interests must always come after the organisation’s interests. A question we always ask is – can the founder stay true to the value system that he was a part of creating, irrespective of fair or foul weather? For example, the Mindtree founding team decided on a policy of no relatives to ever be employed in the business. What if the founder violates the principle himself under pressure at a later time?”
Rostow Ravanan,
Co-Founder and CEO of Mindtree
“The most important factor when hiring a non-founder CEO is the cultural alignment. Hiring someone who understands the culture. An individual with strong moral ethics and a strong value system, who can drive a people and performance culture.”
Rajendra Pawar,
Founder and Chairman of NIIT Group