International expansion

Darshan Deshmukh

Darshan grew up as a leader across a number of supply chain services and consulting organizations. He has helped global service organizations of all shapes and sizes improve their efficiency and effectiveness, and scale up their operations and customer success processes. Darshan started his career with IBM in various global leadership roles and managed service delivery in the US, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia. In his tenure at IBM, he built large delivery centers focused on globally integrated operations. He also built and led the Global Delivery Organization at Denali, a procurement services firm that was eventually acquired by WNS in 2017. Here he led the post-merger integration and integrated procurement services operations within the company. Post Denali-WNS, Darshan built and led customer success and professional services organizations for OpenGov and Icertis, both hyper-growth SaaS software organizations.

Why are you passionate about helping people-based businesses?

I am passionate about building sustainable people-based businesses. For any people-based business to grow and be successful in the long term, I believe they need to build a balanced three dimensional system focused on people, process and technology. I am a big proponent of building organization capability organically while building scale, and I feel a strong sense of fulfillment when an individual within the organization grows as a professional within a system I helped develop. It’s ultimately all about people and their ability to drive incremental change to build a business with long-term value.

As a services organization scales, having global delivery centers becomes more important. What should founders consider before expanding into a new region?

As founders look to develop global scale through international delivery centers, they need to transition to a “Communities of Excellence” model that is focused on efficiency, effectiveness and innovation. The intent of global delivery is to capitalize on talent globally and to scale productivity, but it’s also about adding customer value. When founders are thinking about expansion, they should ask themselves, “does my decision lower the center of gravity closer to the customer?”

From there founders need to assess:
1. Is the talent pool available?
2. Do I have a corporate culture that embraces globalization for growth, profitability, efficiency and effectiveness?
3. Am I willing to invest in the initial curing period so my organization, and ultimately my customers, will realize the benefits?

You’ve grown delivery organizations from the ground up with Denali, at a mid-sized organization with OpenGov, and in later stage companies like IBM and Icertis. What’s consistent across different size organizations, and what changes as you grow?

What makes any size delivery organization successful is the ability to meet and exceed the implied promise you’ve made to customers. Most organizations focus on written commitments, but when you change the organization’s DNA to assume the statement of work is table-stakes, and incentivize everyone in the organization to meet and exceed that customer implied promise, it drives incremental change quickly.

Simplifying goals is another key learning from my experiences building organizations. If a leadership team can agree to 3 or 4 goals for each functional organization, with one shared goal, it takes care of most of the organization tradeoffs and debates in a fast growing organization. I realized that this exercise is much harder than we think once you start implementing it though. Humans have a tendency to complicate decision making.

Later stage organizations have a much bigger internal change management issues (aka bureaucracy). It’s always important to be mindful that balancing faster decision making with quick adjustment can be more disruptive than spending time driving consensus. But getting the “goals simplification” strategy right can take care of these lifecycle challenges.

Jean Manaud

Jean is an entrepreneur who specializes in people-based businesses. He has two decades of experience in management consulting and IT, and most recently led international operations across 42 countries for Mercer’s Digital Solutions division, a fast growing area within the multinational management consulting firm. Among his founding credits is everBe, one of the first Workday and Servicenow consulting firms in Europe focused on digital transformation for HR and Finance, which he sold to Mercer.

Why are you so passionate about helping people based businesses?

People have always been the essence of what makes a company unique. Within service businesses, people represent 100% of the soul, the DNA and the execution. When it comes to bringing a company’s vision and mission to life, it all comes down to how people form a diversified and complementary group to apply their expertise, drive innovation, and obsess together about client satisfaction.

You founded everBe, a France-based business transformation consultancy that was ranked by Inc. as one of the fastest growing businesses in Europe before being acquired by Mercer. What advice would you give to founders on scaling a services business in Europe?

Like Asia, Europe is made up of many diverse countries and cultures that happen to share a continent, yet I’ve observed many companies mistakenly treat Europe like one big country. Companies need to plan country by country when expanding into Europe, making sure their leadership and go-to-market strategy is deeply aligned with the country’s culture, ecosystem and competitive landscape. Hire local people who understand the local culture and take the time upfront to do it right. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing culturally tone deaf, which is hard to recover from later.

What are some common mistakes that companies make in their international expansion plans?

I often see organizations try to expand internationally when they’re not truly prepared to operate across different countries. They may not have the processes, systems, governance, operations, or level of investment needed to run effectively across geographic borders. Culturally, they don’t operate as one team where needed, don’t hire local leaders who reflect their employees, and don’t decide upfront what can be managed by country vs. from the center. Also, leaders need to realize achieving a critical mass and commercial presence in a new country doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and investment.


Purvi Mathur

Purvi has more than 18 years of experience helping technology and financial services companies establish their talent operations in India, from recruiting to retention and team development. She is currently heading HR for General Atlantic’s Global Capability Center in India, which she built from the ground up in 2018. Prior to this, Purvi played a critical role building the India HR operations for Appirio (now a Wipro company), and has worked within other large international organizations such as Accenture, The Oberoi Hotel Group and Genpact.

Why are you so passionate about helping people-based businesses?

Seeing new ventures grow and flourish gives me the same level of energy and enthusiasm as seeing my own kids grow. I love being able to help shape careers and present great opportunities, especially for early-stage companies.

You were involved in scaling up Appirio’s operations in India from its start. What advice would you give founders on scaling up a services business in India?

There are few elements you need to get right to be able to scale in India. One, there has to be a strong conviction for laying a foundation in India. This includes making it a strategic focus and continued commitment from executive leadership. Two, India is culturally different than its global peers and diverse in itself. Hence, building the right culture that is appropriate to the region and infuses the culture of the larger organization is extremely important. Three, there needs to be a focus on building a strong learning foundation for employees, not only to scale faster but to help people grow as individuals but also to provide them great career opportunities.

What are the elements of an effective talent strategy?

An effective talent strategy consists of three facets. One, building an employer brand that can attract the right talent. Two, defining and articulating the right employee value proposition. Talent has evolved from a pure compensation and benefit mindset, to a mindset that is much broader. It’s not just about the money, but the quality of work, learning opportunities, client interaction, international assignments, recognition, organizational culture and much more. And last but certainly not least, creating an empowering and inclusive culture that is built on trust. All these put together will eventually help leaders to hire, retain and grow the right talent.