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C.N. Madhusudan in the Spotlight

By: Jyothsna Hegde Email By: Jyothsna Hegde
July 2010
C.N. Madhusudan in the Spotlight For C.N. Madhusudan (Madhu), founder and CEO of VectorSpan Inc., growing up in India was a great way to explore the world. His involvement with the philatelic association during his teen years laid a foundation for his success in general and management capabilities in particular. Stamp collecting, a curiosity turned hobby, eventually helped him build strong organizational skills, which he points out is difficult to learn in a corporate environment.

“The biggest learning experiences are availed during your high school and undergrad years,” Madhu says with passion. And he has the record to prove it. At the stamp club, he and his group had to work with volunteers who were all equally motivated and had to get them moving in a particular direction without ordering them around. With little or no money, resources were utilized to their complete potential, which Madhu notes is important even in a corporate setting.

Setting up the National School of Philately, holding press conferences, sharing space with dignitaries, arranging accommodation for students from different places provided a range of rich experience in organization building, networking, and entrepreneurship. Madhu’s efforts in philately were duly noted, bringing him several awards in international exhibitions and recognition from the Indian government.

Today his roles include serving as president of TiE- Atlanta and board member of Thinksoft Global Services. He has impressed many in the business world with his leadership skills and received accolades such as the 2007 “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award” for innovation, leadership and vision in business.

“Madhu is a very dedicated, results-based, no-nonsense leader who leads to dominate in whatever endeavor he undertakes,” says Rick Desai, chairman of Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC). “He has proven to be a very effective leader as the past chairman of (GIACC) and is doing a phenomenal job as the president of TiE. Madhu is very efficient at what he does and excels in everything he gets involved in. His leadership skills empower and motivate his team to be productive and efficient and rise to any challenge and overcome it with ease.”

Madhu, who lives in Atlanta with his wife, Radhika, and daughter, Mallika, was born in Bangalore and fondly recalls his teen years at St. Joseph’s College, following which he earned his degree from the reputed Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. His professional education includes Business Evaluation at the Harvard Business School.

Madhu had taken a management of creativity and innovation course, working with a professor to develop management programs. When NIIT, a start-up at the time, showed up for campus interviews, Madhu, who was familiar with some techniques and tests from the course, told the interviewer that the story writing test they used to shortlist students was not appropriate and that such tests hold more value for an interview rather than a yes/no decision-making process. The interviewer was the CEO of NIIT and, after a long talk, Madhu had a job offer, but did not want to move from the South. So when NIIT opened an office in Chennai, they tracked him down to take care of business.

Always interested in corporate planning, Madhu started his career with Tube Investments in Chennai, where he was responsible for production planning in the steel sheets and tubes factories. Bogged by the limitations of License Raj, and with an exciting offer from NIIT, Madhu made the momentous shift. NIIT was a growing company and that gave him tremendous opportunity to venture into different aspects of the company, including teaching and conducting management/executive development programs, while also exposing him to people from different industries. Madhu was instrumental in setting up NIIT’s Bangalore operations and turning around its Mumbai operations, establishing key areas such as Human Resources, IS and Corporate Planning functions that contributed to NIIT’s stupendous growth.

A turning point in Madhu’s career, as he puts it, was his start-up experience in the U.S., moving from a senior position in a well-established company in India to getting started in the midst of a recession in the U.S. He came here in 1991 to build NIIT’s first overseas presence for its software, training, and knowledge process outsourcing businesses. With Madhu as president and COO, NIIT USA became NIIT’s largest overseas operation and was nominated twice for the Atlanta International Business Award for outstanding leadership and role in the growth of Atlanta as an international business center. Subsequently, Madhu became President of NIIT Ventures and led new venture investment initiatives and acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe.

Post-Y2K and global recession, Madhu notes there was significant business growth, the key to keeping the growth going lay in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Having led acquisitions of companies like Cognitive Arts, and deep domain expertise players such as DEI and ROOM Solutions at NIIT, Madhu quickly recognized the immense potential of M&A. Entry into strategic investing and M&A, which provided great opportunities to explore complexities of cross-border transactions, use known skills and acquire new ones, was an integral part of his career development.

VectorSpan, Madhu’s brainchild, came into being in early 2008. Armed with extensive experience with cross-border operations and mergers and acquisitions, Madhu started VectorSpan, an enterprise focused on enabling companies to plan their growth strategy, engineer inorganic growth and make integration and cross-border transactions successful.

As the current president of TiE and past chairman of GIACC, Madhu provides his expertise in entrepreneurship. “His ongoing guidance to the GIACC leadership is priceless,” Desai says. “We are fortunate to have such a high-achiever who contributes to the global economy but also believes in giving back to the community while remaining humble and devout to the positive image creation for the Indian-American community of Georgia.”

Madhu’s charter is to enable TiE to significantly increase its impact on fostering entrepreneurship in the region. Some of the key initiatives launched by TiE, Madhu says, include taking TiE into schools and colleges and launching the first Tie Entrepreneurial Summit (TES) in Atlanta on July 16-17 in partnership with the TiE chapters in the Carolinas and Florida. He adds that the most valuable aspect of TiE is the rich experience one gets from meeting accomplished charter members around the world. “Learn from the experiences of others,” he says to young entrepreneurs. “You can learn important lessons for most of the issues you face from others.”

A man with many talents, Madhu has been a sought-after speaker on topics such as technology, technology education, M&A and outsourcing, addressing audiences at events of the World Bank, IMF, Institute for International Research and other organizations and institutions. He speaks glowingly about the growth of India, noting that the economic reform of the mid-90s changed India and brought phenomenal opportunities for entrepreneurship.

“India is a fantastic growth story and definitely a major market of today and the future,” he says. “The strong economic growth notwithstanding the myriad of problems is a great indicator of the rising profile of India as an economic superpower.”

Madhu adds that the domestic market is huge and demand-intensive, with a growth rate of more than 7 percent that makes it a very attractive market. He is encouraged by the number of new companies entering India. He also notes the considerable changes in the Indian media, which has come a long way since the days of hushing up incidents under political pressure to being outwardly vocal about public issues.

Speaking of the role of education in a person’s career, Madhu says that education must encourage students to think—which is one of the positive aspects of the American education system.

“Education is a great facilitator but does not guarantee success,” he says. “The fire has to be from within.”

[Atlanta-based Jyothsna Hegde, who writes for NRI Pulse, is a software engineer by profession. She has a master’s in computer science and was an instructor at Towson University in Baltimore.]

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