K Ganesh remembers the exact day when he saw his wife, Meena Ganesh, for the first time — June 26, 1983. Just when you marvel at his memory, he sheepishly admits that it was the day after India’s historic win in the 1983 cricket world cup and he had just got off the train from Jamshedpur listening to the live commentary during the final while he made his way to IIM Calcutta to pursue management studies. What started as love at first sight is now love at every sight, he says.
From the time that they met, the IIM classmates have not only been a dream team at home but at work as well. To build a company, scale the business and sell it at the right time — once it is credit worthy — and to do it multiple times over is getting it down to an art form. What makes them a successful team as co-founders is the fact that their skill sets are a perfect match — Ganesh is the big-picture guy, who is externally focused on dealing with strategy, marketing and investors, and Meena is the organisation-builder, focused on execution and scaling up the operations.
There is never a dull moment around Ganesh, who can chat up a storm; is always raring to go with ideas. While Ganesh believes in quick decisions and has an uncanny ability to consistently raise capital, Meena — who is effortlessly calm — provides the perfect foil for him, with the ability to step back and figure out the nuts and bolts of their businesses. There are no plans to stop anytime soon, as they continue to nurture start-ups through their platform and family office GrowthStory (currently, there are five on their roll, with more in the pipeline) and through angel investments (23, so far). But this time around, it is more for the excitement of building a new business, rather than making profitable exits. Given their track record, it would be safe to say they definitely will have some winners on their hands.
When and where did you meet?
Ganesh: We were classmates at the IIM batch of 1985, so that is how we met.
What drew you to each other?
Ganesh: Everything about her. We both had very similar backgrounds. We were both middle-class Tam Brahms with similar value systems and that was easy to identify with.
Meena: Even back then, he was highly ambitious and driven, which was something that stood out about him. Not necessarily the brightest, but definitely was the most driven.
What keeps you together still?
Ganesh: It was love at first sight and I haven’t recovered yet. So, now it’s love at every sight (laughs).
What does your spouse mean to you?
Meena: Since we grew up together, he is my best friend, my confidant and my go-to person for everything.
Where do you concur in terms of thinking, approach and temperament?
Ganesh: Our strengths are extremely complementary and that ensures that we don’t step on each other’s toes. That is a problem not just for spouses but even co-founders. She is very good at operations, micro details and people management. She can build and work with large teams and scale them well. My focus is on marketing, raising funds, generating the idea and drawing up the business plan.
Meena: We have focused on these skills for so long that we have become successful at it. So, even our teams know what to come to me for and what to go to him for. Being co-founders with complementary skill sets is the good part and that has helped us build and scale three companies — Customer Asset, TutorVista and Portea Medical.
What is the quality you admire in your spouse the most?
Ganesh: She has very high EQ. She has this ability to understand and empathise with people and get the best out of them. Without losing her cool, she can work with large teams and get the best out of people. She can go from 30,000 ft to 3 cm in minutes and I don’t know many people who can do that.
Meena: Like I said, I admire his drive to excel, which hasn’t diminished over the years. He is such a good family man and though his career has been very important, family has always come first — be it our children or parents — not only his but also mine, and that is something I really appreciate.
What are some of the things you have learnt from each other?
Ganesh: We met when we were 21 and 19 and got married when we were 23 and 21. When you grow up together, there are many advantages — a lot of your ideas, value systems and thoughts are shaped together. There is no ‘your space, my space’, it has always been our space.
How do you resolve conflicts and disagreements?
Meena: I guess we were different people when we met but, over the years, we have rubbed off each other’s edges and no matter what fights or disagreements we have, our core values of wanting to excel in work and putting family over everything bring us back together.
Ganesh: The downside of couples working together is that you can’t leave your problems at office or vice-versa. If your husband or wife was in a different profession, then it would be possible to present the problem more objectively and look for solutions. But it is difficult when you are living the problem. What helps us is that since we work together, we can understand the stress and challenges better.
What is the best gift you have got from each other?
Ganesh: For my 50th birthday, Meena got me an Audi Q4. It was something I wanted for a long time.
How are parental responsibilities divided?
Ganesh: She takes up most of the responsibility. She has a lot more patience. But with all the major decisions regarding the children, we both get involved.
How do you unwind?
Ganesh: We don’t socialise or party. We like to spend time with the family.
How many holidays do you take? What have been the memorable ones so far?
Ganesh: Apart from our annual two-week vacation, we take off for three to four weekend holidays to our house in Coonoor. We like to drive down ourselves, so that’s our thing to do together. Our last holiday was to Turkey.
Meena:The road trip we took in Europe for my 40th birthday was my favourite trip. We drove through Europe — Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Ganesh: We also took a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2010, which was really special.
Do you attend to work on holidays?
Meena: I remember when we went on our honeymoon, Ganesh had already joined work and I was going to, soon after. He would come back and make presentations that the office needed and I was only happy to help him. We have always been like that.
Is life compartmentalised between family and office?
Ganesh:For me, this work-life balance does not have any meaning. I see it more as a work-life integration. Thanks to technology, there is a seamless integration. You don’t need to have a physical presence in the office anymore. I don’t know how people can compartmentalise their work and home. I have never been able to do it.
Meena: Yes, it is true. For Ganesh and me, it has always been what takes priority at that moment — be it home or office.