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'Even When We Could Not Pay Salaries, We Did Not Lose A Single Employee'

Meena Ganesh, CEO, Portea Medical, home healthcare service provider. Serial entrepreneur.

'Even When We Could Not Pay Salaries, We Did Not Lose A Single Employee'
Photograph by R.A. Chandroo
'Even When We Could Not Pay Salaries, We Did Not Lose A Single Employee'
  • Life in a start-up can be uncertain­. Keep calm and find a way ahead.
  • A good team you can trust helps you get past difficult times.
  • Lead from the front and people will be around in tough times.


It was extremely unnerving and scary. We started Customer Asset during the first internet boom. Expecting fast growth, we raised venture capital too. Within months, the boom went bust and we had no clients. The founding team dec­ided to go for a call-centre business. After 9/11 our business pipeline dwindled again. Out of cash, we could not even pay salaries for a while. We didn’t lose heart. Instead, we built a business that ICICI later acquired.

Circumstances matter but their outcome depends on our choices—how we react, how hard we work, and how passionately we pursue goals. How you take your team, family and friends along determines how much they support you. In difficult times it is important to show leadership, be transparent and share challenges with your team. When people see you making an effort, they stick around in tough times too. Even when we went through a cash crunch and could not pay salaries, we did not lose even one employee.

Family helps us develop into complete professionals by setting our value system and the foundations of who we are. How you interact with colleagues and customers flows from your family and your community. Building on that foundation is in your hands. The education you get, the life lessons you learn and the kind of career you choose to pursue are also det­ermined, ultimately, by your family.

Our professional and personal lives are impossible to separate completely. We tend to pass our value systems to our children, so setting the right example is very critical. I believe in integrating family, community and work. That helps keep balance and enables high competence with minimal stress or guilt.

An entrepreneur since 2000, each of my start-ups was in an altogether new field. Each venture has been about understanding a whole new customer need and creating solutions that make sense for them. From BPO to education to retail to healthcare, each pushed me into areas I knew very little about. I had to learn quickly, be humble enough to accept I didn’t know much and ensure there were domain experts in every core team.

I worked hard to scale quickly in different lines of business. Technology has been changing rapidly over the last decade. Understan­ding the opportunities it throws up and using them eff­ectively is an ­exciting challenge.

I keep on building from scratch as an entrepreneur. This plays very well to my likes and strengths. Right now, I get a chance to help people get better, elders live with dignity and families find affordable and convenient healthcare. This gives me ­imm­ense satisfaction.

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