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Corporate stalwarts to lead 'Friends of Ambition'

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | November 28, 2011
The growth advisory venture will aid ambitious enterprises from Tier 2 and Tier 3 Indian towns.

Four former corporate leaders have recently joined hands to launch Friends of Ambition (FOA), India's first growth advisory firm. FOA is focussed on 'Middle India', that is, on businesses in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns.

The venture was officially launched in July 2011.

The four founders of the advisory include Ravi Kiran, former chief executive officer (South East and South Asia), Starcom MediaVest Group, Suhail Kazmi, former president, retail banking and wealth management, Yes Bank, Sanjay Barkataki, former India chief financial officer, Publicis Groupe Media, and Subodh Srivastav, former chief operating officer, Idea Cellular and MTS. Interestingly, all four opted out of their respective corporate leadership positions between February and December 2010.

FOA will work closely with ambitious enterprises and guide them to achieve their growth goals over a three-to-five year period. Out of a total estimated 35 million MSMEs in India, as defined by the Ministry of MSME, the company estimates an addressable market of 51,000 firms in 62 identified towns.

The company aims to transform 100 ambitious enterprises in 10 years. It is based on the belief that the traditional tag of 'SME' that is put on an ambitious business is inappropriate and anachronistic.

"It is our belief that businesses in 'Middle India' have a real opportunity to drive the next few decades of dramatic growth in economic value and societal impact. We are strongly inspired by their aspirations, which have risen manifold over the years. At the same time, we have observed a palpable feeling of helplessness and growing frustration," says Kiran, in a press note.

Elaborating on this, Kazmi adds, "The frustration arises mostly out of a real 'access gap' that exists today between Middle India and Metro India. This gap forces most business owners to scale down their ambitions. They feel an acute deficit in access to talent, managerial and functional expertise, and private capital, which is available more easily to enterprises in big cities."

The company is aimed at bridging this access gap. It plans to nurture and fuel the dreams of ambitious enterprises. It will provide an active, hands-on advisory service to these enterprises and help them implement decisions and strategies.

FOA will also provide its clients with a growth ecosystem, built on a powerful network of partners. It plans to do so under the umbrella of 'Allies of Ambition', which is a network comprising several top notch firms across nine chosen functional domains including legal, technology, human resource, tax consulting, audit, talent recruitment, marketing research, digital marketing, advertising, and financial capital.

"Our allies are an integral part of our value delivery model. We believe their expertise, combined with our guidance, and real-world experience in scaling businesses, will work powerfully for our clients. This is a classic instance of the 'Gestalt Effect' - the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts," says Srivastav.

Barkataki adds, "We reject the tag 'SME'. That phrase, no matter how popular and easy-on-tongue, insults ambition, rather than respect it. We describe our client segment as 'REMI' -- Rising Enterprises of Middle India, a phrase we find significantly more aspirational and dignified."

It may be noted that FOA is currently engaged with three clients and eleven alliance partners.

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