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Getting off her comfort zone
Aniket Kavathekar
Monday, May 2, 2005
In December 1998, Radha Basu started her maiden expedition towards Everest’s Advanced Base camp—an altitude of 5,200 meters where both breathe and concentration are the toughest things to get right.

There her undying spirit defied gravity and she rediscovered herself. For the first time, she decided to leave her cushy HP job and get out of her comfort zone. That, she did by taking a hardship-packed start up responsibility while consciously and assertively giving up her general manager portfolio in HP.

Changing jobs is always risky, especially from a multinational to a start-up. But for Basu it was the right time. “Are you Crazy,” her superior reacted when she conveyed her decision to leave HP to join SupportSoft, a small software firm.

Basu’s urge to work with smaller teams, where passions run deep was a strong motivator. She thrived on challenges and believed in turning them into opportunities. Her elasticity to accept mistakes, sustenance to adhere to values and vision to see the ultimate success, had helped her to clear many obstacles. “Most of the successful entrepreneurs have hit the bull’s eye only after missing it several attempts,” she says.

It would have been the same failed professional but gained personal story if Basu had missed the date to open the public offer for SupportSoft.

That was history. Today she is steering $60.6 million company with an expediting force.
Basu’s strategy takes direct aim at the high cost of providing customer support, which is built around the needs of her clients. Her formula has helped SupportSoft grow by more than 30 percent annually over the last few years. SupportSoft’s products provide large enterprise and broadband service providers with “self-healing” software technology that’s able to solve some technical problems before a user knows they exist.

Basu emphasizes the importance of internal developments like the team building and effective communication, to build an illustrious clientele while the organization grows. This encompasses sharing the corporate vision with employees and building trust with investors. “One thing that can add value to the company is sending the right message to the right people,” she says. “A successful brand building, is a strategic positioning of the company vis-à-vis the market demand.

We need to build effective teams that caters to the market and delivers according to the expectations.” Basu gives equal footing to every team member. “People involved at the backend office are as important as the top leaders, in the performance of an organization,” she emphasizes.

Sitting at the helm of SupportSoft’s affair, Basu relates her success as a CEO to her experience working with HP, where she has led many overseas operations and faced many obstacles. A crucial skill she learnt and is implementing is the effective handling of different cultures and different people.

Interestingly her stay in Germany for HP as the only corporate head among the 3500 male driven environment adds to her charm in delegating and controlling her SupportSoft. “The first three months at SupportSoft was difficult in terms of being accepted but I learnt much about business and technology,” she says.

Basu’s career spanning various disciplines has given her a global perspective, critical to head an organization. Prior to joining HP, Basu was the Principal Member of the Engineering staff engaged in micro controller and chip design at Xerox Corporation.

There she gained design experience, which is now helping her augment technology with business knowledge in SupportSoft.

Basu’s success as a CEO of SupportSoft is a culmination of experience gained while holding various positions from R&D, HR, as well as sales and marketing. Assertive but not outspoken, she believes that women entrepreneurs need to create more visibility for themselves in a league dominated by men.

A strategist at heart, she also gives luck its due share. Her confidence clearly communicates the successful entrepreneurship, but the pomp is notably silent.
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