Columbia Business School

How to Build a Company and a Cause

Presented by Columbia Business School

group of people building a company with meaning and cause

“Doing well and doing good are not contradictory objectives,” says Manish Sabharwal, Chairman and Co-founder of TeamLease Services, India’s largest staffing company. He was the guest speaker at the Nand and Jeet Khemka Distinguished Speaker Forum in November 2017.


The most critical leadership for taking this company public is not as important as what it was to build the company. Building the company, which was more important, was really, I think, I grew up in a household with civil servant parents, you realize early in life that we don’t live in an economy, we live in a society. I think that’s … I went to business school at Wharton and I graduated without a single public policy course, which to me doesn’t make sense in retrospect 20 years away.


And I think the key to building TeamLease has been recognizing that we’re more than a company, we’re a cause. We do recognize that doing well and doing good are sort of not contradictory objectives here. And since we provide social infrastructure in that sense, substituting for the state in providing vocational training and providing matching, while the legitimacy of investors was important, and we got that early enough, I think the legitimacy with the state was also very important.

See, in India there are three deficits, right? The government has an execution deficit, the private sector has a trust deficit, and non-for-profits have a scale deficit. But if I had to overcome that trust deficit to build TeamLease into the 1.6 million people that we’ve hired in the last ten years, I think the most important thing that we did right was getting the government to trust us.

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