Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Pravin Jain, Part I

Business articles keep popping up in the strangest places. In Clear Cut Future a literary magazine containing short stories, poetry and essays, I found a fascinating article by Pravin Jain, who worked as an EVP at Enron, called Capitalism Inside an Organization.

The Article is an apologia of sorts for the great catastrophe that was Enron. Jain's company, Firstpoint Communications, had been acquired by Enron as they were forming Enron Broadband, and he recalls that when executives from Enron first came up to Portland to meet with him, they gave him the Enron formula for success:

1. It takes just as much energy to chase after rabbits as elephants. Go for the elephants.
2. Don't try to boil the ocean.
3. You eat what you kill.

I recall being fascinated by the originality and pragmatism of these principles. They sounded like something that came out of old hunting tribal cultures. These men came across as so different from typical large-company executives. Physically, they seemed quite restless, obviously not used to sitting in long, drawn-out staff meetings or planning sessions. They reminded me of the hustlers I used to bump into in the streets of Hong Kong or Bombay, always on the lookout for a deal. There was a predatory feel to them, but in a charming sort of way.

Jain goes on to describe the monumental difficulties of the task at hand: changing the energy and telecom industry from a sluggish, moribund monopoly to a fast, aggressive entrepreneurial business. Which is of course where, for better or worse, Enron innovated. Enron was, as has frequently been noted, voted by Fortune Magazine as the World's Most Innovative Company for six years running.

I'll get into the rest of the article in another blog entry.

For you telecom nerds, here's a talk Jain gave on fiberoptics infrastructure builds in foreign countries vs. the US.