Book review of Employee First Customer Second by Vineet Nayar

Saurabh Kumar | August 13,2010 05:03 pm IST

Every MBA dreams of working in a startup and creating a world class company. That’s exactly what Vineet Nayar started out doing with HCL Comnet.

He created HCL Comnet (a remote infrastructure management company ) as an entrepreneurial venture within HCL. One fine day in late 2004, he was asked by Shiv Nadar (Chairman & founder of HCL Tech) to head HCL Technologies. Nayar says, “I was not sure i wanted the job. I was happy at HCL Comnet .I along with my team, had built it from ground up into a global enterprise with footprints in 11 countries. Running a large well established business with legacy would be a different ball game. However, Shiv was persistent and I had no choice but to accept it”.


What happened after that is a gripping account of complete transformation of a large organization. From a brand losing market share and customers to an organization that delivered accelerated growth by focusing on employees and leveraging the value zone.


“Employee first, Customer Second” (EFCS) is an engaging philosophy. It’s a serving CEOs account of working with day to day challenges of gravity, established mindsets and capturing markets which were unthinkable. EFCE is as much a book on strategy as it is on Execution. It is the story of HCL Tech's evolution from being a software outsourcing outfit for mid size companies to one cracking mega deals with large corporations globally. It’s a saga of unconventional management practices which have succeeded in transforming an Indian organization into a global name with presence in multiple geographies and competing with the very best in business.


The book is divided into five parts:
Mirror Mirror – Looking at the reality, accepting the problem and creating a vision around the solution to create the future.


Building Trust – Creating an environment of trust in the organisation through structured interventions like sharing information – financial, behavioural. Also creating a platform where a CEO can engage with 35000 employees and get an insight into their problems and issues and putting an accountability to resolve the problems.


Inverting the Pyramid – Enabling and Empowering the people , the value creators and making them accountable. Innovative tools that were created to counter the real people challenges - True 360, Smart Service Desk (SSD), Happy Feet.

Recasting the Role of a CEO – Transferring the responsibility of change to the employees.


Find Understanding in Misunderstanding
Is this book for a CEO? Well some of the things that Nayar Talks about have a senior management flavour, however this one is for every management practitioner.


The Human resource professional will be able to connect with value of their roles in connecting the employees and their talent to the organisational goals.


The marketing professional will get a new perspective on engaging with customers beyond 4 Ps.


The Business head will experience the play of strategy, blue ocean thinking and aligning of people to the romance of future and executing the same in a fast changing business environment.


For the MBA grads its rush of adrenalin, its romance of the future.


The book is insightful and comprehensive providing details of all stages of evolution from customer engagements to employee engagements to challenging the existing mindsets (yes butters'), established methods ( 360 degree feedback) and making all of them work. Real problems and real online solutions to deal with them.


It is realistic and simple, covering large piece of action in 185 pages in simple and solution oriented style. It does not claim to be a solution to all your problems but confesses to show you a perspective.


EFCS is a flesh and blood account of a CEO who chose to dance and made the organization swivel to its tune.




Saurabh Kumar is MBA from Fore School of Management, New Delhi, and has experience in Sales & Marketing with Godfery Phillips India Ltd. & UB Group, and is currently working with ICICI Bank....