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Since it was founded in 2004, Mu Sigma has leveraged an unconventional approach on their way to the leadership spot in the decision sciences space. Even before Sequoia came on board as an investor in 2011, Shailendra saw a lot to like in Dhiraj’s approach and commitment.

Dhiraj and Shailendra tell us more about this relationship built on belief, understanding and shared appreciation of the company’s unique culture.

Dhiraj Rajaram
Mu Sigma

The expansive nature of Mu Sigma’s potential was not easy to see from the outside. But Shailendra saw it and believed in it. At the end of the day you can buy strategy and a lot of other things but you can’t buy belief. And that has been key to this relationship.

Shailendra Singh
Sequoia

To this day, the reality is that Mu Sigma is not well understood. Dhiraj himself can be very philosophical, sharing multiple profound insights in the span of just an hour. For example, he will tell you that there’s a difference between performers and producers. That’s a core Mu Sigma philosophy. Performers do what is expected of them but producers create new insights.

Dhiraj Rajaram

This is a company built on ownership – real ownership. One of the things we have internalized is this formula: “If something good happens, I am Mu Sigma. If something bad happens, Mu Sigma is me”. Essentially, that translates into every individual participating in both the highs and lows of the company. So we take this stuff very seriously. We like our investors to demonstrate the same sense of ownership – and not just from a financial perspective.

Shailendra Singh

Mu Sigma has a unique operating model with many interdependencies. It’s very tough to duplicate. There is a set of things – all first principles pieces - playing out in harmony. Dhiraj describes this as making music. This has allowed them to become one of the first companies to scale decision sciences. What was traditionally a consulting business became an annuity business under Mu Sigma.

Dhiraj Rajaram

We set out to disrupt problem solving. Shailendra understood that we were building a new category, not just a business. And that culture was a big part of this. I firmly believe that everybody on the cap table must have cultural ownership. If there is dissonance between cultural and financial ownership, people will jump ship during tough times.

Shailendra Singh

Every company has its own unique culture, especially the successful ones. And that’s definitely true for Mu Sigma. It almost seems a little wacky to someone coming in from the outside. They have teams of creators, destroyers and innovators named after Hindu deities, for instance. But underneath that lies a nuanced understanding of what it takes to build and scale an enduring organizational culture. It’s a very different story but one that is clearly relevant to the Indian business scenario. Most people don’t get it because they are trying to slot them and put them in a familiar bucket.

Dhiraj Rajaram

I’m not afraid of dissent. I actually want that. We laugh a lot in our board meetings. And that counts because it strengthens every individual’s involvement in the company. Many times entrepreneurs get paranoid about investors being out to get them!! We actively seek Shailendra’s opinions even when they go against our own thinking because we want a chance to influence him as a smart and informed board member. To get some good results on the board, all sides need to engage actively, completely and wholeheartedly.

Shailendra Singh

Dhiraj uses us as a sounding board. He has told me many times that we appreciate Mu Sigma for why it is successful and not just for the financial performance. As a result, he feels our advice is pertinent to him and not recycled from our prior experiences of working with other companies.

Dhiraj Rajaram

I really think the purpose of Mu Sigma serves a certain cause. Different people are aligned to it through different means. Some people through working, some people through investing, some by using our services as customers. And I see all these stakeholders as part of my team. Shailendra is a key teammate for us, even if he has to say something bad to me, he says it in a way that I will understand it. I am constantly looking for his opinion because I care about that opinion. Most often than not, I am maybe even a pain in the neck for him.

Shailendra Singh

Maverick founders need to be appreciated for what they are. And investors have to develop the maturity to understand this.

Dhiraj Rajaram

Sequoia is a group of wicked smart people who are extremely connected but don’t wear their connections on their sleeves. They are also technologically plugged in as a team – who knows who, what’s happening in the tech world - and that speeds up action and decision-making. Shailendra himself has some very keen instincts. He once told me: “A good investment looks good in the beginning. A great investment looks bad in the beginning.” I think that helps him see success stories where others don’t. I have learnt from this - we use this same philosophy in many of our decisions right now.

Mu Sigma
Provides management consulting and analytics services to help companies institutionalize data-driven decision making.
Milestones
  • Founded 2005
  • Partnered 2011
Founders
  • Dhiraj C. Rajaram
Investment Advisor