Soon after, Mahapatra picked up a masters in business administration and joined Godrej's fledgling IT products distribution business. Within weeks, he was sent to Puducherry (Pondicherry then) to build a sales and distribution channel in Tamil Nadu.
Mahapatra knew no Tamil and the warehouse was "four bare walls and little else". He made this business a winner and was put in charge of a manufacturing unit.
In 2000, the attractions of working for a technology multinational took hold and Mahapatra joined Cisco, when it was just a routers company. Again, Mahapatra was an outperformer. "I gave myself three years for each role at Cisco and managed to outperform each time," he says.
Despite being a star for the San Francisco-based networking giant, few people expect Mahapatra to stay on for ever. "I want to be an entrepreneur soon," he says. "I need to challenge myself again." Few people are betting against Mahapatra succeeding again.
38, Vice President, ITS Sales, India & SAARC, Cisco
Been there: Grown Cisco's Linksys business, increased home consumers threefold in 18 months
Done that: Transformed the unit that handles IT services firms
Anecdote: Built a manufacturing outsourcing business at Larsen & Toubro as a young engineer
Fitness: Power yoga, pilates, kickboxing are part of his 5 a.m. workout routine under a personal trainer