Monday, May 11, 2015

The top 4 people I have met the past year

You know you own a startup when first you feel its an earthquake, but later you realize that its just you swaying left and right with exhaustion. (If you ever quote this, give me proper credits)!

Having a startup is no cake walk. The wild imagination people have about startup owners is far away from the reality a founder goes through everyday. Although, the best thing about having your own venture is that not networking is not an option, you have to, simply have to meet lots of people. In the span of the last one year, I might have met at least 500 people purely to network. 500 seems less, I usually meet 25-30 people in one single event itself, and I have been to gazillion events since I came back from the states. It was as if I hated my life in the US because people were so anti-social, and God heard me. He put me in a position where I would keep chatting with people for at least 10 hours every day. At the end of a typical day at work, when I come home and through God's grace if I have some spare time, I prefer 'listening'. I would listen to music, or watch a movie or my favorite series. I'm not complaining though, I love my job. I love being an entrepreneur. I've finally found peace with life, and sometimes its funny that I find solitude among company. I also have met a bunch of super interesting and uber intelligent people in the past one year (I complete one year in India this month), some of who I would like to mention here.

The top of my list would be Ankur Warikoo, the CEO of Groupon Asia. I have read about him so much, seen his videos, prep talks, that when I actually got to meet him, I was just thrilled. That one hour meeting with him was undoubtedly one of the most awesome meetings of my lifetime. The kind of questions he asks, the approaches he takes and the solutions to those approaches are very inspirational. Although I was careful not to tell him that meeting him was inspiring, since from whatever I have read and heard about him, he hates it if people call interacting with him inspiring. "Don't talk to me for inspiration, if you want to get inspired, read self-help books, watch videos. Meeting someone should only happen if both of you are actually worth each others' time." I'm not quoting him directly here, but in all his blogs and videos, this is what he actually projects. He's a firm doer, he's not a guy who would sit around and discuss approaches, he would rather have people try all approaches and have a foolproof answer. Check out his blogs and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Next would definitely be Rohit Prasad, the author of Startup Sutra. A friend of mine recommended his book once, and being the bookoholic that I am, I bought the e-book off Flipkart and once I started reading, I couldn't stop till I finished it. I'm not a huge fan of self-help books, but this one's different. Very different. It runs stories of different entrepreneurs through the eyes of one Moo Jin, and consists of real stories of real struggle and real success. 4 hours and few hundred pages later, I was immediately his number one fan. Meeting him for a few hours was hence a huge honor for me, to shake hands with the man behind all those inspirational words was enthralling. I wish to write such a book someday myself, and if I do, I will definitely make one of my dedications to him. My favorite part of the book is how first he defines a sutra saying that successful entrepreneurs are persistent, and later defines another sutra saying that successful entrepreneurs know exactly when its time to let go and don't hang on to expirational things forever. Mindblowing logics, amazingly down-to-earth inspirational person.

The third would be Suchi Mukherjee, founder and CEO of LimeRoad. It's always inspiring to see women, especially Indian women, start their own ventures and make it a million dollar company. I met her very briefly, but I loved the stories she mentioned in her talk about her initial startup days. One story struck me very deep in which she mentioned that once on a Sunday evening her website broke and she called her CTO who was at a close relative's wedding at the time. The guy arranged a laptop from the bride/groom's place within 15 minutes, and was working fixing the live site issue in the middle of the wedding. You must be someone amazing to have employees dedicated so much towards the company. This is one example I till this day give to my employees and I wish and hope that I will have many such stories myself to tell to others in the future.

Fourth would be Sanjay Sethi, CEO of ShopClues. I met him post one of his talks at IIT Delhi, and he was the first person who ever said that free offerings are useless offerings. In ShopClues, he said, they charged from day one. Nothing in life is ever free, and even Indian population is aware of it now. In fact, making something free reduces the seriousness of a vendor towards you. Of course a free model is the easiest way out, but then again, the easiest way is never the best way, is it?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Being cold is never good, but being manipulative probably is

My husband and I are a weird couple in many ways. Being co-founders and fellow entrepreneurs, we certainly share a bond beyond the standard husband-wife norms. We sometimes have long discussions over philosophies and business making decisions till wee hours of the night before we both realize that its time to sleep. Today he read this somewhere and hence posed such a question in front of me: What is the one thing that you strongly believe in but most of the people around you do not?

I started thinking, because there are so many things I do and think differently, but maybe they are not strong enough beliefs to mention. I asked him what his answer was, and he said, "It's my belief that I can do everything on my own. If I had infinite time in the world, I do not need anyone for anything. I believe everyone is smart enough to figure out everything on their own, and categorization is just existent in this world because we are constrained by time."

Fair enough, I thought. For starters, I did not agree to his views myself, so there obviously were others with me as well. There is no way a single person is capable of doing everything, time or no time. Aptitude and attitude, both matter after all. Then I gave my answer to the same question. "I believe that everyone in this world can be manipulated to do your bidding. Provided, we get to spend the right amount of time with them."
"Nah, I don't agree," he responded.
"So there you go, most people around me will not agree." I said. "But deep down, I believe that even though we have different personalities and different beliefs, we're all the same person. Every human being is the same, wants the same things out of life, craves the same desires everyone does. All you need is time, to bond with that other personality type and make him/her understand how similar you both are, and that solves all your sales problems in the world."

I am a huge fan of the television series "The Mentalist". Patrick Jane, the main guy in the show, is like my ideal. A calm, soothing personality on the outside, yet with an uncanny ability to make anyone do anything, spill out all the beans in split seconds, that character blows my mind away. In many ways, I associate myself with that character. Not that I am a sociopath like he is, obsessed with Red John and all, but I do enjoy reading people. "People-watching", I call it, my favorite pastime. As a kid, whenever I got bored, I would sit at my balcony and observe the people in my building. I would judge them by their behavioral patterns and make predictions based on those behaviors. Maybe that is also what contributes to me bonding with people really fast, I actually observe and listen to them. One week with a person, and I can figure out what they love and what ticks them off. Hence my strong belief which many would not agree with me on.

There's a personality test called '16 personalities' I make all my close friends take whenever I catch hold of them with a laptop and some time in their hand. You can check it out at It's amazing how accurate it is, if you honestly take the test. I'm an ENFP ( and there is not a single word in that entire assessment I disagree with. But I love it when I predict people to be a certain personality type and post the test, I turn out right. ;)

People often ask me how after 2 degrees in computer science and a super-high paying job at Microsoft, one of the biggest software giants in the world, I ended up doing sales. The answer is, how I could end up getting the 2 degrees, getting through UCLA and Microsoft in the first place, because I probably never deserved it. I have always and always been a people-person. Always been the first one to take part in anything that required me going on-stage or being surrounded by a group on students, selling them a concept, an idea or even a membership/product. Always been the drama queen among my friends, loving acting on stage, doing street plays, singing, going out on publicity drives or debating. Hell, I was also always this person who's vivas used to go the longest because I would get into intellectual chats with my viva examiners. Always the chatterbox, always a sales person through and through, although I never realized it. When I left Microsoft, I had three farewell parties simply because I had so many friends in so many teams there it just never seemed to end. Now, in my own venture, when I go on sales, people often end up asking me where I did my MBA, and when I tell them I'm from a hard-core tech background, they're not even able to hide the obvious surprise on their faces.

Bonding, that's what every single human being in this world wants. We're all social animals, nobody likes to be lonely. In one of my conversations with Rajneesh Kohli, ex-director of Fidelity and SSP, he said, "Why do people nowadays go to Domino's for kids' birthdays and not to Mc Donalds? Because the Domino's staff will gather around and sing a happy birthday song for the kid while McD doesn't take that pain. And it's just that simple song which makes all the other kids want to go to the same place for their birthday party again, because they feel good about it. It's not the food, its not the quantity, its not the quality, its not the ambience. It's that freaking 1 minute happy birthday song."

That's what the customer is. A human being. Everyone wants to feel special, everyone wants to be given that extra leverage to do your bidding. Everyone, including me, Including you. You get the bonding point, you get a new friend. That's how the world works. So I would conclude this loong post by saying hence proved. QED. I rest my case. :)