Teach me something

27 Feb

A fascinating interview question,  especially for product managers,  is
Assume you are a teacher. Teach me something I dont know of

In one stroke this exhibits several important traits of a successful product manager
Ability to structure thoughts
Communicate clearly
Ask for feedback

In the past 2 days alone I have learnt
Why acute mountain sickness happens
How to make kulfi faluda
How do you control directions when paragliding
Why do cars need gears

2 interviews a day
25 days a month
That’s 600 new concepts in a year!

I love what I do!

Note to self

24 Feb

What you eat in private
You wear in public

And I am not talking just food…

Pick one

23 Feb

Here are my favorite interviews questions
1. Speed or perfection?
2. Spontaneous or calculative?
3. Money or power?
4. Starting things or finishing things?
5. Institute or course?

Neither of them have a right or wrong answer. But here is the worst response – “both”

Life doesn’t always give you both. Most of life is about picking one option,  one path. Even if you don’t want to.

Only on 3 occasions have people come back and said – neither. I have a third one for me.
All 3 of them are top performers at Groupon today.
They didn’t accept the choices life gave. Chose to create their own path in some way!

Pick one
Better still, create one!

Admit,  rectify and never repeat mistakes
Commandment 8 of the Groupon India Bible

If I had to make one for managers,  the same would read
Identify the cause and solve, to ensure no repeat problems.

The biggest mistake that managers make which they are unaware of,  is that they don’t solve problems. They only address them tactically – at a individual level,  circumstantial level,  momentary level. They don’t solve the problem. They solve the situation.

Ask yourself – will this problem occur again within the same set of individuals? If yes, you haven’t solved the problem.

It takes a lot more will. A lot more time. Definitely a lot more attention. Imagine the returns,  though.

A conversation with Ankur Singla this weekend set me thinking.
The hardest part about running a company are not the technical issues. Most of those are binary. Capability and  perseverance will get you there. If something doesn’t work,  you find the solution and fix it. And it mostly works the way you expect.

People don’t work like that.
We are unpredictable. We have varying emotions based on what we had in the morning. We have varying reactions to the same situations. And we expect different things at different times.
Handling people should then be the hardest role of a manager. And it is.

But nothing is codified. There is no Bible. No course. When Singla asked me a few questions,  I couldn’t articulate the response despite living those problems everyday (and successfully handling most of them).

And it’s obvious why. Because I am a person myself. The way I handle the same situation is also not standard. It varies.


I wouldn’t pay as much to hear how founders came up with their idea and made it successful
As much as I will pay to hear how they handle people


12 Feb


Imagine designing a customer survey.
You want to know what your customers think of your product.
And while you are at it,  you might as well ask them their age,  gender,  email.
Perhaps get them to even upload a selfie,  so that the best one gets a prize.  Gamification,  as they say it.

Imagine inviting applications for an open role.
You want people to submit their resume.
And while you are at it,  you might as well ask for their current compensation,  expected compensation,  references.
Perhaps get them to upload their marksheets,  so that your database can be complete.

As I look back,  I see most of my unsuccessful endeavors lying in the bracket of “One Task – Multiple Goals”
Rarely works

Instead – optimize your task for one and one goal alone. Recognize that everything else you add is most likely adding friction to the process. Lowering your chances of getting to the objective. 

The survey is only to gather responses
The application is only to gather resumes
The campaign is only to gather traffic
The product is listed only to drive sales
The merchant is acquired only to generate trust
The task is meant to accomplish only one goal!


Show me a successful person who has been a conformist in his life
And I will show you an unsuccessful person who calls himself successful

Look around you
The rules have been laid out by people who are no smarter than you
Challenge then
Change them

Look in the mirror

2 Feb

They are not understanding what I want to say
I can’t get this done because the process sucks
Employees are leaving because competitors are throwing money at them
I came late to office because of traffic
I don’t earn much because I don’t have a good degree
I am not confident because my parents couldn’t afford a good school
I want this but the world is conspiring against me

Each time you feel you deserve something or you have worked hard for something
And it’s not working out because someone outside of you has the controls
Look in the mirror

The strength is you
The competition is you
The enemy is you

Buying respect

3 Jan

If you are a business or P&L owner, here is a piece of advice you will thank me for

When speaking to your vendors, employees, ex-employees, agencies and everyone else who you will owe money – you should be the worst negotiator on earth. Squeeze them off the last penny they can afford to give you

But once agreed upon, always pay an hour earlier than you promised.

When you pay people their money on time, every single time, you buy respect that this money can never buy.

Ready to die

31 Dec

The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple, right?

– Will Smith, in an absolutely absorbing interview

Replace treadmill with working hard
Replace Will Smith with my name

I cannot be out-worked.

It doesn’t matter whether you are being honest or not in the conversation.
To be honest is not a choice you make
It’s the choice of the recipient.
Whether he wishes to listen
Whether he wishes to be honest.
With himself

Nescafé has a beautiful new ad featuring a stand up comedian with a stutter (no – it’s not real, it’s acted out).

While there can be a post on how brands are becoming bold with their approach, the ad struck a different chord

Here is a comedian who is selling his stutter as a hook. His promise is “I am a comedian. But a lot others are. I am a comedian with a stutter. That’s me”

Tomorrow if he works on his stutter and overcomes it – will he be breaking his promise?

Adnan Sami didn’t promise to be the fattest guy playing a piano. He promised to be the fastest guy.
And that worked out just fine when he overcame his obesity.

Everyday we make promises.
To be the nicest manager.
To be the most aggressive salesperson.
To work long hours.
To always be there no matter what.
To work out from now on.
To eat right.

Will we always be able to deliver on the promise. Are we promising on our strengths or our weaknesses?

Watched The Dark Knight again. For the 7th time. Or maybe 8th. I don’t remember.

The trailer, when it first came out, blew me away. The movie matched every possible hype around. However, with more views I noticed flaws. In the story, the characters, the sequences.
Despite that, it remains one of my all time favorites. Because the experience delivered, even with the flaws, is way better than most other movies I see.

Movies are such. Only some of them are really good. Those awe you with their trailers. Make you fall in love with them when you see them. They are designed as an experience.
But over time you realize they are not all that perfect. They have their flaws. The story breaks down at places. The characters are weak at some instances.
And yet you chose to ignore these issues. Because they are better than most others.

There is something else that works like movies

If you spend enough time – everything will have flaws.
But that may not be the best use of your time.

Nothing great

19 Dec

Nothing great was achieved without getting into the details

Nothing great was achieved by playing safe

Nothing great was achieved by postponing decisions

Nothing great was achieved by saying no just because that’s how it’s done

Nothing great was achieved by not willing to have a conversation

Nothing great was achieved without the courage to apologize

Nothing great was achieved by looking into the past

Nothing great was achieved without an irrational urge to win

The above are not options.
They are “if and only if” statements towards success.

Should we do this?

17 Dec

This isn’t an exciting question when you are starting up.

How can we do this along with what we are doing?
Why shouldn’t we do this?

When starting new, it’s foolish to assume that the path you are on is the path to success. The DNA should be to
pick up multiple paths,
measure performance,
eliminate (or select) and
Repeat and never stop


16 Dec

People spend a fair amount of time analyzing before they start something. Because of two reasons
1. They are preparing themselves for the execution.
2. They are procrastinating the execution

It’s amazing how many times people think they are doing the first when they are actually doing the second.

It’s even more amazing how many times it happens consciously!

No – cant be done

5 Dec

No – the product can’t be launched now

No – the process doesnt allow it

No – you cannot get to do this

No – it cant be done

As you scale, you get to hear this a lot more – from within the company.

Whenever you make this statement, complete the following – “No, it cant be done, because the customer _________”

If you cant complete the statement, change your statement to a yes.

Even if it pains you and the company.

I am grateful to hear these words a lot of times.

But I think – what if I wasn’t there.
At that moment.
For that cause.

Would inspiration have missed the other person?
Or would he have sought it from someone or something else – nonetheless?

Meet new people
Attend talks
Watch TED
Surround yourself with smart hardworking people
Build your mafia

Don’t leave inspiration to chance.