Fortune India 40 Under 40 List!
This month has been particular generous on me.
Won the Promising Entrepreneur of 2013, awarded by Enterprise Asia
Got listed as part of the India’s 25 Hottest Young Executives (under 40) by Business Today
IIT Delhi student, at the entrepreneurship club speaker series.
Ofcourse yes! How else would I get invited to the entrepreneurship club!
Who is an entrepreneur? Someone who starts on his own? Someone who owns sizable equity? The founder?
Well, technically yes. And technically, I wasn’t meant to run the marathon either. So fuck technical.
Here is my definition. Let’s see how it works
Anyone whose job is to work on systems already laid out by someone else – is not an entrepreneur. That’s managing.
The ones that build systems, challenge status quo, innovate and change things in order to always make them better and efficient – those are entrepreneurs
The first 100 odd people at Facebook are entrepreneurs.
Jonathan Ive is an entrepreneur
And so is Arvind Kejriwal
In Feb 2012, I was ordered to “stop walking” in 2 weeks flat. A pain in my hips had been diagnosed as AVascular Necrosis (or AVN) - a freak thing to happen considering that most of the causes for AVN did not apply to me.
The doctors suggested treating it right away, through a process called Core Decompression – there would be a hole drilled in the hip bone, and a living bone chip from the thigh would be implanted. The natural healing of the bone would take 18-24 months.
I was to be on the bed for 3 months post-surgery. And on crutches or walking support for 5 more months.
In a reply to a Quora question, I realized that this experience taught me a lot. Largely around how the world’s reaction to your circumstances are determined by your own perception of the same circumstance. As if you could project your views onto others, and get them to react in a certain way.
I love flights – especially when travelling alone. It gives me a lot of thinking time. And it was once such flight back to Delhi, when I told myself – this journey has been fascinating. But what could I possibly tell myself to convince myself that its over. Tell life that I have won.
How could I tell life that I have gone beyond the crutches, that it gave me?
The thought stuck. But it was a scary one.
I hadnt had any physical activity for months now. I was fat and inflexible.
I hated running (still do!)
And I hated waking up early in the morning. So not a morning person
Lastly, the idea of challenging myself had to be big. It couldnt be some random running. It had to be big.
And so – as the thought consumed me even further – I decided – I would run the Delhi Half Marathon – 21kms. And I would have to complete it in 3 hours, for it to mean anything.
I had decided to run 21kms under 3 hours, after a surgery that rendered me “unwalkable” for 6 months!
I joined a gym. And started training. It was DIFFICULT!
I couldn’t run for more than a minute, without feeling the need to stop
My leg hurt, really bad
My body was stiff! I was fat (86kgs)! And waking up at 6 was the worst feeling ever!
I think back then, the Marathon was just a dream.
Ajay Singh, a Groupon colleague I admire and respect, shared this video over Facebook
2 things caught me:
“You guys find a fear – that fear will either create you or destroy you. I love fear – because behind every fear is a person you want to be. fear is self imposed, meaning it doesnt exist. You create it, you can destroy it too. Its an intangible”
(2:32 in the video)
This video changed me!
I have seen this video EVERYDAY since then – either on my way to work, or on the pot, or on the treadmill (just listening to it) – but everyday since then.
The months gone by had been hard. Waking up at 5.45 everyday for 5-6 days a week was hard. Lifting weights was hard. Running without stopping was hard. If there was anything that kept me going, it was this video that kept shouting at me – “behind every fear is a person you wish to be”
In Sep, I ran my 1st 5km in one go. Took me almost an hour. Super slow. But a big feat mentally. I was getting there.
Finished 7kms in an hour. Was down to 80kgs from 86kgs
Finished 12kms in 1.5hrs
The marathon was scheduled for 15th Dec, 2013
Dec 10, 2013
Ran 14kms. decided not to run any further for the remaining 5 days.
I had NEVER run beyond 14kms in this entire period. Ever!
Dec 15th, 2013
Started the marathon at 8am (Group E – the group that had never ran a marathon before). Completed the first 5 kmI much faster than I thought. The music helped, fellow runners helped, the weather helped.
Some memorable moments on the way, that almost seemed unbelievable a few months back
By this time I knew I would make it. I was sure that I would complete the 21kms.
The distance I had run till so far. Anything beyond this point was a new achievement for me.
and finally the winning moment!
A selfie with the medal
2:36:15 hrs for 21 kms, at an average of 8.07kmph
Fascinating 12 months…
I am never going to run another marathon again. I hate running
But I beat life to it! :)
Here is me with my partner-in-crime (Ruchi decided to run the 6km Delhi Run and finished in sub 45mins)
This will be a lesson. A lesson that took a lot of effort for me to learn, but once I did I realized its power.
This is a lesson on Feedback – giving and receiving.
It has been a fascinating experience for me. It started in an “organized” fashion once I started Executive Coaching. I realized its an art and science at the same time. The realization that its science – was pretty startling. And in the time between then and now, the realization has turned itself in a fascinating belief!
there is feedback
and then there is judgement
and then there is a request
And all three are different. Though considered the same by almost everyone, including me before the realization.
Feedback is about yourself – the one who gives it. Its NOT about who you are giving it you. Hence the tone of feedback always has to start with you
“It seems to me…”
Feedback is about perception. Not necessarily fact or truth. Its like saying “I feel cold” – which may be a totally different thing for someone from Antarctica!
What feedback is almost always confused with, is judgement
“What you did was wrong…”
“You are not understanding…”
“You need to work more…”
In such cases, the speaker is casting a decision on the actions. Rarely helps, as one can imagine.
What is also “unique” about feedback is that it is NOT meant to initiate change. Its just feedback – your perception of how things are. If you wish the opposite person to change, do not give feedback, instead make a request. But here is the twist. You making a request isnt reason enough for it to happen. What is needed back is commitment.
How many times have I written an email saying – I need this asap. And then when it came after 3 hours, I was like “why did it take so long”. 2 things happened here
Our definition of asap didnt match
I didnt convert my request into a commitment – based on clearly laid out objectives
So let me rephrase
I will need this by 5pm today. Do you think thats possible?
I will either get a yes or a no! But I know what to do when I get either of the responses.
While I know I am a convert, I have also grown less and less respectful towards people who are not receptive to feedback. Turn defensive or start explaining themselves. I think its partly because I used to do so earlier and never liked doing it.
fascinating lesson, especially when you are managing people…
Fun to be with
Has to meet merchants
Has to convince them of Groupon
Advances made at her
Porn pics sent
Sleep with me and I will sign the contract
Fuck you Delhi! Fuck you
If you think you can bulldoze a career into oblivion, fuck you!
If you think you can act like a predator and it won’t come back at you, fuck you!
If you think why does the same happen to your sister and wife, fuck you!
If you think you can make her feel cheap, fuck you!
If you think she will give up, fuck you!
If you think she is scared of you, fuck you!
If you think you will win, FUCK YOU!
I am ashamed to be part of this city.
So should be everyone.
Let’s for a second ignore the jaw-dropping retweets.
What’s with the favorites. What are people thinking
“Oh what was that brand someone had mentioned, which had bad customer service.
Umm – let me check twitter favorites
Aaah – Range Rover!
Glad I checked before buying.
I just love this feature on twitter!”
People are weird. Occasionally.
I grew up dreaming of becoming an astrophysicist. That dream consumed me. I loved everything about the universe and the physics of it.
And then, over a year – while I was in my PhD program (and top of my class, with a 100% scholarship) I realized this wasn’t something I will be good at – something I wouldn’t enjoy!
This was almost 10 years of preparation I am talking about. Faced with the realization that it wasn’t to be!
I left all that – to come back to India – in search of what next to do. With no idea at all of what that would be.
It wasn’t easy – but was the right thing to do. I didn’t know of any other way at that time.
The past 10 years didn’t matter anymore.
“But I have already spent so much time on this. How can I leave it all together?”
The most dangerous statement in the world, I would argue.
It ignores signals, it ignores trends, it ignores advise and it ignores the truth most often.
Time, in my opinion, is the biggest sunk cost of all. It doesn’t matter what you have been doing. It doesn’t matter how much of time has gone into it.
The day you realize you have to change – that’s it – you have to change.
Your past can never determine your future. It definitely cannot dictate how your future has to be!
The past has no salvage value
The future is for you to salvage
The past 2 weeks have been unusually busy. Preparing for Q4, some key initiatives.
And speaking to a stream of entrepreneurs that came my way. 6 of them, to be precise.
All but 1 failed the Tomorrow Test.
Somewhere in the past 6 years, it become clear to me that any new idea has to answer a critical question.
“Is the problem you are trying to solve – likely to be a bigger problem or a lesser problem tomorrow”
This single question ideally should define whether this idea is even worth your time. And if it is – what does it do to your product, your market and your business model.
Hidden between the lines of this stunning question – is the part where most people stumble. Articulating the problem one wishes to solve. Surprisingly – or maybe not – that’s the hardest part. And the first step for you to answer the part about the future.
So you are out to build a service that accurately determines people’s residence address. Awesome!
Do you expect maps to get better at solving this problem or worse off?
So you are building a portal for students that wants deals less than Rs100. Awesome!
Do you expect the share of such students reducing (and the rest going for “better deals”) or increasing?
So you wish to build an app that syncs with your car and provides all information you need. Awesome!
Are cars more likely or less likely to have this information inbuilt, tomorrow?
Bet on tomorrow. Take the test today!
Answer by Ankur Warikoo:
Setting aside modesty (which I would endorse any other day), this was indeed a brilliant move for us.
Groupon India launched on Sep3rd a crazy deal – selling Onions at Rs.9/kg – when the market rate is between Rs.60-70/kg.
Onions are a staple food item in India and the rising price is a hot topic of discussion for the past 3-4 months. In the past, rising onion prices have been the reason for even governments toppling in elections.
Our objective was to shock and awe our customers. And in the process generate some PR around the brand.
Rs.9/kg was chosen because of the shock value (this price was last seen in India in 1999)
Onions were home-delivered across 78 cities in India (free of cost)
Only 1kg per delivery address was allowed
We released 3000kgs of onions everyday for 7 days – with the intent of selling 21,000 kgs in all
We sold 22,500+ Kgs of onions over 7days.
And we chose, as beautifully explained in the other answer, a product that was mass and was being spoken of.
In these 7days,
- Our site crashed on the 2nd day, because of the traffic we had never witnessed before –
- We got over 16,500 new buyers on the site over 7 days, at a never before cost
- We activated over 3000 buyers that had not bought anything in the past 90 days
- It increased our brand search on google by over 400%
- Business went up by 60% and is now stabalized (10 days post the campaign) at 12% higher than the base before
- This deal generated unprecented press coverage – all national press carried it (in a positive light) and it even reached international (WSJ, AFP, Huffington Post, Verge, Medium, Gulf times
- Indian TV picked it up
- People have started analyzing the deal and its dynamics
- The deal was nationally trending on twitter for a total of 28 hours
- Facebook had it covered all across
- And finally, business generated by the new customers has paid itself over several times (compared to the cost we bore for the exercise)
A case study indeed. And a good one at that.
Happy to respond to specific questions.
Considering my “fancy title”, most candidates I meet everyday have already gone through multiple technical and qualifier interview rounds. I am fortunate to meet the best of the crowd.
And I am entrusted upon conducting the “final interview round” – also fashionably termed as the “culture round”!
3 questions make up this round for me
What’s the riskiest thing you have done in life
This is a powerful question. It not just allows the candidate to lower their guard, but also beautifully gives an insight into the risk appetite of the individual.
Most people stick to the basics – rafting, bungee jumping, crossing the road in Delhi!
And some are fascinating – changing my industry, coming back from the US, becoming an entrepreneur, participating in a singing competition.
A 10-min conversation following this question almost always gives me a clear idea of where the candidate belongs in their worldview.
The best response I recall was – marrying my love against my parents wishes.
Brutal honesty! And tells me so much about the individual to even speak about this in an interview.
If you didn’t have to earn for money, say you had plenty of it, what would you do in life?
This is a really hard question. And shopping is the worst response!
The question allows most candidates to explore what is it that they really like doing. Is it painting, singing, teaching, traveling?
Magically, the candidate is forced to say the truth and nothing else but the truth. And the truth is all that the final round needs. One of the best responses I have received was – “I would spend my time visiting universities across the world and attending their best rated courses!”
How many unread emails in your inbox as of today?
I know it’s anal and this question is so me. But it does have a very strong proxy with how organized the individual is. That said, I have several examples where non-organized people excel supremely.
I am simply biased by the notion that being organized is definitely a more positive indicator of delivery (not really performance).
God-awesome response – “today is 12 hours old. Can you be a little more specific!”
Hired, I say! :)
Would love to add more questions to this kitty. Please do share
This is a statement you will rarely, If not never, hear at a startup.
And this statement forms the basis of most conversations in a large company.
I have come to realize – the reason large companies are so slow to move is because they tolerate the existence of excuses.
Excuses for not being able to deliver
Excuses for inaction
Excuses for not takin charge
Excuses for not deciding then and there!
Whosoever you are – no matter how big or small – don’t ever create an environment where excuses are easy to discover. Only then will you have a “let me get back to you on this” free world!
Nothing, NOTHING AT ALL, does more to developing a relationship than meeting someone in person and talking!
No amount of flowers
No amount of pleasant emails
Humans are meant to meet, to converse using emotions. And if you have to apologize, congratulate, resolve, clarify or update – and you can do it in person – do it!
Ajay Singh tells me that this deal took him 1.5 years to close! I would believe him anyday…
There was a time we used to run 1 deal for 3 days, because we didnt have many. Today the site has 950+ deals at any stage. All of them deals that we ourselves will buy.
There was no other path for us to get here. No money, no shortcut, no business model could have made us reach here faster – than the path we took. It is the hardest path – and is hasnt been easy. But its been the best journey we all could have wished for.
I am super proud of what and where we are today.
Your job is to get the work done.
If during the process of doing so, you end up being nice to people (and people realize that), you are blessed. Not a lot of people can claim to be in such a position.
But one cannot CANNOT over-rule the job, in favor of being nice to people
One of the commandments that Groupon India operates by is
Value accuracy more than speed and speed more than perfection
In all your actions, accuracy of your work is more important than being the fastest to complete. Or fastest to respond. If you work has errors, it might as well be delayed but 100% accurate.
However, if you continue to make it 100% perfect, you are losing precious time and feedback. Speed is the most important attribute in decision-making and execution. And while it cannot come at the expense of accuracy, it should always come at the expense of perfection.
Back in August 2011, I had come up with this alongwith the other commandments. And this is perhaps the one I am proudest of – so much so that I surprise myself to have come up with this.
There isn’t a single day that goes by when I am not reminded or more convinced of this commandment. Decisions that are delayed, because people think they need more time. Errors crept in because people think responding to the email is more important. Processes not implemented because they are not perfect yet. Sheets of inaccurate data because someone said it has to be done in the next hour.
If there was only 1 advice that I could give to students in order to make them god-awesome professionals – this is it!
Appreciate accuracy, value time and dissociate perfection from accuracy.
It is Appraisal month at Groupon. We had conducted the entire event last year in paper format and wanted to transfer all of it online.
In the hunt for a Performance Management Solution, we came across EmployWise – whom we have finally started working with. This is not an endorsement post, since we are yet to see its impact.
However, if their CEO’s words are anything to go by, it just might end up being a good move for us.
Sumeet Kapur, in our first meeting, made a point that I loved – it’s perhaps the single most obvious realization that I have had in the recent past.
“Never make the mistake of promoting someone based on their performance”
That makes SO much sense. It is not just a stark realization of the mistakes I have made in the past, but also such an obvious omission that happens every day, in every organization.
It is moments such as these, when I am reminded of what a close friend says all the time – “how can you not benefit from meeting people?”
The appraisals this year will be a very different exercise!
Though I love Quora, I see it tending towards the mass appeal category. Funny answers with no relevance to the question, celebrity responses much lower in quality, non-serious take on the questions – all these are drawing more votes than others. It doesn’t bother me on an intellectual level, but it does throw the answers I truly like below the order.
When I opened Quora last night I had a run of questions where the best answers where not even in the top 5-10 responses, pulled down by lower-quality-high-appeal answers.
I decided to conduct an experiment on one such question.
Posing anonymously, I replied on a life question, about something that didn’t happen to me. Rather my friend. However I replied as if it happened to me.
But the incident is truly one of the best responses that could exist for that question. My experiment was – will it rise up the ranks, anonymously! No humor, definitely no celebrity. And no smart alec answer. Simple plain admission of an event in one’s life.
I woke up this morning to see the answer gone viral. 1400+ votes as of now, 53 heartwarming comments
The most touching aspect was people spending their credits to promote the answer. Whatever they had – people promoting it to 20 people – 40 people!
My experiment of lies succeeded. People exist!
“It would not have been possible without your help and guidance”
11 such statements have landed in my inbox since yesterday.
While grossly inaccurate in its assessment (would not have been possible), the intent is overwhelming to say the least. And that’s when it strikes you – while you are busy leading your own life your actions, your time, your responses and your statements are perhaps influencing others to lead theirs.
And that’s the same for you too.
And the same for your influencers too
And their’s too
Its the best social network – where no wall is needed, where sharing is inconspicuous and where you will most likely not be notified when you are tagged.