Change The Only Constant
Experience in e-bay?
So i joined e-bay sometime in early 2006 and at that point there weren’t that any people who were actually buying online in India. So, and I had started my career in e-bay on the supply side of the business. I used to be director of category management. As director of category management, i think i learnt a few things which i always stand by, which is that if you have great products and a differentiated offerings, customers will always come and buy from you and i think that was the underlying thought behind setting up Pepperfry. That was the underlying thought behind wanting to be an entrepreneur, provide differentiated products to customers and that’s where i think the entire thought sparked off. The other thing at e-bay that happened and i think was uniquely was that we, in the five years that i was at e-bay, i think we spent most of our time trying to throw the e-bay global playbook out of the window. And the reason why we did that was that Indian customers are different, the way they buy is different, and the level of maturity, the market is different. So we build a lot of product features, we build a lot of our business processes specifically tailored to the Indian consumer. For example, let me give you an example, we had a escrow type payment service, which is called paisa pay and the only place in the world that it existed was actually in India and you know with things like these we had localised the business heavily. We had made our business specifically catering the Indian requirements and i figured that that required me as eventually the CEO of e-bay India to have a fairly entrepreneurial mind set and I thought that look if i have that and if i can leverage it to build my own business then we try doing that and that’s where i think it all started.
And you were the country head.
I was the country head; i was the CEO for the last three years of my tenure at e-bay. So starting about 2008, early 2008 is when i had taken over and from 2008 to 2011, mid of 2011 i was the country head of e-bay India.
So being the country head, successful career, entrepreneurship, the risk behind that, what was the thought process?
So, I guess a little of this, one will have to rewind right back to the beginning of my life. I come from a very middle class family. My father died young, my mother was a government servant, a scientist. And therefore I have, i guess i got lucky in terms of the career choices i made, the kind of education i got and to me frankly the thought of building a legacy is far more important than making money. And in my mind that for monetary stability has never contributed towards any of the decisions i have taken and i think therefore i really didn’t think twice that leaving a successful corporate career and becoming an entrepreneur because i was clear why i want to do it. That was towards building a legacy, a company that people would know for years and decades and millennium hopefully rather than worry about just short term monetary stability.
Since then, Pepperfry has come a long with three biggest learning that you have had at Pepperfry.
Every plan you start off with will change, that’s the first learning. The second is that, there is no substitute for having absolutely the right guys working with you in a partnership and you just can’t buy that kind of thing and i have been really fortunate to have like an awesome founder, co-founder like Aashish along with me, that’s the second learning. And the third is that, especially in the initial years of a start up i guess you should dismiss the idea of having the work life business.
Moving on to the e commerce thing, i think we often hear you talk about the online consumer behaviour changing, what exactly do you mean by that?
I think broadly there are a few waves in e commerce and the way it works is, the first wave in e commerce tends to be the wave of electronics and fairly standard products. So you have people buying mobile phones, digital cameras, books, DVDs, CDs etc online. And that followed very often by a wave which is the fashion wave wherein people buy brands of fashion, they know what those brands stand for in real world and therefore when they are buying them online, they have fair degree of comfort on the kind of products that they will be getting and the third wave of e commerce tends to be even more non standard products which are products such as the products which Pepperfry sells, which is furniture and home. Now, if you look at the more developed part of the world right, it took about 15 years for these 3 waves to materialise and in India these three waves happened in a span of 5 years and today we know that customers buy a lot of furniture and home products online and so on. So that’s the evolution of the shopping behaviour. Now what that results in, is a whole bunch of things related to the demographics of the customer change. So if you ask somebody who constitutes e-commerce three years back, they would have quickly said, men. So, it was men who were buying shoes, men who were buying athletic sports gear, men who were buying the electronics, men who were buying mobile phones. Today i think and especially true for Pepperfry, it’s all about the independent Indian women and women have become a large chunk of the overall buying segment in e commerce. So that’s the underlying demographic shift that has happened. The other shift is, earlier e commerce was supposed to be the master of the metros, that is moving down class at a very rapid rate. So you have a large chunk of business for all players including us coming from tier 2-3 towns across India. Just to give you an idea, since we started we would have shipped furniture products in India to more than a thousand cities. So it’s, those are underlying stages of fundamental waves of e commerce, how the customers evolving, how their purchase behaviour is evolving, how the demographics of the customer is changing. And everything is changing is in the favour of let’s say a more digital method of transacting, a more digital method of doing commerce.
Top three trends of current entrepreneurs are looking at the online business or the business world, what should they be wary of given this trend has happened historical?
Serious things that they will have to think about, they need not be wary about, but they have to think closely about. They will have to build device agnostic businesses. So, if you build a business which was you know best possible web based or laptop based business in e commerce and then suddenly the mobile revolution hit you, and you couldn’t adapt your business to mobile, then you are in trouble. You have to build a business which is build on core strengths and it ends, it should be device agnostic or be able to focus on all types of devices that customers interact with you from, interact with you with. So that’s one thing i think all entrepreneurs need to be careful. The second is, there is this thing that happens whenever penetrations of particular media increase substantially in a particular let’s say location or a geographical area. They come with their own opportunities in the form of highly local businesses which suddenly begins to thrive and local businesses thrive on deep penetration amongst small catchment areas. So growth in a time when let’s say the entrepreneurship are going up etc is going to happen to all businesses including local business. The thing that entrepreneurs need to think about is how will they scale that growth, how will they react to scale. So its fine when you get your let’s say your first 10 crore of sale, or its also fine when you get your first 50, but how do you get through from 50 to a 1000, i think is what entrepreneurs need to think about even as they are setting up their business so that thought towards scale is something that i would think all entrepreneurs need to consider and the third is you should be clear on what your philosophy on hiring is. And i mean with these more as a philosophy rather than skill and competencies of who you are going to hire and stuff like that. It’s what your hiring philosophy. For example at Pepperfry our philosophy is following. We do not believe that there are any experts in ecommerce in India. And therefore we look for is learning ability. So if you have done 2 different things or 3 different things across your career which could be as little as an year, as much as 10 years but if you have shown that you have been able to adapt from one situation to the other than Pepperfry is going to come after you and really want to hire you. So i think you got to get your hiring philosophy right. So these are three things that i think entrepreneurs need to think about as they get go.
The next one, Pepperfry is synonymous to a very vague to manage market place, what exactly is manage market place?
So, in our case it’s simple, we are in an industry segment where the top 5 brands contribute to less than 4% of overall sale. So what that means is that, if you look at the top 5 brands of home and furniture products in India and include retail brands in them, the overall share of consumption is like 4%. That means the 96% of the market or let’s says a large component of the market is fragmented and it has no established brand. Now when you are in a market which has no established brand, the owners of providing quality and a standardised experience actually falls on the market place. And which is why we are a managed marketplace. So this is how we manage our market place, we ensure that the way listings have come up on our website are absolutely standardised. So what the customer sees is what the customer gets. We ensure that all packaging is standardised, we ensure that fulfilments are handled by us, we ensure that quality checks are done prior to items getting shipped to the end consumer and we do all of this in order to provide great customer experience and that’s how we manage our market place and remember our customers are both the sellers and the buyers. So we provide customer support to buyers and we provide merchant support to our sellers at all points in time. So we manage the market place to ensure that we thrive in a highly fragmented, non standardised category where the prominence of the brands is not that high and which is where fortunately we have the ability to make margins because those are also inherently a nature of the business but we have to put in the effort to manage the marketplace right.
We will just talk about the curve
I am an ex e-bay guy and e-bay guys make bell curves. So bell curve is nothing but a normal distribution curve. So if you think about the normal distribution curve, most normal distribution curves are like an inverted u, right. Now what happens in an inverted u curve is that you have 20% have your SKUs or products that you sell will generate 80% sale. It’s the classic pareto and that’s what happens in businesses which are predominantly electronics, businesses which are predominantly mobiles, that’s what happens, the classic SKUs generate 80% sale. When you look at a business such as the home and furniture, actually the bell curve is really flat which means that almost no Pareto applies and it’s all about long trail of products that we are selling. So consumer demands spread across a bunch of products and the fact that there is no pareto means that as a market place you will be able to provide the thing that industry segments needs the most which is variety and therefore the way we build our marketplace we are able to provide that variety. In the business which has the bell curve and no Pareto and therefore the fitment between our business model and the nature of our customers need are actually very high.
Now taking you back, few years back when Pepperfry was offering a whole host of product, this help us live through the experience, you, your founders, your team, how you pivoted, what was the thought that was going in?
So, here’s how, let me also start at the origin of Pepperfry. When we were starting, i talked about three waves in e commerce, right, the wave of electronics, the wave of fashion and the wave of home and furniture. The wave of home and furniture had just begun to happen in the rest of the world also. So we figured that, that’s an opportunity for us to provide or to build a business on a consumer need which has just come, which was just emerging, right. However being entrepreneurs and let’s say in order to hedge our bets we decided to also have an element of fashion products in our business. So we did a little bit of fashion, little bit of jewellery and so on. Now, after 1 year of doing that and as a business we grew substantially and phenomenally, here’s what we sat back and thought, we said, what’s the market segment that we are addressing and is it large enough and we realised that about 50% of our business used to come from home and furniture products. The market in itself was like 20 billion dollar market, 20-30 depending on who do you read and who you believe. So it was a very large market and it was a market where a managed marketplace model which fundamentally does not run on inventory, the model works perfectly, right. As oppose to fashion, fashion is because of various size requirements etc etc, fundamentally an inventory based model. It’s a model where we as marketplace guys really would not thrive and it was areas which while the market in itself is very large, frankly neither I or Aashish really enjoyed selling fashion products and at some point in time as entrepreneur you need to be so do you really selling the products that you sell. And both of us are you know home bodies and we enjoy selling furniture and home products. So we sat back and we realised that we are going after a really market segment. We realises that the unit economics of the market segment is awesome especially we focus on home and furniture. We realised that we already built differentiated business with investments in supply chain which helped us cater to the segment and therefore we decided to focus. So overnight, no overnight i mean this thing took about two months to prepare and then on the first of April 2013, we actually gave up 40% of our business and that was crazy at that time. We just cut down 40% of business. But in less than 9 months from then we actually made it all back twice and i think it was the best call we ever took.
Just take us back to same time as to why you even decided to take it off, was it that the growth was not coming, was the marketing getting too high.
So, the positive factor is what i talked about right. The negative factors are following, when you are in a segment such as fashion you have to do stuff which is based on inventory. Our comfort with inventory has never been high. You are in a segment where essentially it’s a few brands which drive a lot of sale. So therefore the marketing spends, even from a search and on a stand point tends to be focused on those key words. Therefore the cost of marketing is high. The level of discounting that that segment was operating on was also very high. So overall the unit economics of the segment dint work. Se here you had home and furniture which had an average order value of 3000rs and then you had fashion which had an average order value of 400rs and so therefore from an average order value standpoint the shipping cost were not getting borne, the contribution margins went there and so on and we also realised that the degree of differentiation that a business would be able to build would inherently depend on the brands that they were selling, while in home and furniture the degree of differentiation that we were able to build is inherently by virtue of the fragmented supply that we get on board and that’s how far high differentiation in our mind and therefore we decided to focus.
Who came up with the idea, was it you and Aashish sitting in a board meeting?
So it was Aashish, I, Kashyap, Sanjay, basically senior folks Husseni and we had folks from NVP at that point in time when we were sitting and conversing and we tried to cut our business in various ways and we said is this the differentiation, is this what we good at and so on and we realised that the segment cut of home and furniture is the one that worked best for us.
Over the course of time, you also understood consumer behaviour and started offering the kind of offline setup, just a thought, again giving us the experience, someone came to your and said look we have to give this otherwise it will not scale up beyond that.
If you ask me, i have always thought of our studio Pepperfry’s as basically great marketing tools for us. So what’s our approach at studio Pepperfry? Pepperfry.com has more than 11000 items of furniture, it has more than 70,000 other home and decor products, so i any which ways do not have a hope in hell of being able to showcase this entire merchandise inventory or this entire merchandise variety in any offline format. So therefore we look at studio Pepperfry as a method of engaging with customers in order to be able to provide them the advice that they would seek when say doing up their homes and so on. We have specialist in our studios who provide them relevant advice. So they do it like so forget that, so there are specialists in our stores who provide them you know the right kind of advice. So in doing so customers are able to touch and feel the products also. And know what’s the kind of quality that is sold on Pepperfry, what are the kinds of quality of the products that are sold, how the merchants are and so on. And i think overall it helps build trust. So as a marketing medium here is the trade off, would you put a bill board up in a place like Mumbai for 4 weeks in a spectacular an outdoor campaign driven in Mumbai for 4 weeks would cost you about a crore and half and the cost of setting up a nice 2500-3000 sqft studio Pepperfry in a prominent location in Mumbai would cost you half of that, and we opt the half of that.
Again just taking it back, this case study just reverse of the experience that again that you were looking that sale was growing but you felt that look we need to grow further and we have to innovate, this is an innovative thinking when it comes to offline studio being set up, what was
As you mentioned like in corporate also the trust was missing and sort of it was
So we set up studio Pepperfry for growth not for, so the way you think about this perhaps is customers buying decisions are driven by utility functions, so it’s a function of how much utility a customer gets from various components of your marketing mix. So your brand or brand advertising and your brand positioning derives a certain sense, brings a certain amount of utility to the customer. The kind of value that you deliver to the customer which is the prices at which we sell the products etc, delivers another amount of utility to the customer and then whether the customer has actually seen your products upfront and hands on delivers another bunch of utility to the customer and then the variety of your products that you offered delivers another bunch of utility. If the sum of these 4 utility functions crosses the threshold of buying, a customer buys. Now because there are various customer demographics are there, the amount of utility that customers get from each of these four factors tends to vary. So some customers are heavily about brand in the brands of product that they buy, some customers are a lot about the value, and some customers are a lot about the variety that they see. What we realised was we were not fulfilling the requirement of touch and feel customer. The customer who derived utility from actual touch and feel of products that we are selling and therefore studio Pepperfry helped us start that journey of providing utility and therefore crossing the purchase threshold for customers who derive a lot of utility from touch and feel experience. And that’s the reason the studio Pepperfry exist.
And was it an external study or a survey that you did at that point in time or was it intuitive gut feels decision?
We knew that most customers in India do not buy products that they touch and feel in the home and furniture space any which ways. The normal buying experience in India is that you get to see 10 products, then you want to see more and typically the shopkeepers are going to show you a catalogue and say i can make this for you. So we know that that’s the case. We have done enough market working for us to know that that’s the case, that’s how it happens and we realised that we don’t need to solve for it because customers are relatively comfortable. What customers would seek more is especially when they are making higher value purchases or is for them to commit a large amount of money to touch and feel the product. In order to commit a larger amount of money then need to be able to have a conversation with somebody and that conversation is what we aid through studio Pepperfry.
Moving on, e commerce is a booming sector. You have many horizontal providers offering multiple products. Furniture they are slowly trying to get onto this. How is Pepperfry differentiated from these horizontal providers?
So i think on a bunch of criteria. And it starts with the listing. If you ever want to list a let’s say mobile phone and let’s say Samsung mobile phone, you go to the Samsung site, get the image from Samsung site, you get the attributes from Samsung site, get the review from Techcrunch and your listing is done. When it comes to listing a coffee table the first time that coffee table’s image would have appeared on the internet would actually be on pepperfry.com. So therefore the process of listing is organised for the shoots to happen, you got to get the attributes for the product, developed from scratch, you got to write the content which is relevant to customers on those particular products and then only does the listing go live. So at that stage itself there is a significant between the two different business models and then it goes further. In the case of horizontals you have the quality assurance is provided by the brands of products that they sell. So if i were buying a Nikon digital camera or an Adidas t shirt or so on, the quality is assured by Adidas or Nikon. In case of a market place such as ours on a category such as ours where there are no large brands and we are essentially about bringing products from Crosman and small carpenters and small businesses online, the quality assurance has to be that of the site. So therefore we need to make significant investments in the way we ensure that standard quality is followed across the board. So that’s the second point of difference. The third point of difference i think is just a supply chain. I think horizontals have built great supply chain but a typical horizontal supply chain is the guy on a bike carrying a bag. A guy on a bike carrying a bag can carry most products but he will find it little tough carrying a bed or a dining table or even a coffee table. And we are specialist to be able to deliver these large items to consumers across India. So i think these three fundamental reasons our business is really differentiated from horizontals.
Source and supply value chain
I think you touched upon it’s a very fragmented supply source and a very fragmented customer and therefore sourcing and supply chain and delivery, so if you run us through the value chain and where you think Pepperfry has a strongest position or if you don’t want to touch upon that you can avoid that but just understand the value chain from someone who is trying to understand this business.
So, we work with small businesses and with craftsmen. Now, these guys are awesome at making the products that they make. They are the best in business when it comes to making the products. However they not necessary be tech savvy and the processes that they have tend not to be very standardised or very operationally intensive sort of thing. So what do we do well? We help them get online and sell their products to buyers across India and world. We help them do that really well. They are the ones who make the product really well, we help them sell really well. In helping them sell really well on a market place, they require standardisation. So for example if you were a customer and you were buying let’s say a bed side table and a bed for your bedroom and both of them were being bought by you in something called teak finish but one merchant’s interpretation of teak finish is different from say another merchant’s interpretation of teak finish. What you as a customer might be saddled with a bedside table and a bed in your bedroom both of which a look a little different from each other. So therefore that degree of standardisation across our small and medium business merchant base is what we bring to the table. We ensure that colours are standard, we ensure that the hardware etc that used are of the same high quality across the board, we ensure that the wood is seasoned to perfection and stuff like that without actually telling them what to do because they are better at it then we are. We just ensure that the offerings that we provide in the market place are what buyers look for in the standardised quality that buyers look for. So that’s where is i think is our secret sauce. We got this right, really well. The other piece we got right is how we get good across thousands of kilometres in India at relatively low cost to a consumer sitting far away. So if you take for example a small place like Churu in Rajasthan where some of our manufacturing happens and there are sellers there who sell to buyers in Bangalore. How do you get a product from Churu to Bangalore in under 600rs a product of furniture? That’s again our secret sauce. So it involves transhipments, it involves moving goods in large containers from one city to another and that involves a last mile delivery component to the end consumer in Bangalore and in case there is assemble requirement for a particular product, providing that assembly to ensure that you know products are fitted perfectly in line with what the customer wants within a certain amount of time is again our secret sauce. So it’s the sourcing supply chain and the supply chain of getting the product right down to the end consumer.
Everyone in the supply chain would stop at the gate and not enter inside the house but Pepperfry is entering inside the house and studying it up, what are the challenges and you need to be careful?
So the first thing is your customer experience is as good as the experience that the person who interacts finally with the customer gives to the customer. So therefore tonnes of training goes onto that entire process, tonnes of verification goes into that entire process because at the end the persons carrying our brand into a customer’s house. So the training involves the things like early morning grooming sessions, so if you were to go to let’s say our infrastructure in Bhiwandi, in the morning at about 7L30 in the morning you would find about 300 people there and everyone would be doing yoga. And it’s a morning ritual for about an hour they do yoga, everybody is checked for grooming for example you have not shaved the day before or that day then you might be asked to not go to meet customer deliveries that day. The sort of kit that they wear, the t shirts and so on are provided by Pepperfry laundered every single day. So it’s that level of detail that you need to get into because that’s the impression that you make on the customer and then eventually it’s how good you are when you are placing the product inside the customer’s house. Are you taking care to ensure that the space that you are placing let’s say a wardrobe in is actually clean behind the wardrobe. So you know doing that, are you ensuring that once the wardrobe is placed inside, you have checked it, you ask the customer to check it for all elements, whether customer is totally satisfied with it. Do you ensure that you get the feedback from the customer right there and then? All of the steps are things we train people for because it’s a very important responsibility when you are going into a customer’s house.
Okay that’s the market place thing owning inventory or not owning inventory
It’s interesting so not only do we a have business in a market segment which is fragmented, does not have established brand we also do it with hardly any inventory with us. So we don’t own the inventory, so we are able to check the products only when the products come into our warehouse and therefore we have feet on street, people who are let’s say iterant quality checkers who go around to supply locations to keep checking whether the sellers making the products as per the specifications which was ordered by the buyer or not. We have folks in merchandising who are specialists in capturing visuals of products in C2 at the seller’s locations instead of needing to get it the studio type location where you shoot the products. So a lot of our processes are tailored around the fact that we do not have the product with us in inventory.
So now moving the branding and marketing, Pepperfry it’s a funny name, how did you come up with that?
So, we came up with it finally on a trip from Pune to Bombay on the expressway. Here is how it came board, Aashish and I always wanted to form a company which is based on three values. The first value was Indian, the second was honest and the third was fun. And we were doing a lot of brain storming and we figured Pepper is something that India has been famous for ages. It’s the reason why the West discovered us and therefore pepper is a truly Indian connotation. It’s a very honest spice, every Indian, everybody knows the smell taste of pepper and it does not confuse you, it’s a very simple honest spice. The thing is, it’s boring. So therefore our third value of fun kicked in and the fun with pepper only happens when you fry it. They say in Hindi “Tadka lagana”. So it’s when that happens that there is fun in it and therefore Pepperfry came about. So that’s the origin of the name Pepperfry, love the name. Would not have chosen anything else.
We also talked about, in your interviews talked about data mining, importance of data in the current day and please elaborate on that.
So, various parts of it. You can use it to define how you communicate with customers, you can use it to define what kind of products fulfil what kind of customers needs and therefore give directed relevant information to customers as might be relevant. Even more important you can actually use as a backbone of your supply chain. If you were to come and do let’s say Pepperfry right and you were to buy a piece a furniture. Here’s what you do, we ask you to enter a pin code and the reason why we ask you to enter the pin code is basically because basis of the pin code that you entered we can tell you from the suppliers location, from the seller’s location to the buyers location how many days will it take the seller to ship the item and how many days will it take in transit to reach the buyer. And we provide this for each pin code for each SKU that exist on Pepperfry.com. And that’s basically its data which is mind from a central database repository when you enter the pin code. So i think making relevant consumer communication, directing communication to again that relevant customer, figuring out the backbone of your supply chain using it to actually define the way you make your customer promises and live up to them, data mining and analytics has tonnes of applications. I can think of more, they would all work for the business.
Onto your company’s culture, you did mention about at the start but what attributes that defined Pepperfry’s culture and when you hire how do you keep that in mind when you are hiring someone for your company?
The most important thing in Pepperfry’s culture is intensity. We try and get stuff done in half the time and half the cost, putting twice as much effort as i guess normally organisations would do. So, i think intensity is like the defining of Pepperfry’s culture. It reflects in you know the kind of passion conversation people have on the areas that they manage. It reflects on the passion that people believe in the brand works and that’s actually the defining part of our culture. How do we hire for it? So, we interestingly, in positions i take interviews and i keep suggesting this to people and we have started doing this on a regular basis. You know there is a part of your CV which frankly not many people care about which is what are your extracurricular and in Pepperfry a lot of time gets spent in discussing your extracurricular when you are in an interview and the reason why this happens because if you are a truly passionate individual and you put down in extracurricular there then you will chase that extracurricular activity with passion and that for me often is a very good judge of you know do you truly believe in things, are you intense personality, is passion something that drive you. So that segment of CV which most people don’t really talk about, Pepperfry talks a lot about.
The funniest or the most intriguing interview process that you went through potentially when you hire someone, that that you have hired someone and you made a decision on a snap and you saw CV and talked to the person for 5 minutes and said this is the guy.
Lots i guess because i normally take would not last more than 10-15 minutes. I would normally have read the CV earlier you know, seen what the person’s done and then 10-15 minutes in an individual tend to get a clear idea. Then there is the other one, where you know nothing about the person’s job and it’s all about judging whether the person is right fit for you and you can actually aid in the person’s career development cycle and that’s what happens i hire for technology jobs, i am not the technology guys. So you know one of the jokes that i always tell is got my CTO drunk over beer and that’s where i convinced him to join us.
What you initially projected and you said things change and it doesn’t work out the way you thought about. How your business is came along in through projection that you thought?
So, the originally business plan that we had built for the business had us hitting like a 35 million dollar brand rate at the end of 2015. As you guys might have an idea what we are finally doing is way beyond that. So anything we thought we would do actually we have only been pleasantry surprised by what the business could have done. So in my point of view i think when you are building out a plan on a excel sheet you are always way more conservative than what consumers might really do for you as a business. You just have to believe. So putting down like 300%-400% growth on excel sheet is a very, only a very optimistic person can put that in place
The next on i think you have gone through various ways of funding. What do you look from an investor when you are going for a funding? I mean valuation is one where any, what are the things that you definitely look in an investor?
Chemistry. I need to know that the people will like the business they are investing in and we will like working with them. I think that chemistry is really important. The second aspect i think and we are big believers in funds investors companies who have operational knowledge of driving businesses because we think that helps. No entrepreneurs, actually nobody can answer all questions at all points in time and therefore having people round the table who are used to having handled such situations, helps. So i think those are two things that we really consider. The third will be pedigree. Have investors in the past have those investors stood by companies when times haven’t always been rosy and i think that kind of orientation is something that i guess all entrepreneurs should look for because you never know you will have ups and you will have downs in a business. You need people around the table who are with you both times.
And putting yourself on the other side, if you are an investor and you are looking at early stage company what would you really look for specifically for folks who are really starting up?
I look for the team ya. I think it’s what have you done which is see any experience that exists in the team. Second is how well have you thought through the market that you have to address. For me for example a simple well crafted deck is a representation of how clear the strategic thinking of a particular team is and therefore those are two things that i would really look at. And the third is have you thought of scenarios which are like plans B and C to your plan A. You don’t need to project them, you don’t need to build business model around that but have you thought of those scenarios when you are looking to build plan A business. I think those three things are the things i would look at.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, specific traits that you see in them or do you believe that they need to have specific traits or anyone can be an entrepreneur if they want?
Anybody can be entrepreneur and Aashish and i are like almost exact compliments of each other. So between ourselves we i think cover all kinds of people who can be entrepreneurs. Aashish is perhaps the best leader of people i have ever met in my life and I am like a highly introverted at best i can have a conversation with one person at a time kind of that. Aashish is highly externally oriented, he has a very good view of what is happening around him, i like to sit back and think and digest information before i come up with something. Aashish is great at execution; he will execute idea to perfection. I think i am better at planning and i will build a plan to perfection. So i think Aashish intuitively feels what people think and i am actually i guess a little more on the judgemental side so he is everything that i am not and i think that he is a great entrepreneur and i am an entrepreneur. So i think everybody can be an entrepreneur.
Just to advice on folks who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs in today’s day and age, any advice that you would get? I mean it could be around funding whatever you want to say.
So i would say firstly if you are looking to be an entrepreneur cut down on overheads. So if you drive a large car, get a smaller one, live in a large house, and stay in a smaller one. So cut down on overheads. The savings actually don’t matter because frankly money has a habit of coming to people who do cut work. Just cut down on overhead. Second is if you are going at a loan get a partner who you know so get a person who is your best friend and you can say anything to and try and convince that person to become your partner in the business, i think that will be a great move. The third would be build a business, the money will come. Don’t go after waves in terms of what’s hot right now and hands on, build a good business. Build the fundamentals of your business well, the money will come. I guess be prepared for things thought not happening as per plan.
What wave do you see right now with just changing the way people required the skill, you mentioned the skills not being that important as much learning agility but do you see a specific trend in which you require specific skilled people or be it digital or be with data coming in?
I think the thing about learning agility is that people who have or inherently are learning agile look to rescale themselves on an ongoing basis and it’s just inherent to that attitude of learning agility, right? So whenever there is something new in marketing people who are learning agile, look to learn what’s new. When there is something new that’s happening in supply chain, people who are learning agile will look to from what’s happening in supply chain and i think that’s inherent. I mean they could do it on the job, they could it through structured programs but its inherent to individual and i think learning agility especially in fast moving constantly changing dynamic environment is all that a person can really do so that you know tomorrow there will be a totally different thing that might happen and you can adapt to it if you are learning agile, you can perhaps even interpret it earlier if you are learning agile and those are the few things that really make you successful.
And how do you view, this is again going back to data, how do you view online education versus offline, not a comparison, but how do you view online education?
Very often it’s very tough to balance the time requirements that offline education has wiz other things that the person might be doing which is either work or any other academic course etc. So i think online education has a definite role to play. I am myself a fan of certain educational boardrooms and i have learnt a lot especially in area where i wanted to get a perspective on and had never the opportunity to look out those areas in the detail and which might have nothing to do with my job or the work that i was doing for example i am a archaeology buff and i have taken courses on archaeology and anthropology of online forums which i thought were awesome.
Just from a professional perspective not an entrepreneur perspective if you have to guide them look this is what is going to be the next big thing tomorrow, any trends that you see from the industry that you feel that you have to build mobile friendly person whatever.
Of course you have to be mobile friendly, you have to be web friendly and look my only advice would be listen to your customer, figure out a method to listen to your customer on an ongoing basis and if you do a good job of that you will know what’s going to happen if i really knew what would be the trend three years from now, odds are i would either adapting my business already to it which i might be doing or i would be building completely new business to fulfil that trend. So i think the only answer is continue to listen to your customer and you will get to know whatever trends are there.