Outliers S05 E07 Camille Ricketts: How Notion Works by FactorDaily
In this conversation with Amit Somani, you will learn about how to be watchful about different biases while making decisions or navigating a crisis. He talks about one of such techniques called “Invert, always Invert” from Charlie Munger, co-founder of Berkshire Hathaway.
I speak with William for this week’s podcast, he reiterated FabIndia’s focus on standing by its community of craftsmen and women, and the employees, even during the ongoing pandemic. “For the first time, truly the first time, in human history, it’s an event that affects every single person on the planet,” he tells me.
In this week’s Outliers podcast, I bring you another candid conversation with Nithin Kamath, the founder of Zerodha who has disrupted some of India’s biggest banks and financial services companies with his innovative and bold approach. Add to that his bootstrapped startup journey, which illustrates how to build a company that matters without raising monies from a VC.
Manish is a battle-hardened entrepreneur who has steered his startup Printo through many crises, including the last existential crisis triggered by the Lehman collapse post-2008. In the entrepreneurial ecosystem, he is looked upon as a bold voice of realism and honesty. Not false hope.
Over the next few weeks, I intend going back to some of these Outliers (and some new voices), sit down with them for deeper conversations about how they managed different cycles of disruptions and crossed the valleys of death in their lives and careers -- basically, look how their experiences in the past can help us navigate the coming few months or quarters. The first in this series is a conversation with Ravi Venkatesan, the former chairman of Microsoft India, who has worked across the sectors of manufacturing, technology and now social over the past few decades.
A.R. Rahman is one of those Outliers who, having charted a unique path of their own and spread their magic along the way, hardly need an introduction. His genius lies not just in his creative melodies but in seeking out all that is ‘good’. In music, in life, in other human beings. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Raju Reddy of Sierra Atlantic talks about his entrepreneurial journey, and how the underground nerve center of BITS Pilani network – he's an alumnus and currently the chairman of BITSA – works. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
C K Ranganathan of Cavinkare talks about starting up and his journey building one of India’s best homegrown retail brands. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Ritesh Arora talks about how he learned from failures to bootstrap, and then turn BrowserStack into a $60m rocket ship. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
“Giving just returns to your investors and shareholders is a restrictive model for business. Business is such a powerful force, it needs to stand for a higher purpose,” Bissell tells me in this episode of Outliers. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Listen to Amuleek Singh of Chai Point talk about some never-told, amazing back stories about Chai Point’s innovative packaging, business strategy, and organization culture. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Vinoth Chandar, founder and CEO of ChuChu TV, talks about his journey and building a successful global YouTube company from India with over 23 million subscribers and more than 17 billion video views. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Sebastian Thrun, the Google X founder and among the world’s top AI and robotics scientists, flying cars are no more science fiction. In this episode the Outliers podcast, he talks about flying cars and solving today’s problems Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Kishore Biyani talks about his rollercoaster ride of an entrepreneurial journey and his latest ammunition to fight his business battles - a combination of his customer base and technology-powered data insights for making decisions. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Nandan Nilekani - cofounder of Infosys, the brain behind Aadhaar and India’s recent financial platforms, including “the IndiaStack.” - talks about his playbook for building things and how he builds them to create impact at scale. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment talks about her journey producing next gen movies in a world ruled by the incumbents. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: www.accelerated-ideas.com/
The first Indian in space, Rakesh Sharma, talks about his journey becoming an airforce test pilot, going to space, and life after space. Produced by Anand Murali Music Credit: http://www.accelerated-ideas.com/
Journalism’s biggest existential battle isn’t about fighting the business model disruption or the way new consumers of news are behaving. It’s the war against intense polarisation and biases plaguing the newsrooms. There’s extreme negativity on one hand and excessive cheerleading on the other. For those in journalism staying true to the craft and following the principles of objectivity and the good old world balance, it’s a tough battle. Amid all this chaos, Ravish Kumar is a rarity who practices fundamentals of journalism by pursuing. How does he stay this way? And why? And what’s the cost of speaking truth to power? Our Season 2 Finale of Outliers is with a journalist who evokes emotion in what he chooses to cover as much as admiration in the way he keeps to the fundamentals of on-the-ground reportage.
Over past few years, and especially as a rookie entrepreneur myself, a lot of what Phani said and did have started making sense. After the exit, he took his mother to London, her maiden foreign trip. Phani tells me now in this podcast that she’s not in a shape now to travel overseas. And his thoughts about how entrepreneurship is a self purification journey cannot be more relevant at a time when debates about a crisis of culture and integrity are at centre of India’s start ecosystem.
Entrepreneurship is hard. No matter what you’re building. It becomes even harder when you’re building something that’s not understood by many, and even worse if the product is clearly ahead of its time. But founders are crazy. They see opportunities when no one sees them. They also get blinded sometimes by it and fail. When Tarun Mehta started building Ather Energy, India’s first electric two wheelers, his startup was being written off even before the pre-orders started. After getting his pitch rejected by 80 investors ( is that a magic number? Even Kabeer of Dunzo had similar number of rejections before getting funded), Tarun finally met Sachin Bansal. “What should I change in this pitch deck?” “Don’t change anything. This is how you’ll build this.” Perhaps only a fellow entrepreneur can empathize with another founder’s dogged optimism. So here’s to the entrepreneurial mafia being led by Sachin Bansal and several others.
Ashish Gupta is an outlier for many reasons. A gold medalist in computer science from IIT Kanpur, Gupta built a startup (Junglee) and sold it to Amazon, has been through several near death experiences at his second startup (Tavant), and is now in the process of sunsetting his third entrepreneurial venture, Helion. None of the above make him an outlier though. Over years, Ashish has found a way into some of India’s biggest and most valued startups as an angel investor. From MakeMyTrip, to Flipkart and MuSigma, Gupta has been an early seed stage backer. It’s almost like getting a front tow seat in a blockbuster movie, and also being able to help produce it. There are very few investors who are as humble, intellectually honest and loved by the entrepreneurs. How and why does he stay that way? Please tune in to listen and read the full transcript below to find out more. Hat-tip to Kanika Berry for help with transcription of the conversation, which is produced lightly edited below:
India’s booming startup ecosystem has been mostly about the founders and the investors writing cheques to fund their ideas. But building a startup takes a lot more than just founders and investors. It takes exceptionally talented individuals who take the leap of faith to become part of these startup journeys as employers. And while these professionals may not be the founders, they are highly entrepreneurial. In this week’s Outliers Podcast I sat down with former McKinsey consultant Ananth Narayanan who’s been the CEO of Myntra since October 2015. What sets him apart as an outlier is his deep passion and sense of ownership for Myntra. So much that it’s difficult to tell that he’s not a founder.
So who is the quintessential Indian entrepreneur? This is the question we keep asking while analyzing success and failure of Indian startups. On one hand, large scale platforms such as Flipkart and Ola have high profile founders at the helm, always grabbing the headlines. On the other hand, a bunch of low key, reticent and enterprise focused startups such as Mettl continue to create impact in the niches they serve. When Mercer acquired Mettl few weeks ago for $40 million, it didn’t make splashy headlines. And while you would have read the stories by YourStory and The Ken, there’s always more to learn about these entrepreneurial journeys. And with Outliers, we bring you the stories told as it is from the horse mouth. So here’s the podcast, our 76th, with Ketan Kapoor, Mettl’s founder.
In June this year, we broke away from the mould to bring you companies, not just people, that are outliers with How AngelList works. If there’s one thing common in most of the companies that appear outliers, it’s their founders. From Steve Jobs to Elon Musk and even Jeff Bezos, the founder’s mentality continues to shape Apple, Tesla and Amazon. These founders are almost inseparable from their companies. I first discovered Zoho, the cloud software company, in 2010 when I wrote this story about how it was hiring talent from unconventional places. Sridhar Vembu, the Zoho founder who we hosted for the 27th episode of Outliers podcast last July, is an outlier for many reasons. For instance, amid all the startup frenzy, he believes in “slow laddering” or building a company slowly, one step at a time. And to top that, he’s shunned venture capital and said “no” to an over $25 million acquisition offer from Salesforce during the early days of Zoho. Zoho, the cloud software company with estimated revenues of over half a billion dollars, is an outlier for many reasons. For over a decade, Zoho has been hiring students from government schools and colleges and turning them into software programmers. Such students will constitute nearly half of the company’s over 5,000 workforce very soon. And then, there’s a strong growing “Zoho mafia”, too, wherein former employees and leaders including Freshworks founder Girish Mathrubootham and Chargebee’s co-founders are building the next generation enterprise software companies. Why Zoho exists: Sridhar Vembu “Zoho exists because India exists. I always thought that if I were born in a different country, I may not have been an entrepreneur. I actually wanted to become a professor, to teach, publish papers. But growing up here...surrounded by what you see, at some point you ask, 'Why are we so poor?’” he tells me. “I realised you have to be building a lot of things to skip poverty. And I am the kind of person who will say, 'What am I doing about it?’” “So, in a sense Zoho exists because India exists and it continues to exist because some 27 million kids are born in India (every year), and in this state of Tamil Nadu the number is around 1 million. That’s actually the same number as all of Japan’s. And you see the number of companies, the brands from Japan….” “South Korea has around 45 million population and Tamil Nadu has about 72 million people. Which brands are popular worldwide?” “It’s not just about the brands. It all correspondingly translates into jobs, incomes, infrastructure, all of that.” “If we are not able to create world class products and world class companies here, then we will never have world class incomes, or world class healthcare. In other worlds, we cannot consume if we cannot produce.”
“There was a time when Zoho was talked about as an engineering company, even today it’s an engineering company. User interface design was done by engineers, too. But over time, things changed,” Dandapani says. “Today, we started realising that individual brilliance isn’t enough. … a couple of months ago, one of our customers said, 'Every one of your interface is good, but why do they look different?’” “So now we are back on the drawing boards.”
“When the six of us joined, we knew where a computer keyboard is and mouse is, that’s all. Later we were taught programming here as part of 18 months training,” she says. “I come from a very poor family,” Durairajan adds. Durairajan now leads iOS development for some of Zoho’s software products including Zoho Recruit. “My professor in school used to tell us you should aim to work at Google and Yahoo. But Zoho is now competing with Google, so why to go there?”
“Our engineering department is like Rahul Dravid -- scores slow but steady. I even call this a Dravidian phase of development, not because we are based in south India -- I dedicate it to Rahul Dravid. The engineering is more tuned towards that approach,’ he says. “All of us agree that making products is like preparing for a movie release. So, out of the ten movies you make, two of them will be superhit and others not so successful. Success of a product is based on how many people pay for it. Each of our service teams across 40 product lines are aware of the monthly revenues.” “At the engineering level, we are now tracking usage. Over past 15 years we have been revenue focused, but now we are looking at feature usage. How many customers are using a product, and within that a particular feature, and so on.” “One of the good things about Zoho is that most of our hires are freshers, and they stay through. More than 90% of our managers are homegrown. Because we have had people working for long terms, we can do knowledge transfer just by sitting next to each other. Working together for long reduces friction.”
Nikhil Pahwa is an angry young man. But that doesn’t make him an outlier. Pahwa, 37, channelises that anger to build and scale mainstream movements such as the net neutrality campaign against Facebook’s FreeBasics in India more than two years ago. So what’s the source of all the anger and sense of activism? It’s Pahwa’s deep need for freedom of the internet. “The need for freedom led me to activism, entrepreneurship...I don’t know where it will take me next but freedom is central to everything I do,” he says. “My mission is to build an internet ecosystem which is open, fair and competitive.” Pahwa’s journey as a media entrepreneur has been filled with existential crisis because of the battle he fights. But then, those battles are also the reason why his venture, Medianama, lives today. “I’m what I’m today because of the fact that internet is open and this freedom exists. Medianama has turned 10 today because of that. I want that for everyone.” Before he committed fully to the net neutrality campaign, he knew it could mean a near death experience for Medianama. “I told the Medianama team that we could die because of what I’m going to do, but this is worth fighting for because we wouldn’t exist if internet wasn’t free and open.” There are some great lessons in this podcast with Pahwa. These lessons aren’t just about rightful activism but also offer insights on fighting battles larger than your own, personal existence. The net neutrality campaign, for instance, had its own moments of existential crisis. “Nothing was budging, no one was participating. And Facebook simultaneously began this massive “support Free Basics” campaign, putting hoardings all over the country. And we were losing.” Pahwa is next readying for another challenge in his life: his wedding is coming up soon.