While luck certainly has a role to play, it’s often about burning the midnight oil. My dad was a building contractor for the military, so we moved around a lot when I was growing up. I went to boarding school when I was six years old. Those years taught me a lot about hard work and determination. One thing I learned from my father is that you, alone, are in charge of your own destiny. If you work harder than anybody else, you’ll most likely reach your destination.
I came back to India to build Uber after spending over 15 years in the US. When that opportunity came, I didn’t hesitate for one second. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to build a high growth company in one of the world’s fast-growing economies. "When you're offered a seat on a rocketship, you just get on".
I’m very excited about the India Stack and the opportunities it is creating for startups around financial inclusion, payments and open data architecture. Just as ride-hailing is helping leapfrog the era of car ownership, India has the opportunity to leapfrog innovation across multiple sectors (such as Financial Services, Fintech, Data), and lead the way for innovation across the world.
It’s exciting to see a wave of globally focused companies emerging out of India and Southeast Asia. That is a mindset that more and more startups should adopt right from the beginning. We’re starting to see some completely new business models and truly innovative technology coming out of India and Southeast Asia. This is going to continue to grow in the next few years. The world is the playground!
There’s a strong correlation between the communication skills of a startup’s leadership team and the company’s ability to scale. The founders are the key architects of the company’s vision, its purpose, its mission and its values. Their ability to communicate that to their organization, and make sure it cascades as the company grows, is critical. One of the things I look for in founders is their ability to articulate their vision, story-telling skills and ability to connect with people.
I learned a lot about building high-performance teams during my time at Uber. It’s not enough to hire good people. To power growth, you need to hire the very best. Always hire people who are smarter than you. Then do everything you can to empower them. Empowerment comes through clarity of mission/purpose, principles for action, fostering a safe environment, removal of obstacles and a commitment to measure outcomes.
Nobody will ever disagree that “customer obsession” is key, but it is not easy to scale an organisation that continues to stay maniacally customer obsessed. I enjoy digging deep with founders to understand what they’re doing to actually enable customer obsession in their organization. How is the entire team staying connected to customers and pain points, as the organisation scales? How is one creating a culture of “it’s always my job to fix a customer's pain point, regardless of my role in the organisation”. That is one of the key requirements to build an enduring company.