Monday 14 March 2016

Thuan Pham, Uber CTO - "Don't take Anything for Granted" - at Uber Exchange Invest India

I know this post comes after a long time, but I've really been occupied with work, my books, family, festival and so much more. Life is good and I'm grateful.

Now to the main story that I want to share....

It was an extremely empowering and enlightening experience to hear Thuan Pham talk about so many practical challenges that I have faced in a lot of my previous jobs with smaller setups and startups.

I won't get into any further introductory details of the venue, etc. But let me tell you how I got an opportunity to listen to Thuan mentor a bunch of startups. I was representing  Projects for School  at the Uber Exchange Invest India in the month of March.

To begin the interaction, 3 questions from the startup scenario were given, startups had to begin the participation by answering any of these questions and then Mr. Pham would share his insights / inputs. Eventually it was to become an open questionnaire.

The input questions were as follows:

1. How do you continue expanding / scaling in line with profitability?
2. How do you hire and / or develop external and / or internal leaders?
3. How does a startup ensure that they do not over hire?

Someone began with the second answer and shared their HR and office politics woes. If I understood it correctly, Thuan gave a very insightful, almost flowchart like answer. Seemingly very simple in its approach, it looked like the one thing almost all business leaders in the startup ecosystem constantly deny.

The steps are:
  • Identify your skill / talent need.
  • Do you have an interal leader fitting that bill?
    •     If yes - problem solved.
    •     If no - Is there someone who can be groomed? How long will it take to groom them? Can my business wait that long?
      • If no - Hire the next best fit
      • If yes - You groom, those who potentially fit in.
If I understood the gentleman correctly, he said, do not  take anything or anyone for granted.

Your people are the key resource you have. While they are dispensible, do not take them for granted is my learning from the whole event.

A business can only continue to scale in line with their sustainability and profitability if they do not over hire. As a result, it is important to know when you may be over hiring. For that matter, it is important to know when you may be overdoing anything which amounts to investment. The only way around is - Titration. The only way is to evaluate every thing and "Don't take Anything for Granted". Interesting that very soon we all heard Leonardo De Caprio say the same words in an entirely different context and from an entirely different platform though.

Launch your plan on a small scale, measure impact against the effort, scale up a bit, retitrate, rinse and repeat. The more capability a business has to do this, the better it is and the more sustained growth they achieve.

Thank you for the insights, Thuan.

©Anupama Garg 2016 March

Sunday 13 March 2016

Uber Exchange Invest India - Part 1 - Inaugural Session

I recently attended one of the Uber Exchange Invest India Programs in Delhi, combined with IIT Delhi’s e-summit. Uber CTO, Mr. Thuan Pham interacted with around 20 shortlisted startups and his session was followed by a fire side chat with Anand Chandrasekaran, CPO , Snapdeal.

In my new and exciting role as the CCO for a young startup ProjectforSchools, my social and business networking activity has recently increase manifold. As such, I look forward to a lot of learning opportunity all the time and am always full of questions, taking copious notes as my questions are answered.

This series of blog posts will primarily focus on my learning from the interaction with Mr. Thuan Pham, Mr. Shankar Aggrawal, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, India, when Ms. Shanno Beghum, one of Uber’s first women driver partner/s and Anand Chandrasekaran, CPO , Snapdeal.

I must make it clear that I am going to focus on what I learnt as a young female aspiring / acting CCO without a technical background from at least 3 of the most technical brains of the industry and bureaucracy. Also, that the more consolidated versions and focused write-ups around these lessons can be found on my LinkedIn profile.

Inaugural Session:

In the inaugural session, Thuan indicated Uber’s visionary approach towards building a technology platform / market place to create entrepreneurial spirit and empower young startups and entrepreneurs, to invent things together.

It was heartening to see Mr. Aggrawal, talk about the commitment of the Indian government to empower the market and change the overall employment landscape. Together, they also demonstrated the National Career Service Centre portal which is a one stop shop for job seekers, job providers, career counselors and entrepreneurs together.

The change was certainly evident, when Ms. Shanno Beghum, Uber’s driver partner shared her story of empowerment facilitated by the disruptive market leaders.

However, my question to Mr. Aggrawal was as follows:
“I hear a lot of woman empowerment, I see it happening too, I also see the evidence in ladies like Shanno Ji. But I also realize that this empowerment is focused on the lower and middle socio-economic strata of our women population. On the other hand, we have very few role models as successful women entrepreneurs, CXOs etc. more so in technology – driven setups. Does this portal, at some point aim to address specific needs of people like me – the young, ambitious, woman entrepreneur?”

It was very encouraging to see Mr. Aggrawal openly admit that the portal as well the visionary program is young at this moment. While specific needs for young, ambitious women like me may not be addressed today or in immediate future, they certainly look forward to my generation paving the way for our successors. An honest, transparent and yet encouraging response. Thank you Sir!

Reference Link on The Economic Times

Look out for part 2 on specifics around Thuan Pham's talk and interaction with the selected startups.

©Anupama Garg 2016 March