From friend to business partner – the story behind Alok Goel’s move from redBus to CEO of FreeCharge

Alok Goel, the former chief product officer of redBus, has joined Freecharge as its CEO. The post was formerly held by the company’s founder, Kunal Shah. Alok had moved on from redBus after its acquisition by the Ibibo group. We caught up with Alok to know what brought him to Freecharge and what are the plans he has in mind as its new CEO.

Friendship and like-mindedness 

Alok shared that he and Kunal, the founder of Freecharge, were good friends. He says, “I know that the space which Freecharge is operating in is a very promising one and the company has shown tremendous growth in the past. We’ve always been bouncing ideas off each other. It was really fascinating, because both of us were so aligned in our thoughts of where such a business should go from here; our ideas really matched a lot. ”

Alok Goel

“After the acquisition, I had moved on from redBus, and Kunal thought, why stop at suggesting these ideas as an external agent. Join the company and be involved in implementing it. That interested me, and so here I am.”

Some plans, and handling change

Alok believes that the Sequoia-backed Freecharge is a very interesting company. He says, “There are two types of companies in the world. One, which transfer value from one form to another, and another, creating value. Take Google or Facebook, for example. The services they provided were never needed until they came into existence. They created value and now they’re a necessity. I think Freecharge is the latter kind of company.”

Alok says that the business model of providing value through coupons for something like recharge, is very innovative. He says, “There are so many countries, like India, which run on the prepaid model for phone recharge. And what we will be looking to do is to replicate the model in geographies similar to India. For example, Freecharge’s business model can be easily replicated in all of Southeast Asia and Africa.”Alok confirmed that international expansion would be one of his main priorities.

We asked him about the changes he’s expecting to see at Freecharge, as opposed to his redBus experience and he said, “I think the biggest change is the opportunity. With redBus, the degree of growth that we could achieve was a few factors larger than how big it already was. It had grown fairly by when I joined. Freecharge is in an earlier stage and the growth opportunity is 100 times its current size. It’s really exciting.”

He also added that his chemistry with Kunal is very good. “Kunal is a very mature guy, and he’s been the champion in my move to Freecharge. Not many entrepreneurs show the kind of maturity that he does, and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Measuring success

Before the end of our conversation, we asked Alok how he would measure success of his tenure at Freecharge. He says, “I think, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve had a long-term plan in mind. Even at redBus, I had joined with a long-term plan in mind. I wanted to be part of a company that would be regarded as a hallmark for innovation, on a global level. And we were achieving that quite well. But, post acquisition, the environment and circumstances changed, and I had chosen to move on. In fact, I didn’t even know redBus was being sold until the sale had already happened.”

Alok’s endeavor at Freecharge is also the same: to be able to become a hallmark of innovation at a global level. And, we at YourStory wish Alok, Kunal and Freecharge all the best in getting there.

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Raghu Mohan

Raghu Mohan

Raghu is an electronics engineer from Anna University who has a keen interest in mobility and consumer technology.He predominantly works on stories for tech entrepreneurs and startups. He is also an active member of the Bangalore Android User Group, a regular speaker at BarCamp Bangalore and is part of many other technology communities. You can follow him on Twitter @Raghum200