Disruptions are the new common - Naveen Tewari, InMobi, Founder and CEO


Naveen Tewari brings his insights into how the startup ecosystem is rapidly growing. At the LetsIgnite convention by LetsVenture, he gave some valuable inputs on how organisations need to change in order to keep up with this fast-paced growth.

The last few years have seen a massive growth in the entrepreneurial community, and the pace of this growth makes innovation the most important feature for entrepreneurs today. "Today, companies have aspirations to become really big and disruptive, and traditional methods are simply not working anymore," said Naveen Tewari at the keynote address of LetsIgnite.

Whether it is the way people consume content, make payments, or invest in startups, everything is being reimagined. Naveen said that around ten years back an entrepreneur would have to spend about $10-15 million and hire a large employee base to create an online company. And if his product reached one million customers, he would be considered successful.

Today, an entrepreneur can with a million dollars and a considerably smaller team reach a 100 million people. "I am sure that in maybe in the next few years, a single engineer, with negligible amount of money will be able to reach 100 million consumers. That's the massive change, which is affecting the fundamental ecosystem," said Naveen.

The shrinking middle ground in investing

This fast-paced growing ecosystem has also changed the way investing functions. Nowadays, most organisations look for investment either in the initial seed stages, or when they become large companies. The middle-level is fast shrinking, because once organisations get their initial round of investment they grow rapidly.

Entrepreneurs as the new investors

Another change in the scenario is that entrepreneurs are also doubling as investors. A decade back, if an entrepreneur invested an amount in a startup, he would be able to help the organisation for a year or so, and more investment requirements would crop up. However, nowadays, with the same amount an entrepreneur can participate and help in the growth of the company he chooses to invest in. "It's not a debate anymore, the venture community is looking for entrepreneurs to participate," said Naveen.

Experimentation the new product road maps

Organisations need to start getting into the mode of experimentation. Talking about InMobi’s functioning, Naveen said: "We have a team of just five to six people whose job is to work on an idea. They are not required to think of long-term success or failure. They just work on an innovative idea and launch it; if it gains traction, we pump the money in." The time to market products has shrunk, and the costs and

resources required have become negligible. This makes it easier for companies to experiment with new products.

Art is the new technology

What makes Apple products different from other similar offerings is its design. Today, with the commoditisation of software, products, and platform components, design is the big differentiator. Most organisations and investors look at the CPO but they don't think of hiring the best designer. They believe that designing is a job that can be outsourced.

However, art today is impacting the way people look at, and connect to, a product. It is a big chunk of the product strategy that organisations need to start leveraging.

Small is the new big

It is a general mindset that if an organisation is growing it needs to add more people. However, today most successful organisations do not need more people, in fact, they need less. "You need to ensure that you don't grow your team size as you scale. You may not need a thousand, maybe just ten, By adding more people you essentially are slowing down the system," says Naveen. He also stated that all the large companies today are actually small with respect to the number of people they have.

Own your culture

New age teams need to be managed differently; you cannot manage the new crop of professionals as commodities or a head count. To change the way people are managed, it is essential to ensure you own your culture. While many startups may not have formally defined their culture yet, but it does exist and is perceived in a certain way. Organisations need to own that culture early on in the game. It's not expensive; it just is about creating the mindshare your company needs.

Don't recruit: Initiate and form relationships

In most organisations the recruiting function is like a sales funnel. Citing an example of InMobi Naveen said:

We begin with saying we want to recruit five people. The funnel metric says we need to interview 25 people, so we need to look at 50 resumes, and for that we need to reach out to 1000 people. So we sat there and thought, what are the odds of us getting it correct? – Almost negligible."

The result? InMobi fired the recruitment agencies they had and decided that the people they hire need to come from within the company. "We reached out to our people and asked them to give us names of people they would like to work with. In 2013, our recruitment cost was $3 million but in 2014, we got it down to $300,000," said Naveen.

Don't manage: just focus on employee growth

In most business schools individuals learn about incentivising people, creating goals for employees, and building metrics and scores. Most organisations are innovative in nature, and innovation has no goals. Here, the metrics-based inputs given by employees, don't work. Performance management systems are ineffective where innovation is concerned.

Financial incentives are given with the belief that people will work harder. "Those aren't the kind of people who are innovative or disruptive," said Naveen. Organisations need to believe in, and focus on, the growth of individuals. To see if an individual is growing or is happy, you don't need metrics, one conversation is enough. "We give 100 per cent bonus to all our employees, because we have employees in our system who fundamentally believe in disruption," added Naveen. When people are given the opportunity to fail and grow, it liberates both employees and managers.

One per cent v/s 99 per cent

Organisations make rules for the 99 per cent of employees because of the one per cent that broke them. Rules create more processes and systems, which in turn create more policies. The processes and policies just slow down an organisation. "We have removed most processes and systems as we want to improve the life of our people," said Naveen.

Today, with the kind of entrepreneurs and money entering into the fray, the value is no longer only on making it in India, but about disrupting in India. "Believe in what you want to create and not what the book says," concludes Naveen.

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