"Without resilience, there's not much you can achieve as a founder," says Dunzo's Kabeer Biswas

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When the hyperlocal delivery supply chain was badly hit during the lockdown, the team at Dunzo faced an opportunity and challenge of a lifetime. Although they had years of experience building a robust ecosystem of merchants and delivery partners that cemented their place in the on-demand space, they had to adapt to a new world almost overnight.

But with Kabeer Biswas, CEO and Co-Founder of Dunzo and his team at the helm, they were able to brave the storm. "We were able to help a sizable part of the market adopt a digital way of life and for that, the challenges we incurred as a team made us more collaborative, empathetic, and driven to put our best foot forward," he says.

Resilience in leadership

To navigate this challenging phase, Kabeer says he spent more time obsessing over the problem and not the answer. "Focus your time on the user's need, what you're trying to solve for and why you need to solve it – not just about how you’re going to do it." He encourages this approach not only in the products they build but also in the experience they want users, delivery partners, and merchants to have. "It's all about how we, as a team, can make a real difference and build something that both us and users would be proud to have and want."

According to him, the notion that leaders need to be devoid of empathy and compassion is extremely outdated. He says that a deep sense of compassion has always been a cornerstone of exemplary leadership." If you cannot understand the people you lead, how would you venture to lead them? Most importantly, you must be extremely self-aware as a leader and lead not by a title but by example. If you cannot live up to a promise, how do you expect your team to?" he says.

According to Kabeer, as a leader, having a sense of accountability and ownership always inspires trust and builds faith within a team. "Knowing you have their back is the best thing you can offer them."

To tide over difficult times, leaders have to be resilient and not let externalities stray them from their goals. This is what drives him as a founder. "Without resilience and truth-seeking, there’s not much you can achieve, especially as the founder of a startup." He adds that success for him has always been defined by the quality and richness of the customer experience. "No matter the external environment, delivering on your promise consistently is the real benchmark of success."

Empathy makes a man of character

COVID-19 presented challenges for every startup, but at Dunzo, finding a way out was easier because they had a collective goal. "We all learned the value of doing more with less and simplifying life so that we could focus on what really mattered," he says.

In the past year, they had to transition from being a user’s lifestyle choice to become a lifeline for cities. This is where Kabeer faced his moment of truth. When you arrive at such clarity, he says, prioritisation is key. "I realised that while business is important, what is even more important is the human aspect. We knew we had to build a safe environment for the offline world, online. So whether it was throttling orders to maintain social distancing or facilitating free deliveries for old age and children’s homes, we did it." Although his is a for-profit business, the need of the hour demanded that he reshift focus on the human impact, and he did so without thinking twice.

Ultimately, as a business leader, Kabeer says you must always remember to build something that outlasts you, and would be a small contribution to changing the world for the better. For him, empathy, truthfulness and resilience shine through in the bad times, and makes for a man of character. "It is not doing something to build your name, but something that adds to the betterment of society as a whole."

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