Kirthiga Reddy shares her organisation building insights from Facebook India’s early days
Kirthiga Reddy, ex-technology and investment executive with Facebook and SoftBank, respectively, appeared in a recent Prime Venture Podcast to talk about the early building days of Facebook India, lessons she picked up while working with founders, and more.
It was March 2010 when Facebook, now Meta, announced its intention to expand into India. At the time, India merely had eight million people on the internet, and the social media giant was eyeing getting 100 million people on its platform in just four years.
Following a “gruelling interview”, Kirthiga Reddy became employee No. 1 of Facebook India. Kirthiga got the front seat view of the building and scaling of Facebook India.
In her words, Facebook’s focused attention on the ultimate mission and the priority it gave to company culture propelled the Mark Zuckerberg-founded brand to where it is today and maintained the moat it enjoys in India.
Facebook India and the 100, 100, 100 BHAG
“Having [a] joint mission of the market really brought us together [internally]. Our initial mission BHAG, which we put out for the India market, was 100, 100, 100,” she explains.
Kirthiga said, at the time, Facebook wished to acquire 100 million users, generate $100 million in revenue, and touch 100 million lives in the Indian community.
Kirthiga believes setting the goal was the easier part. “The power of a big, bold vision was something that every early Facebooker will remember. 100, 100, 100. And it was something that brought the teams together,” said Kirthiga.
An ambitious dream is often the fuel that helps run a company internally. And she advises aspiring entrepreneurs to think bold and big.
The importance of building a company culture
One of Kirthiga’s most important lessons in Facebook India came when the executive team from Facebook Global was visiting the country. While she had a full presentation ready about the business side of things, the executive team was not interested in it.
Kirthiga recalled the team telling her, “I want you to first tell me how are you building the right culture? How are you hiring the right people? Because if you build the right culture, hire the right people, business results will come.”
That was the thought process inside Facebook during the building stage.
“In my 20+ years career, of course, I’ve been asked about people and culture, but not in that priority or not in that order with that emphasis,” she added.
She emphasised that entrepreneurs need to be deliberate about company culture from the very beginning as it helps set the tone for the company’s future.
Lessons from renowned founders and executives
Over the years, Kirthiga has worked with multiple founders and top executives. In her words, every lesson she picked up has been nothing short of enlightening.
Sharing an anecdote surrounding Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of— where she was amazed by Sandeep’s agility to make bold decisions — Kirthiga explained how a five-year restructuring plan was already in place when she joined the board. However, it was Sandeep’s push that helped the company transform just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, Kirthiga admitted another piece of advice from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who said, “You are going to be leading many functions you have not grown up in. Make sure you understand the nitty-gritty of that function because it will give you the power to operate at 20,000-30,000 foot level.”
Taking her example, Kirthiga explained how she did not grow up in the operations world but devoted time to understanding its details.
To know more, listen to the podcast here.
03:00: “Making the most of the opportunities given to you”
08:30: Scaling Facebook India; BHAG (100,100,100)
20:00: Facebook IPO and the Mobile Challenge
27:00: Late-stage investing at SoftBank
34:00: AI and Data for good
42:00: Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
Edited by Suman Singh