Naveen Tewari, Founder & CEO, InMobi in conversation with Govind Ethiraj
We keep hearing this phrase “the journey of a startup.” Naveen had an interesting take for a Cricket crazy nation. At NPC 2016, he said, it’s like graduating from T20 to one-day and finally the big stage of test match, a similar experience and exposure which a cricketer finds in process. However, there’s a vital difference. In startups, unlike cricket, the progression is seldom linear, the format unannounced, and one is thrust into the middle without quite knowing which way things will go.
The margins in his business are handsome and yet it took several years before he started making money. Being a tech-driven platform, the investments in the earlier years were heavy and one of the major reasons why profitability kicked-in late. Naveen estimates that the Mobile Ad Tech has the potential to be a 250 billion USD industry in the next few years. InMobi is of course among the frontrunners in this space. The Ad Tech business is driven by emotions, and a very US-centric view of the world that global players are experimenting with at present.
He shared an interesting thought on VC funding. He said, it can often spoil startup founders and lead to wasteful spending such as undertaking massive unwarranted changes in org structures, unless one is mindful of it at all times. The aim should be to invest in new ideas, a philosophy which he has been successfully following at InMobi.
The media likes stories which are laced with extremities – both of success and failure. They will never write about everyday operations which is most boring for readers. Hence, there is always a tendency to exaggerate conditions to draw eyeballs, especially when it involves exits of high profile execs from some of the fastest growing companies. In India, it is a common enough practise to hire from traditional companies, but many a times, the cultural shift becomes a challenge and can land the startup in a quagmire. It is wise to part ways under such conditions, and is healthy for both parties concerned. The ability to transition to a wholly different culture or the lack of it, is the real reason why people leave. Here, Naveen did some straight talking and his candidness was rather impressive. He has a mnemonic for people who stay and that includes him as well. ASS. A for attitude, S for smart and the second S stands for skill. It is absolutely essential for people who stay, to believe in the company’s vision. Just as people need to be appreciated for what they do, at times, hard calls need to be taken and there’s blood on the table. It’s unavoidable if one is running a successful venture.
On being queried, why it is that few “people” really understand his revenue model, he shrugged off with customary candour – well, it’s a B2B model so he is really focussed on making enterprises understand what InMobi does!
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s Naveen Tewari for you – the face of a new ambitious India which knows what it wants and is constantly working towards it.
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