Everyday Bias: Finding Inspiration In Unlikely Places
Co-Founder Artha School of Entrepreneurship, Author, Angel Investor
Hari TN, a seasoned entrepreneur and startup expert, is the co-founder of the Artha School of Entrepreneurship. With 20 years of experience in the startup ecosystem, Hari has played a key role in the growth journeys of five startups across various sectors. His expertise has led to successful exits, with four startups being acquired by marquis companies and one listing on NASDAQ. Three of these startups achieved Unicorn status. Hari has authored seven category-leading books, advises VC funds, mentors at accelerators, and contributes strategically as a board member to inspiring companies. Through the Artha School, he empowers founders to scale their startups and build sustainable businesses.
Take home these learnings:
1. How can you craft a life well-lived by finding delight and purpose in the mundane aspects of your day?
2. How can you overcome your biases and prejudices by being inquisitive and receptive towards others who are unlike you?
3. How can you demonstrate kindness and compassion to yourself and others by being attentive and sympathetic of their emotions and desires?
4. How can you manage polarities of ideas and questions by accepting complexity and ambiguity rather than pursuing easy answers or solutions?
5. The extraordinary is all around us, only waiting to be revealed. Are you prepared to discover it?
2. How can you overcome your biases and prejudices by being inquisitive and receptive towards others who are unlike you?
3. How can you demonstrate kindness and compassion to yourself and others by being attentive and sympathetic of their emotions and desires?
4. How can you manage polarities of ideas and questions by accepting complexity and ambiguity rather than pursuing easy answers or solutions?
5. The extraordinary is all around us, only waiting to be revealed. Are you prepared to discover it?
I find the ordinary people around me very, very inspiring. In fact, if you ask me who your role models are, They wouldn't be names like, you know, a Mark Mag Gandhi, or a Lincoln or a Mandela or a Patel. I could probably have written a biography of, uh, every person on Earth, and that would've been an equally interesting one. you also used the word love and compassion and kindness. W what was that instance in your life that led to this shift in your Hari: mindset? as long as you have been at peace with this world and peace with yourself for a major part of your life, I think it's a life well lived. how do you ensure that any of your biases, they don't frick in between? Bias is a very inherent part of life itself. Hari: It's not just humans have biases, animals have biases. .bias is actually helped life survive. So we should not just, you know, think that all kinds of biases are bad. [00:19:00] In fact, bias is leading to our intuition. human beings have progressed in a direction where, Thinking and taking decisions very quickly where 90% could still be right, but the 10% could create a lot of damage. Hari: Yeah. Those 10% are what we really need to be aware of. A superior idea is more important to me than my idea. If a superior idea is in front of me, I will accept it What's the primary difference between leading a team in an organization which has offers only in one country, and then leading a team in a Hari: global context? Gaurav: [00:00:00] Thank you so much, Harry. It's such a pleasure Hari: having you here. Thank you, God, wonderful being on your podcast series. Always a pleasure. In fact, Gaurav: the first time that I heard about you and the kind of good work that you're doing was when you wrote this book called From Pony Toko. And since then, uh, I've been looking forward to have you as my guest on this podcast. Gaurav: Such a pleasure Hari: having you here. Thank you once Gaurav: again. And Heidi. In fact, that's exactly what I was talking to you about, that you know, there are very few people that I have come across who have been able to cross such an illustrious careers for themselves. So having written so many books, being on the board of different organizations, somebody who has been to I A T Im today, when you take a pause and reflect, What's your take on that? Gaurav: How would you define a celebrated life or for that matter, Hari: a life well lived? [00:01:00] So Gora, if you had asked me this question, you know, somewhere at the beginning of my career, probably I would've given you a more conventional response or an answer. But I think after the age of 50, um, my views have changed. I have, uh, become far less judgmental of things than people. Hari: And uh, I have realized that, you know, Anyone who's been born in this world has a wonderful story to tell. It just needs that storyteller who can tell the story. I just feel if I had, uh, you know, all the time in this world, I could probably have written a biography of, uh, every person on Earth, and that would've been an equally interesting one. Hari: And, uh, therefore, you know, a life well lived is a slightly difficult question to answer because I think the very fact that you are born and have lived on this planet itself is a matter of joy and, uh, you know, a matter of great fortune that you have taken birth on this planet. So gradually I have come to the [00:02:00] view that, uh, you know, as long as you have been at peace with this world and peace with yourself for a major part of your life, I think it's a life well lived. Hari: And in terms of a career, I think if people around you have always, uh, liked being with you, have respected you, you have liked being around with people, you have respected them. In turn, I think that's a reasonably celebrated, um, you know, uh, career itself. If I just look back at my father, you know, when I was in my third. Hari: I never thought he was a great man. I thought, you know, why wasn't he more ambitious? Why didn't he try to do something more? But after 50, when I look at him, I think, um, his career is, um, highly celebrated. You know, he came through great difficulties, um, you know, managed to, uh, give me some good education despite all the ups and downs in his life. Hari: He's 90 years, he continues to, um, read a lot. He continues. To be interested in the fundamental principles of science. He reads, my daughter's, um, mechanical engineering dissertation, papers, and research reports with [00:03:00] some amazingly deep interests and comments. I just can't say that, you know, his life and career both have been well lived. Hari: So I think I'm far less judgmental today and far more accepting of the fact that, you know, everybody's life is a successful life. It's seen from the right lens and seen with empathy and love and everybody's career. I think a large number of them have been very successful. So I would, uh, hesitate, you know, branding some people is successful, uh, or having. Hari: A life well led, you know, 20, 30 years back, I might have said, know Mark Ma Gandhi's life was amazing, was a well led life. And I might have talked about people like him, but today my views are very different. I think I find the ordinary people around me very, very inspiring. In fact, if you ask me who your role models are, They wouldn't be names like, you know, a Mark Mag Gandhi, or a Lincoln or a Mandela or a Patel. Hari: They would be people around me who's who I could see, you know, who have read, who have been real people, real lives, real stories to tell, real mistakes they made in life real success. So I think, uh, yeah, [00:04:00] that's my broader view on life in general and career and in particular. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Thank you. I think the more and more I'm talking and Hari: interacting with people, The Gaurav: more I'm realizing that how there's a story in each one of us, that is one. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. And second, you said that today you are more accepting and less judgmental of people. Yes. Provided you also used the word love and compassion and kindness. W what was that instance in your life that led to this shift in your Hari: mindset? Harry? Yeah. What happened? Yeah. To an ambitious hurry. Gaurav: Yeah, that he chose a path, A different path. Gaurav: Yes. Where the lenses got changed, the perspectives got Hari: changed. I think, uh, it is not any specific, uh, incident or event that, uh, led to this, uh, dramatic transformation. I think, uh, over the years, as you go through life, [00:05:00] as you go through ups and downs, as you see people very closely, I think, uh, that's when you, and as you meet a variety of people, that's when you begin to realize that, you know, there are many ways in which one can lead her or his life, and each way of leading your life, the choices that you make. Hari: Are, uh, you know, your choices and, uh, there is no one choice that is superior to the others. There are some people who are quietly, you know, doing some amazing work in, you know, some villages in India, somebody who's leading, leading a he self-help group of women and helping them lead a dignified life in a village in West Bengal. Hari: I think that person's career, it has been amazing in the sense that, uh, you know, is it a life well lived? I think absolutely. If I just look at this lady called Taj, Kira Bega, who I recently met, You know, at the I Am Calcutta Innovation Park had the chance to listen to her life story. I just begin to think, you know, the illustrious career about, of me that you talked about. Hari: I don't see illustrious at all when I listen to her [00:06:00] story. So I think, uh, many of these people that you encounter in life are very humbling experiences. So that's when I realized you need to give up, uh, you know, some vague ideas that you had in youth of what constitutes success in life. So it's a series of, in incidents like this, meeting some amazing people who are quietly doing some work and then they, you know, uh, help you reframe your lens or help you think about, you know, life very differently. Hari: You begin to question yourself. And Gaurav: where you will take a pause and where you take a pause and revisit the parameters through which you define success, you know? Correct. That's what I was telling my team members a few days back that what if tomorrow, uh, another government comes in and they change the currency. Gaurav: So from, uh, the money in your Hari: pocket, the papers Gaurav: of the properties that you have, They become the currency of yesterday and the new currencies of kindness and compassion. Mm-hmm. And empathy as you, [00:07:00] as you spoke about. Right. Hari: How many rich individuals Gaurav: be there walking on the streets? So right. India, right? Gaurav: Yeah. So Harry, since you're talking about career. You worked with Giants like Tatas, you Yes, and I've got, I'm always been a huge admirer of Tatas in my life. You worked with organizations like Research Taxi for sure. Biz Big. And currently your, you're running an organization called Arthur School of Entrepreneurship. Gaurav: Just curious, what are those parameters that you considered before making a new Korean move in your Hari: life? So, uh, Gora, you know, I have not been a very calculative person in the sense that, uh, my decisions have been fairly quick. In fact, uh, uh, who I got married to, including an important decision like that was taken very quickly. Hari: So I go a lot by my gut, and if I look back, you know, in all those key decisions, the success rate [00:08:00] of these decisions has been very high. So, uh, I haven't, uh, you know, done a lot of analysis. So broadly I have looked. A couple of things, which is, is there an alignment in values and are there any common interest between the people that I'm going to work with and me? Hari: If there is alignment in values and commonality of interest, I have found that, you know, other things gradually qu and quickly fall into place. So I don't spend too much of time, you know, getting into deeper analysis, too much of analysis. I've just slept my life by some simple parameters, simple rules for decision making. Hari: So it comes to carrier, it's largely been about identifying the right people, which is do I have an alignment and values with them and do we have common interests? I think if these answers to these two were a strong yes, then I think, um, I made the choice. So I've been very careful in, in the sense I've had, I have strong likes and dislikes. Hari: So I've been very careful about, you know, the kind of people I wouldn't want to work with, irrespective of, you know, whatever may be the, you [00:09:00] know, upsides, financial upsides or anything. So I've chosen not to work with people who, you know, I think somewhere I wouldn't want to work with. So I've just made some very honest choices and based on some simple principles, and they've worked for me, worked for me amazingly well. Hari: Hmm. Gaurav: So I will not dig deeper into who are those kind of people that you would not want to work with. Yeah, of course. I'm not get into that space. But you also spoke about the alignment of alignment of values. Tell me, yes. What are the values that you look for that pull you towards them, towards others? Hari: Yeah, so the first is I think, um, I would expect some degree of self-awareness from the part of the individuals, which is that, uh, People who can very quickly say, you know, at some point of time, I don't know, or I need a mistake, or I wish I could do this. Or, uh, have an ability to an ask a lot of questions and are open-minded and can listen, can actually give up some positions which they have [00:10:00] held and take up new positions based on. Hari: You know, additional data and evidence that comes up. So very open, you know, to questioning their own beliefs, very open to accepting that they were wrong, very open to listening to others. So I think that's for me, a very important value, which is a high degree of self-awareness. And the second one, of course, is some degree of, uh, you know, intellectual, uh, you know, Capacity because, um, uh, that is equally important because otherwise, if your intellect is not, uh, satisfied every day somewhere, uh, you wouldn't enjoy yourself. Hari: So some degree of, um, intellectual horsepower ability to play brain tennis, I think, uh, is equally important and, um, generally committed to doing the right things, irrespective of the consequences. So, which is some, I would say character, which is uh, being able to take decisions which are long-term correct, even if they have some detrimental short-term impact. Hari: So I think I would look for that as well. I. So, for example, if, uh, your top salesperson who's bringing in, you know, 30% [00:11:00] of your company's revenue is accused by a woman in your company of sexual harassment, what is it that this company would do? Would it, you know, soft pedal this because 30% of the revenues depend upon this rockstar, or would it take, uh, A call of letting this person go because in the long run that's the right thing to do. Hari: So, uh, decisions like this, what would a company do in situations like this when they need to make that trade off, when they're forced to make that trade off? I think those are the things that I look for. Uh, yeah. You know, in people. Those are things I really value in people. Yeah. Gaurav: I love it. When you said you, when you started with self-awareness, I think. Gaurav: That's so precious. That's so precious. And at times, I wonder, Harry, how can you live a life without awareness? Mm-hmm. I mean, how would the life be without awareness? Mm-hmm. And something that caught my attention. When you spoke about self-awareness or listening, you spoke about asking question, coming from a space of don't know, and open-mindedness and intellectual, uh, stimulation and committed to do the right things and take decisions. Gaurav: Something that you said. [00:12:00] Is willing to let go of the positions and take on new positions. What do you think? What stops Hari: people from letting go of their positions? Yeah. Uh, I think what prevents people from giving up, uh, you know, positions that they've long held and held probably very passionately, is that they're giving up a part of themselves because what's our identity? Hari: Our identity is the stands that we've taken, our positions that we take in life. Some of our beliefs, some of the things that we think are right and wrong. If we are forced to give up some of these positions, we are giving up a large part of our identity, and that's the fear that a lot of people have, which is, I'm giving up a large part of identity and I'm getting into a zone where I need to develop a completely different identity, and will I succeed in giving shape to that identity or will, you know, I fail? Hari: So I think there's a big fear. So giving up an identity, giving up what you've held deeply for a very long time is therefore [00:13:00] not very easy. Mm mm You Gaurav: know, if I were to take a pause and if I were to ask you this question, Harry, who are you? Without your titles, who are you? If you're not an author, who are you? Gaurav: If you're not an entrepreneur, who are you? If you're not been the chief strategy officer, chief HR officer of different organization that you have, that you have held positions, and who are you without Hari: all that? I always see myself as without all this, because the moment I see myself defined by the roles that I've played that I think, uh, I am looking at myself, uh, I'm not doing justice to myself. Hari: So if I just look back in terms of, you know, what are my anchors in life? What are the anchors in my career, which have worked for me, you know, in my early days in which continue to work for me, those really define who I am. And I think, um, I think every individual has a certain set of strengths. It's for that individual to be able to figure out what those strengths are. Hari: Most people can go through life without really understanding, you know, what their [00:14:00] strengths are and who they are. Uh, with some effort, I think I've been able to very carefully and clearly, you know, identify what my strengths are. So for me, for example, I'm an extremely curious person. I ask a lot of questions. Hari: I seek answers to a lot of questions. And my width of interest or the breadth of interest is tremendous. I'm, for example, continue to be interested in cosmology. You know, the idea of time and space, how this universe got created. What is the James Web telescope telling us about the Big Bang and producing evidence that probably the big bang did not happen, for instance. Hari: I continue to be interested there. I continue to be interested in human capital questions. I continue to be interested in many, many questions. I'm just a very curious kid. That's one element of who I am. And it, the second element to who I am is I'm able to think in a very uncluttered way. Uncluttered way means it's very different from being intelligent because intelligent people can sometimes, you know, identify 10 things that are, you know, creating a problem or 10 things [00:15:00] that are, you know, driving a particular outcome. Hari: But they are people who typically cannot differentiate which of those 10 are really more important than the others, and therefore they end up paying equally important, equal time to all the 10 things. Whereas an unpled thinker is one who's able to figure out in any situation what are the two things that matter and is able to pay disproportionate time to those two things that really matter. Hari: So over years, I think I, I've become an extremely uncluttered thinker in any situation. I can see the end game much before the others. I can see it fairly quickly. I can go through those intermediate steps in my mind and figure out how things would look like, how a business model would play out very quickly. Hari: The other element, uh, about who I am is I can spot patterns. I can connect the dots fairly easily. That's me, which is ability to connect the dots, ability to spot patterns. And the last thing is that, I'm a good storyteller, which is I'm a good communicator. I've realized that I'm able to bring in a lot of, uh, you know, data, facts, emotions, everything, and tell a very interesting story [00:16:00] even out of a draft topic. Hari: And, uh, I'm able to do that and explain even very difficult concepts in a manner that, you know, people who don't understand that concept or people who are completely new to that domain still can very easily understand. So I'm able to communicate difficult ideas in a manner that, um, pretty much anybody can understand. Hari: So these are. Aspects of me. Curiosity, for example, connecting the dots, uncluttered thinking, you know, storytelling. These four things really in some ways define who I am and, uh, have been the anchors of my life will continue to be the anchors of my life. So, for example, all the books that I wrote is largely a reflection of uncluttered thinking and an ability to tell stories. Hari: And, you know, every aspect of, you know, working with startups, working with VC funds is all about being able to cut through the crap and see, you know, yeah, the real end state whether this company is solving a problem or are they solving a real problem. Cause there's a big difference between the two. So I'm able to do all of this, uh, and over the years I think I've honed a couple of other skills, but [00:17:00] those are, uh, you know, not necessarily the core of who I am. Hari: I've embellished myself with, uh, a few other skills, but these. Things were largely wider. Yeah. Gaurav: Yeah. So being curious, connecting the dots, and that's where you Hari: spoke about spotting Gaurav: the pattern, uncluttered way of thinking and storyteller. And during this journey, right, how do you ensure that any of your biases, they don't frick in between. Gaurav: You know, one is having all these four things, the four, uh, the code that you spoke about. Another aspect, which is extremely important is making sure that my own biases, my own, I know I am, so this I am does not continue to prick and interfere in your. Way of being. Hari: How do you deal with that? Yeah, so I think, you know what, uh, bias is a very inherent part of life itself. Hari: It's not just humans have biases, animals have biases. Yeah. And can damani man, without talking of the word bias, is brought out this idea beautifully, which is [00:18:00] thinking fast and slow, which is that in the wild. All animals can think very quickly, and also there are situations where they can think slowly. I think what humanity has done is that humanity's life has evolved in a direction in which quick thinking is no longer as helpful as slow thinking, because quick thinking while it delivers results, 90% of the time it can create big harm in 10% of the situations. Hari: So, for example, take the case of uh, you know, fear. So for example, in the wild, any animal to be able to survive. Should have a bias that if there is a bush which is shaking, it is being shaken because the lion is moving in the bush and not because of the wind. Because if it is unbiased and tries to investigate as to the reason why a bush is shaking, it is less likely to survive. Hari: So it should assume very quickly that there's a lion in the bush and I need to run. So bias is actually helped life survive. So we should not just, you know, think that all kinds of biases are bad. [00:19:00] In fact, bias is leading to our intuition. Many of the thing decisions, which I told you, which I took very intuitively, is in some way a bias, which has worked in my favor. Hari: And that bias has been shaped by my own experiences. So a bias which is ising going to cause harm to society, I think is something that we need to be wary about. So I said, you know, human beings have progressed in a direction where, Thinking and taking decisions very quickly where 90% could still be right, but the 10% could create a lot of damage. Hari: Yeah. Those 10% are what we really need to be aware of. Yeah. So for example, assuming that the way a person speaks. Is everything that is to a person the way a person's body structure is, determines, you know, the ability to contribute in an organization. Yeah, those kind of biases, which we might laugh at, but all of us carry those biases when we see an overweight person. Hari: Automatic biases, this guy is not going to be a good performer. Yeah. Many people will refuse to accept it. But that's the truth. So these kind of [00:20:00] biases I think you should try and overcome. Mm-hmm. And very frankly, I suffered from these biases anybody could articulate. Well, you know, I used to always think, you know, has a greater likelihood of doing something good in life. Hari: Mm-hmm. But then, you know, I met a bunch of wonderful people in my life. And that's when you begin to question your biases, which is that they don't fit this standard belief that articulation is an important element of success. Yeah. I met many entrepreneurs from tier three, tier four towns of India, and their passion, ambition, imagination, and integrity of character was so much that I realized, you know, articulation matters. Hari: Zilch. Yeah. Yeah, so I think by meeting people who are very diverse, you begin to question some of your own biases and assumptions. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Thank you. You know, since you spoke about time and the cosmos and the space theory, we are also talking about, uh, biases. We also use the word intuition. My limited understanding is I could be a hundred percent wrong. Gaurav: I'm just bringing it in this melting pot. I don't know. Where would we go from here? [00:21:00] I believe. Biases come from the past. My limited understanding intuition is the byproduct of timelessness. Gaurav: How would you create a distinction between an intuition and biasness since you spoke about cosmos and the time, space theory? Just curious. Hari: Um, yeah, see, I think, you know, the best way to illustrate a point like this is by telling some stories. So I'll tell you some story. One story from my childhood. Hari: Mm-hmm. So I grew up in a small town in Risa. My father used to work for Hindustan Aer Nord Limited. And in this small town, all of us led our lives, which is, I studied in one school, everybody studying the same school. You met the same people in the marketplace you met, played with the same kids everywhere. Hari: So, for example, in this small town, The teachers who taught us, they were both men and women, and the women who taught us were all, you [00:22:00] know, wives of officers who worked at Tara Steel, uh, sorry, at, uh, this hl Then there were no women engineers on the shop floor at all. Not a single. There were some women doctors and there was a woman who was in the, you know, front desk who wore lipstick and makeup and was good looking. Hari: So I just told you a f bunch of things. So let me tell you how it shaped my own biases. So I felt, for example, that women who wear makeup in a man's world, Ours defective in some way in the sense that there is a character flaw. I grew up with that unspoken bias somewhere. I grew up with an unspoken bias that it's okay for women to work as school teachers and probably even as doctors, but not as engineers, not on the shop floor. Hari: They shouldn't be studying mechanical engineering. So for the it, these assumptions, Took shape over, you know, 15, 20 years. Yeah. And uh, these take shape without you knowing about it. And on top of this, the family backgrounds that you come from. My parents were conservative, so my mother and fathers [00:23:00] probably reinforce some of these. Hari: So beliefs, which is that women who wore makeup are not good characters. For example, they might have reinforces our films, reinforced this, right? Mm-hmm. Our heroes where all women who wore SARS and behaved like ry, whereas the loose women, where all Helens, for example, there was a character called Helen. Hari: Helen was actually a product of hu, the Indian bi male buyers. Actually, it was, she wasn't a person, it was just a. You know, it represented the male bias about what men thought about women. Mm-hmm. So all of these begin to shape your imagination. Then I began to watch movies by, you know, where uh, Smitha Partel, Shaban Sni played out wonderful women-centric roles. Hari: Mm-hmm. And that's when some of the biases began to change, a new set of assumptions began to form. Mm-hmm. So I think you go through your experiences. Result in you forming certain assumptions and the assumptions that you form, you yourself don't know. And gradually a new set of experiences sometimes result in you [00:24:00] overthrowing without you knowing some of the old biases and taking on a new set of assumptions. Hari: Mm-hmm. So that's the way I would see it. Gaurav: Yeah. Yeah. And the continue to drive our life as well as you just mentioned. Right. And without us being aware of, yeah. Mm-hmm. In outta curiosity, Harry, Uh, since we are talking about biases, we are talking about the way we are nurtured in our families. I'm sure this society also continues to contribute to the way we look at biases and revisit our biases. Gaurav: You know, you have worked with the old institutes giants like Tata Steel, and now you are the part of a very important part of the start startup ecosystem. What were those biases that you picked up from your past that were most difficult for you to unlearn and adapt to this new culture? Hari: Um, Goro. I think, you know what I, I I told you one of my [00:25:00] strengths was that I'm an extremely curious individual. Hari: Yeah. And unlearning something has never been very difficult for me. Mm-hmm. I have never been able to become tech savvy ever in my life. So I have never been able to understand computer science and computer technologies, but that. Most other, most other things. Mm-hmm. Unlearning stuff hasn't been very difficult at all. Hari: It's been pretty easy for me. So for me, that's been my strength. So it's played out, you know, working for in a large company and working for fast paced, high growth startups, working for startups. With different domains, in different domains from B p O to, you know, consumer internet, working with a bunch of founders who came from different backgrounds and slightly different belief systems and what they thought meant by performance and, uh, good growth. Hari: So I think I've been able to very easily adapt, adapting to new situations. Has. Frankly never been a problem with me. I have had, you know, several other flaws, um, in me, and I am, uh, hardly a perfect person. But I think this has been one of my strengths, being able [00:26:00] to adapt and being able to unlearn very quickly, being able to learn new things very quickly. Hari: I, I rapidly learn new cultures, new ways of working. So for example, I joined this company called, UH, taxi for sure. Yeah. And that was at the age of 49, I think, when I joined this company, where the CEO was probably 30 years. Average age of the company was, uh, 25. Wow. The executive team was, uh, you know, 32, 33 years old. Hari: But I fitted in very well because people saw me as, uh, you know, mentally young, and, uh, because I was able to, you know, adapt elements of culture. That this young organization had without being critical of those elements. In fact, I found many elements of their culture, very, very, you know, energizing and inspiring, and I quickly chose to be a part of that. Hari: So I think for me, adapting, unlearning and learning new things has never been a problem. Gaurav: Hmm. So help me a sense, since we are talking about taxi for sure. What are the primary differences have you noticed in the leadership in. And the [00:27:00] leadership in the startup world, any drastic difference that you have noticed in them? Gaurav: Apart from, of course, the average age of a leader in startup is much younger than the average age of a leader in them m and c. Any other difference? Any, yeah, their thinking pattern, their traits, you know, curiosity, cluttered way of thinking, spot pattern, storytelling. Other Hari: backgrounds that you know? Yeah, yeah. Hari: I think clearly. So for example, I would say, you know, all of us know this, um, you know, s curve of innovation, right? Very, very, yeah. Famous ES curve. I think large and mature companies fall into the, you know, upper flat zone of the S curve where things are flattening down, which is innovation is not happening at a breakneck speed. Hari: Growth is low. They're more or less trying to survive and live through to fight another day. And preserve their market share instead of growing their market share. Survive rather than grow, you know, all of that, they, what they're trying to do is, are some of these, whereas a startup is one a, a company that is disrupting and going through high growth phase. Hari: So it is either the [00:28:00] left flat end where they're trying to establish product market fit or the steep in between intermediate zone where. Got a product market fit and they're rapidly growing. So I think, um, startups to my mind and large companies, the one big difference is startups are continuously transforming organization. Hari: They're transforming very rapidly, whereas large companies are pretty much stable. They're at a stage in life where, you know, the forces of stability. And those forces of stability have actually defeated the forces of innovation. And as companies become big, I think it's important to have the right balance between these forces of stability and forces of innovation. Hari: And once companies become big, the forces of stability, there's an internal battle that the forces of stability begin to win. The bureaucracy begins to win, and I think many of these large companies are operating in that zoom where they are struggling to innovate. They are struggling to transform themselves as a result of which the only way probably they can survive is [00:29:00] to acquire, you know, smaller companies through which they can then, Innovate by giving them a lot of independence, freedom. Hari: So to be very quickly in summary, I think, uh, large companies are at a flat zone in their life journey, you know, struggling to just survive and keep things status quo. Whereas, uh, you know, startups are in a stage where they're continuously transforming rapidly and trying to establish their place under the sun. Hari: Mm-hmm. Gaurav: I just love it the way you, you spoke about the forces of innovation on one side. And on the other side you spoke about the forces of stability and there's always a struggle going on. Hari: Yeah. You also use, the Gaurav: word startups are transforming quickly. Help me understand what does that mean when you're saying transforming quickly because, and what aspects of transformation Hari: are you talking about here? Hari: Yes. So transformation is on multiple fronts. I'll talk to you about two or three examples. So for example, a startup. Start begins with a particular idea and a particular business model. [00:30:00] Yeah. Very quickly, as it goes to the market begins to interact with customers, they figure out that this business model will never make the money in the long run, and therefore they need to make it change. Hari: In the business model, every single startup you can think of has made some change or the other in the business model. So for example, make My Trip made a significant change in the the business model by focusing or defocusing on airline ticketing and focusing more. On hotels, for instance, and we can talk en endlessly about why they did that. Hari: Yeah, yeah. That, for example, made, uh, you know, a few pivots. So I think startups are constantly asking the questions like, are my customers happy? Is my business model relevant? You know, do I need to tweak my business model? Do I need to make a very significant pivot? So transformation on the business side is happening continuously. Hari: Until they get complete stability in and I, stability, I mean that the market share is growing and now the plane is in a cruise control mode, cruise mode. So transformation is also [00:31:00] because your company is rapidly growing. You will need to hire people laterally from outside. You also have internal rock stars who brought this startup to where it is, and there's a melting pot of people who come from outside with different beliefs and backgrounds and cultures, and people who grown internally and who brought the company to where it is. Hari: And there is going to be an inherent conflict between these two forces. Now, how does the startup actually harness this rather than allowing. These two forces to actually differences precisely break up the company. So that's also a transformation once it comes to the human capital side of things. So everything is going through change. Hari: So change is at a very high rate in a startup. That's what I mentor there. Continuously transforming the organization structures. Because we are now operating in one state. They begin to go nationally. They begin to go internationally. They create new lines of business, new. All of this requires them to. Hari: Revisit their organization structure and figure out whether the current structure is right or do the need to make changes. So structure is [00:32:00] going through changes, people are going through changes, the business model is going through changes. Everything is going through a change. Yeah. Gaurav: Thank you for bringing this aspect and I just love it. Gaurav: When you said that they, they are going through exponential changes in the organization and you spoke about structural changes, people changes, business model changes, you know, what do you think Harry is the role of a leader? When multi-generation, uh, individuals are coming together in that melting pot, with that multi-disciplinary ideas are coming in that melting pot, with that coming ideas and, uh, diversity is coming, how do you ensure, what is the role of a leader to ensure that, let me re restate it. Gaurav: What is the role of a leader in harnessing the power in that melting pot? Right. Rather than letting it go in different directions and experiencing the break down. Yeah. Rather than experiencing the breakthrough. Hari: This, uh, actually brings, uh, me to the question of, is diversity always good [00:33:00] or is diversity not desirable in some circumstances? Hari: Yeah, so I would say if you want to progress very rapidly at an early stage, then a bunch of like-minded people can come together, take quick decisions and race ahead. But that to me is not creating a resilient organization that can go through ups and downs. So it can go rapidly ahead, take decisions quickly, but whenever they are going to face roadblocks or challenges, this company could likely collapse. Hari: So I think as a company scales, brings in a variety of people, you know, goes to different geographies, different lines of business, I think leaders need to begin to demonstrate the ability to harness dissent. And harness a diversity of ideas. And I'm not talking of gender diversity at all here. No. Gender diversity is not as fundamental as diversity of opinions and ideas, precisely difficult to handle. Hari: So how do leaders harness dissent and harness diversity of opinions and ideas? Many leaders actually [00:34:00] struggle to harness dissent because they're used to, you know, people pretty much quickly saying yes to whatever they are saying and endorse and reinforce what they're saying rather than question them. Hari: I think good leaders are those who can harness dissent by allowing the right kind of questions to bubble up, creating the atmosphere for these questions to then bubble up and be openly discussed. So to me, that is leadership. That is the kind of leadership is very, very critical. You know, to go through the phase that we talked about, which is, you know, multi geography, expansion, multifunctions, multiple kinds of people, for example, coming in from different backgrounds and yet creating a great company out of this melting pot. Hari: And what kind Gaurav: of traits have you noticed in leaders who have been able to do it really successfully? So where you said that they've, they've been able to, uh, let the bubbles of questions emerge and let it brew in the system. Right. Holding the polarities, uh, holding the polarities of ideas, holding the polarities of, um, questions and [00:35:00] different perceptions, and yet holding that space, it's not easy. Gaurav: What are traits that you have noticed in leaders? Hari: That is, uh, a question in some way. I talked about, uh, right at the beginning you asked me, you know, I worked for, you know, multiple companies. You named Ver user to, you know, uh, nudge to Big Basket. What was common? You asked me, I said one of the things. That was common amongst the leaders of all these companies where that they were self-aware and they could quickly say, I am wrong. Hari: When they were wrong, ah, they never felt that it was their blow to their ego. So I think all these people, you know, who can make it are quickly able to say, for example, I don't know. And therefore are able to encourage that kind of dissent. They're very easily, you know, they have a lot of respect for good ideas rather than my ideas. Hari: So a superior idea is more important to me than my idea. If a superior idea is in front of me, I will accept it and coop it to be in me and make [00:36:00] that my idea, so I will not be hesitant. So good leaders are those who are able to accept good ideas, listen to multiple people, and uh, pick the best at go along. Hari: I Gaurav: think there's one thread which is running common in in the, this entire conversation is, I would say that's of self-awareness. Where are you of your own self? Are you aware that you're not getting stuck with your own identity or position? You know, you also spoke about geography, multi geographical approaches. Gaurav: Just curious, honey. Yes. What's your take on this? What's the primary difference between leading a team in an organization which has offers only in one country, and then leading a team in a Hari: global context? Right. So I think, you know, the primary difference is that what constitutes success in one country or one culture can be very different from what constitutes success in a different culture.[00:37:00] Hari: Mm-hmm. Also, the behaviors that are seen. As important for success in one culture could be seen very differently in a different culture. For example, in India, people can come into work as late as 11 o'clock in the morning and they will hang on in the office and stay around eight o'clock, nine o'clock, 10 o'clock, and you know, people might consider that way of working as the right way of working. Hari: Whereas in a different country, for example, people can come in sharp in the office to the office in the morning at eight o'clock and you know, as soon as it's five o'clock turns five, they're back home going home. Right, so somebody who's used to, you know, 11 and then being always available in the office, being always a might think that the eight to five culture is not a good culture. Hari: These guys are not deeply committed, so I think that's not the right way of seeing it. If you operate in a global context, you will realize that, for example, in Sri Lanka, it's perfectly all right to be soft spoken, and you don't have to be aggressive. Aggression is not necessarily an indicator of ambition and your ability to get things done. Hari: You could be extremely [00:38:00] soft spoken and you could still get things done in a different culture. So behaviors that are seen as necessary for achieving success in one culture could be very different from those in a different culture. Mm-hmm. So I think once you are leading in a global context, you have to appreciate this fact very quickly. Hari: Otherwise, you know, people will lose respect for you. And you have to be very careful about your choice of words, how you lead people, not make delegated remarks about any country, about any culture. Very, very important to do that and evaluate, you know, results rather than actions. Because actions are not so important in multicultural contexts. Hari: Outcomes that should be evaluated and feedback be provided based on outcomes. And to me, you know, management one on 1, 1 0 1 principles. Become far more important in the global context. For example, if you're operating in one city, one country, one state, then you could adopt a particular style. And let's say you're a poor listener and people will tolerate you over a period [00:39:00] of time, but in a global context, if you're a poor listener, you will get beaten up. Hari: People will just walk away. So listening is a very important element of management. But poor listening can sometimes get tolerated in a one country context, but will not be spared in a multi-company context. Mm-hmm. So, poor management or bad management is never spared in a multicultural context. Bad management you can get away with, you know, in a small team, in a small organization in one country, but bad management in a larger context is never acceptable. Hari: You'll be exposed far more quickly. Gaurav: Thank you for bringing that. I think listening and self-awareness, as you spoke about and being curious, I think these are the basic fundamentals of leading a team or managing a, an organization, be it a startup, or if you're working for an M N C, whether you're working in a small city with only one office or you're a part of uh, uh, [00:40:00] M N C, where you've got office in 50 countries, would it be a fair assumption to make. Gaurav: Yes. Hari: Mm-hmm. Yep. Hari: What do you Gaurav: think, Harry, that having worked with different organizations, which is that one organization that you would give Maxim credit to in helping you craft the character that you are today in helping become a human being that you are Hari: today? So frankly, Goro, it's very difficult to identify one or two individuals, or one or two companies. Hari: I think it's, uh, a lifetime of experiences that continue to shape you as an individual. And it's not just the lifetime of experience, because two people could go through the same set of experiences and the two could develop very differently. So I think it's not just your own experiences, but the way you deal with those experiences. Hari: You learn from those experiences and you allow the experiences to shape your life's future life. Yeah. I think that is really what matters. It's [00:41:00] not just one or two individual, one or two companies, or even to some extent, the set of experiences, how you choose to deal with those experiences and learn from those that really make you who you are. Hari: Mm-hmm. Gaurav: Thank you. How do you, going back to the core that. Make you who you are, where you spoke about curiosity and connecting the dots and spotting the pattern, an unpled way of thinking and storytelling. You know, if you were to recommend to our listeners, because our listeners are primarily C-suite executives and upper middle management, uh, team members from the corporate, if you were to give a piece of advice to them that Hari: would help them to sharpen these core Gaurav: traits that you spoke about. Gaurav: Where would Hari: you like to begin from? So first of all, I'm not fair for me to assume that the traits that I have demonstrated, uh, are something that, uh, everyone should, uh, demonstrate because each of us come with a different set of strengths. So, uh, [00:42:00] it's not fair to say that. Um, instead if you ask me if I to say something, I would say that, uh, spend some time in trying to identify who you are as a person. Hari: What defines you? What are your real strengths? Spend some time in terms of in and get a deep understanding of that. Mm-hmm. It's not very easy, I can tell you because a lot of people would say, you know, Managing people is my strength. Marketing is my strength. Such a poor way of putting their own strengths. Hari: They're not doing justice to themselves at all. Yeah. So I think it's important to, very carefully and respectfully for yourself too, think about who you are, what's your identity, and then, you know, begin to play to those strengths. So I think, uh, spend some time in figuring out who you are as a person. Hari: What are your strengths? Develop some self-awareness. Be very easy. Acknowledge you know what you're not good at. So I think that that is something that is important. I think that is the Gaurav: lifetime journey. You know, this journey, my journey of exploring who am I as an individual, started like a decade [00:43:00] back and every day, the more I think about, the more I contemplate, the more I Hari: ponder, Gaurav: the more I'm being with this question. Gaurav: It creates some kind of disturbance, some kind of pain, some kind of a, yet some kind of happiness and joy. And peace with them. I think it's a Hari: lifetime journey. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah. Gaurav: You know, uh, har reminds me of my conversation with a gentleman called Hari: Raji. Mm-hmm. Gaurav: Raji is from, uh, this was later 2012. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. And during that time, his first of all Hari: came out, he wrote Gaurav: a book called The Journey Home. And in that book is spoken and written a lot about knowing who you are, knowing your calling and operating from that space. Mm-hmm. So, yes. You know what, in this book we have spoken so many times about who you are. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. And, uh, finding your calling and knowing who you are as an individual. [00:44:00] I'm like a small baby in my nineties, right? How can I get onto this journey? How can I get to know about my calling? He said by asking the right question. God, we just started this journey. And I was, I was talking to you. For me, it wasn't like s going back. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. And when I asked that question from rather, not Soji, if not rather not Swamiji, we have Hari one of the same thing. Uh, Hari, what are you curious about at this phase of your life since you spoke about curiosity, what are you curious Hari: about these days? At this, uh, stage of my life, I want to do things that I'm really good at and I want to help people who need the help the most. Hari: So making ordinary people famous, telling their stories, helping them become successful, I think is, uh, now in some ways the mission in my life. So, uh, for example, meeting that entrepreneur, I told you, Taj Kira Beum from Bebo, a small town in West Bengal, telling her story, listening [00:45:00] to her, you know, writing about her, you know, gave me a lot of joy. Hari: For example, in the last seven to 10 years, I think I have met some very, very amazing people. People who are trying to create an impact. People who have found, uh, pretty much selfless individuals. So knowing about them, helping them in my own little way, telling their stories, making them famous, I think in some ways it'll be my mission. Hari: So, for example, I met this amazing, uh, young lady by name, um, you know, Samina Banano. She runs this organization in Lucknow called, uh, Wright Walk Foundation. She studied at I am Bangalore, you know, an engineer by background and worked at Deloitte in the us. Gave up a very lucrative career to come back to India. Hari: And do something for the country. And, um, she's now running the Wright Walk Foundation, which actually used the right to education in up to give education for mil lacks of children, underprivileged children in good schools. She used the Right to Education Act and fought against all the forces that came in the way.[00:46:00] Hari: Of, you know, helping poor children getting admission to good school. She did that. Now she's using apprenticeship in multiple states to create, create livelihoods. So if I can view of any help to individuals like these by providing my thought leadership by my, you know, thinking abilities, if I can help accelerate their journeys, I think to me that is fulfillment. Hari: So that's what I'm looking for now. That's the only thing probably I'm looking for now. Thank you, Harry. You know Gaurav: what, um, as I'm just reflecting on our conversation, where it began from and the kind of notes that I had before even getting to this conversation and how this conversation took its own shape. Gaurav: Mm-hmm. Right? It, it is not about i a t and Im, it's not about accomplishments. It's not about looking at parameters like the money that you earn and. Hari: The position that you Gaurav: hold in the coordinator. It's not about that. It's about who you are. Identifying and discovering who you are and what [00:47:00] brings joy, what brings peace? Gaurav: How can I be more kind and more loving and compassionate? Harry, thank you so much for being who you are. I thank it was an absolute joy and delight and a pleasure having you Hari: with me here on this. Thank you, Gora. I enjoyed this conversation, very authentic conversation, and the questions were amazing. Hari: Thank you.
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