#065 Corporate entrepreneurship with Arjun Purkayastha

#065 Corporate entrepreneurship with Arjun Purkayastha

Contact Arjun


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Episode Transcript

The transcript is computer generated. There may be errors.

Sharad: hi, everyone. Welcome to how to live, a podcast that explores ways to live a good life. I'm your host Sharad Lal. This is episode sixty five, delving into professional innovation, how can we bring entrepreneurial spirit to our everyday work lives? Joining us is Arjun Purkayashta, senior vice-president and managing director at Reckitt. He's also a dear friend. Within an illustrious career spanning top tier MNCs, such as Procter & Gamble. Arjun brings a wealth of experience from diverse global markets, including India, Singapore, London, Korea, and Greater China.

What sets him apart is his entrepreneurial mindset within the corporate landscape. Having personally witnessed this both in Reckitt and P&G, I can attest to the impact that it carries. Arjun continuously hones his entrepreneurial skills through close engagement with the startup ecosystem. He serves as the board director and strategic advisor to renowned ventures, like the Bombay shaving company.

Arjun's accolades speak volumes, including 7 Cannes Lions, 6 Effies recognitions as UK’s top 50 customer experience professionals, and Xinfu’s global leader for 2019. In our conversation, we discuss entrepreneurial leadership, from day-to-day strategies to long-term vision, strategic hiring to navigating tough decisions, and beyond. 

But before we go in, thank you very much for your support. We're now listened to in over one 30 countries And ranked globally among the top 5% of all podcasts. Please follow us. and rate us. Thank you in advance. Now here's the. conversation with the remarkable, our June per Casta.

Sharad: Hi, Arjun. Welcome to the how to live podcast. How are you doing this morning in London?

Arjun: Hi, Sharad. Great to be here. It's a nice sunny day in London.

Sharad: Wonderful. Congratulations, Arjun, on all the success that you've had. And one of the stories I always remember when we worked together in different capacities is whenever we work together, we have a formal meeting.

After that, we have a phone call where we talk about how to get things done. To me, that embodies your working style: You have the corporate angle, but you have the entrepreneurial hustle to start this off. I'd love to understand from you. What is entrepreneurship to you?

Arjun: I have a very simple definition of entrepreneurship, Sharad. entrepreneurship is about creating value. How do you create value in what you're doing? I think when people think of entrepreneurship, they think of startup companies and venture capital funding and things like that.

True, there's entrepreneurship there as well. But I believe that entrepreneurship can be everywhere and in everything that you do, because it's about creating value and more importantly, it's about creating shared value.

Sharad: So when we're talking about entrepreneurship and creating value in the corporate world, what are the pluses that help us in entrepreneurship, and what are the enemies of entrepreneurship, according to you?

Arjun: That's a great question. I call them the ABCs, so they are ABCs—friends of entrepreneurship—and then the ABCs, which are enemies of entrepreneurship.

In friends, the first one is accountability, or getting things done, keeping the ball moving, especially when you need to keep it moving. The second one, oddly enough, is what I call a bullshit detector. because there is a lot of bad or a lot of stuff that can come in the way.

So simply having accountability is not enough. You need to have a very good bullshit detector to keep all types of things away, which are going to come in the way, which don't make sense. And the third one is, I believe that constraints or creating constraints drives creativity and drives better outcomes.

For example, you may have a month to do something, but saying that I want to do it in a week, or I want to complete it in a day, forces you to come up with much better solutions.

On the other hand, there are what I call the enemies of entrepreneurship, Again, these are ABCs. So the first one is arrogance, thinking that you know it all and you have nothing left to learn. The second one is bureaucracy, creep of bureaucracy, which tends to happen over time as you become big and you scale up, or if you're already big.

The third one, of course, is complacency. So looking at these three, opposing factors together and learning how to harness them, and more importantly, learning how to spot them and diagnose them correctly helps you take the right actions.

Sharad: Let's get into bureaucracy because that's the first thought many people have. I work in this big company, this bureaucracy, how can I be entrepreneurial? So in your view, in these big bureaucratic companies that we've all worked in, what is the way to get some sort of an entrepreneurial mindset in place to get things done?

Arjun: I don't have, let's say a formula for this because it depends on where you are. There are some general rules of thumb, or general hacks. that you can use, So one very common way of spotting bureaucracy is when people put names of departments to problems rather than the name of a person, So you say that, why is this not moving? And it's finance said that this regulatory agency wants us to check something. the agency has not come back. so these are signs of bureaucracy. And the first question to ask is, can you please tell me who is the person,who's stopping things or who is the person who is.

Accountable. So, coming back to the ABCs, right? You want to take bureaucracy and tackle it with accountability. So the first thing is you ask, who's the real person, so that you can talk to the real person and get things done. Again, it's not about being a policeman or pulling people up, but it's about really understanding what the source of the business problem is and how you can work together to solve it and get things moving.

The second one is that. I think, as managers or as intelligent people in big companies, you have this mantra of simplification. Everyone loves to say, let's simplify.I would say that don't try to simplify something which should not be there in the first place.

As an entrepreneur, you want to be a great editor and an even better deleter. So you have to learn how to delete unnecessary things and really ask, does this need to be here in the first place? Do we really need to do things like this? Is there a better, faster way rather than a simpler way?

initially, people think that entrepreneurs solve problems. Okay. But the greatest entrepreneurs know how to avoid problems and they're always trying to figure out how to avoid this problem.

Let's think of a couple more. I'm sure that you read this book, Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. So I have a parallel to that, which is called acting fast, acting slow. There are many situations in which you can just act fast and get things done.

And there are very few situations which are strategic in nature or involve someone's career where you need to take a little more time, and act slowly. you have to be able to again diagnose where do you want to act fast and where do you want to act slow, you can't really force yourself to think faster or act faster all the time, but what you can do is you can reduce the pressure on yourself, and think with a clear mind and figure out how can I go ahead with this?

Sharad: Really good, man. Really helpful. And maybe we'll just dig into a few of them. I love Delete versus Simplify. And there's always a tendency, let's simplify the task, but you question the task itself and you delete it. And I think entrepreneurs always have to make choices, limited resources because of which deletion happens.

How do you do that in the corporate world? 

Arjun: I would say the most frequently occurring. One of these is when something is obviously not working, in our lives, we have launched many NPDs, or new launches. Where you know, within the first two months,even before all the data comes into play, that this thing is not working.

You get a feel from the sales team, you see your competition, you figure out on the shelf, what you planned and what happened with competition or what got executed is very different. And I think, As a leader or as a manager, it is upon you to take that difficult call, at that moment to say that, Hey, listen, this is not working.

We need to move ahead. I think at the heart of it is not being emotionally attached to your own decisions or decisions that you've made. And I think as human beings, we have this bias to be very attached to the decisions we've made because we feel that we've thought through them or spent a lot of time on them.

But there's a saying that when the facts change, your view or your decision also needs to change. And if you don't change it, you're in deep trouble. I think watching out for when the facts change and being able to change these decisions is quite important. That itself is a deletion because you can save precious time of the organisation, not going down the track where you know that this is a dead end.

Another one would be that you may have a multi-step process where,let's take a launch where,in our erstwhile employer, you would have an 18- to 24-month process where you would do all types of things.

and then they would be driven by the most difficult launches. But then if you ask questions like,is there really a hurdle? Is it a simple product to launch? You can really crunch the timelines. And I think everyone, everyone who goes through project management or marketing and sales, eventually learns how to do this crunching of timelines and crunching of timelines is typically done by deleting things which are not required or shouldn't be there in the first place.

Sharad: As you were talking, it struck me as an entrepreneur, it's a little easier to do because it's you and it's a small team. When the corporate world is systems that are meant to, like you said, you make the system for the most tough situation.

So they're rigorous systems and then getting people to shift away from the system and move things in a different way means you need alignment and many stakeholders to come with you. How do you do that, in organisations too, to get that buy-in of an entrepreneurial mindset that can move this forward and let some of these things not happen?

Arjun: I think stepping back and questioning that should there be only one system of doing things for everything, is the key question to ask the answer to that is inevitably no, because, you cannot use the rules of the past or the rules of the really big stuff to guide the choices for the small stuff, because,

ways of thinking of new businesses or young initiatives will be very different from the very big. In my work over the years, I try to run three operating systems in parallel. depending on the situation or depending on the business

I call this operating model, be big, be fast and be bold and open. Being big is for really big businesses, which are quite established, and are running businesses and you don't want you don't have to fiddle with them too much.

This is the principle on which most big companies run and most big companies are made.

What happens is a lot of companies just stop at that, And then when something new comes, which does not fit into the cycle or which does not make sense, they look at it and say, Hey, obviously this is never going to work.

We've tried it before. We've taught it. So this is what kills a lot of stuff. the second operating system, I call that be fast and be fast is essentially. running very fast loops, but they are learning loops because you don't know what you don't know. This is called AB testing, to put it very simply.

And you run a lot of real life AB testing, you're always trying something new. The idea of Ironically is to fail as much as possible because every time you fail, you learn something new and become better with it.

So this is like a fast system. And the last one is, be bold and open, which is, you don't know what you don't know. Be ready to admit that you don't understand something and go outside for help, partner with other people, collaborate with other people and get things together.

A simple rule of thumb, which I use is, be big should be 70 to 80%.be fast should be, let's say 15 to 20 percent and be bold and open should not be more than five to 10%.

I think where things go wrong is where people try to take very moonshot bets and they bet the company or they bet their careers on something which is in the B bold and open and something very far out. And sometimes that works, but most times it doesn't. And I think the way to also look at this is how are you playing probabilities?

The probability of success is highest in a B big and lowest if you go down from B fast to B bold and open, and therefore you want to manage your work like you would manage a smart portfolio.

Sharad: Love that Arjun. And I love how you put the percentages in the end, which puts perspective because you're still working in a big setup. And like you said, the B big is 80%. That's what's got the company here. That's what's going to take the company forward. I've also increasingly noticed many companies have the track of the B fast. Telling businesses to have certain products, campaigns along the BFAST track and experiment, learn and get better. How have you seen this BFAST track from an organisation standpoint evolve?

Some companies were serious about it, but in a lot of companies, it used to be just a channel or a hobby. and I think COVID forced companies and forced people to really step up and notice because it became the only way you could do business.

Arjun: So they needed to move fast, learn very quickly, try different things, not put the old rules on it, and run it. Another way could be when you are entering a new category Or launching something new, which doesn't fall into the regular big way of doing things or does not fall into the everyday way of doing things.

You need a slightly different approach. Even as Gen AI comes up, having a big approach to Gen AI is something that probably will not be the best thing to do. But I think you may want to do it when you're looking at, let's say, running your Microsoft teams or, running your enterprise applications.

However, if you're looking at creativity, setting up new businesses, or building things, you want to be faster, bolder, and more open, depending on the final use that you see of it.

Sharad: If you want to spend your whole career being fast in the corporate world, that's not a wise thing to do. It's only a part of it that you do now on the last one, which is the B bold. I found that interesting, where you said, look, you may not have expertise.

So you get people from outside, you put like almost what startups do. You put a team together, an all stars team and try to solve a project. How have you seen this in companies? Let's start with one lesson that I've learned. If you put too much of an all star team on something, it doesn't necessarily work. So if you put an all star team or a very senior person or superhero type of person there, the first thing that they will do is they'll want to build an empire.

Arjun: By definition, these types of businesses have little to no revenue. Usually they're pre revenue, and you want to figure it out. So what you really want to do is ideally put only one person, one. You want to create that constraint of having less money and figuring their way out of figuring things out.

the moment in this, you give a lot of resources or you give a lot of money. immediately it will turn into a bureaucracy or it will turn into a bureaucratic approach. These are what are called stealth projects or skunk projects or underground projects. You really want to start off by working it that way, or just working it by having a sounding board and discussing it back and forth until you come up with a solution.

That's a much better approach than putting an all star team and putting lots of people together, because we all know how that ends.

Sharad: Absolutely. You brought out intelligent people. So let's bring that point out. In the corporate world, you have so many intelligent people together, which sometimes can build complexity. And how does, how can an entrepreneurial mindset help shift these intelligent minds in the right direction?

Arjun: That's a great question because, I think with every strength that people have, intelligence is something that I find is overused a lot, by a lot of people in the corporate world.

One of the most Sad misuses of intelligence is that intelligence creates complexity. Intelligent people try to figure out a much more elegant way of doing things or a different way of doing things, or they want to leave a legacy behind. Sometimes they simply think that they're too smart.

you want to make sure that There's no arrogance and at the same time you have a very clear bullshit that detector

Why am I saying this because I'm quite guilty of it? I may not be the most intelligent person in the world, but I have a certain amount of intelligence. And I have complexified things in the past and I've been arrogant about some decisions in the past. So these are some hard lessons that I have learned from my past.

and that's why I'm trying to put that forward. and,share that with you

Sharad: Is there Any example that comes to mind where you used your intelligence and realised, damn, I over intellectualised this one.

Arjun: There are many things, the most common one would be, trying to launch something and say that the category is all wrong and i'm going to change everyone's habit or coming up with something which has failed six times before and relaunching it again because you know everything has a cycle in a company and saying that you know this time it's going to work because You don't say it openly, but you feel it inside this time.

It's me. So I'm going to figure it out and I'm going to work it out and I'll succeed where so many have failed before. And I think if something has failed many times you have to really go back and understand What is the reason that it failed? Why couldn't so many intelligent people figure that out before you?

so I think Intelligence alone is not the enemy of progress. I think it's intelligence when combined with arrogance Or intelligence when combined with complacency. which tends to create problems

intelligence needs to combine with attitude, with ethics, with hard work, et cetera, et cetera,

I view intelligence like leverage,like a force multiplier for anything that you do. So in both directions, it can go really good or it can go really bad, depending on how you use intelligence and what you combine it with.

Sharad: Great point, man. And I was wondering for you, like, how have you, are there any checks that you have where you want to make sure that you're, for you, like intelligence is not going down the arrogance path, or if it goes, you're correct. Humility comes in. And sometimes, Bad business results don't show you an example.

You keep doing well, there's success and intelligence, and that kind of leads to complacency and arrogance. So what are the kind of checks that you've got for yourself to make sure that you don't go down that path?

Arjun: That's a really, really fantastic one. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. you have to keep asking this question of yourself again and again. and I think it's even truer the more senior you become in an organisation the more people you work with and the bigger businesses that you work on.

The reason for this is that first of all, the unfiltered raw truth never reaches you. It's always a very filtered version and many times it is what people think that you want to hear, not what you need to hear. there are again some very clear hacks that you can use to get past this, The first hack is really rolling up your sleeves and going down to the front line and figuring out what's really going on in the fmcg industry meeting consumers meeting customers going to a store Really seeing how it's done going and working closely with your best customers, they, that will give you the insight.

So the closer you are to the action and the closer you are to the consumer, the greater the source of truth that you get. The second one always encourages people to speak, especially the silent people in the room.

It's not the loudest people in the room who have the greatest insights, but usually it's the most silent people in the room. So you need to seek out, particularly in an international environment, when the person has a problem with English or may not be really good with English. So they may not feel comfortable putting themselves out there and telling you everything.

figuring out how to get that, and weaning it out either in public or in private. is very important. The third one is, the good old stuff that you learn, which is very true that always takes a holistic, multi functional, multi dimensional, not just, in terms of different parts of the business, but also a time view to it.

So if you put a time lens to problems, does it matter today? Will it matter one week from now? Will it matter a month, a year, 10 years from now? putting a time lens to things, puts things into perspective as well, and helps you solve problems better. And the last one, which I have implemented in the last few years, is to have a second brain.

I started doing this a couple of years ago when you figured out that there are too many things happening and it's very difficult to manage . You start taking actions very fast or you start taking action very slowly. So you move to either end of the spectrum.

getting yourself a second brain. A lot of founders practice it. A lot of people practise it by getting a great chief of staff,or they get a person who works with them very closely on everything. Over time, you learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, and you learn to compliment each other versus just saying yes to each other for everything.

I have worked again with the help of some very good advisors to put together this role in the organisation for myself, which really helps me have a second brain. and two brains are definitely better than one.

Very interesting, man. As you're talking about the second brain, it struck me that versus a coach or a mentor, this is a person who's day in and day out in the operational details. So has a very clear view of what's going on and gives you, at that time, the brainstorming that you need.

Sharad: And once you create a safe environment with that person, whether it's in private or whatever, he or she can speak the truth

one of the second points, trying to get the right feedback from people, there's cultural nuances that if you might say something, you might mean something else.

What wisdom do you use to try and interpret what somebody's trying to say? If they're not giving you very clear feedback, but there's something behind it, which is what the feedback is, how's that communication with people, as your subordinates, worked out for you in terms of feedback?

Arjun: I think this is very important. again, in, running an entrepreneurial setup, because only when you accept, when you hear and accept, so there are two things, right?

So you may have a great system for hearing the truth, but you may not accept it. Or you may not. Wanting to go through it because of the pain or the embarrassment of having an ability to both seek out the truth constantly and accept the truth is something which is very important.

The first thing is don't take things at face value. because. Communication is 80 to 90 percent body language, and not what people say. and language does not necessarily communicate everything that you need to hear. So building the muscle of having an emotional quotient reading the room is something to cultivate and it just takes time and experience. It's not going to come overnight, but you have to consciously do it, and figure it out. And also look back at older decisions you made or older facts that you heard and try and introspect and say, Hey, was that correct? Did I make the right decision?

Did I not double click enough on it? And I think always be double clicking, on things which are important, things which are simple. Like I want to get a coffee and someone says, I want this coffee. Obviously you don't want to get into it. Did you really want that coffee? Did you want something else?

but if the stakes are high, I think, taking your time, trying to take a view of multiple people at the end, you still need to decide, but making sure that you hear everyone out without giving your opinion. is probably the best way to do it. And if you see someone who's uncomfortable, that's when you take it private, ideally in great cultures and great organisations, people should be open and speak in front of each other.

So you want to encourage that. I think you want to say that one of the things that I tell people is that I could be wrong, and most probably I'm wrong. So please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm very open. And then, make sure that you reward people who are right when you are wrong.

Sharad: So Arjun, changing track a bit now in terms of hiring people and the team that you want for the projects that you're doing, how do you bring entrepreneurial skills into that? How do you choose the people you want on your team?

Arjun: You want to hire people who are smarter than you, or definitely smarter than you at doing that piece of job that needs to be done. and then once you figure that out, you want to enable them and get out of the way, ideally, and then bus barriers as they come along. You also want to ensure that, while they may be better than you, you want to have two checks. One is that they have the ability. to work hard when needed, and get things done because that increases, let's say the surface area, of possible outcomes.

And you definitely want to make sure that they are ethical, and very sound on that

I came across a very interesting framework a few years ago, which is called the three edge framework . You are always looking for people who are hustlers, hackers and hipsters. One out of three, you must definitely have, having an individual who does two out of three is great.

Most great entrepreneurs have two out of three, three out of three is very rare. don't see all of them together, but sometimes they do come about and then the outcomes are great. But when you're putting the team together, you also want diversity in a team. and there are many types of diversity, gender diversity, background, diversity, nationality, diversity.

But there's also diversity in ways of doing things, how you get work done, what your natural veering is towards, and hustling, hacking, or being a hipster, you know, are three different things. And you should aim for that diversity as well.

Sharad: Wonderful. And as you're building the team culture and now you've got somebody who at least hits, let's say one of these H's and then you're building the team culture, how do you build an entrepreneurial team culture, as a leader?

Arjun: the first thing is you have to set an example yourself you can't expect to build an entrepreneurial team if you don't have entrepreneurship or have an entrepreneurial ability in yourself

Having a very clear purpose as to why you're doing something and where really ignites people. Being able to match the purpose of what you're doing to the personal purpose of the person usually unleashes a lot of entrepreneurship in them because then they really want to get things done.

They have a lot of accountability, because it's something that drives them as well. So finding a way to connect these two, is quite key. Also from a team point of view, I think culture is built in teams and not in individuals,

So actually spending time with the team, talking about the culture, talking about what we will do and what we won't do, what do we aspire to be? Which we are not today. What is the gap? How do we close that gap? is something that's a must do I feel in teams and in high performing teams, because culture needs to be consciously built, it's not just a byproduct of people coming together.

Sharad: So there are two words that always come up when we talk about entrepreneurship and wonder how they come into play in the corporate world: courage. They talk about courage to go and do things. And there's, of course, luck.

So maybe you can touch upon these two separately to give a sense of how they come about in the corporate world when you're trying to create an entrepreneurial environment.

Arjun: courage is very important because courage enables you to do the right thing. combine it with credibility And credibility is the ability to do what you said you will do again and again, on a consistent basis.

it's back to that accountability piece that if you're accountable and you get things done. But if you do it with courage and therefore you do the right things then you have really awesome people. However, If you have courage, but you don't get things done and you don't have credibility then you know, all you are is a bullshitter.

So you talk big, but you don't get things done if you have credibility. But if you don't have the courage, you end up being ineffective again. It's a combination of things that works, but courage is super important. I think a lot of times we are just held back by fear of what if this happened. And what will people think and say?

Taking the hard call requires courage. hard decisions lead to an easy life and easy decisions lead to a hard life. That's courage. coming back to luck, I think luck is a much, much bigger topic.

There's an old book by Dr. James Austin called Chase, Chance, and Creativity. In it, he talks about the role of luck and chance, which comes down to the four types of luck. The first type of luck is what we call zip code luck or blind luck, which is you can't do anything about it.

And it just happens to you. you were born in a certain city to, parents of a certain level of wealth or not is zip code luck. You couldn't control that. So it's like blind luck. A lot of people think that all types of luck is blind luck, but there's a second type of luck.

The second type of luck is hustle luck, or, very close to some of the things that we talked about in entrepreneurship, you go out there and you have a lot of motion, you meet a lot of people, you try many different things. Because you're hustling, you come across some opportunity that works.

and that's hustle luck and you do that by increasing the number of variables or iterations or number of things that you do. Then the third one is called preparation luck or chance favours the prepared. When you know a topic really well, or when you do something really well, you can figure out very quickly that this is an opportunity worth seizing on. a lot of preparation luck could be, the greatest investors, let's say Warren buffet or a Charlie manga,are waiting.

for years on end. And then they figured out this is the time to buy something. So now what you can see Sharad also is that, as we're moving from blind luck to hustle luck to preparation luck, what is the traditional definition of luck is slowly disappearing and you are more in control of it.

The last one is called unique luck. you are the only person who can do what you do. For example, you could be the only person who can do deep sea diving, to a certain depth and be able to get something out. And tomorrow, if someone finds a sunken treasure, they will come seeking you out So that becomes a unique piece of luck that comes to you, which is completely created by your eccentricity of you being you.

Sharad: which again is much more in your control. This is the spectrum of luck. It is important to remember that life is 50 percent luck, but luck can be controlled, as you move through the different spectrums of luck. Love that perspective. I love the first point where you made that the same actions can lead to monumental success or monumental failure. So that is clearly, there is a 50 percent thing, but as you describe this framework, I started thinking that it's not necessarily only 50%, as you move from, you Just basic luck.

The first luck that you talked about two words, let's say unique in the unique land, it's not necessarily 50%. You are in a certain niche, which gives you the opportunity to do other things.

And it's not just luck. It's luck that the deals come, but you're prepared to take that. I love that.

Arjun: Yeah. One more thing to add is that all great entrepreneurs view every setback, no matter how large it is, as a temporary hurdle. That enables them to do more hustling, do more preparation, be more unique, and increase their surface area. You will miss a hundred percent of the shots that you don't take.

if you don't take shots, your chance of failure is a hundred percent guaranteed. And I think great entrepreneurs understand that, and are able to take advantage of that fact as well.

Sharad: And sometimes it's not necessarily that when you miss a shot, you suddenly get up and the next day, do it, do the next shot. It does take an emotional thing out of you, but you know that this is part of the process. You have to keep getting up and at times you're questioning it, but you have to keep getting up.

Great point. Now, Arjun, you've also got a lot of entrepreneurial experience as you were involved in some entrepreneurial ventures outside of your company. So I'd love for you to talk about some of the entrepreneurial ventures you've been involved in and what you've learned from them.

Arjun: I have a lot of passion to work with great founders who are building future brands, or future companies. and particularly, the ecosystem that I'm Very passionate about is the Indian startup ecosystem. I've invested in a number of companies there, work closely with some of the founders. in terms of helping them. And I think that the mantra is like help, but don't interfere. because in all probability, they know a lot, lot more than you. It is a two way process. part of the process is helping where you can. but the second way is it is a great source of learning. It is a great source of learning entrepreneurship, I find that is very stimulating. I can learn a lot from them.

for example, the hustler hacker and hipster framework. I see that in action in a lot of companies,and how they build. how to operationalize and monetize different types of ideas, or niche types of ideas and build a company out of it where big companies would reject those ideas, So a lot of this I find helps hone your skills,

I just want to poke a bit, like there are many folks in the corporate world like you who are interested in getting that entrepreneurial experience. They want to get that experience. They want to learn from it. What could be ways in which they could approach this? Because you've reached a place now, and I think it's taken many years, maybe where you're a board member of many of these. the Bombay shaving company, which is right up there as an innovative company in India. you're respected in the community there. How have you gotten there? So anything that I say will anyway be giving you my winning lottery ticket number, which is of no use, right? I don't think it'll be a specific experience or a specific instance. It's a lot of trial and error. I would say that I started from that bold way of doing things, and then slowly graduated over time.

but the start of it is, do you truly have a passion for it or not? and to understand where your passion lies. So I tried working with startups in many different places. And I found that there's a certain type of business that I like, certain types of people that I like working with. and only when you're truly passionate about it.

Only when you can truly add value,and feel that you can help other people win. I think a big part of the passion is, for me, how can I help really good people level up, or be a sounding board for them. and then basically watching them, bend the trajectory of things, or really change something, gives me personal joy.

you have to be clear why you're in something like this. It needs to come much deeper and driven by purpose rather than, this sounds really cool to do. Once you're focused, you need to commit to it for a long period of time.

So you can't do it for three months or six months, but you have to do it for years and years. So if I look back at some of this, I've been doing it for well over five years. and I plan to continue to do it. for a long time to come. I don't have an end date in mind at all, because it's just something that gives me joy.

Sharad: I love that. So maybe we should just click on focus. You said you tried different startups and then you were able to figure out that I want to work with consumer-good brands.

I want to help them help these brands become big. How did you arrive that this is the area versus many other areas that you really want to zero in on

Arjun: When I initially started, there was a lot of,high degree of temptation to go much more towards technology and tech, because, that's where the exponential outcomes come. I find it very exciting. I enjoy myself there, but I think I figured out that,a hard painful lesson to the ego, which is I don't have much value to add there. you know, it took me a couple of clicks and a couple of investments to figure out Hey, listen, I can't really add something when I speak to the founder.

I have no net positive to add and therefore, it could be exciting and they could be great investments, but it's not something that can come about,you have no value to it.if I look back for things that I have passion for, which is marketing and branding and,

building the right kind of future brands,which are in the right direction, which actually give positive outcomes to consumers. They have a purpose behind them. and they're not just there for the business of making money. So I found that these are some of the things that drive me and overtime,as again, through iteration, as you kept going through and working with companies, you realised.

When you talk to a person about their company or their business, what really excites you? What really drives you? What makes you passionate? What makes you want to, roll up your sleeves and say, Hey, let's look at this together. What about this idea and that idea? And what doesn't. And I think, you use your head to tell yourself that you are good at this and not good at this,so that you get some focus, but then you also need to use your heart to see, What is something that I love?

and I would love to do it again and again, but it's not working for me. And I think that's another important question to answer when you're doing something outside work on your weekends, helping people, and choosing to spend your spare time away from family. It has to be very clear. This does not work for me.

And I think using both the head and the heart to get to that decision, A number of years, but I feel now I'm in a happy place and I'm enjoying myself,working with these entrepreneurs and learning so much from them as well.

Sharad: the heart is connected to the second part, which I'm gonna ask you. sustaining it once is, of course, the enthusiasm, but you've sustained it for five years and you wanna sustain it going forward. How do you sustain it?

Arjun: how do you sustain it? See, you have to love it to sustain it, right? Because you're going to give your, you have your work schedule, you have your night, nine to six or nine to eight, whatever time you work and weekdays. And then, this is something you're going to do on the weekends.

There are a lot of my friends who love to play golf. They spend their weekends playing golf hitting out tea. For me, golf, the golf equivalent,is to spend time with great startup companies,and see how we can build great consumer brands in the future and to watch them grow and watch them build,is something that excites me.

So as long as that excites you, that'll sustain you because again, golf is something you play till you lose your knees.

Sharad: Very cool. So if you love your golf, don't think about anything else. If you cannot spare your Sundays, if your Sundays are golf, Stay there. Don't think of other things if you want to do it seriously, like you have. I've met many people who are involved in some way or another in the entrepreneurial world, but I've never met someone who is so involved and who's kept it so sustainable.

There's a lot of wisdom out there that people can learn from. Thank you for sharing that. Now, Arjun, we've talked about many topics. I was wondering if there is any area that we have not spoken about that we should speak about?

Arjun: Yeah. Maybe,the choice of what to do or the choice of what to be entrepreneurial about. I have this philosophy, which is that it's far easier to do big audacious things or make big audacious changes. Then it is to do small incremental things because your time is limited and, whether you're in a big setup, small setup, running your own business, whatever you're doing, you're going to spend the same number of hours or the effort in whichever option that you choose.

And I think choosing wisely what you want to do will help you pursue things with determination. setting unusually large goals. gives you a huge infusion of adrenaline, and gives you endurance to overcome anything that is thrown your way,

And I always felt that very realistic goals lack inspiration or are unable to propel you beyond some small challenges. And a lot of times, you also have premature surrender, in my view. I think one thing to keep in mind is if the potential payoff of what you're doing is mediocre, your effort is going to be mediocre.

If the potential payoff of what you're doing is exponential, and to the moon, then therefore your effort and the way you think about the problem and how you go solving the problem will be that. you only have one life. and there are only a limited number of things you can do at this time.

I would say make sure that it's something really meaningful and that you enjoy, and that it's big enough.

Sharad: What a wonderful, inspirational message, Arjun. This is going to be so useful for people. This entire conversation you've shared so much wisdom about working in the corporate world, but bringing an entrepreneurial mindset as well as finding entrepreneurial ventures. So thank you very much for your time.

I wish you all the very best and thank you for being in the podcast.

Arjun: And thanks for doing this podcast. I think you have listeners across, I think 125 countries. it must be really meaningful to all of them, to tune in and listen and hopefully it helps them. And certainly all the episodes you've put out so far helping so many people keep at it because I think you've also found a true passion for yourself.

Sharad: Thank you, Arjun. for all your unwavering support. Thank you very much.


Thank you Arjun for such an inspiring conversation. Yeah, something all of us can reflect on. How do we make decisions at work and life? What are these quick decisions that we need to make promptly? How do we make those? What are decisions that are slow? WhatsApp process there.

What can we learn about decision-making? Best of luck as you make better decisions. I hope you enjoyed this episode. The next episode will drop two weeks from now, on April 23rd. Do join us for that. Till next time, have a wonderful day ahead. Bye-bye.