VCCircle today published excerpts of an email interview with me and other executives from Indian businesses. I am sharing my full answers here, for a more balanced perspective on running a cross-continental business, which, ultimately, works to Saavn’s advantage.
1. Even as we live in a connected world, how easy or difficult is to manage a business by not being in the country? What are the challenges of managing business, cross-continent?
Managing any business, in any location, requires one critical component: exceptional leadership. Saavn is built as a company with a global perspective: Silicon Valley technology, industry-defining design out of NY, and India at the center of everything we do. While we use tools like Slack, WhatsApp, and Skype to manage communication relays, we have defined an internal culture and on-ground leadership in all offices. Nearly 70% of our team is here in India. Interestingly, while we started from New York and Silicon Valley, you now see many of India’s top internet companies hiring from the same places. Finding great people to be part of your team knows no geographic boundaries, in my opinion. You hire and develop the best in the world.
2. Secondly, the kind of exposure the West provides to what extend [sic] that helps in infusing new technology and growing the company?
The advantage you get from teams in the West is years of expertise. As an example, the reason that Saavn has become a leader in Big Data is a direct result of us working alongside the experts from the West, starting 5 years ago. They had 20 years of experience to share with us. Performance of your company gets you exposure, no matter where you are. Our global footprint gives is a unique advantage in working with the best talent and creators in the West and in India.
3. What are the learnings that you take back from the West when it comes building customer loyalty towards the company/brand?
Great brands are built from great culture. This is one of the key takeaways from successful companies in the US that have scaled and evolved through the years. Many companies around the globe are retro-fitting culture as they run into problems with attrition, internal politics, and general happiness within the company. It’s impossible to retain everybody, but if you build a root system that is based on values, it will pay off for years. You have to make this bet inside your company, and companies from the West, like Zappos, Google, and Warby Parker have helped define this for the world. We are fortunate to learn directly from them and to apply it, internally, to Saavn’s global team.
4. Also, has it ever happened that you have been able to help your friends in the West by sharing some experience from your business in India?
Absolutely. Given that India is nearly a mobile-only market, Saavn has had to develop proprietary solutions for the mobile client, back-end infrastructure, mobile ad technology, and a specialized focus on Android development. We often share and borrow solutions from many companies. Expertise is being shared from founders and team leads all the time, sometimes via a quick video call, sometimes at conferences, and often while sitting next to each other on airplanes.
5. Does it worry your investors that some part of the team operates from the other part of the world?
Any world-class technology and media company has co-located teams. It’s important to manage your operational costs and your hiring, but that is essential in any business, whether local or global. There is one distinct advantage in teams who are located across time zones. Any given hour of the day, there is a team that’s driving your business forward. If you invest in great leaders, this cross time-zone collaboration means you have a 24/7 operation. For Saavn, it’s an amplifier in execution.