All Summaries for First Principles

Podcast Logo

First Principles is a fortnightly interview podcast comprising authentic, candid, and insightful conversations between some of India’s most accomplished founders and business leaders, and Rohin Dharmakumar, The Ken’s CEO & co-founder. From personal philosophies, mental models and decision making frameworks, to reading habits, parenting styles or personal interests, each episode will delve into what makes each of these leaders unique.

Five founders on building a unique product and making it last
Welcome to First Principles, The Ken’s fortnightly leadership podcast! I am Rohin Dharmakumar, your host.First, if you’re a new listener of this podcast, I think you’ve clicked on the right episode. And if you’re a long-time listener – thank you, by the way – then you might know that here at First Principles, we have a few favourite questions. And we try and ask these questions to most of our guests. The most interesting part of this is that every guest has a vastly different answer to the same question – their age, experience, outlook on life…even their co-founder or their family plays a significant role in how they answer our questions. Take motivation, for example. What drives founders/CEOs, even when things aren’t looking so good?It could simply be untameable perseverance – like in the case of Deep Kalra, the founder of MakeMyTrip. For Ruchi Kalra of OxyCo, it was the people around her. Srikanth Iyer of Homelane, in fact, quotes from a book that changed the game for him.We highly recommend going back and listening to our full episodes, but this is a great place to start, too. We went back to some of our older episodes to make a supercut of some very specific answers from our guests to questions on motivation, perseverance, finding the right opportunity in a difficult market and fighting stress. Good stress, as one of our guests calls it.Here are our guests:We start with Deep Kalra, the founder and chairman of MakeMyTrip – a company that began when India wasn’t even ready for internet businesses. Deep talks about surviving as a travel business through the pandemic, learning to stay in the game and building to last. Deep Kalra of MakeMyTrip on being “22 years young”, presenting from Excel sheets instead of Powerpoint slides, the importance of open disagreements, and the good stress of buildingNext, we have Ruchi Kalra – who has built two profitable unicorns in seven years: OfBusiness and Oxyzo. She takes us through an important maxim that drives both her businesses: finding the right opportunity in the right sector, even if it’s crowded.Ruchi Kalra of Oxyzo on creating two unicorns in 7 years, spotting gigantic market opportunities, putting profits and cash flow first, and letting go of personal ambitionsKamal Sagar, the founder of Total Environment, has had one thing driving him for 27 years: good quality. Good quality that even thousands of real estate companies in the West are just not able to deliver on. The most interesting part is how he does it: Kamal builds homes the way software is built. Kamal Sagar of Total Environment on picking principles over convenience, reimagining real estate, design, authenticity and learning to say noWhen I asked how Srikanth Iyer, the founder of Homelane, fought through the first few years of absolute chaos at his startup, Srikanth said he focuses on understanding what you’re bad at. He explains how he learnt and applied this First Principle in his career.Srikanth Iyer of Home Lane on embracing what you’re bad at in order to do better at what you’re good at, and being a wartime generalShan Kadavil of FreshToHome cracked a really tough business in a super competitive market. And then, he evolved as a CEO and a leader. He talks about scaling a 40-employee organisation to a 4000-employee organisation, encouraging his team to “be their own CEO,” obsessing over the right metrics, and much more. Shan Kadavil of FreshToHome on selling fish, building moats, encouraging bottom-up “shots on goal”, and being honest with boardsThis is First Principles— The Ken’s fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here.
Thu, September 28, 2023
Radhika Gupta of Edelweiss AMC on the joy of creating impact
Our guest for this episode, Radhika Gupta, describes Edelweiss AMC—or any mutual fund company, for that matter—as a company that solves financial problems for customers. Simple. Going into anything else, she says, is way too complicated.Edelweiss operates in a crowded market with nearly 50 players. And it's surrounded by giants, rivals much larger than itself.But that also gives it the space to take risks and bets that larger companies might not.That’s how Edelweiss pulled Bharat Bonds into their armour, which shot up their assets massively. It went from number 30 in the mutual fund rankings to number 13 in just a few years.As a CEO, Radhika is a big fan of keeping things simple and effective.She has a straightforward way of dealing with workplace politics. A one-step way to shut down mansplaining. A very simple approach to trying to understand her consumers. And even an easy but brilliant way of organising her favourite poetry, excerpts and stories!In this episode, we talk about: What is the problem that Edelweiss is trying to solve? How does Radihka define success? How Radhika uses an inner scorecard to evaluate herself How does she deal with criticism and separate constructive criticism from targeted bias? Why Radhika doesn’t believe in work-life balance Why Radhika has a third category of priorities after personal and professional Radhika’s advice for young, professional women This is Episode 26 of First Principles, with Radhika Gupta — The Ken’s fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here.
Thu, September 14, 2023
BillDesk’s MN Srinivasu on building quietly and sustainably
BillDesk does not have a CEO.Instead, it just has three co-founders: MN Srinivasu, Ajay Kaushal and Karthik Ganapathy. And they don’t have separate designations.In fact, BillDesk has no formal hierarchies or designations. People are hired as members of a team. That’s it.More than two decades after they started the company, the three co-founders continue to work from a single desk in the same room.For a 23-year-old organisation that handles over $150 billion in payments, BillDesk is surprisingly lean at just over 800 employees. And that's not the only thing contrarian about it. It has been profitable for over a decade and a half now. When I asked Vasu—that’s how others usually address Srinivasu—how old he was, his answer was, “BillDesk is 23, I am 55.”For this episode, we threw in many new questions based on the subscriber feedback I’d been receiving. What often keeps founders going is the urge to prove something. What is it for Vasu? How has his view of a leadership team evolved? How does he prefer to be “managed upward” by his reportees How has what excites or challenges him changed Managing people isn’t what founders have in when they start out. And yet, it is the most important thing that determines their success. How has Vasu’s managing style or philosophy evolved since he started Billdesk in 2000? Over the entire conversation, we also talk about: Why BillDesk doesn’t handle person-to-person payments, for instance, via UPI. How the three co-founders hired and coached their first 100 employees Why BillDesk does not incentivise chasing glory metrics Why the three co-founders continue to work from a single table even today Snigdha breaks down the story of Disney's decline, on our business podcast Daybreak. Listen here.This is Episode 25 of First Principles, with MN Srinivasu — The Ken’s fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here.
Thu, August 31, 2023
Archit Gupta of Clear on anti-patterns and being misunderstood
The business currently known as Clear used to be known as Cleartax before. It started out in 2011 as a minimal, sleek and blazingly fast website to help Indians file taxes. Today, it does much more than just people's taxes, even though its overwhelming market leadership means competitors are just "rounding errors," according to Archit Gupta, the company's co-founder and CEO.Operating largely below the funding and valuation radars of 2020-2022, Clear has been quietly effecting a business model pivot under Archit's leadership. Today, it is overwhelmingly a business-to-business focused company, not a business-to-consumer one. As India digitises and formalises its tax systems together, Clear has ridden both waves to help businesses and consumers stay compliant. But this transition hasn't been quick or easy, as Archit candidly opens up about in our conversation. We talk about building a profitable and lasting company and why he turned from a "business-focused" to a "product-focused" CEO a year ago. We also go into how much of a cultural shift it took for Clear to start charging its customers to file taxes – and then, another significant shift: deciding to expand from India to Saudi Arabia. Archit also tells us how he spots excellent talent and much more in this episode.This is Episode 24 of First Principles, with Archit Gupta — The Ken's fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here:
Thu, August 17, 2023
Yashish Dahiya of Policybazaar on why being kind is better than being right
In 2023, the business of online comparison platforms seems old-fashioned.Sure, people may land upon them via search engines, but only some would rarely transact through them. Especially if the products being compared are as life-altering as insurance, right?Wrong. PolicyBazaar—not just India's but the world's largest insurance comparison and transaction platform—proves that.Yashish Dahiya, the co-founder and Group CEO of Policybazaar, takes us through this story in this episode of First Principles.Policybazaar started in 2008 and is a publicly listed company today. It's the largest in its space by far. Many of the things it does, or how it does, don't fit into the easy patterns we've been used to.For instance, employees making phone calls to prospective customers is at the core of their business. In an era where we're told phone calls and call centres are a relic of the past.So, why do they do it?Yashish attributes this and many other decisions to PolicyBazaar to being fundamentally First Principles-driven. Yashish is incredibly energetic and driven. He is a serious sportsman and triathlete. He's also as straight-talking and candid as they come.In this episode, we talk to Yashish about why he calls PolicyBazaar an education platform and not a comparison one, the "right to win", how he spots and grooms talent and the importance of physical endurance and excellence. Chapters:3:49 - Running 22 kms, drying swimming trunks in the car and other practical decisions7:54 - How and when Yashish learnt about life and health insurance15:54 - What is PolicyBazaar18:13 - The problems of the insurance industry23:55 - The short-term perils of educating the customer too much28:25 - How does PolicyBazaar detect insurance fraud37:23 - Is there an ideal claims ratio for a product 38:42 - Why PolicyBazaar is grateful to the call-centre model in this day and age47:50 - You are first a soul, then your body51:55 - Yashish the father vs. Yashish the co-founder1:00:26 - Why confusion is as important as curiosity1:03:15 - How to identify and groom talent1:05:54 - Building and evolving a company’s culture1:14:13 - How to mentor people1:22:21 - Yahish’s go-to First Principles This is Episode 23 of First Principles, with Yashish Dahiya — The Ken's fortnightly leadership podcast.If you're a regular listener, please share your thoughts about First Principles and help us shape it into something more useful and interesting for you? Take our listener survey here.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here:
Mon, August 7, 2023
Five CEOs talk about their journeys, struggles, successes, and failures
If you started listening to First Principles—The Ken's fortnightly leadership podcast—in 2023, then today's special episode might be something you'll love. We went back to guests from episodes 6 to 10 from 2022 and created a supercut episode highlighting some of the most interesting bits from conversations with these accomplished leaders.We'd urge you to listen to the full episodes, but this is a great place to start if you've been meaning to check out our older episodes but haven't gotten around to it.We begin with Harshil Mathur, the co-founder and CEO of Razorpay—a fintech giant offering loans, payroll services, and even bank accounts.Harshil talks about his journey into entrepreneurship, how Razorpay develops products, the importance of deliberately driving company culture, and much more. Episode 6: Razorpay CEO Harshil Mathur talks about deliberate culture, building to a need, and the principles of product developmentNext, we have Vineeta Singh, the co-founder and CEO of SUGAR Cosmetics—one of India's most popular and fastest-growing cosmetics brands.Vineeta talks about overcoming stereotypes as a female founder, the importance of passion when selecting your workplace, and why hustle, hunger, humour, and humility are key pillars of SUGAR's culture. Episode 7: Vineeta Singh of SUGAR Cosmetics talks about building products, educating consumers, and focusing on the long termAnd then, we have Amrish Rau, the CEO of Pine Labs—the payments solution provider whose point-of-sale terminals are visible in most Indian shops and stores.In 2016, Citrus Pay, an online payments provider Amrish co-founded, was acquired by rival PayU for $130 million in cash. It was one of the most significant acquisitions back then. But Amrish says it is also one of his biggest regrets. As a first-time founder, he decided to sell his company too quickly. Amrish tells us why.Episode 8: Amrish Rau of Pine Labs talks about the differences between being a founder and CEONext, we have Amit Agarwal, the co-founder and CEO of NoBroker—the 8-year-old Bengaluru-headquartered real estate platform that wants to disrupt the very concept of brokerage fees.Amit speaks about entering management consulting as a young MBA because it paid the most, starting a business that almost no investor wanted to fund, convincing notoriously value-minded Indians to pay a subscription fee before finding a rental apartment, and running a frugal organisation with a cockroach mentality.Episode 9: Amit Agarwal of NoBroker talks about his single-minded mission to disrupt brokerage, building a cockroach company, and why his office address is a secretAnd finally, we have Tarun Mehta, the co-founder and CEO of Ather Energy—India's best-known electric scooter maker. Tarun speaks about his journey to convince investors of his vision, doing hard things that defied common sense, building an organisation over decades, and why it takes at least three years to make a true impact at work.Episode 10: Tarun Mehta of Ather Energy talks about doing hard things, going down multi-year rabbit holes, building companies over 30-40 years, and being chief storytellerThe Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts, and much more here:
Thu, July 6, 2023
We don't have an episode today, but a newsletter
We don’t have a new First Principles episode this week, but we do have something special for you.If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, you’ve already built a curiosity for mental models that force you to look at the world differently. To break down complex problems from the ground up. To analyse and synthesise.This, precisely, is also what the First Principles newsletter is about.Each Sunday, this newsletter will bring fresh insights into how accomplished founders, leaders, and changemakers apply First Principles thinking to see the world differently and remake it in their vision.If you’re a free or paying subscriber of The Ken, you’ll find this newsletter in your inbox already.But if not, please click here, sign up for free on our website, and you'll receive the newsletter in your inbox for free:
Thu, June 22, 2023
Krish Subramanian of Chargebee on continuously firing yourself
The stories of entrepreneurial success around us are often slick, bulleted, and cleaned up to remove all references to false starts, serendipity or accidents. And at the centre of such stories are founders. These visionary leaders dream up startups worth billions of dollars out of nothing, like Krish Subramanian, the co-founder and CEO of Chargebee.Chargebee started by helping businesses manage their paying subscribers and now operates in the broader revenue management market. This Indian company was last valued at over $3.5 billion.Krish's own path to success, though, was anything but formulaic.He graduated in 2001, as the dot-com boom was cratering and when the 9/11 attacks on America spooked the world. Krish couldn't find a job. Six months later, when he finally did, his first salary was Rs 3500. It would be another ten years before he finally got together with his co-founders and started Chargebee.And even then, they spent the first five years going around in circles before finally hitting their groove. In today's episode, he reflects and explains the meandering path he took to success and the lessons he learned along the way. Krish talks about learning to let go of the need for world-changing ideas, hiring for strengths, why someone great for a zero-to-one project may be terrible for a one-to-10 project, why early-stage founders must set constraints and say 'no' instead of 'challenge accepted!', and treating business as a game.He also shares what he believes is the most critical role for a CEO: Trusting others, getting out of the way and letting go or, in Krish’s own words, continuously firing yourself.This is Episode 21 of First Principles— The Ken’s fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here:
Thu, June 8, 2023
Smita Deorah of LEAD on why India's 280 million school-going children deserve better
Smita Deorah's daughter was six months old when her mom started reading to her.And as she kept at it, one day, her daughter lapped it up, becoming an independent reader even before learning to speak.At this point, most parents would have thought their child was special. Instead, Smita concluded that her daughter was just the same as most other kids. What was special was that she was privileged enough to be exposed to the right stimuli and resources at a young age by her mother.This was one of the key motivators that drove Smita to start LEAD, an ambitious company trying to solve for better school education in India. Smita is the co-founder and co-CEO of LEAD School.Of India's nearly 280 million school-going children, just around 5 to 8 million might be getting a quality education. She says the rest are either in government-run or affordable private schools that simply aren't equipped to engage their curious and boundless minds. Instead, they're subjected to mindless rote learning, often by underpaid teachers and ill-equipped administrations. To change that, you have to relook at everything, including their curriculum, pedagogy, technology, teaching aids, government policies, parent mindsets and child psychology.In this episode, hosted by Rohin Dharmakumar, Smita explains how she lives on this mission, why she moved back to India, whether schools should work for profit, why India's students lag in learning by two years, and much more.You can read the full transcript of the conversation here: is Episode 20 of First Principles, The Ken's fortnightly leadership podcast.The Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here:
Thu, May 25, 2023
Gaurav Munjal of Unacademy on being confrontational, paranoid and transparent
If this is your first episode of First Principles, it's a great episode to begin with.Gaurav Munjal is the co-founder and CEO of Unacademy, one of India's most aggressive and highest-valued ed-tech startups, last valued at close to $3.5 billion. But this story started a long time back. When Gaurav was just in class IX, he got into the content game. In a few years, he had started getting monthly payments from Google for the ads he ran on his content.In college, he had a blog devoted to the actress Priyanka Chopra. That fetched him hundreds of thousands of rupees each month. On a Facebook page that he ran—this one devoted to fashion—Chinese brands paid him hundreds of dollars each month to run their ads. So when he finally started Unacademy in 2015, it was, in many ways, a logical evolution of his life thus far. Nearly eight years, and $835 million in venture capital later, Unacademy is a company that reflects much of Gaurav's personality.It has no time for niceties. It would rather disrupt than defend itself. It is supremely confident in the face of even existential crises. And it attaches zero value to classical or theoretical notions of education. I mean, who else would say that education is really a tournament that can change lives and that teachers are coaches and that the best coaches are like mercenaries, and that they already earn more than second-rung movie stars?This is Episode 19 of First Principles, with Gaurav Munjal — The Ken's fortnightly leadership podcast.You can read the full transcript of the conversation here: Ken is India's first subscriber-only business journalism platform. Check out our deeply reported long-form stories, insightful newsletters, original podcasts and much more here:
Thu, May 11, 2023
Made with ☕️ in SF/SD.
© 2023 Spyglass Search, Inc.