“An alumnus of the Class of 1986, with specialisation in Marketing and Finance, Jacob is a successful business leader with over three decades of experience in the IT industry.”
“I am highly honored to receive this award and for the opportunity to connect with you all. While I take you through my journey, please remember that my situation and perspective of life is unique and so is yours and so I can only hope you could take away one or two things from it..”
I currently work as a Cofounder & MD at Wadi.com, a leading ecommerce company in the middle east which raised $100m in the last 4 years.
Before IMT, I grew up in Delhi, studied engineering and worked in an IT company for 2 years. Like it is with most of you at the brink of your career, I had many passions, wanted to make an impact, earn some money but didn’t really know what the goal in life should be and what to pursue next.
At IMT, I met my life partner, made best friends, worked in Alcom, participated in competitions, played music and we had a blast. Placements was quite an experience. I got placed on day three and on top of that I couldn’t join that company due to an illness. I had to look out for a job for a few months before I got into PwC.
At PwC many of my clients were looking for services around online, digital, omnichannel and I took an initiative in PwC to start a consulting practice around digital strategy from scratch. It took some effort but soon the project took off well and we acquired several clients. 4 years at PwC taught me strategy, but I was missing on the joy of execution and so moved towards ecommerce and joined Jabong.
Over the next few years at Jabong I set up and managed the customer experience and operations. We also hired a few IMTians and it was fun to work with them. We launched many industry first initiatives like same day delivery. Other global rocket internet companies wanted to learn from us and started visiting us. That’s when I met a few global leaders at rocket and it materialized into the idea of setting up a new venture in the middle east. The plan was to start with a small amount of money, do well and then raise more.
The middle east region had many ecommerce players but the quality was lacking. We built a strong team, launched Wadi.com with an innovative marketing campaign, stellar service and it gradually became popular. After a year, we raised a series A of $67m, the largest series A in the middle east. Following this we launched multiple countries, warehouses, offices, last mile fleet, distribution centers and tied up with top brands like Samsung and Reebok.
But success is not permanent. Soon, our competitor raised much more money and challenged us with a price war. We had to scale down. The next 1 year we slogged hard to differentiate and build a hyper local grocery experience for our customers and tied up with the biggest super market chain in the region. In 2018 we raised a series B round of $30m and after some more struggle became the # 1 online grocery player in the region.
In the end I would say, while I am very grateful for everything, today I face even bigger problems as compared to 10 years back, struggle to deal with them, sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.
To the budding managers, I’ll refrain from giving too much advice but here are a few of my learnings which may help you grow.
Spot the future early and bet on it. There will always be a chance of failure but its OK to fail a few times than hanging around a fad.
Never leave pursuing your passion. It will keep you alive, kicking and bring out the best in you. You will have busy jobs, marriage and kids as excuses.
Don’t do a job for just money. You should have a strong reason to take up or switch a job. Its great if the money is good but don’t compromise on the quality of work.
Build reputation. The quality of work coming out of you, irrespective of the situation should be mind blowing. Else don’t do it.
Be humble. Build personal relationships. Help people selflessly. Care for people associated with you especially those who are less recognized.
The world is changing fast and your success will come and go. Your attitude and humility will be remembered much longer than your success. Let it take longer but do it the right way.
Keep asking yourselves – are we doing the right thing? Are we grounded? Are we putting up a fight? Are we doing it with a smile? I guess, that’s all that matters!
“It all began at very young age with a simple act of sharing the toys to children who was living in nearby slum areas. I made sure to carry my humbling experience. For the very reason, after working in the corporate world for 7 years, I decided to leave my job and work on The Toy Bank full time.”
I started ‘The Toy Bank’ with one collection center in one city. I soon realized that people were not comfortable with the idea of ferrying toys to the collection center. To solve this problem, I motivated volunteers to open a number of collection centers at their homes, retail shops, offices across Delhi–NCR. With motivated volunteers, cost-effective collection centers and sharp marketing acumen of our team; thousands of old toys were received, refurbished, recycled and distributed. Taking resources from one person and then handing it out to another is one of the creative methodologies that we have adopted in The Toy Bank. We have sensitized over 1.5 lakhs children across 85 private schools to donate their old toys.
Even though I initiated The Toy Bank with the notion of distributing the toys to underserved children, later we realized that giving one toy to each child is not creating the desired impact. It was then the decision of creating a community resource was taken. Toy Libraries – which were also gender neutral – were created for the children to come and play together in a common space which would lead them to imbibe the values of sharing. It also gives the children the freedom to choose and play with what they want.
There was a time when we started questioning our work, whether it is making any impact? But every day we receive calls from individuals thanking us for frictionless delivery of toy kits, the learnings children get from the toys, and for keeping kids more involved in the classes/ anganwadis and in turn help in increasing their attendance and reducing the drop-out rates. The joy we hear in their voices and smiles shared by kids is heartwarming every single day. It’s what’s keep us going despite various challenges we face. It has also been a great learning curve for me every single day. We have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with various State governments for setting up Toy Libraries in Angadwadis and schools; have donated toys to Panchayat Ghars in rural areas; also created Toy Libraries for children with psycho-social disabilities and visual impairment; have tied up with innumerous non-profit in other states. We have expanded to 25 states/ UTs in India where we have set up 4,883 toy libraries for half a million children underprivileged child in accordance with the demographics of the children with help from a 100+ committed team from various walks of life.
However, there are more than 470 million children in India whose life we can positively influence by leading systemic change at a much larger scale. There are many constitutional and policy provisions for early childhood education but the challenges of implementation remain huge. My work in the corporate sector and the nonprofit sector has led me to the conclusion that there is a serious gap between policy formation and implementation which needs to be addressed at the earliest. This is where the private sector will prove to be the key to development in India, but without the government policies driving the development agenda and the social sector working at the grass root level, the vision we young Indians see for ourselves is likely to remain just that- a vision!
I believe that India is the most unique nation in the world with multiple layers of socio-economic diversity. Hence, there is bound to be challenges, setbacks and false starts. The challenges would be serious and many. They will not be met easily or met in a short span of time; but I want to work towards an India where they will be met.
“Congratulations to Ms. Mamta Saikia, COO ( Bharti Foundation ), an IMT Ghaziabad alumna, for being recognized as an Influential Leader by AACSB.”
For a large part, what I am today, I owe it to IMT. IMT prepared us for the world outside in a very holistic manner. The teaching at the Institute – apart from some very good professors, was strengthened by industry professionals taking many of the subjects. A very fine balance of academics and real life practices. But, very importantly, IMT taught us to be winners. The values of being thorough, hard work, creative thinking ( I remember a special session held at IMT on “Lateral Thinking” For which an external expert had come over), perseverance and being strategic – these are some of the traits that perhaps got honed very deeply in us all. I, in fact, see it in our entire Batch of 91.
Some of the very special things about IMT that I believe made the education very relevant in today’s world are:* the diversity it had on campus which trained us all to work together, appreciate different perspectives and build creative solutions* close involvement of industry, which allowed us to experience practical application of concepts being taught. Not many of us had entered IMT with work experience and it did add immense value to overall learning* individual mentoring by professors led each one of us to explore our potential. I remember my many sessions with our Organisation Development professor, who perhaps saw great potential in me, and kept encouraging me to take up HR as my area of specialization, since I had this exceptional ability to connect with people. (I took up Marketing, though). But, when a Professor believes in you, the student does go on to achieve wonders.
I do want to acknowledge IMT for playing a big role in making who I am today. Being selected as “100 Women achievers on India 2016” gave me recognition at the national stage and being selected among the “Class of Influential Leaders 2019” takes me to the international stage as an impactful changemaker”