The How behind the Who?
When asked, what advice would I give to my 20-year old self, I’d say
“Make sure all the choices you make in life come from a point of awareness and not ignorance.”
The choices you make should not be made because you do not know any better. They should be made because you have explored all that you wanted to and are thus making the choice that you are making.
And creating awareness is the purpose I find myself most drawn towards right now.
I was one of those rare kids in school that always knew what I wanted to do in life.
And it was a 3-step plan.
- Go to the US for my PhD
- Join NASA as a space scientist
- Become the first man on Mars
I came from extremely humble beginnings. We never had enough. Hand to mouth existence. Always out of money.
So to even dream to go to the US was crazy, let alone doing it.
My parents, irrespective of our financial situation, always ensured that my sister and I got a good education. Their dreams were pegged on us. We were the ones to change our family’s orbit.
I worked hard towards that and made it to a top US university for a PhD. program in Physics, on a full scholarship (the only way we could have afforded it).
I recall my dad taking a loan of Rs. 55,000 to pay for the one-way ticket to the US.
That was 2002.
I landed in the US, was doing extremely well in my class, but something was missing.
Not sure what, I began to have these tough conversations with myself.
And that is when I realized – I was good with Physics, but I wasn’t happy doing it.
And I decided to come back to India, dropping out of my PhD program.
I was 24.
No plan of what to do.
No financial backing.
And nothing waiting for me back in India.
I decided to reset my life at 24 and start all over again.
Someone suggested I go for an MBA.
And I came across this rather young school called ISB.
I applied and fortunately got through.
And that 1 year at ISB changed my life forever.
Joined Kearney as a management consultant, post ISB. Worked there for 3 years until 2009.
Alongside Kearney, I started to work with a couple of batch mates from ISB on my first venture – called SecondShaadi.com
In 2009, I quit consulting to join the startup full-time and over the next couple of years we built several other websites across automobiles, education, finance. The big one of that became Gaadi.com, which eventually got sold to goibibo.com in 2010.
My entrepreneurial journey
Post SecondShaadi.com and Gaadi.com, in 2011, I started Groupon’s India business as the founding CEO. And led the business for 4 years until 2015. In 2013, I was also given the additional responsibility of managing Groupon APAC countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines.
In 2015, we did something rather audacious.
Along with the core management team of Groupon India we bought the Groupon India business from Groupon and made it into an independent entity. Thus started nearbuy, which was funded by Sequoia. I acted as the CEO of nearbuy until 2019 when I stepped down, with 2 other founders running the company on a day-to-day basis.
These 9 years taught me so much.
About people, about building businesses, about fundraising, about investing.
More than anything else, about my own self. Who am I? What am I good at? What should I do and should not do?
I became a student of consumer behavior. A student of how people think, why they behave the way they do and what drives people to work their best (or not).
In 2016, as a way to create an employer brand and attract the best talent, I started an online video series called “warikoo Wednesdays” on LinkedIn. I spoke about my experiences as a founder, a CEO and a people manager. My learning from that.
And somehow that clicked!
What I love doing
I love public speaking.
Connecting with people.
Cracking really bad jokes.
Making awareness cool!
I often speak at corporate events, education institutions and conferences.
My content centers around awareness.
I believe that most people make choices in life because they don’t know any better.
And my ambition is to help people make those same choices completely aware of all other options.
I would like to believe “awareness is everything.”
My life motto is “DO EPIC SHIT“.
Where DO is about action, EPIC is about a cause larger than oneself and SHIT is having fun while living life.
I live and breathe this motto by being very action oriented, picking up large difficult problems to work on and thoroughly enjoying the journey rather than aim for a goal.