In July, we hosted Rajesh Mashruwala (our Partner Emeritus) in Bangalore. Growing up in Mumbai and
finishing his graduation from IIT Bombay, Raj went to US and soon started his first company, Consilium
and since then, there has been no looking back. He has founded several startups over three decades and
is the first and probably the only Indian to have taken two companies public – TIBCO being the most
notable. Two of the companies that he founded were also acquired. He currently serves on the board of
Syntel (SYNT), DeltaID Inc., Healthifyme and Covair.
Between the endless conversations, we were pleasantly surprised to know that Raj’s life in the US
started after his graduation when he followed his girlfriend to the States!
Amiable and pleasant, Raj bowled us over with his insights, experiences, expertise and different
perspectives on the startup ecosystem in the country and globally.
Of all the conversations we had with Raj, we would love to call out the following three sessions: The
first was the workshop with Prime portfolio founders, followed by the fire-side chat with Sanjay
Anandaraman and then the exclusive podcast. During all of these, the mild-mannered mentor talked passionately about three key aspects for a startup:
● The importance of company culture
● The importance of choosing the right mentor
● Building companies and scaling them
Raj emphasized particularly on the importance of culture since many startups typically tend to ignore
this key differentiator. Startup founders usually feel that culture plays a role only when the company has
a certain number of employees. What the founders often miss, unfortunately, however is that culture
begins even when there are two people in the company. Along these lines, Raj stressed on building a
culture core to the company from day zero. Throughout his meeting with the founders and during other
sessions, Raj – with various anecdotes and examples from his own entrepreneurial incidents – spoke
about hiring the ‘culturally fit’ resource rather than a ‘skilled’ resource. Though this may seem counter-
intuitive, Raj did make a valid point when he said that skills can be developed and taught, while attitude
and integrity is ingrained. We got some amazing insights on how he endorses culture:
● As a founder of TIBCO, Raj had to create a culture that was unique to TIBCO to be a successful
company that would not just be a great company but would create a segment leader.
● Raj himself interviewed the first 200 people to ensure cultural
● fit and he would meet each newly hired employee after a month to gauge how they are fitting
● Raj and his founders also ensured that there is no hierarchy until the company reached a 1000
Building and scaling a company:
Building and scaling a company comes naturally to Raj and to our pleasure, he shared some advice and
insights on how to do it right. Raj talked about the importance of having a clear understanding of what
one wants to build. Secondly, he insists that the product has to solve a problem that nobody has solved.
Thirdly, how a product needs to be sold – more thought needs to go into it as the typical presentations
which startups put together usually fall short of addressing the real problem that the customer has. He
explained this with how, when he started TIBCO with other founders, they went after Goldman Sachs
and after presenting their ‘faster and better’ product, the customer continued to ask why Goldman
should do business with TIBCO and finally one of the founders said that TIBCO would ensure Goldman’s
The key takeaways from these anecdotes?
● If you want to build a segment leading company, pursue a segment leading customer.
● Customer retention should be the priority than new customer wins.
● Product should solve the problem of the customer and ensure customer success
While these were some of the major aspects that Raj focused on, there were a few other equally
interesting topics that he covered during the podcast recording and the fireside chat. Excerpts below:
Podcast: (Listen to our podcast here)
The podcast recording was a throwback time for Raj and for us. He speaks about his journey as an
entrepreneur and investor. With over three decades of experience in the industry he shares his
perspective on how entrepreneurship has changed from the 1970s to its current state. He also speaks
about his other investments, and how he met Sanjay and Shripati and came to be associated with Prime.
He shares some great advice and experiences on how to scale a company and why is it important to
make and sell a product to ‘solve’ the customer’s problem and not make a force fit. Raj also beautifully
explains and contrasts the Silicon Valley and Bangalore. He hopes that Bangalore will soon overtake
Silicon Valley in entrepreneurship and talks about how India has rapidly grown and supported
Fireside chat with Sanjay Anandaram and Raj Mashruwala
We had a fireside chat with Raj and Sanjay where we were joined by our peers, friends and
acquaintances from the startup ecosystem, apart from our own portfolio founders. While Sanjay
Anandaram enlightened us about mentor Vs consultant with examples from Mahabharata, Raj was ever
so pleasant even when he spoke about bad hires that he had to deal with. The conversation stressed on
the significance of finding the right mentor for any startup and having different mentors to go to for
various stages of the company. Both Sanjay and Raj also spoke about having a ‘solving the problem’
approach to making successful products.
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