Building for a New World with Tarun Mehta Co-Founder & CEO Ather Energy

Tarun Mehta, Co-Founder & CEO Ather Energy chats with Amit Somani, Managing Partner Prime Venture Partners.

Listen to the podcast to learn about

01:50 - Ather Energy’s Founding Story

07:45 - Customer Discovery: Loved the Tech Hated the Product

09:30 - How to think about Entrepreneurship as a Student

15:00 - Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in the EV space

18:40 - Working with the Government

24:30 - Supply Chain in India: IC Vs EV

31:15 - Working with Coaches & Advisors as a Founder

Read the complete transcript below

Amit Somani 01:13

Welcome to the Prime Venture Partners podcast, today I am delighted to have with us Tarun Mehta, co founder and CEO of Ather. Welcome to the show Tarun.

Tarun Mehta 01:24

Hi Amit, thanks for having me over.

Amit Somani 01:27

Tarun, the EV sector is all in the news for all the right reasons. But I would love to go back to your own personal journey both in terms of, how you became an entrepreneur and I know you started Ather right out of, IIT, Chennai, or IIT Madras, as I like to call it. So maybe you can talk to us a little bit about the starting up journey of Ather, and particularly both from a personal point of view as well as a professional point of view.

Tarun Mehta 01:57

So, actually the funny thing is, we did not start this right out of college, but that’s in the classical sense. Actually, we did start out of college, I’ll explain what happened. So back in our final year, Swapnil and I, we’d been hardware people all for five years at IIT, all we had done was basically build a lot of concepts, a lot of products, spend five years in pretty much doing that. In fact, we’d started calling ourselves the two of us as Ather energy back in 2009. It’s like four years before starting Ather. And the idea was we’ll build an energy company, which is into decentralised power generation, distribution, storage. That specific project turned out to be pretty hard to directly commercialise. By the last semester at IIT, I had a project idea like just working on one of those classroom projects as part of your course requirements, just as a side project. So I just made a presentation around batteries and removable batteries for electric vehicles.

And after graduation, I had a few months before starting on my new job. So I had a lot of time. So back in our last year, we were filing patents left, right and centre at IIT, between Swapnil and I, I think both of us filed five or six patents each. So I thought maybe this battery idea also had some merit, maybe you can find a patent around it. So spend the next two, three months before taking on a new job. And just thinking about and researching the technology more and more and got very fascinated. Battery seemed like an amazing solution to a lot of challenges, around storage around managing the grid, everything. But the biggest application obviously seems to be electric vehicles. By then my college days were over and my job at Ashok Leyland had begun. So I started doing that, but in my spare time. And I was there only for about six months. So in the six months I had a fair bit of spare time because I was a fresher and they don’t give a lot of work early on. So you have a lot of time.

So every free time that I had, I basically started reading about electric vehicles, I read up a lot. I read up every single report, I think that existed back then,obviously exaggerating. But I read a lot about batteries and a lot of electric vehicles, and customers. And one thing dawned on me that this is no longer a technology problem. It’s actually an engineering problem. And that then gives you a lot of confidence. You can fix, you can solve engineering problems with some predictability, technology problems are like a hit and miss. And the minute it hit us, that listen, this is only an engineering problem now. And the market is obviously moving fully electric, this is early 2013. And Tesla Model S has already launched, and reviews were fantastic. And it was obvious to us that this is going to go mainstream.

We said you know what, I think we should build batteries, we should build batteries for electric vehicles. Let’s learn about this a little bit more. And maybe we’ll go join a company or maybe we’ll do something ourselves, we’ll figure it out. But we want to be basically working in this sector. So Feb 2013, we left our jobs. And in a very funny way, though, this is not out of college, it still was out of college because we left our jobs. And we went back to IIT, not to the incubation Centre, which I think is what everybody does, I think we are one of those few people that actually went back to IIT, literally for labs.

So we went back to IIT and we spoke to one of the professors, professor Krishna kumar, in engineering design and Dr. Sandipan Bandhopadhyay there, and told them that we want to build and that’s what you spent five years teaching us. I don’t think we’ll get to build a lot in the industry out there. But we have some ideas with batteries, and maybe it’s vehicles. So we just want to build. We don’t know what happens after that. But we want to spend some time while we are still young. So maybe you could do this. So could you help us? And the response was great, especially from professor R Krishna Kumar. He said, You know what, just leave your jobs and come back. And I will figure things out, like, I’ll give you some space, I’ll talk to the department, I’ll give you some space for you guys to hang out here, pick up some side jobs here, like as a research assistant or something, and just hang out on the campus. It’s got the kind of ambience where you can still build. Outside, you probably can’t, Outside you’ve got too much noise. And that was brilliant.

So, February or March 2013, we are back in IIT. We started sleeping in the labs, both of us had a backpack, yoga mats in the labs at all points and few changes of clothes. We started living in the department for pretty much 24 hours, we’ll sleep there, we’ll wake up there, we’ll brush there, we would start building there, we would ride some electric scooters that we bought there, we would build batteries, open them up, build them again, load them up. We kept doing this for like a solid eight, nine months. But in October 2013, we kind of reached a point where we realised that this is a very fascinating space but maybe it’s not only about batteries, maybe it’s about full electric vehicles. The opportunity is not just to build batteries for other OEMs, but also the opportunity is to genuinely actually build good products, because electric vehicles seem bad. So that’s the entire founding story.

Amit Somani 07:07

Very fascinating. And I actually want to double click on two things. Maybe we’ll just start with this one first. So I kind of read that you wanted to do batteries, you’re building all kinds of batteries and so forth. But when you did the customer discovery, you figured that people hated the vehicles that you were putting the batteries in. And that led you to the insight of actually going and doing Ather, I won’t call them “scooters”, so maybe a little bit about the customer discovery journey. And then I do want to go back to the IIT and the tinkering bit in a second. But why didn’t you talk about the notional early discovery of, we won’t do just batteries, will do everything.

Tarun Mehta 07:47

So what happened is, as I said, we got excited about batteries, we came back to IIT, we started opening them up, we started building them. And we kept talking to customers who had bought electric vehicles. And two things happened. First, we realised they love the idea of electric vehicles. They believed this is the future of technology, but they almost uniformly hated every single vehicle out there. So every scooter that they bought, every electric vehicle that they bought, they kind of hated them. It was a very unique opportunity where the people had already bought into the technology, but they hated the product, usually it’s the other way around.

And that’s what made us think that, if we just try to build a battery, who will be these batteries for, for these products, right? But nobody wants to buy these products. So we’ll have a very crappy business model out of the gate. So if you want to do this right, the real problem is not a particular technology in the battery. That’s a derived problem. The real problem is, people don’t have good products, people don’t have good electric vehicles. So if you want to do this right, you will have to go and build vehicles first. And that’s how Ather energy moved out from being just a battery company to actually a full blown Vehicle Company.

Amit Somani 08:52

Wonderful. Going back to IIT for a second. One of the things that I always think about India that is a challenge is that we don’t have enough of a grad school culture. So there aren’t enough PhD programmes and Master’s programmes and all that, which is where, having done my grad school in the US, which is where a lot of tinkering happens. People try ideas, etc. So it’s not like, randomly Google was born, Larry and Sergey, were working on PageRank in Stanford, and then just like kind of you guys. I mean, you guys, of course, finished your degrees. So how would you encourage students, perhaps, or early entrepreneurs that are sitting and listening to this podcast, in terms of somebody who’s in college now, and happens to stumble upon this podcast? How should they think about this journey, and everybody’s journey will be unique, but just any tips or suggestions.

Tarun Mehta 09:43

So I’d say, college is a beautiful time, because you get to build there, and nothing comes close to matching that kind of sandbox. You get two big benefits. First, if you’re trying to learn how to build, there is usually no better place than a college, IITs are I think, uniquely positioned there, because of the kind of facilities they have. But I think a lot of colleges are good enough now. The second and possibly bigger benefit is that if you decide early on that you want to build, like forget about if you want to be an entrepreneur or not. Eventually you want to have some philosophies of your own. What kind of culture, how do you build things? What really excites you? What do you look for in people? What kind of people do you want to work with? Are they ambitious people, are they driven people, what drives them? And I think a lot of this gets figured out when you start building in college.

I believe the best co founders figure each other out in college, It’s very hard once you take up a job, because then you will have to go to these co-founder meetups and hope to bump into somebody and sure it could be an Airbnb kind of a story. But for the most part, it’s quite difficult to generally strike lifelong partnerships if you haven’t spent a few years sitting around the same room in a hostel, nothing comes close to matching that. So if you’re in college use that opportunity to run these pseudo experiments of building, learn how to build and figure out who you like working with.

Amit Somani 11:13

Fantastic. Let’s come back to EVs and in particular customer behaviour. So maybe you can talk to us because you have a very unique vantage point, having observed it from 2013. How has customer behaviour changed? Earlier, you said, people had somehow, the early adopters had bought into the notion of EVs, but they were not happy with the products or the experience, things have become much better now. But we’re still not at the Nirvana stage, how has customer behaviour changed in your mind over the last seven, eight years?

Tarun Mehta 11:47

I think there have been two changes. First, we saw in about 2018, when we launched. By then enough people had heard about electric vehicles. Before then I think the biggest problem was, people would think that electric vehicles are basically toys, they’re like golf carts, so they won’t even take them seriously. So you probably had a massive uphill battle. If you build something well, to even convince people to consider it, but by 2018 a lot of it changes in the major cities at least, and people have started thinking of electric, yes, maybe this is interesting, maybe this could do what my Activa does or what my regular car does. I want to think about it. And that started pulling in these early adopters into the stores. But I think in the last one year, things have changed radically a second time and this time it has been far bigger.

Now what’s happened is given the amount of overall noise around electric, a typical customers walking in expecting to be wowed by electric. They’re expecting electric to be an upgrade for them. They’re expecting that if it’s a new technology then it must be in electric. Like Electric is going to basically have everything digital, everything fantastic, autonomous. And it’s correct because everything new that they hear in automotives is largely coming with electric vehicles. You hear of autonomous tech not deployed in petrol cars, you typically hear it deployed in electric vehicles, you hear of touch screen dashboards only in an Ather or other electric vehicles now, not in a typical petrol scooter. So people have started doing a one to one correlation, new tech means electric, electric upgrade, electric fancy, and they are walking in expecting that. So that’s changed customer expectations fullyl, like it’s been a complete u turn.

Amit Somani 13:30

Awesome. And I also saw one of the tweets that you put out and I think there’s a lot happening with you guys, with Ola electric. We recently invested in a company on a charging network, which basically said that in Hubli, a small town in Karnataka, you’ve got some insane amount of demand on day one when you launch the product. So do you think that there is any geographic significance to this as well, I would have naturally expected that in the metros, there should be equal or more demand because of fuel cost or maybe a slightly better charging, network access and so forth. Any thoughts on any geographical related insights on customer behaviour?

Tarun Mehta 14:07

Yeah, so I think generally, you would expect that tier one demand will be higher than tier two demand not just in terms of absolute but also as a percentage of population. But what we’ve seen has been completely the opposite. Tier two demand as a percentage of population is several times higher than tier one demand, and just keeps inching up. We’ve got tier two tier three towns, we’ve got Hubli, we’ve got Coimbatore, we’ve got Jaipur these vehicles are selling as much as maybe in the largest cities out there. What’s happening is that a) Ather is also a little bit of aspirational product. And I think India has changed as a market substantially. There’s a lot of aspiration that exists in tier two tier three towns but not good products. We remain a supply constrained economy.

So people don’t get access to really good products in many cities. And Ather becomes like a fantastic option for lot of people. Second thing, charging infrastructure. It’s super easy to instal charging points outside of the top 10 cities in India. The top 10 cities are the ones that actually take a lot of attention and have unique charging requirements. For Tier two, tier three towns, the charging requirements are actually very simple. Everybody lives in a small house on a smaller apartment complex and super easy to instal charging points in the parking locations. So I think because of these two reasons, tier 2 tier 3 demand has been several times higher than what we originally anticipated.

Amit Somani 15:30

Awesome. And just to finish the customer experience point of the customer expectation. What are the next steps? Some entrepreneur thinking about getting into the EV space now to try to improve customer experience. Of course, manufacturing Athers is not only an innovative process, but also an expensive process. You’ve set up factories and plants and that’s where you’re sitting today. But what do you think about what are some of the newer areas that could be interesting for entrepreneurs to consider that could dramatically improve the customer experience.?

Tarun Mehta 16:00

You mean electric vehicles? Or generally?

Amit Somani 16:06

Yeah. EVs in general, but happy to hear your thoughts about other spaces as well.

Tarun Mehta 16:12

I think I’m going to speak about EVs, I think everything around how service is delivered and how the entire ownership cycle ends, actually how do it even begins, ownership models are signed to change quite a lot, people no longer just need to, and I’m not talking about ride sharing, I am still talking about ownership, like ride sharing has gone through a difficult phase last year. And I think a lot of people seem to have sort of concluded that they do want to own vehicles now. But irrespective of that I think there is an opportunity to sort of solve. Think of a lot of urban customers, they want to buy the latest generation vehicle, and with electric vehicles, the latest generation is changing every 18 months. But the typical ownership period is five to six years.

And the process of changing ownership is very complicated, like, how do you get rid of a vehicle? How do you sell them, who buys them, how to finish the RTO process, it’s all very broken. Patching that by new ownership models, I think there’s a massive opportunity there and a big source of customer happiness, fix generating customer happiness. And second is how to deliver vehicle servicing.We’re trying to solve it at Ather. But it remains a fairly broken piece. Because every automobile company has decided to make this a massive source of revenue, the experience has gone for a complete toss. So I think fixing these two things could drive a lot of customer happiness and could be big sources of value in the coming years.

Amit Somani 17:54

Absolutely, we are investors in a company called OTO Capital and they’ve been into two wheelers. And now the demand for this EV two wheelers or electric two wheelers has just gone through the roof. And everybody just wants that and they want a better ownership model and so forth. And I think the point about servicing and just an overall customer experience, is very important. Whether it’s service or a charging network or all the other things around it. So I think that is absolutely great.

One of the things I would imagine you have to do a lot in your businesses, also keeping an eye on the regulatory frameworks, and the government and so forth. In terms of policy, how do you think about that, and even worse yet, when you are starting out, or along the ways because the regulatory framework, if it changes, it has a direct bearing, in this case, you definitely have the wind behind your back. Because the government is motivated and has become more so but just how do you as an entrepreneur, keep on top of the regulatory frameworks and maybe in your case even to leverage them, kind of to go with the wind so to speak, as opposed to to go off and do something else.

Tarun Mehta 21:01

So as first time entrepreneurs, especially building tech and product, you imagine that you don’t want to talk to the government, you want to stay the heck out of policy. But you gradually realised that if you are at the forefront of tech and product in India and Ather has been at the forefront of product and tech in EV for many years now, especially things like charging infrastructure, localization, Ather has been the absolute leader here. It is actually awkward for you to not give an input and the government actually looks for that input. In an old world industry like cement or construction, nothing much is changing radically, so all these then become policy matters, they don’t need a lot of day-to-day input from the ground.

But in things like electric vehicles, stuff is changing very fast, maybe there’s a particular kind of cell chemistry that a particular country is hoarding, and you need local, and you need national policy to safeguard against it, maybe, we are walking into a situation where we will end up opening the gates for a lot of Chinese imports a lot of different kinds of imports that you don’t want. And you want the government to at least understand what’s happening. Maybe customer preference is moving superfast to autonomous, self driven cars, and the government has not understood it and has no framework except for those vehicles.The government actually is actively looking for that feedback. And we started understanding this a couple of years back. So today, it’s not about lobbying.

And I think that’s the external view, you kind of imagine watching all these US TV serials that it’s all about lobbying, and having a guy in Delhi or Washington equivalent, it’s not that, it’s actually being available to share your experience with the government. And that actually pays big dividends because the government respects that. The government is actually very keen, many state governments, we made the mistake of not turning up but then those guys told us, why are you guys not telling us what’s happening. Like we are trying to frame the right policy, just tell us what’s going on in the market. That’s when we realised, this is nothing complicated. So it’s good to participate in that.

Amit Somani 22:55

Absolutely. Participate, and actually, like you said, lead and influence that because I think the government is very good with policymaking and so forth. But they don’t have the technical expertise, they don’t have the insights into what is happening at a market level, which is certainly worth sharing. And we certainly do a lot of that in FinTech and in other areas. So just one last comment on this, is a little tongue in cheek. So I saw something that Bajaj recently said that he has a lot of respect for Ather, because you guys have demonstrated awesome quality and so forth. But yet, of course, and with no bias that he would rather bet on Bajaj and TVS and the incumbents, for whatever set of reasons.

What do you generally think about the incumbents here in your space? Because they have woken up? And they are also competing and producing and so forth, as opposed to the four wheelers where I don’t think there’s much that has happened yet. But any thoughts on the incumbents in this space, not just the New Age companies like yours?

Tarun Mehta 23:59

So I think I have a lot of respect for all incumbents, I think because they build fantastically large businesses in India. Automotive businesses globally are pretty shit businesses, they have pads of like 3, 4%. They’re pretty shitty businesses, which is why they get terrible valuations. Two Wheeler businesses in India, Hero Bajaj, all these guys,TVS, they are fantastic. These businesses have met customer demands. They’ve grown fantastically, like 28-30% gross margin businesses. So you imagine Apple having such a margin. But the mass market products in India have 28-30-35% gross margin, it’s this fantastic thing to achieve. They have built the most powerful supply chain for two wheelers globally, like China also can’t keep up with what India has built.

But the world’s changed. Electric vehicles have a different business model, the old model of integration and supply driven innovation does not scale very well to electric vehicles, electric vehicles require you to sort of rethink the product completely. It requires you to have a strong product capability, it requires a very strong engineering capability. Otherwise, you can’t keep up with the market. This is like let me say, the storage industry of maybe the 1980s or the PC industries of the 1970s. Microsoft Windows has still not arrived, and if you don’t own the stack, you’re going to be left far behind. I think not every incumbent will be able to make the transition, some will be able to and the ones who do will remain very strong. But as with any change, I don’t think everybody can change their entire business, every philosophy 180 degrees to match the new world.

Amit Somani 25:43

Spot on. And in fact, one of the other things that is quite interesting to think about here, including the notion of when you started your company which is the thinking about the batteries is, the more businesses that commoditized at least some elements of it. A lot of people also just, are acting more like the Dell to use a PC analogy, that I’m going to just take the parts and assemble it, or I’m going to take the next Android Auto or whatever is the next, OS and just kind of put that in there. So you will see some amount of commoditization. So I think there will be a lot of impetus to keep innovating, because that’s what the customer is going to expect. So I think people that can embrace the innovation and innovate, they will probably have a chance otherwise, building a commodity will be a challenge. And I’m assuming there’ll be a lot of commodity products that you just show up just like the PCs.

Tarun Mehta 26:35

Absolutely. Most Electric vehicles that have existed have been essentially commodities. And I think that’s missing a fundamental understanding about how a new technology kind of disrupts. A new technology does not disrupt by commoditizing itself. You can build things purely by integration, follow the Dell model. Once technology plateaus out, every supplier basically has a very good solution and every single integration and bridge is very well thought through. But at the start of the entire disruption for the next 10-15 years, things are just moving so fast that no supplier can give you a super stable tech. You’ve got to control a lot of things yourself, there will come a time when Dell will also be a very valuable business model for EVs. But that time is not today. And I think this understanding of timing is sorely missing.

Amit Somani 27:24

Makes sense. I wanted to have you elaborate a bit on the supply chain comment that you made that we’ve got a phenomenal supply chain. Is that only for fuel vehicles or also for EV? And can you just elaborate a little bit on that? What do you mean by the fact that we have even better supply chains than the rest of the world.

Tarun Mehta 27:45

It’s an IC engine world reality. For electric vehicles, things like cells, motors, electronics, India’s not a world leader. In fact, we have no cell manufacturing yet. So this was a comment specifically from the IC engine world where things like plastics, brakes, suspensions, frames, honestly, we are world leaders in many of these components Indian industry has got a better cost structure than then even China on a recurring basis. So that’s what I applaud. But the electric world is a brand new world and we don’t have enough supply chains yet. Lots of new interests, lots of folks coming in. But I think we are at a very early stage.

Amit Somani 28:26

Maybe just a quick comment on what you have observed in other markets like China or some of the more emerging markets, certainly from a two wheeler point of view, any lessons to be learned from there or any insights of customer behaviour or just the market overall.

Tarun Mehta 28:44

I think China remains an exception, the way that market has grown and evolved. Unlikely any country matches that because it just is a different trajectory. Government’s force created supply and demand. And I think every time you try to get a Chinese analogy, I think it’s prone to sort of not work. I think the US is the closest analogy for India. Our Insight has been it’s not the new, it’s not a new insight. But every new tech disruption starts on the top, you need to convince early adopters first, in fact, it’s profitable to sell them first, rather than try to sell to everybody because a lot of customers are often not even ready for new tech. It’s about mindset. And it’s about the quality of the new technology. I think understanding that new technology necessarily usually is worse quality on day one, and takes a few years to catch up, I think is key. Because a lot of mass market customers are expecting a very high level of reliability, consistency, and it takes a while for new tech to catch up to those expectations.

We’ve kept it very central to our product planning at Ather, which is why a lot of people ask us about why you guys are not launching a cheaper scooter. Ola will eat your lunch. And I think there is a natural dynamic to the market. If you build a product for a customer who’s not ready yet, I think you’re going to disappoint them and you’re going to basically mess up your unit economics completely for no joy. Go sequentially. I think it’s a lesson that every startup learns like every startup eventually at some point scales up to fast and scales back realise that oh you know what, we are not ready for Lucknow yet. Why we’re there? Let’s pull back and stay in Mumbai and Delhi for now. Open Lucknow maybe two years later, everybody knows that food is great and we want that. There has to be a little bit of pull from the market and when there is a pull, it is the timing of that pull with your presence which is the key.

Amit Somani 30:46

Great. As we come close to sort of wrapping it up here, let me just go into a couple of different questions on your personal evolution. journey as an entrepreneur, like you said you just started pretty much in college in a manner of speaking or even with your first year of college. How have you evolved? What are the things you have done that have worked well for you? What are the things you wish you would have done more of or less of that might benefit other younger entrepreneurs?

Tarun Mehta 31:15

I think what I would say what’s worked for us over the years is this thinking and this thinking in a very longer horizon. I think a lot of people think in terms of short term, six months mid term is one two years long term is three, four years. For us, the short term has always been two to three years, midterm has always been five to ten years, long term has been 20-25 years. Even at college, we’ve always thought of our vision in terms of how the world will look different 20-25 years later. And being able to think and willing to think like that and willing to act on things with that kind of a horizon, I think really helped us. I think we were able to build a team in India back then when it was almost an impossible thing, that we would build a hardware company in India and build a hardware r&d In India. I think we could do it. And we could keep the team together, because we thought of a product. And we said, that’s exactly how we are going to build it, irrespective of what happens.

And hence we could actually disturb the market in terms of product back then; otherwise, we would have pivoted every six months. We didn’t pivot for like four years, until the product came out. Comes with a cost. But I think if you get it right, it helps you build a great experience. What I would change or do differently. I think we’ve been guilty of getting defocus very early. And by defocus I don’t mean like we lost interest in what we’re building, but rather you start overestimating your ability and you start thinking that, we built one product right, now we should pick up 10. And we understand how to manage an organisation with the complexities of prioritisation across 10 different product lines simultaneously. We don’t, we have absolutely no idea how to build an org, and we didn’t respect this enough. And we got defocused at one point, by trying to kick off multiple scooters and motorbikes, something in batteries, everything simultaneously. And that I would say almost cost us maybe a year or year and a half in terms of our overall maturity as an organization. That was a hard lesson learned. And if I could go back and change something, I would go back and remind ourselves not to be defocused, do one thing really well, and then move on.

Amit Somani 33:35

Absolutely. I think people tend to scale prematurely. And oftentimes, it’s also either the market euphoria, or sometimes the investor euphoria, and so on. You should do this. There’s a land grab, and it’s very rarely a land grab. Usually you have to win a customer at a time.

Tarun Mehta 33:53

It’s a very funny situation, because in most investor conversations, and prospective investors, it’s almost always me telling them that no, this is not land grab. And we’re not going to this. But then when we launch this product it will make so much sense. But it does not make sense, we will not do this.

Amit Somani 34:11

Very heartening to hear. And I think that’s what you have to do, and especially something which has a long range. That is even more important. Just one or two last closing questions. Tarun, what do you read or how do you keep going? How do you upskill yourself and uplevel yourself as you’re going along, at an individual level, at a founder, co-founder level not necessarily as Ather strategy and so forth, but just for yourself.

Tarun Mehta 34:38

Two things I believe in coaching, so both Swapnil and I work with an executive coach. And that really helps us a lot. I did not respect it enough in our early years, as I guess a lot of young folks out there but then finally we did get one and that told us after a year or so that holy shit the amount of progress we’ve made as people is crazy, we wouldn’t have done that. So I think an executive coach goes a long way and is an investment that entrepreneurs of any height of any fast growing enterprise should put in. Second, I personally always benefited from having multiple advisors on the same angle around me. So let’s say if you’re doing a capital allocation conversation where we’re trying to decide whether we are better off, like putting money into this or this by like two different product lines.

A general principle that I follow is, I’ll pick up the phone and talk to two three different people with usually completely different viewpoints, and then usually sleep on it for a few days, Let my opinion form and then act on it. That’s something I would not do very successfully in the very early years. Maybe the first year or so, but then gradually I picked up that the point of leading an org is to be able to surround yourselves with very different viewpoints, being able to synthesise them and form your own after that. Not form without any input, but not just take one input and run with it. I think this maturity didn’t exist when I was like 23-24. Probably seems like it does now, to some extent.

Amit Somani 36:26

No, I’m sure it does. I think it’s a wonderful framework for all decision making, not just for capital allocation decisions. But I think this openness to multiple points of view and being able to synthesise them, is I think a very valuable skill. So thank you so much Tarun, really appreciate you taking the time to be on the Prime Venture Partners podcast and while I haven’t ridden an Ather yet, but I wish that there are millions and 10s of millions of customers that will be delighted with what you’re building. So thank you for being on the show.

Tarun Mehta 36:58

Thank you, Amit. Thanks for having me over, it was great chatting with you.

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