‘I cannot be seen myself giving gyaan to entrepreneurs and not doing this myself’

Pankaj Mishra October 24, 2018 32 min

Indushekhar “Indus” Khaitan is an outlier in many ways. His abilities to learn new things and apply those learnings across his career as an entrepreneur and working executive underscores the importance of adaptability as a timeless skill. “Today’s career plans are essentially factories for individuals. You get in, you progress on the conveyor belt, you come out, you are packaged, you are shipped and then there are stops in between,” he says.

In this Outliers recording with Khaitan in Chennai we discussed how he transitioned from an employee to an entrepreneur to a VC to a marketer and now to a pilot — and why he does that. This is the transcript of the conversation lightly edited for language. Transcript credit, as always with the text versions of Outliers, to Kanika Berry.

Pankaj: Welcome to Outliers and, as I keep saying, this is the Podcast with Outliers. I am here in Chennai to sit down with an Outlier, who has been an Outlier because he took long to be part of this show: Indus Khaitan. Right?

Indus: Absolutely.

Pankaj: I can’t believe I am sitting down with you.

Indus: Well, I have been dodging this for so long that now I am being branded as an Outlier for trying to avoid this opportunity of sitting down. So, pleasure to be here.

Pankaj: I hope people don’t think this is how you can get on Outliers. This is something I started recently like, there are lots of these interesting people and lives I spot on social media and all the ills aside, now I am making sincere efforts to go out and meet these people. But I think over past few years, our paths have definitely crossed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, I heard of you like some kind of a Phantom sometimes. I have always been interested in having this conversation to unplug you. I think it would be a learning for me forget everyone else. So, let us start this from the start.

Indus Khaitan, interesting name. I am not judging you.

Indus: There is a back story to the name.

Pankaj: Ok, start.

Indus: If I could pronounce well… so, my real name is Indushekhar Khaitan and I do not know how I got rechristened as Indus but what I realise, I will go to that how I got rechristened, but I realize that Indus has a phenomenal recall. You know, I stand up in a meeting and whatever bullshit I say, people probably do not remember but they remember this was this guy Indus who bullshitted for 60 minutes. So this is post Practo I realised and the story goes that in 1997, I got recruited by this company called VeriFone, makers of POS and payment systems and my boss then, a phenomenal person called Babuji Abraham, he was part of Mindtree for a long time and a mentor. He somehow decided that my name is too long and shortened it to Indus. Even before I joined he kind of opted me in and rechristened me in as Indus Khaitan and I let it go because you are young and people call you whatever nicknames… you don’t care because your existence is you as an individual, names do not matter, you know growing up in India.

So, he started calling me Indus and my tech lead started calling me Indus, I would ignore it, they don’t know. But then it somehow just hanged around on my head, that particular name and when I moved to United States, during my visa processing, my passport name is of course Indushekhar Khaitan but I do not know how in my visa application I called it Indus as my first name and Khaitan as my last name, probably because my resume was Indus Khaitan, my employment verification letter was Indus Khaitan, I thought it is safer to use that instead of the one in the passport. And, of course, the visa application went through and it got approved and it continued to be that. Yes and, of course, as you go through the United States, everything is driven by your formal immigration process and what have you. So, when I wrote my first resume in the IELTS test, still was Indushekhar Khaitan, you know, ‘theeke yaar, let’s just keep it’, simple.

But then, somehow it dawned on me that it is getting difficult with you know, shorter versions of name on the credit card. So the first credit card they had, Indushekh Khaitan, they completely chopped the ‘ar’ because there was not much space to type an 18 character plus space – 19 characters on that credit card. I don’t remember what credit card application was it, probably Bank of America was my first bank. And they called it Indushekh Khaitan in my credit card. I kept it for like couple of years, then somehow inadvertently I said, ‘Hey, I will just call it Indus, yaar’, it is much simple and few years down the road and you know, I found that people pronounce it easily, the recall thing dawned on me much later, because when you are engineer, you don’t think about these other marketing things in life or the packaging things in life but I think it’s a phenomenal recall and I think in today’s world of distractions, it’s all about recall, if you spend millions of dollars in advertising, do people even remember it? So I think that’s the long answer to your short question. Not many people know about it. In fact, at times, I dodge this question when I meet somebody in an event because then I have to sit or stand and tell him a 15-minute story; ‘Is this your real name’, I reluctantly say yes to not answer this particular question at this particular length.

Pankaj: Now you can chill and send the link of this podcast. So, quite a Bollywood entry, I must say. But where do you come from, Indus? Like give me a sense of your upbringing, family to whatever extent you want to share in terms of shaping whatever you are today.

Indus: Sure. Have you seen the movie Gangs of Wasseypur?

Pankaj: I have been to Wasseypur.

Indus: I grew up 20 kms, I don’t know the direction now, it’s been some time but 20-22 kms away from Wasseypur in a mining town called Katrasgarh.

Pankaj: I visited Katrasgarh last year.

Indus: That’s where I was born. So, just on Gangs of Wasseypur, growing up I have heard many of those parts of the screenplay being narrated to us by our uncles, by our buddies, ‘such and such person had such and such treatment without going through specifics of the movie’ and I think that movie does not cover probably all the other areas of misdeeds of the goons that we have heard growing up in Dhanbad or Katrasgarh, as we call it.

Pankaj: So what did you study and why did you do that?

Indus: You mean school, no choice, right!

Pankaj: Let’s move forward.

Indus: So, school was of course, I went to a boarding school in Ranchi, purely boys’ boarding school, so let’s not go into the details of that, fodder for a future fiction novel which we could write, Five Years of Boarding School, amazing topic! But did my undergrad at Birla Institute of Technology. Computer science and why computer science? It was also an accident, in terms of why computer science? I thought, ‘Hey, this is one of the easiest subjects to clear in engineering’ plus I had some exposure to computers, thanks to some magazines or cover stories, probably I read a couple of cover stories in magazines I purchased off Bada Bazar in Kolkata for probably less than a buck or 25 paise. One of those cover stories was probably on computer science… I have faint memories now but somehow I fancied it, it was a new kind of instrument to, you know, change the world and all of that and that basically pushed me into computer science but it was not thought through at all that, ‘Hey, I got to be a computer guy, I have to be an engineer and all of that’ but it just happened without even realising that you want to make that happen. So, I was a computer science undergrad.

Pankaj: Just to shift the gears now, there are loops in your journey overall if I look at it, some very interesting ones and that’s what I meant when I said that ‘our paths have crossed several times’. Morpheus is one, then your own startup, working or, you know, getting acquired working with a company, then to working for a company, if I may say that. Can you take us through those journeys… I know it could take days to capture it but can you pick the key things that happened in terms of learnings for you in each of those journeys that define those mini journeys leading up to where you are today? It’s a very open question but maybe we can tackle one to start with and then go into details.

Indus: Sure. I think taking a step back, there are 4 or 5 different things that I did which is not part of a linear career plan and the reason I say that because… hate to use that word, but today’s career plans are essentially factories for individuals. You get in, you progress on the conveyor belt, you come out, you are packaged, you are shipped and then there are stops in between. I think the specific situations I went into or the changes I made was very conscious that ‘I am getting bored, I cannot do this forever for rest of my life, so what can I do which is something I’d not done in the past or I am not trained or I have no knowledge’.

For example, you brought up Morpheus, I am not a finance professional, I am not a venture capitalist, I don’t bank hold 20-30 million dollars to start a fund. I fancied what the f*** is venture capital, why can’t we start one, what does it require? So a sense of experimentation kind of pushed us into starting Morpheus. You know chance meeting with Sameer (Guglani) and Nandini (Hirranniah) introduced by another friend of ours, Ankit Maheshwari and I said, ‘that I am here for a short time, I am not going to meet anybody’ and he said, ‘Nahi boss, you meet Sameer, you will just be amazed by that individual and you meet Nandini and worst case you give me a kick on my bum if that meeting goes not fruitful, you know, it goes south and you don’t enjoy’. I said, ‘OK’, and we went and we met. I still remember Khayal restaurant, is there a one in Bangalore?

Pankaj: Yes, Khayal.

Indus: So, I met Sameer, this is 2009 and immediately we hit it off in terms of his ideas and his amazing wisdom of the world. I was like surprised and inspired by Sameer at the same time. And then he was running Morpheus as an advisory service where they did not have a fund, they were just getting gyaan and then some arrangement and he had sold his startup Madhouse to 70mm. He was trying to figure out what to do next in life. And I said, ‘Yes, let’s do a fund together’.

But I think he was reluctant having it as a fund, giving entrepreneurs money and one thing I have learnt growing up in Bihar especially that, if you don’t attach value to something, people think it has zero or negative value. So unless you are giving money, even if it is token five lakh rupees, people will not attach any value to the advice which you give. So I kind of convinced Sameer, ‘Hey, let’s raise a little bit of capital and do it…’. And that was the genesis of Morpheus, you know just a great dinner conversation and let’s start a fund.

The challenge was from where do we get the money? You know I had sold my startup but I was an aquihire with very little cash coming in and we didn’t have the quarter million or half a million which we wanted to raise. But then we got lucky in terms of some of our friends who said, ‘Yes, we will put in 15-20 lakhs’, the other guys said yes, so we found like 5 or 6 individuals who agreed to pool in like a crore plus of the first close which we did. But it was incredibly tough. This is 2009-10, so 2009 is when we brainstormed, we started but I think by the time we had money, it was end of 2009. And not naming names, Sameer and I probably reached out to every individual in the startup ecosystem, every venture capitalist we knew. Everybody whom we thought made money in technology, we reached out. Now they are good friends but at that time, ‘Have you run a fund before? What was the exit price of your startup – millions, billions?’ and then people would pay no heed to what we are trying to do. Everybody appreciated that, ‘Hey, great idea, India needs something like this’, but we had no traction in the usual suspect of people who had money… but anyhow we decided that we got to do this, so we kicked it off and then we had the first batch of startups and second batch of startups and that’s where the traction just started coming because we got lucky with Practo.

So one of our very first investments was Practo and let’s not go into the details of Practo, we will go sometime but after the word got out that Practo raised a major first round and a subsequent second round from Sequoia Capital, that’s when Morpheus as an entity arrived in the ecosystem. Although we had CommonFloor before and others after that but Practo basically cemented our thought leadership saying, ‘Hey, these guys know what shit they are doing’. Of course, whatever that meant didn’t change anything for us but whatever philosophy we had, people thought this is a value and then the influx started and many other startups later, they are all Morpheus. And we had no clue what venture capital is? We probably read about it but had no idea even how a fund is structured, how a carry is structured, what is management fees, so much so that Morpheus was a zero management fee fund because we had no idea that there is a management fee concept, like we could take 2% away from the fund to pay your own salaries. And so we designed in a way that 100% of the proceeds are divided between the LPs and GPs in a structure which we created for Morpheus.

Pankaj: If you were to look back at the Morpheus experience and like VCs ask, in a line, what defines that part of the journey for you, the whole Morpheus thing?

Indus: Had to needle a word, now I can pat on my back but it blazed the trail of seed stage investing in India. If I can be as short as that. To be honest, I don’t know how to define it. I think we did what we thought made sense at that point in time but honestly the success was because of our cluelessness more than anything else.

Pankaj: Now you have also been an entrepreneur, not with just Morpheus for that matter but even building your own startup, if you were to pick moments of these transitions from one journey to another journey, how have you done that and what are the key learnings on that front because it’s like relationships in that sense… So every time you make this transition from one journey to another, there have to be good buys or something else.

Indus: Some excuses.

Pankaj: So, if we pick that as a thread… Indus and across the entrepreneurial ventures you did to the jobs you did, can you take me through how did you transition each time and be yourself, candid self?

Indus: I think it is your own introspection of what you are as an individual. I think now I can piece it back, I don’t think I was finding anything else, I think I was finding what I am capable of and what I am incapable of. So, like the Morpheus thing, are we capable of starting a fund, I think that’s the question I think collectively, both Sameer and I were trying to answer. When I decided that Morpheus is not something for me, the question was very straightforward, that was the moment for me saying, ‘I cannot be seen myself giving gyaan to entrepreneurs on a daily basis and not doing this myself.’ Very simple.

And it also was an aggregation of experiences at Morpheus for almost a year. Simple example is I would give the entrepreneur a piece of my wisdom saying that, ‘Boss, I know technology, believe me, you got to solve this problem in a particular way’. And then the entrepreneur would disappear. Three weeks later he will come back with a related problem, when I will ask him ‘Did you fix that other problem?’ and he would say, ‘No’, but then I would explain to him why the one that I explained him three weeks ago is foundational for solving the problems and he will not have subsequent issues. And situations like these were being repeated every week and I would basically say F.O. to him in my mind that, ‘Yaar isko samakjh mein nahi aa raha hai kya/is he not able to understand?’ and I would feel like, ‘Hey, should I be running this startup instead of him running it?’ because I would throw myself as an operator imagining in that seat what the entrepreneur is in and kind of try to do 2X better.

But then it was a tricky balance. If you push that entrepreneur enough, you risk souring your relationship with him because at the end of the day, money, happiness, all of that ties into a relationship, right? And if you meet people and you want to build long-lasting relationship and they walk through the door, you give them a hug and they give you a warmer hug in exchange. I think that’s why I realised that I am not cut-out for becoming an investor. Maybe when I am 45 or 50…

Pankaj: How old are you?

Indus: I am 44.

Pankaj: It’s about time. Sorry to interrupt you.

Indus: No worries. I always kind of thought, being an investor is nice and it’s glorious and all that but after Morpheus I realised that it’s for people who have a specific you know way of doing things and you know not labeling them but somehow I felt that once I am very retired I can become an investor. Nothing against, I have great friends with whom I chat with on a daily basis, they are great investors and created billions of dollars and wealth. But it’s for them, not for me. So, I decided that, ‘Hey, come out of Morpheus and try to do a few more gigs or startups and that’s where I handed back the reins to Sameer and Nandini to run Morpheus and they ran it for a few years after that and then I started a mobile security venture, you know completely about turn. You know one side, the fire removed from day-to-day nitty-gritties of running a business to hard core deep technology, you know mobile security product that we built, I and my co-founder Ali and a couple of others. We wrote code like 8-9 months straight non-stop.

Pankaj: How was the first entrepreneurial venture for you like when you said, ‘Hey, let me do this myself’ instead of the ‘giving gyaan’ thing that you are talking about?

Indus: I missed it.

Pankaj: Yeah.

Indus: I missed it because there is a philosophy that I am forgetting now. It’s basically when you get used to power and you don’t have it, you have that withdrawal symptoms and you won’t believe it, I had it for the first 6-7 months while I was doing my venture because Morpheus gave us so much visibility, so much coverage. We were on the front page of ET, I had probably 8 or 9 stories in Mint and we could talk about how I built that relationship with at least two of the greatest newspapers here in India. And here I was begging for my airtime because now I am kind of, the guy with the begging bowl drying on the streets and trying to build my startup without any money.

So, it basically flipped the equation and I was now feeling that, ‘Boss, where is my power, where is my army’ because at Morpheus, you would call a meeting and 50 entrepreneurs would show up. So that withdrawal symptom kind of remained with me for at least 6-7 months and it got aggravated after I moved to United States even more because there I didn’t have a network. You know here I had 10% of what it was at Morpheus, US was fraction of that. So, that is my candid moment that, ‘Boss, am I sure or am I enjoying this without people around me?’

Pankaj: So what happened from that journey to another? It’s like an interstellar travel.

Indus: So we raised money, Bitzer Mobile was the name of the company but the market was in United States. We were doing a wild security. Luckily, we had Chevron Corporation which is the second largest company in the world as our first customer.

Pankaj: Wow.

Indus: Million dollar ARR which is from the first customer, you know, right off the bat. So, we found that, ‘Hey, there is a problem which we are trying to solve, there is a product market fit, how do we make it big?’ And now we were three as running it so the decision was made that Indus cannot be in India, he has to move to United States because there are two or three things which he does well; we could hire, but then what is he going to do? Then as a co-founder, you try to be malleable around things which are possible, of course, I had uprooted my family, brought them from United States to India, I had no plans of going back, now there are plans brewing for me to take me back, uprooted them again but we will talk about that decision later, if time permits but that was again a journey from nobody to somebody back to, you know fraction of nobody back to United States.

In January 2013, I remember moving lock, stock, and barrel, back to America, running Bitzer Mobile for a year but then we got lucky where Oracle, where we built an early partnership turned into term sheet saying, ‘Yay! This is too important for us to not have this technology, so why don’t you guys come on board?’ They made an offer and the board decided that, ‘Hey, let’s take it’. If you want the money for some more time, they acquired the company and I became part of Oracle in December 2013.

Pankaj: How would you characterize your first entrepreneurial outcome, if I may say? And the reason I am asking that is, going back to the learnings you were referring to, forget everything, forget Oracle, forget your venture, how would you characterise it? And, any key learning there for you, Indus?

Indus: I think I will put it in two buckets. One is experiential learning which is very technical in terms of managing people, process, technology and the business world around it. I was an engineer and I would like to see things black or white, any analysis has to have a deterministic flow, either left or right, there is no in-between. What I learnt in those three years of doing the startup and a little bit at Morpheus itself that when you are dealing with people, there is no black or white, there are hundreds of shades of grey.

It was very revealing for me to kind of transform from an individual contributor as an engineer to a person where people look up to me saying, ‘Hey, I need this solution, how would you solve it?’ and of course learnt how to solve it on the way. I think that was the change which I underwent. It was probably the first or the second, not first; first was Morpheus. It was second step in terms of me going as an individual where given a problem, given 50 people, I can guide them, I can put them in a direction, be responsible for an outcome for them in their own career growth.

So it was like tactical but at the top level for me personally, it was little bit of a happiness to be honest. Although Morpheus had been a successful, an early trailblazer but there was no outcome. In fact, millions of dollars are still in a paper wealth collectively vested within the company Morpheus has invested. So, I and Sameer and the LPs are still very much on the cap table of a lot of companies where you are monetised as time goes by. That’s my retirement money coming in. But there was no economic output from Morpheus, then.

Pankaj: And your first startup…

Indus: Tejit.

Pankaj: Yes.

Indus: That had a very small economic output where from close to debt, I was able to recover, pay off some of the money. Thankfully, the acquirer has the other company, they also got bought. So we made some money there but by standards of the value, you know, I could have worked for a couple of years and there would have been a better outcome.

Pankaj: What happened from Oracle? I mean, you did spend time in a large company.

Indus: We were handcuffed, I had no choice. Oracle was phenomenal. I know that Oracle gets a lot of negative press, lot of bad publicity but Oracle is sales machine. In fact, as an entrepreneur, I would recommend, if anybody gets a chance to get a job at Oracle, take it for two years. That company will teach you how to sell, you know, the classical cliché being how you sell ice to Eskimos… that’s what Oracle teaches you. It’s a sales machinery and I used to work with the sales group every day and they taught me nuances of building a relationship with a CIO, writing an RFP, doing a demo, what does a customer look for, different topics but I think going in, I was not sure and I remember complaining this to Nahim when we accepted the term sheet, saying, ‘Are you kidding me that we are going to get bought by Oracle’ to thanking him later that was the best decision he’d taken for me as an individual or collectively for people who are engaged in that various roles because I had a good time.

Pankaj: What happened after that?

Indus: So Oracle was two years. Got done. So my co-founder quit the day his second-year contract, two-year contract got done. Like done and he was out. I was still mulling over in terms of ‘what to do next, should I go back and start a venture?’ My wife was not ready for me to become an entrepreneur again, we had seen our ups and downs moving to India and then moving back. So I was at a crossroads when I met Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital and Shailendra and I had known each other for some time. In fact, I am lucky that he gives credit and thanks to him to Morpheus for the Practo deal. And that’s my, you know, probably that quote which he has on Sequoia’s website, ‘If I die today, that’s on my tombstone right there’, that you know, the mention of that how I brought that deal to him.

So, I think they were struggling with a few companies or struggling is not the right word: a few companies needed help. So I said, ‘Hey, I am out or almost coming out of Oracle, I would love to spend time’, so I got connected with Aditya Sood of Calm.io. Again amazing gentleman, very similar to I would say, Sameer Guglani of Morpheus. I think, you get connected to people based on who you are, so I got connected to Sameer because we complimented in some ways and he is again a seeker of wisdom and wise person himself, has a lot of knowledge. Aditya Sood was very similar, extremely well-read, I mean, amazingly well-read, if I could like get 5% of the knowledge he has from the books he reads, I will be on the next level.

We hit it off and he said, ‘Hey, let’s work together for Calm.io’, again a phenomenal start-up out of India. And this is a theme, a hacker, engineers building something but again kind of having not than sales or marketing, they lack that. You know, having not seen that channel, there is an assumption that if you build it, they’ll come. So Aditya built this phenomenal company Calm.io but sales was kind of not there yet, so I came on board… was to take the company to the next level but then a series of events happened and Nutanix decided to acquire that company, so we sold it to Nutanix and it was a great outcome for everybody. About 35-36 employees made a lot of money and then I was jobless again.

Pankaj: A lot of people think of entrepreneurship as a way to become free. What I mean is, you have tasted entrepreneurial freedom, if I could call it freedom.

Indus: Freedom – I don’t think it’s a word. But it’s an oxymoron – entrepreneurial freedom.

Pankaj: What does it mean having done it a couple of times at least? How different is it really from a job? I am asking that because you have seen both the worlds but what does entrepreneurship mean to you really?

Indus: I don’t see it different from a job. I don’t know, there is a school of thought when people say, ‘Hey, entrepreneurship, charisma, this, that, knighthood, and all of that’. (What) I see is you and me and two individuals who are going to experiment with something, we have a thesis in the mind. There is only one difference, in a job, the boundaries are laid out for you, in your own startup, you lay the boundaries yourself. Other than that, I don’t think you are a different individual than anything else. You are doing your best, you are mentoring people, you are hiring the best talent, building a product, finding people who could buy or pay for this and then you move on and you try to do more and more things. At least in my thesis, I look at it in terms of, ‘Hey, let’s find a problem, let’s solve it. Now I know how to solve it, let’s find somebody who can take this, let me go find another problem’.

Pankaj: So why are you not an entrepreneur now?

Indus: I think it’s again a choice. So when I got done with the Sequoia relationship last year, I was at the crossroads again thinking, ‘Hey dude, what should I do next? Go back, become an entrepreneur, raise money or probably do it without money this time’. But what I have realised that your bar in your mind… it goes up. You do a startup, you make a million or half a million, I think that’s a great multiple to start with. You do your second one, your bar is 50 million because I have solved a problem for half a million and this is very much proportional to my first startup, you know half a million. And then Bitzer, 50 million, you know that’s the multiple. So the next one you want to do has to be 500 million because in your mind you want to solve the problems that are harder than the last time. Pick again, it’s your experimentation as a nature. You want to do things that have not been done by you. You don’t care about others. So done half a million, done 50, you have to find a problem which is $500 million worth of your time, not in terms of quantified, the outcome is $500 million dollars. So that bar is actually a guard which does not let you enter into entrepreneurship again, in my opinion.

Probably in my conscience, I see that as an impediment that, let’s find a problem which is big enough to chase whereas in reality the conflict in the brain is, ‘Hey, you start with a smaller problem and then make it big’. But still it has to be big enough a problem. That’s when I decided that ‘Boss, do I wait to find a problem or find somebody who has found a product market fit, is beyond that ‘crossing the chasm’… Jeffrey Moore’s classical book, that’s the hardest part, your first million is the hardest part, the chasm is the hardest part. So, find somebody who has crossed the chasm and see if he could take that 5 million ARR which he has to 50 or 500. So, I think in my journey, thankfully, to people around me, they connected me to Krish, Avinash and Shekhar (of Accel). They connected me to Krish, although I have known Krish briefly and then we dated for couple of months and then we hit it off that he has built a phenomenal engine, what can I do to take it to 50 as the first iteration which is the third gear of the car, to the fourth gear which is 500 million. So I think that’s where we are.

And the second part is, I also realised that I stopped learning because technology beyond your early engineering effort, all your learning becomes very incremental, your sales learning is incremental, your marketing learning is incremental, you still are in that vicinity of ‘what you already know’. So every day you are just adding just an extra little bit. You are not doing a radical 90 degree learning. So I was an engineer, then I became a marketer, briefly at Symantec, we didn’t talk about that, then I became an entrepreneur – again a 90 degree, then I became a VC – again a 90 degree, did became an entrepreneur again but was ok. So I did three or four 90 degree turns, now I am looking at what is my bigger 90 degree turn, what should I learn new? So if I do a company again, it’s the same thing, you know, newer problems but you kind of solve it in the similar way.

So I am spending my time learning a few things which I always fancied as a kid. So I am on pact to become a private pilot, training for that very aggressively, it’s not easy. If you are 44 years and you have freaking 42 instruments in front of you and three controls, you have no idea whether you are going to die in the next second or you are going to keep the plane afloat and land safely. So taking something up radical, maybe that’s a new career, I don’t know but that’s the idea, how you keep learning. I keep telling people that every five years, you have to do a radical new learning experiment for yourself.

This is not just me telling you, this is science telling us. I am sure you have studied the whole neuroplasticity. So every 10 years, the connections in the brain, they get cemented, if you don’t memorize new concepts or if you don’t learn new things. Now as an individual, you could exercise, the reason we exercise is to build muscles and to keep us flexible but are we exercising our brain? The only way to exercise your brain is to memorize new things, to learn new concepts that will prevent the degeneration of muscles inside. And that’s only possible if you radically learn new things every 5-10 years.

And unfortunately in tech, the learning is very incremental. So I fear, of course everybody fears dying and old age but I fear that if I stop learning, I will stop thinking and become brain dead faster. So hence, now I piece it back, every 5-10 years, you know somewhere the subconscious it is there, ‘Hey, we got to learn, so I think learning a new language, learning a new instrument, going back to college or back to school’… I thought about it. In fact, post Sequoia, I grappled with, ‘Should I do an MBA and my wife would say, are you crazy, going back to B-school?’ But I think that’s one thing, you know, let’s keep learning new things and while I am at Chargebee helping Krish get to the next level, I am planning to become a pilot in five years if that career takes off, if not, will fly a plane the next time you are in California, I am going to take you over Golden Gate bridge and will fly around and look at the scenery for free.

Pankaj: Look forward to that. I think most of these conversations that I do, they are like these pursued, the quest for understanding this thread and I think in your case it is very clear. Now I see why you do what you do in that sense if I could explain. And you are very right about the learning thing. So please stay this way and I will look you up on the offer to fly around.

Indus: Yes, absolutely. Would love to have you. I am not a private pilot yet so this is a disclaimer but it is going to happen soon.

Pankaj: Thank you, Indus.

Indus: Thank you.

Pankaj: And stay this way.

Indus: Alright. Great talking to you.

(Kanika Berry has a Masters in Business Administration and has been a communications specialist for over eight years.)

Photos: From Indus Khaitan


Updated at 09:00 am on October 24, 2018  to correct a typo in a blurb.

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