Look Up — Cloudy with a Chance of Millennials

The crowd of 500 intellectuals were waiting eagerly at NextBigWhat’s Unpluggd 2015 event in anticipation. They had been patiently sitting through the demos on stage by some promising future entrepreneurs. But the highlight of the day was yet to come. Housing’s CEO (then and now ex) Rahul Yadav was about to address them. This author, not wanting to miss the session, skipped the tea break and grabbed a seat in front to directly hear from the ‘perceived’ David’s mouth (David of the David and Goliath). Off late Rahul had become a headline grabber. And the articles written about him portrayed him to be a young brash executive who didn't have much respect for other startup ventures . And the people who had come there were excited about listening an inside story about the ruckus he had created in the past few months.

Be it the spat with Shailendra Singh of Sequoia India, or his differences with the Housing Board of Directors that became public or his Facebook posts on Vishal Sikka of Infosys who was trying to grab a wink and refusing to answer this young chap’s burning question. All these made him look like the Virat Kohli (the aggressive young Indian ready for world domination) of Indian Startup scene. Was it the case?

Through his talk, he came across as someone who spoke his mind out and didn't hold back any word that might make him look politically incorrect. In his view, real innovation wasn't happening in India and stuff like scanning food menu’s (dig at zomato) didn't count as one. On being asked how was he executing the announcement of transfer of his Housing stake to his employees he said that it’s being done an will be closed soon. He portrayed that he didn’t care for the money and he had age on his side and he could always make a few more millions. For his penchant for controversies, he replied that those who knew him for college days know that this is not something new and weren't surprised. Then it was the dean and principal, now it’s the investors and board of directors.

Here was a millennial entrepreneur who was brash, aggressive, talked thrash about the competition. Comparisons of him and Steve Jobs we know of (since his 2nd stint) are uncalled for. But he could easily be compared to Steve’s dear friend, Larry Ellison. But it seemed that inside Rahul lurked a people loving socialist that reared its head once in a while and that made him unlike the heavy capitalist tendencies living inside high flying entrepreneurs.

All these aside here’s my 2 paisa (Paisa is the Indian Cent) to the overall issue. Rahul is a millennial. Enough has been written about managing, showing respect and leading the millennials who work for you at the work place. But exactly how do you manage a millennial entrepreneur? India has produced some great IT entrepreneurs during the economic liberalization of India (80's and 90's). Now that these entrepreneurs are handing the reins of their companies to their hand groomed second in line, they should take out some time to groom and mentor the young, impatient and raring to go Rahul Yadav’s of this generation. Also its for the non-millennial VC’s, Angels, and investment community to take note that such brashness, aggressiveness and impatience are here to stay as the millennial generation feels entitled so and have to work their way around it. Also, the millennials value purpose and want to build the next TOMS shoes and make a difference to their own societies besides churning out a decent profit and it’s for returns-viewing-investment-fund-managers to respect these and accommodate them into the business model besides looking for unicorns that will make them the next Peter Thiel.

And for the millennials (including this author and co-founder of Whenda). Its good to be impatient for results but be patient with people. Sometimes its OK to let your work do the talking. That you are passionate is good but you are distracted by the next coolest thing is not. That you are mad about making a difference is good. But be respectful to people you meet (respect them as fellow human beings and not for their titles). But more than anything, be yourself. A Rahul Dravid and a Saurav Ganguly (cricketers, poles apart in character and temperament towards the game) did co-exist as leaders and rallied teams to success in ways that matched their character.

Would like to end it with a quote on why mutualism between entrepreneurs and investor is needed.

‘If you want to go fast, Go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

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