When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice. In life, it is our choices that determine where we go. I always tell my colleagues that not every opportunity in life is meant to be taken. I carefully think through all decisions in both my business and personal life, rather than allowing my choices to be driven by fear of missing out.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Prasoon Shrivastava.
Prasoon Shrivastava is the founder and CEO of Zepth. With a background in construction and sustainability, Prasoon is an architect by profession, an entrepreneur by DNA, and a storyteller by practice.
Zepth is an intelligent and easy-to-use construction project management platform that ensures the delivery of projects on budget, schedule, and quality. Driven by artificial intelligence, Zepth streamlines the construction process by incorporating all aspects of a project lifecycle into a shared data environment, with modules for project financials, quality and safety, document management, and powerful analytics.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My father is a well-established civil engineer, which helped me to become familiar with the ins and outs of the construction industry from a very young age. My father was the one who introduced me to the fields of architecture, design, and construction. Once I started practicing in Dubai and India, I became exposed to many new technologies and ultimately realized that technology is the way forward.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of the best lessons I hold onto is from Michael Gerber’s book, The E Myth Revisited. He talks about a common misconception that “if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does technical work.” You may have the skills necessary to work in a certain field, but that does not equate to the skills of being a good business person (and vice versa). This is something that I keep in mind, as someone who is still a practicing architect and a business owner.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
To be honest, I’ve learned something from every book that I’ve read — that’s what I appreciate so much about reading. Currently, I’m reading a book called Simple Rules by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt and Donald Sull.It stands true to its name, and has helped me gain a lot of clarity in simplifying the complexities that are a given with any entrepreneurial endeavour.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
As a practicing architect, I became frustrated with various inefficiencies and outdated procedures across my industry. Historically, the construction industry has been very slow to adopt new technologies and digital tools, which has led to information being fragmented as it passes project managers, designers, contractors, and other stakeholders. A considerable percentage of the industry still uses Excel spreadsheets to track important data like cost and risk.
Zepth, in its early days, was created purely to help my own team work through some of these challenges we were facing with a specific project. The team struggled to keep track of costs through spreadsheets, so I began building a system to facilitate construction costs and documentation.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
When the pandemic hit and every industry was in turmoil, I was faced with a choice: I could either scale up or scale down my efforts towards digital integration. Of course, I chose to double down. Over the coming months, we worked to expand the Zepth platform, building modules to streamline all aspects of the construction process, including financials, quality and safety, document management, analytics, and even video conferencing. The whole process was a learning curve for my team, as building digital platforms is not typically part of an architect’s core expertise. We are consistently revising our product based on feedback we hear from our customers and colleagues and working to tackle new challenges.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
During a time when lockdowns forced us all to work apart, I saw the writing on the wall for technological advancement. Digital collaboration tools were quite simply the only way to keep job sites open and projects moving forward. Especially as it becomes clear that hybrid working is here to stay and digital collaboration is essential in unifying the field with the office.
How are things going with this new initiative?
In just a year or so, we have taken our bootstrapped startup and become a top solution provider for the construction industry. We have announced collaborations with both Amazon Chime SDK and Boston Dynamics, which have enabled us to expand our offerings even further.
In partnership with Amazon Chime SDK, we produced Zepth Meet, a powerful video conferencing tool. Fully integrated within the existing platform, Zepth Meet includes a full spectrum of best-in-class video conferencing features and allows users to accomplish and track all activities alongside existing project data.
We also now offer our users seamless integration with Boston Dynamics’ mobile robot Spot, enabling project teams to automate routine inspection tasks and capture data safely and with greater precision. The collaboration combines the data collection capabilities of Spot with our platform’s cutting-edge intelligent technology, allowing users to draw powerful insights from captured data to enhance efficiency, productivity, and collaboration throughout each phase of a project lifecycle.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father helped me get to where I am today. He introduced me to my field and guided me throughout my journey, teaching me to measure myself against client success. In India, there’s a popular saying that “the client is king,” and I try to follow this outlook. If a client is satisfied with your work, your success is guaranteed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
When we started Zepth, we knew we were building a product to solve the challenges that we had faced and seen in the industry as architects ourselves. As we grew, we kept introducing more tools and features with the same intent and after a very short span of time, we were absolutely thrilled to learn that we were being compared to some of the biggest names in the industry that have been on the market for more than a decade. We have always been very proud and confident of what we have built, but the validation we’ve received from the industry surely has driven us to work even harder towards our goals.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- As the area of our knowledge grows, so does the perimeter of our ignorance.
As we become more experienced and successful, it can be easy to act too quickly and overlook things. One of the biggest setbacks of my career was during my tenure of Arikplan International, a global architecture firm, when we decided to take our international practice to Southeast Asia during the 2009–10 economic meltdown. We made decisions based on our gut feeling instead of data, which cost us dearly and impacted the overall business.
- When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.
In life, it is our choices that determine where we go. I always tell my colleagues that not every opportunity in life is meant to be taken. I carefully think through all decisions in both my business and personal life, rather than allowing my choices to be driven by fear of missing out.
- Uncertainty is the only certainty in life.
Our world is complex and full of interdependent ecosystems. Often we must depend on many unknown factors. No matter how carefully we plan or strategize to achieve our goals, the journey is full of surprises and we have to keep adjusting. COVID is one recent example of how timely maneuvers and strategy changes enabled us to overcome challenges.
- Someone else’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.
At the age of 26, I decided to set up a business in Dubai while practicing in a small town in India. I was told that this was overly ambitious and that I was living in a fool’s paradise, which did discourage me a bit. It worked out just fine with hard work and a bit of luck!
- krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ sammohāt smṛiti-vibhramaḥ smṛiti-bhranśhād buddhi-nāśho buddhi-nāśhāt praṇaśhyati
Translation: Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.
I have learned through experience that I make my best decisions when my mind is calm and not agitated. If I make an impaired decision, it can snowball and impact others, and can even have financial impacts on projects and business. In 2006, one of my mentors told me that whenever you have an issue that agitates you, sleep on it and take another look at it the following morning. This has helped me a great deal in my decision-making throughout my life.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
In the midst of such a stressful global climate, it can be very difficult to prioritize physical and mental wellness. Our jobs are more demanding than ever, which can easily lead to burnout. Seeking moments of respite through the natural world is the best way to achieve rest and rejuvenation. There are so many healing effects of connecting with natural light, air, greenery, and even sounds of nature, particularly in an urban context.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement, it would be centered on mindfulness. Mindfulness is about how much we consume in business and as individuals. Whether constructing a skyscraper or conducting our personal lives, being more mindful about our choices will have a positive impact. Too often we are on autopilot and forget to truly analyze our impact on the world around us.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Yes, if given a chance I would like to have lunch with Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Having extensively worked in the UAE, I have immense respect for his vision that has transformed Dubai into the global city that we see today.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!