This kind of people connect you will rarely see — Indus Khaitan #JeenaIssiKaNaamHain

In the tech world, we have all kinds of leaders. Some are exceptional coders while many others understand the business like the back of their hands. But rarely, does one come across a full-stack entrepreneur who has a sound understanding of the business in equal measure. I mean, a thorough understanding, and skills to match in both areas. Indus Khaitan, a dear friend who I have known since 2009, is one such individual who continues to push boundaries and automatically finds a place on my #JeenaIssiKaNaamHain list. Here is an individual who is playing the long-haul and is never befuddled when a curved ball comes his way.

It was at the NASSCOM Product Conclave in 2009 that he volunteered to curate a session and what an exceptional job he did at that. In my life and given the nature of my work, I have attended many thousands of sessions at national & global events. I have yet to come across an individual who can introduce a speaker as remarkably as Indus does. Event hosts always have the profiles ready and it’s common enough to see Session Chairpersons reading out these bytes of “information”. When Indus does it, seemingly boring information turns into a story, often, a gripping short narrative thereafter is what transfixes the viewer. He goes the extra mile to know the human being behind the profile. He does it all the time, it’s his second nature and that is what makes him a people person. He will hop into a car with you, requesting to be dropped off somewhere on the way, and voila, a riveting conversation ensues. If you ever get such an opportunity with Indus, please grab it and I can promise you that you will come out, enriched.

He is one of the early birds who came onto the startup ecosystem when the word — ecosystem — wasn’t even in circulation. Alongside his other founder Sameer Guglani, they started Morpheus, an accelerator. Though he is based in the Bay Area, he remains deeply connected to his roots and is equally comfortable having a meaningful conversation in Hindi. It comes as no surprise that over the years he has contributed immensely to the networks that he has been a part of — the Bay Area, BITS, and the Indian startup ecosystem among many others.

After spending several years advising startup founders on what to do, in 2012, he set off on his second venture, Bitzer Mobile which he ran successfully for 3–4 years and sold to Oracle. Thereafter, he held multiple roles where he could fuse his tech & product management skills and make a great career in the process. There are two things he believes in, and they stand out. One, of course, is frugality. Though he has created a lot of wealth you will never see him splurging on branded clothes, cars and other things that may appear wasteful. I think it’s great learning for startup founders. The other aspect is something he told me once. He said, “Look Avinash if you have sold a company for 5 million dollars and started another then be sure that you create a wealth of more than 50 million dollars at the very least because that is what the market will expect from you.” If you see it in another way, it is about not resting on past laurels but using them as a benchmark to go ahead. So past laurels do have an important place in our lives but only when they goad us to reach higher. Otherwise, we fall irredeemably into the trap of complacency.

Whether it was a train ride in San Francisco or a drive from Delhi to Gurgaon or a chat in a café in Bangalore or a short walk at Kalkaji (more recently) or at an event, Indus has always struck me as a remarkable human being who is never contented with past glory. He has that ability, and in common startup parlance what we call agility. He can pivot very quickly into new areas and start all over again with great passion. At the age of 45, he got a pilot’s license and frankly, I was quite surprised. When I asked him what motivated him to do so, he gave me a very interesting explanation. He said, “Avinash as we grow older, it becomes more and more difficult to learn new things and if we don’t push ourselves into learning new skills, a part of the brain dies.”

One of the goals for Indus is to become a better paanwala & some day launch an uber for paan.

That is Indus Khaitan for you ladies & gentlemen. I can go on and on about this man and his incredible people connect. He has a clear mind that seeks to do simple (and complex) things in a different manner — it can be about doing a roundtable or just having a plain conversation with you. He can be in the Bay Area talking to an American or he can be in Chennai, having a conversation with someone from Tamil Nadu but the deep interest that he takes in people, sets him apart. That’s why he is exceptional and that’s why he will be a winner in the long haul.

Indus, my friend, here’s wishing you great health and I sincerely hope that the new venture that you are presently running — Quolum — is a great success.

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Avinash Raghava

Avinash Raghava

Building @ScaleTogether, Founding Volunteer at @SaaSBOOMi | Past: Community Platform Evangelist @Accel_India. Co-Founded@iSPIRT(@Product_Nation), @NASSCOM