“Be a Storyteller” 5 Leadership Lessons with Amit Sharma
“When starting a company you find yourself always inspiring various audiences including investors, employees, and customers. I wouldn’t have raised my first round of investment if I hadn’t told my personal story effectively to a broad audience.”
I had the pleasure to interview Amit Sharma. Amit is the founder and CEO of Narvar, an enterprise-grade SaaS platform which drives brand loyalty at scale by enabling immersive and emotional post-purchase customer experiences. Amit founded Narvar in 2013, and has since grown the company to 150+ employees across corporate offices in San Francisco, London, and Bangalore. Prior to founding Narvar, Amit built up decades of experience across supply chain, information technology and business analytics at companies including Apple, Walmart, and Pottery Barn. Amit’s expertise lies in multi-channel retail — building technology solutions to drive seamless & engaging customer experiences across the supply chain.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I come from humble beginnings. I grew up in a small town that was quite secluded from the outside world. There were only 24 of us in the same class from elementary through 12th grade. These friendships helped me to appreciate the value of building and investing in relationships. On the other hand, I found myself completely unprepared moving from my town of 20k people to Bombay (20M population) for my undergrad. I quickly realized that in order to survive, I would need to adapt to a fast-paced life. Embracing ambiguity quickly became one of my guiding principles in life.
I was drawn towards computers and especially data & analytics. After graduation, I joined Citibank as a programmer. I quickly honed my skills in distributed data management while staying above the fray of the industry’s Y2K bug crisis at that time. Within a year, I was thriving and I ended up working as a consultant for Fortune 50 investment banks at various places including Singapore and New York.
As the 90s came to an end, the dotcom boom was changing the world order as we knew it. I quit my job in New York and drove one-way to San Francisco, where I started my first company — building a CRM database for retail brands. The start-up didn’t last long as the dotcom bubble soon burst. However, this experience sparked my interest in retail and operations.
In 2007, I joined Walmart.com just as they were being disrupted by Amazon — and was given the responsibility of managing its shipping and delivery network. I was able to save the company over $250M during this crucial time period. Over the course of these years I learned a lot and built an amazing network in the retail industry.
Working in the Silicon Valley, I was witnessing firsthand the adoption of mobile devices and tablets — and in general the rise in importance of customer experience. My work at Walmart.com led me to Apple, where I focused on enabling personalized delivery experiences that drove high customer lifetime value. It became more and more clear to me that focusing on end-to-end shopping experiences was much desired within the retail industry. This insight led me to start Narvar.
I founded Narvar to enable engaging customer experiences for shipping and delivery. I bootstrapped and operated out of my proverbial garage for the first 1.5 years. In a short few years Narvar has become the industry standard, working with 400+ retailers like Sephora, Neiman-Marcus, Crate & Barrel, and GameStop.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
One day I got a call from my India office that a lady had showed up and was directing them in their work duties and criticizing their overall work performance. Later I realized that that woman was my Mom, who felt the need to help her son out with his business by managing his employees.
Yitzi: So what does your company do?
Digital commerce has created a “customer experience gap” where people are abandoned during the critical moment after a purchase is made and before it’s delivered. I founded Narvar to meet this unaddressed need, and in the process created the post-purchase experience category.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We launched a leadership program for middle school girls last summer. I strongly believe that it is important for young girls to develop their business acumen and confidence at an early age. Our program gave girls early exposure to entrepreneurship and leadership within a corporate setting.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me Before I Launched My Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Be a storyteller. When starting a company you find yourself always inspiring various audiences including investors, employees, and customers. I wouldn’t have raised my first round of investment if I hadn’t told my personal story effectively to a broad audience.
2. You can’t do it alone. I discovered that I had to hire people early on, even if that was going to cost more money. This was an essential lesson to learn, because I had found myself involved in every decision, since I have such a passion for my company.
3. It’s a lonely job. You can surround yourself with the best people but the key decisions are all up to you.
4. Your job is never done. People think that when you start a company you have full control over your working hours. However, you become answerable to all of the company needs at all hours, and across time zones.
5. Your family sacrifices a lot. Whether you are aware of it or not, your whole family is involved in your entrepreneurial adventure. You miss small moments in your children’s lives such as having dinner together every night, and attending their extracurricular activities. I have only been able to accomplish what I have because of my wife, who put her career on hold to take care of the family full time.
Yitzi: Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have lunch with Elon Musk, to better understand how he manages his time around various nebulous ideas and immediate business needs.