Expert Speaks: In Conversation with Rohan Thakare, Founder of WisdmLabs

Last updated - April 6, 2020

Today at ‘Expert Speaks‘, we have with us Rohan Thakare, the founder of WisdmLabs, specializes in building web solutions with open source.

In this interview, Rohan talks briefly about some of the top lessons he has learned, the importance of goal-setting and staying focused.

We thank Rohan for inspiring us with his words of wisdom. We hope you guys enjoy going through his informative answers.

Hello Rohan, welcome to LearnWoo. So, please tell us about your journey from an engineer in IBM to the Founder of WisdmLabs?

Thank you for inviting me to this interview.

In a nutshell, my journey from IBM to WisdmLabs has been truly eventful, challenging at times but certainly fulfilling on a personal level. Throughout my career, I’ve always wanted to “make a difference” and was lucky enough to get the right platforms at the right time, where I could explore and expand my boundaries. At IBM, I was exposed to enterprise tech and went from being a trainee test engineer to leading the implementation team of a complex quality assurance project involving IBM mainframes. At Convonix, I learned the nuts & bolts of running a services business, as we took it from a 15 member team (from when I joined) to becoming a 250 member digital marketing company when I left. With the Convonix experience behind my back, I was able to grow WisdmLabs from a single member operation to a 100 member strong technology services company, today.

What inspired you to leave your Job in IBM and join a small organization that time “Convonix”?

At IBM, I was exposed to the operational aspects of a technology business and was yearning to explore the business side of things, especially in sales and business development. I happened to discuss this with my close friend who was also the founder of Convonix and I realized that Convonix could give me exactly the opportunity I was looking for. We discussed further since I was facing a lot of resistance from my family. There was no comparison between IBM and Convonix, but the more I thought, the more I realized that not taking the step would create a permanent regret in my heart and I would end up blaming my own family. I thought, If I put my head, heart, and hands to this, it may not turn out to be a bad career move and even if it did, I would only have to myself to blame. So, finally, I took the leap of faith which turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

As the Founder of WisdmLabs, you must have a lot of responsibilities and pressure. How do you handle the pressure in this competitive field?

I definitely am answerable for everything we do at WisdmLabs, but my primary responsibility is to steer our company and team in the right direction while never losing touch with our values.

I’ll elaborate so you can understand it better. Everything we have accomplished at WisdmLabs, we have done it together as one team. All our success is clearly an outcome of our teamwork. The best part being, the team understands this really well and so we’ve created a structure in which all units of our company are immensely empowered with the freedom and encouragement to make decisions that work for them. This is because, I personally believe that when people take responsibility, they need the right amount of freedom to deliver on the promises they make. Also, “trust” is at the root of our existence and we stand strong behind our people, even if they make mistakes. You can think of this as teams which are companies, within a company.

With a structure like this, my to-do list is transformed to focus only on aligning all our teams in the right direction and ensuring they help each other to make the sum, much bigger than its parts.

Please tell us about your daily routine?

I have a simple routine, probably similar to most office-goers. I try to start the day early and slot in an hour of running and exercise. To me, it’s essential not just for staying healthy but also because it instills a feeling of self-belief as I am able to push the limits of my physical endurance, every single day. After taking some rest, I get ready and reach the office. Almost every day starts with a progress review meeting with one of our teams. My aim is always to help our teams figure out if their actions are in complete alignment with their goals and objectives. After that, it’s mostly checking and responding to emails and pings. On most days, there are at least 2 to 3 meetings lined up, but I do take time to read up on things I want to learn and that’s one important aspect of the day that I thoroughly enjoy. Besides, I do make it a point to chat up with colleagues, it’s a great way to connect and understand the pulse of the company.

I must admit that I tend to spend more time in office, but spending time with family is crucial and I am improving on it.

What are the pros and cons of working for yourself? 

Ah! Lots to talk about here, I’ll capture the ones I feel important –

Pros:

No one to report to – Probably one of the most important triggers for all stifled souls to venture on the path of entrepreneurship. No manager or boss to report to. How cool is that!

Freedom – When you work for yourself you are free to follow your passion and not someone else’s, you can choose the domain of your choice, you can take any decision that you feel and believe is correct because you are yet to experience the true cost or opportunity of the decision.

Control over your destiny -Your growth in life is not tied to your company’s or department’s performance. You can work harder and earn more or you can work much smarter and earn much more.

Agility and Adaptability – Working for yourself teaches you to be much more agile and quickly adapt to changes in the business, financial, regulatory, etc. environment. You don’t take things for granted and comprehend the meaning of “being always ready”.

People look up to you – People join you because they appreciate your work, they stick around because they believe in you. If you are doing well, society, in general, looks up to you.

Cons:

Start from scratch – Entrepreneurship teaches you the real meaning of head start. Can anyone say Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai are not successful or haven’t made it in life? How many people can ever reach that stature in life – only a handful. When you start working for yourself, you have to essentially start from scratch. Yes, you could get to be someone like Larry Page or Sergey Brin but what is the probability of you creating something equalling google – one in 10 billion people. Compare that to being Sundar Pichai, well you only have to be 1 in 30 thousand or so Googlers. Statistically, a much much better chance of reaching the top and that is because he didn’t start from scratch.

No one to guide you – There are multiple times when you feel you could do with valuable guidance from someone who is above you. But when you are on your own, you truly are. More often than not you have to rely on your best judgment and learn through your own experiences, which at times could prove very time consuming before you figure out the right path.

Ultimate Responsibility – No matter what, the ultimate responsibility for everything rests on your shoulders. Be it issues with business opportunities or levels of service of your organization or interpersonal issues affecting work. You are ultimately responsible for everything.

Always under scrutiny – All your actions and statements are always under evaluation. From within and from outside. Being human, maintaining your calm and composure at all times is very difficult but it’s the default expectation of you.

Need to excel at multiple roles – The day you become an entrepreneur is a day you are expected to be the best boss, the best salesperson, the best HR person, the best finance analyst and the best every role in your organization.

No financial security – When you run your own show, money just isn’t a guarantee. In some months revenue could be awesome and you grow, while in some other months you could feel like you’re going to go bankrupt. When you’re in such situations, they could be really stressful.

No clear path to progress – It’s always you who has to chart your own course and at times you may not know which path leads to progress clearly. This is quite unlike a traditional corporate career where you can plan your career progression – you are looking at variables, but at least the variables are certain

In WisdmLab’s current stage of growth, what are the top challenges to deal with?

While our team grew to around 100 people, we kept adding more services and products to our bouquet of offerings. This strategy did distribute our risk, but it did increase our marketing challenge significantly. There’s a huge difference in marketing a single offering vs marketing 10 offerings. Reducing our offerings without losing out on the value created by them is one of our top challenges today.

What are the Future projects of WisdmLabs you are currently working on?

Like I mentioned in the earlier question, reducing offerings while retaining our focus in the domains of eLearning and eCommerce is our top priority today. Towards that end, we are working on bundling our offerings to create exceptional value for customers while significantly simplifying the marketing challenge.

What important feature would you like to see in the future versions of WordPress?

Adoption of API provisioning by the entire WordPress ecosystem of themes and plugins will unlock enormous value and will help WordPress accelerate its march towards being omnipresent on all kinds of devices, especially mobile.

Outside work, what do you enjoy the most? And how do you manage work-life balance as it is quite difficult in today’s time?

While it is useful for my work, I am genuinely passionate about the use of psychology in marketing and tend to read and consume a lot on this topic. When it comes to outdoor activities, I love to go hiking to nearby places. There are a lot of forts in the vicinity of Mumbai and I team up with some good ‘old friends for these weekend excursions.

While I am slowly tilting the work-life balance from work to life, I generally stay away from anything to do with work on the weekends. This time is exclusively for self, family, and friends.

Any advice you want to give people who want to follow your path?

While starting up isn’t the most difficult thing in today’s world, make sure you start up only when you feel deeply passionate about solving a problem that’s affecting scores of people or businesses.

 

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