By Aakash Hemadri (MSc Software Systems, 2017-2022)
King Sidarth is a successful entrepreneur, designer and speaker. In the era of start-ups and Indian millionaires, Sidharth is one of the many vital cogs that drives the Indian start-up landscape. Starting out as a freelancer and being a part of a multitude of start-ups, he is now working at Headout on Product & Design. Click here to read more about him.
Transcript of our interview during E-Next 2020
Q. What is a common trait that you welcome and one that you find lacking among young entrepreneurs that approach you?
A. A trait that I respect in the people who want to build businesses and startups is an innate understanding of technology and the potential it can offer, and the problems it can solve. Entrepreneurs today seem to be in touch with the issues that are quite apparent and seem to be baffled by how we resign to subpar solutions while technology can offer so much more.
The trait that I wish young entrepreneurs had, time and time again, is the innate curiosity to explore and collect a schema of their own, before approaching an industry expert or anyone else. While it’s okay to be confused on where to start, there is a sense of entitlement that I see often. Sometimes people just ask me “I want to learn animation. Tell me where I can learn”, or “Can you tell me some websites?”. It’s one thing to ask for help when you’re stuck and another to get even the groundwork done from others. I know from my own experience that there are so many websites, videos and content on the Internet that can give so much information. Once I had to learn Fourier Transforms to build a classical music app. I found adequate resources on the web, YouTube particularly, and only after I was through with them did I seek help from experts. With a basic understanding and rigorous exploration that you put yourself through, when the opportunity arises to receive help, you will be better suited to make good use of it.
Q. How did your interest in classical music come about and what do you do currently in this space?
A. I have always been fascinated by music and my grandfather has had a major role in that. It all started with my music teacher catching me singing with my friends in my school bus, sending me to competitions and training me through school. To be honest, I have been out of touch for many years. But it has always been there with me, when I listen to Bollywood or any classical rendition, I go back to my memories of listening to classical vocals when my grandpa would explain why artists spent hours on just one note ‘aah’ to my question of “Are they hungry? Why are they making those sounds”. I find it fascinating that artists spend decades perfecting just one raga. That effort and essence is profoundly expressed when they sing. Quite recently I started exploring the technicalities of music – experimenting, learning and mostly having fun. I learnt the guitar and I tried to bring my love for classical music with it.
Q. In your experience, how do entrepreneurs, leaders and teams work towards their goal of being a successful start-up?
A. Ownership. This is something my parents taught me. They never bound me to a set of rules or expected me to behave in any specific way. They knew that whatever they imposed on me would not stop me from doing what they hoped I wouldn’t do. So they just let me choose and decide who I ought to be, for myself, this made me think about my choices and desires and instilled a sense of responsibility in me that required me to take action on my own. When you give your child, peer or team member ownership and place trust in them that they’d deliver, you raise your expectations of them, forcing them to take it upon themselves to be responsible and in turn work towards their goal without needing much supervision or guidance.
Q. Why is design important to a start-up, and how do you help companies achieve great design?
A. Design is one of the fundamentals of making a product. It defines how we interact with it and how we perceive it. A coffee cup, why does it have rims? Rims may seem unnecessary, all you need is a container, but the rims allow us to hold the cup even when hot. A simple change in design defines how easy or useful a product is. A glass door, everyone has walked into them, not knowing to push or pull them; a door knob, though simple, is a well designed product, these are all design choices. A product’s success is pivoted on how it has been designed with the user in mind. We tend to hit switches, push buttons, we are by design a curious species, our natural cognitive behaviour is something that we can exploit and help make your product an extension of your workflow. I help companies do that from bottom up, I research a market segment, demographics and end user behaviour, price sensitivity and help design a product that yields high adoption rate and ease of use.
Q. I think that the design of Instamojo’s links is one of the reasons for its success. What was your contribution there?
A. InstaMojo in essence serves MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) that require an easy, affordable and quick transactions platform. Here the simple idea of serving a link as a conduit for starting a payment is very easy for the customer and merchant to comprehend. We do not need to build inherent trust with the end-user, simply due to the fact that the merchant itself has close ties with the end-user. The end-user needs to only know about links and browsers. People of all ages can figure out how to use it. Unlike Amazon product listings and other ecommerce platforms, InstaMojo works because of its unique target market. Design in essence is about stripping things, how much farther can I go before I can’t remove more from a product. My work also extends through other projects and dashboards that are served to wider markets that require the complexity and control it has to offer.
Q. Your career has been very eventful with you moving from one initiative to another, not sticking to one idea or job. Was that intentional? Did you see yourself in the place you are today when you started out, or was it just by chance that you are here now?
A. Yes, it was very intentional. Somewhere along the way I discovered some new things, but most of it was intentional. Part of what I speak about is self-awareness and what’s important to me is to know what I am capable of. I know that within the world of startups that there are people who aren’t in for the long haul, but I am someone who doesn’t enjoy that. I enjoy going to the market, meeting the customer and figuring out what to build for them. Take me to a market and I’ll give you ten products that you can build for them. I love that, it’s exhilarating to build a product from scratch, scaling and selling them to the people, from chaos to a usable system someone is willing to buy. In the case of InstaMojo, after being there for six months, the company reached a point where I did not have any ambiguity to play with. Everything was formalised, multiply the formula and there you have it, that’s not as exciting is it? I wanted more chaos.
Q. Why should we be excited about your latest venture, Headout? What do you do there?
A. Imagine one platform, one workflow to sell every kind of sport tickets, play tickets, museum tickets, guided tour tickets, concerts, new years — every experience possible through one simple workflow, everything is sold. The interface has to be simple and easy for the consumer, because otherwise it’ll be very confusing and that’s what we provide. The founders and I met through a mutual friend, that’s where networking plays a major role in this industry. I liked what they were doing – it was interesting, chaotic and had problems that were exciting to solve. I usually prefer smaller teams but the company was already mid-sized when I joined. That didn’t become a problem, though, as the founders were open to ideas and didn’t shy away from exploring and working on overhauling when necessary. Headout has around 160 employees and that largely due to the 24/7 customer care support that we provide for our customers across the world. The scale of the startup is so much more than InstaMojo and it’s very exciting.
About the Author
I’m that guy who smiles to sad songs, cooks for strangers, enjoys attention, and loves anything that speaks for raw blood and flesh. (https://aakashhemadri.com)
For comments/ feedback/ suggestions, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org