You studied in Hong Kong, lived in the US and are now calling India home. How have your experiences been so far?
I think anywhere you go, it’s all about the people. And I have a lot of old friends and family here. So that makes all the difference in determining what feels like home. India, Mumbai specifically, very much feels like home because of that. I used to come to Mumbai growing up, so I have a childhood connection. I also would travel here for work — sometimes staying for up to a month. So my decision to move has been a very informed and happy one.I plan to make India my home for the long-term.
How different are work cultures in your opinion? Compared to New York City, I find India to be more relationship-driven and less transactionoriented. It’s still an emerging economy so trust is an issue, as legal recourse is chal lenging. But I have really liked the change here — I find myself thinking more long-term and relationshipbased, which has always been my personality. So it’s a natural fit.
You worked in comic books earlier and now in real estate. Did you feel it was a downgrade in fun?
I still have personal investments in media, including movies and television, that help me keep my excitement in that area going. But I am also very passionate about business generally — online real estate is a very challenging space that’s ripe for revolution.
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
(Laughs) I would like to be a mystical superhero, maybe someone similar to Dr Strange, who can bend the laws of nature and even stop death.
What learnings have you taken from your previous role and applied to your current?
A lot of things. I was told by some of our investors this is why they were keen to hire me as there are many parallels. I completed a successful turnaround of a company and therefore saw the full cycle as an entrepreneur. This involved taking over a distressed company, resolving their legal problems, changing the business strategy, hiring and leading a new experienced management team, raising multiple rounds of financing and so on. A lot of those steps are similar to what we have done and hope to do here.
You were handed an unsteady ship. How did you feel when you took up the post?
I instinctively knew al l the elements were there to achieve large success if they were harnessed correctly, and I was determined to make this potential a reality. But I knew there were a lot of challenges. The business model had to be clarified. We had to hire a more experienced management team, cut costs and restructure the company, raise money, fix our reputation, change the culture from innovation to innovation and monetisation, and so on.
Also, I was a complete outsider. But, I thought this multifaceted challenge was very exciting as a business leader. The first thing I did was to meet 50-100 people in the company from different levels and departments to understand what was going on. There was a perception outside that may or may not have been fully correct. My top priority was to understand what was really going on, on the ground.
What was your plan of action to change the perception of the company?
Perception is not going to change overnight. We have been very proactive. Every two weeks, when something positive is happening with the company, we make sure everyone is aware of it. It’s really helped, because now the media mentions have gone from negative, to neutral to neutral-positive. Also, we communicated more proactively with our investors and that has helped rebuild our trust and credibility. We’ve met our competitors too and rebuilt our reputation in their eyes as well. We’ve actually won a number of awards for reputation management this year.
Was the handover from Rahul Yadav to eventually, you, smooth?
We had an interim CEO so the majority of the handover was with him. But it was a very rocky time when I started. We took a few months of very late nights and big changes to stabilize the ship but now it feels like history.
Did you meet Rahul Yadav?
We have had limited interactions. He obviously has some great ideas and is talented from a product technology innovation stand point. He’s always brimming with ideas.
Kothari says former CEO Rahul Yadav “is talented from a product technology innovation stand point and is always brimming with ideas”
What are some things CEOs should never do?
The CEO has to be responsible to the different constituencies – whether it’s employees, investors or consumers. Often, employees are not in the room when strategic decisions that could affect their jobs and livelihood are being discussed. But it is their jobs and livelihood. You need to take it seriously.