It is normal for people to leave McKinsey, in fact, it is even recommended. Because a large part of your business comes from former employees who work with different industries.
But when manu [Jain] They spoke with the many partners of the firm, all said: "You are making a mistake".
The mistake was the idea of leaving McKinsey to start something on his own. That too, in the technology industry. Many had tried, and most of them had failed.
"Join a PE or VC company," they advised. "Or the strategy division of a large company."
Manu heard them all, but he did not let himself be carried away.
"The world around me was changing, I could see it, I could feel it …" Now it was time for that change. So he began to explore and evaluate various ideas in the domain of technology: online medical care, electronic commerce for baby products, etc. When a young man from IIM Calcutta, Praveen Sinha, approached Manu. I was co-founding a company that was being incubated by Rocket Internet.
"Join us! Let's change the way the Indian stores," he said.
Manu's first instinct was to say "no." At that time, Flipkart was selling books online; Of course, that was possible. But who bought clothes and shoes online? The idea simply did not seem to have merit.
Manu took about two months to convince himself ki yeh ho sakta hai, or at least, to try Karna Chahiye. And he joined as a co-founder on jabong.com.
It was very early for electronic commerce. When launched in January 2012, Jabong's team estimated that "if we do 100 transactions a day, we will be a" great success "."
By March, they had crossed 1,000 transactions per day, which was incredible! And a very interesting trend was coming to light. "We could see that 60% of our traffic came from mobile phones." Back then, people did not use smartphones with large screens, and Jabong did not have a site or application compatible with mobile devices either. It was completely contrary to intuition. That's when Manu realized that, in India, the mobile was going to be THE thing. The engine of growth, the agent of change.
"I was really fascinated by the smartphone … the way it gave access to millions of people who had never used a computer." Somewhere in 2013, Manu found a blog about a company called Xiaomi (pronunciation: Shao -yo). The company was only 3 years old, had started selling phones in 2012, but it was already one of the best-selling brands in China. The author of the blog said: "this is one of the most incredible companies in the mobile space."
Now most companies focus on software (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) or hardware (Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Micromax). Xiaomi was the rare company that did both.
Manu approached Naveen Tewari, friend, mentor and also founder of InMobi.
"Hey, Naveen, do you know about Xiaomi?"
"Yes, I do," was the answer.
"Do you mind getting closer to the founder so he can talk with him?" Manu asked.
At that time, I was not looking for a job, or anything else in particular. I was just curious. Company thi bhi kaafi interesting.
The founder of Xiaomi is dissident Chinese businessman Lei Jun. Before Xiaomi, he created several multi-billion dollar companies such as Kingsoft (listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange), Joyo (e-commerce site sold to Amazon, now Amazon China). ) and the YY corporation social gaming platform (included in NASDAQ).
Then, he "retired" from the business and did some crazy things. As acting in movies (in the remake of Godfather in China, he played the role of "Who else? The godfather").
But then, in 2010, Lei Jun made a comeback. It started with Xiaomi as a software company, which created an operating system that could be used on any Android phone.
"The good thing was that Xiaomi was building features where people told us what to build. So all the ideas came from multiple sources. "
Xiaomi's operating system became very popular in the first two years, but Lei Jun was not satisfied. I wanted more users. Now, each person is not geek enough to download and install an operating system. So, what would happen if Xiaomi could manufacture and sell its own phones, preloaded with the operating system? But, they did it very differently from other hardware companies.
The philosophy of Lei Jun was: reduce costs, transmit benefits to users. As a result, as soon as they were launched, Xiaomi phones became very popular in China.
It was fascinating and Manu Jain was lucky enough to establish a connection with Bin Lin, one of the eight co-founders (and former head of engineering, Google China). They started having informal conversations by phone, once a month. Only exchanging notes about India, about China and technological trends.
Meanwhile, Jabong had become one of the two largest fashion e-commerce companies in India. But in November 2013, Manu decided to leave Jabong.
"It was mainly for personal reasons. I had just become a father and wanted to spend time with my wife and my son … "
All this while working from Delhi while Minu was in Bangalore. That did not feel right anymore. In addition, Manu had put his heart into doing something of his own, in the mobile space. Kya karna hai, yeh pata nahin. So he did what any confused soul could do: take a backpack trip of 20 days.
But this trip was not about getting lost in the mountains of Nepal, but throughout China, from Beijing to Shanghai and Shenzen. There, Manu met with a large number of Internet entrepreneurs, mobile entrepreneurs, and understood the ecosystem of Chinese companies.
Were these companies open and willing to meet a complete stranger? Surprisingly, yes. They were as interested in learning about India as Manu was learning about them.
"Of course, I had two good contacts in China that helped me organize thirty-five meetings in a very short amount of time!"
It was also during this trip that Manu met Xiaomi's founders for the first time, in person.
Three months later, Manu was still thinking about what to do, when the Xiaomi team attacked him.
"Hey, we're in India, we'd love to catch up with you in a cafe."
It was then that Bin Lin shared the company's plans to enter India. Therefore, they were looking for a business manager from India.
"We know you and we believe you understand our philosophy. Will you prepare this company for us?
Manu was surprised. I had been thinking about the mobile space, but more in the area of an application or a service. Not selling phones themselves. Clearly, he lacked the domain experience. But that was precisely why Xiaomi found him attractive. A person with experience in sales of mobile phones would have a certain mentality, ki aise bechna hai. Whereas, Xiaomi did things very differently. Jiske liye ek alag kism ka chahiye tha band.
Were you apprehensive about joining a Chinese company, I ask? That was not a concern here, says Manu, because the founding team of Xiaomi had a lot of international exposure. They had studied at Stanford and MIT, they lived and worked in Singapore and Silicon Valley. In addition, Hugo Barra, of the Google Android team, had recently joined the company. Adding to your multicultural credentials.
Of the eight co-founders, seven spoke excellent English. Lei Jun understood the language but was more comfortable responding in Chinese, using an interpreter.
Good and good. What really tipped the scale, however, was Xiaomi's vision and mission.
Xiaomi's business model was unique, disruptive.
"I felt that this could be a great opportunity, really build something."
Manu made the decision to join Xiaomi in April 2014 and joined in May. There was
no team, no office, only Manu Jain, working in a Café Costa next to the Flipkart headquarters in Bangalore. The usual modus operandi of any newly created founder. And the mentality with which Manu was working, as Chief of Operations, India.
Back then, "Xiaomi", or My phone, was unknown in India. So who exactly would buy this Chinese brand? And from where would it sell? The creation of a retail network would take many months and a large investment. While in China, Xiaomi had followed a unique strategy of selling their phones from one location: online.
"I went to a lot of industry experts and they told me that their strategy will not work in India, you need to have TV ads, print ads and give retailers a lot of leeway …"
They could be right, but, Manu reasoned, there was no harm in trying. It went ahead and imported 10,000 Mi3 phones. Why 10,000? Because, at that time, Xiaomi India had a Facebook page with 10,000 followers. These people knew about the company, they could buy the phone.
On July 22, 2014, the first sale of Mi phones was made in Flipkart. A good amount of traffic was expected. But nobody, neither Flipkart, nor Xiaomi, was prepared for what really happened.
More than half a million customers tried to log in and buy the phone. For the first time in its history, the Flipkart site crashed. Sachin and Binny Bansal posted an apology on Twitter: "Working to solve this problem as soon as possible."
The Xiaomi team in China, and its one-man army in India, were in ecstasy. We have arrived.
So, what was magic? It was all in the product. Mi3 had incredible specifications, comparable to those of the Google Nexus phone. What was even more incredible was the price of Rs 13,999 (compared to the price of Rs 25-30,000 of the Nexus). There was a huge positive word of mouth. So huge that Xiaomi quickly announced a second sale, on July 29.
This time Flipkart did not risk it. They built a new technological platform, in just one week, to handle the traffic that would surely come their way.
On D-Day, Manu Jain was with Sachin Bansal, in Flipkart's office, counting the seconds. Exactly at 2 pm, he pressed the "buy now" button. The message on the screen was "exhausted". Oof! Site phir se crash ho gaya? This was disappointing. But then the Flipkart team gave the good news.
"Your entire stock – 10,000 units – sold out in the first 2 seconds!"
In a third flash sale on August 5, 15,000 Mi3 phones sold out in the blink of an eye. So now the challenge was how to get enough phones from China to meet the demand. Manu realized that importing small lots was expensive and a hassle. It was then that a crazy idea occurred to him: "Let's rent flights!" The plane would only carry a precious cargo: My phones.
Excerpted with permission from Shine Bright: Inspiring stories of CEOs who are Intrapreneurs, Rashmi Bansal, Westland.