In Learning Infinite Interview Series, we bring to you some wonderful perspectives from Hitesh Dhingra.
Hitesh was the Founder and CEO of Letsbuy.com which was India’s leading online electronics retailer. He made a successful exit when Letsbuy recently was acquired by Flipkart.
Currently, he is working on his next entrepreneurial venture.
LI: Pls tell us something about your journey as a professional over these years.
Hitesh: I started my professional career 9 years back post completion of MBA from UBS. I had always wanted to work with start ups because of the opportunity they offer to work across functions. Fortunately, I was hired by eSys technologies, the company which was incorporated by some of our alumni from UBS & was probably the youngest & fastest growing company to be on campus.
After spending a year at their HQ in Singapore, I decided to come back to India and joined another start up in an online advertising space – Quasar Media (founder member/3rd person to join). Even though I didn’t know anything about Internet advertising, I was pretty excited about the opportunity. I had to research a lot on global practices & trends which helped me in my learning there. While working with Quasar, I got an opportunity to co-found & head Tyroo (India’s largest ad network) which was being incubated by Quasar.
In 2006, eSys wanted to launch their e-commerce across 35 countries they were operating in & wanted me to lead the initiative. I joined them back to co-found and head their global digital initiatives. After working with them for almost 3 years, I realized that I have been building businesses from scratch for others & it was probably a right time to start on my own.
In July 2009, I decided to take a plunge and launched my own e-commerce venture – Letsbuy.com. I founded Letsbuy.com with $20,000 seed capital and 5 team members, Scaled it up to over $25mn revenue, 400+ people and 4 warehouses within 2.5 years. Letsbuy.com became India’s leading online retailer & the fastest growing e-commerce company in 2011 (10X growth in traffic/tx/revenue). It was acquired by Flipkart in March 2012 in one of the largest acquisition deals in Indian internet industry.
LI: How did you learn about what you do? Was it a course that you did or was it on the job?
Hitesh: I believe openness & passion to learn is key to one’s success irrespective of whether it is a course or your job. I have probably learned more on the job but whenever I had to work on a product development which involved technology or even to read a financial statement, my learning from course has been helpful.
I also think that I learned a lot about entrepreneurship when I was appointed as a Student Coordinator for Alumni relations cell during MBA. I follow some international publications and blogs closely to keep myself updated on global trends in the Internet industry.
LI: What are the challenges you faced, interesting or otherwise? How did you deal with them?
Hitesh: Every day is a challenge when you are working with a start up. Be it hiring, managing the finances, implementing processes or managing the scaling up issues. I have realized that set of challenges remain more or less same for different organizations, only the scale and stage differs.
I have always relied on logical thinking & strong intuitions while making any tough decision.
LI: What is the most interesting thing you remember from your career?
Hitesh: I have always been fortunate to do something that I enjoy the most – building businesses from ground zero. I have had an eventful career so far & would like to highlight these 2 -
a. When I started my career as a Management trainee, I used to interact with almost all the 70 people employed in company’s headquarters on daily basis because of varied assignments I was managing. The year I spent there gave me insights into all the functions & was probably the best learning platform one could get.
b. Journey at Letsbuy was truly a roller coaster ride. I could experience the complete life cycle from incubation to a successful exit within 2.5 years. It will remain highlight of my career and a journey I will cherish through out my life.
LI: Any mentor or coach in your professional journey?
Hitesh: Ex-bosses, some of the senior colleagues and some friends. All have contributed in my learning through out my professional journey but it is my mother who has been my inspiration in entrepreneurial journey.
LI: What, in your view, does it require to be a successful executive?
Hitesh: I have always believed that passion & honesty are 2 key ingredients of success. Passion will make you learn more & stay focused and honesty in execution will keep you on the right path.
LI: What does learning mean to you? How can working executives/professionals learn better?
Hitesh: Learning for me is acquiring a new skill. Learning is a continuous process & there could be different ways and sources of learning. One could even learn by observing their colleagues and people around. Reading could be a very important source of learning for professionals. Be it business journals, publications related to one’s field or even attending conferences and courses to upgrade one’s skills.
LI: What kind of books do you like to read? Any books that you would recommend.
Hitesh: I like to read biographies & business books mainly because of the practical case studies one gets to learn from. ‘Good to great’ and ‘Built to last’ by Jim Collins are 2 of my favorite business/leadership guides and ‘Steve Jobs’ an all time favorite biography.
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