The Asia Tech Podcast had so much fun talking to Anand Jain, a co-Founder and the Head of Product at CleverTap.  CleverTap helps build amazing user experiences for the world’s leading digital-first brands. Its smart, all-in-one platform combines the best analytics, segmentation, and engagement tools so that companies can build valuable, long-term relationships with their customers.
 
Some of the topics we covered:
  • Meeting important obligations at a very young age
  • Teaching himself how to repair electrical and electronic products
  • The concept that people that don’t know you don’t know your struggle
  • The importance of hiring people that are genuinely curious
  • The difference between leadership and management
  • Getting comfortable with doing things differently
  • Marketing personalization and the importance of data
  • The $1.6MM James Bond Story
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. I Helped Myself to Technology
  2. If You Ask Me One Question I Can’t Answer, I’ll Walk Out Myself
  3. Either You Do It or You Don’t 
  4. You Have to Pause and See if You’re on the Right Track or Not
  5. Leadership Is Truly Earned
This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:17
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Anand Jain, a co founder. And I’m gonna I can’t stop laughing already a head of product, the head of product at clever tap on, how are you doing, by the way, thanks for doing this.

Anand Jain 0:33
I’m doing great. Thank you for having me, Michael,

Michael Waitze 0:36
it is completely My pleasure. And before we get into the central part of this conversation, whatever that ends up being, by the way, let’s give our listeners a little bit of your background for some context.

Anand Jain 0:47
I don’t know where to begin. But

Michael Waitze 0:49
I want to begin where you’re punking your sister by not talking.

Anand Jain 0:55
That’s more recent. I grew up around, I helped myself to technology. And what I mean by that was back in the days in the in the mid 80s. It used to be television sets, VCRs, tape recorders, and all that. So I’m not an engineer by degree. I never studied engineering in formally, but I used to tinker open up things, when my parents would take a nap in the afternoon, I’d be opening up the television set, I’d be opening the tape recorder, it’s anything that we had, right, including the fans. So it and when you’re when you don’t have too many friends. And when you’re very bad at studies, like you know, you have magically you create 24 hours in the day for yourself. Yeah. Because then you can, you know, spend all the time just doing these things. So I taught myself how to repair and fix electrical products first. And then in a couple of years, I taught myself how to repair electronic products, cordless phones, and, and those kinds of things, tape recorders, etc. And then in two, three years later, like, and I taught myself how to write software. So my learning or the background is like, you know, learning by doing and that’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years now in technology.

Michael Waitze 2:18
What was it about taking stuff apar that was so interesting for you?

Anand Jain 2:23
So they say you have to pay attention to the studies, like, you know, because that’s what they teach you in school, you know, like, how do things work? I never paid attention. And that meant, you know, for me, it was always how does the clock know what the right time is like, and especially the like, the electronic watches, right? So, as a kid, I got a gift from a from a dad, like a small electronic watch. And the mechanical watches I actually opened up so I could see things moving around in there. Like, you know, what, for electronic watch, I was all I used to wonder like, how the hell does this know the time? And of course, there’s not too much circuitry, like, you know, in the electronic watch. Yeah, so that. So I, of course, completely destroyed that watch. And I do not know, maybe my parents were the, the, you know, they kind of helped me, you know, with my curiosity, because they would keep buying more watches for me. And I would open watch after watch, you know, and, and I think that’s what like, you know, how do things work? Like, and how does the television? How can it? You know, show me things that are not there inside the television, like, you know, like, well, how does the Internet work? Like, you know, what is it actually? Where are you receiving these things from? And how come they are like lifelike and 3d to me. Right? So how does the color work? So that’s what led me to open up these things. Of course, I would not find anything in there. It’s all you know, like, now I know, capacitors and resistors, and transistors and things. But it was very, I mean, I started like, trying to figure this out what makes an iron hot, like, you know, how do you write when you plug it into the electricity socket? Like and how does it become hot? Like, you know, so I mean, very, very elemental to elementary things. But it

Michael Waitze 4:00
was super exciting. Look, when you talked about the TV, right, which is something people spend very little time talking about today. I remember when I was a little kid, and my dad, I’ll never forget it. He just said, Don’t go behind the television set. It made me feel like there was some kind of magic back there. And I kind of did what you did. Oh, just go like, Wait, there’s nothing back there. So then you’d want to start playing around with it like, Well, where is the magic then? How is it how exactly? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, look, I was told I tell this funny story a lot, right? I always say I was in India once I think it was in 2018. And I went to one of the startup conferences and some guy got up on stage and he was talking about the company that he was building. And he said to me, there are only three things you can become in India. The only three choices. The first is a doctor. The second is an engineer. And the third thing is a family disappointment. That’s what he said right? But it made you laugh. It made me laugh too at the time, but I didn’t understand. But I loved this idea. You said like, I didn’t do my studies. I didn’t really care. But I wanted to learn how things worked. It was actually more important to me. In your case, it made me it sounds like there wasn’t. But was there any family pressure for like, Dude, you should get your grades a little bit higher? Or Were your parents just watching thinking? I think a nod is gonna be okay, because he’s so curious about learning.

Anand Jain 5:25
No, that’s not how things went. here’s the here’s the honest truth, right? So I lost my dad when I was 12. Oh, I’m sorry. And my younger sister was she was two years old. And right after we lost him, and we were from a very, very modest background, we used to rent a one bedroom apartment, in a small town, in the western part of India. Correct. And when I’m bad at studies, like, you know, most of the parents like not the thing, study education is your ticket out of poverty, like are you got to go find a good job, maybe private sector or whatever. So I think when my dad passed away, we were literally hand to mouth, like, you know, we had to very quickly figure out between my mom and me, right now, what are we going to like, support ourselves, right? There was no help coming our way. And my sister was too young, like, she was two years old. Yeah, so my mom, like, you know, took took up stitching, like, you know, she would mend clothes, again, from the neighborhood. So you know, like, someone wanted, like, their pants altered or like, you know, someone wanted a shirt, kind of stitched, etc, she would, you know, that we had a hand sewing machine. So she was she took up that thing, and I took up any odd job that came my way, like, you know, so the electrical stuff that I was talking about repairing all that and learning all that, like, you know, that I graduated very quickly into doing that, because that seemed natural to me something that I could take things apart and fix them. But my mom was always worried, like, no, because this doesn’t, this is not a career path, like, and I bet you’re gonna open up a shop, when you grow up, like, you know, to fix, you know, like, open our small repair shop, which is not your ticket out of, you know, like, middle class life, I understand. And you require funds for that we did not have any money, we were very, very poor. But I think at some point of time, you know, we were just too busy to not worry about the future, we were just busy with the President making, you know, like, make, you know, making sure that we have food on the table two times a day. And that was just good enough for us for for a lot of years. And so the I mean, that’s what it was, right? So the being a doctor or being an engineer was completely out of question, just because of my lack of interest in studies and all my waking hours are spent trying to make more money figure out like, and if you can create and dealing things, and I did not have a career like I spoke about learning by doing. But at that age, I also would sell sell soap door to door. So you know, I got hold of washing powder, like you know, in a like a gunny sack, or like discarded washing powder from a factory that used to make that I would package that into like a 5500 gram or a kilo pack, you know, sealed them using a candle, seal those package shot and then sell them door to door for two P profit per per for like, you know, per packet. So, what figured out whatever way you have to make money, you’re not really thinking career long term like, you know, 1020 years from now, you’re just thinking like, you know, Hey, can I make enough to, to buy some food, like, you know, for tonight, so that was a that’s, that was my growing up years.

Michael Waitze 8:32
So that’s so fascinating. And I want to share something with you as well, you know, when I was a kid, and I think people have this idea. And I’m curious about your opinion on this, too. I think people have this idea when they meet you today, that you always were not just the person that you are today, but in the kind of the same situation you are, right. I call it the fallacy of now I’ve kind of just made up. And it’s hard for people to conceptualize this idea that and I’ll talk about me that I grew up in poverty. Right, that it was scary, going to the store with food stamps, and not knowing if there was going to be enough that was allocated to be able to buy with that. Right. So when people look at, I’ll use myself as an example me today. They’re just like, Yeah, you were always so they feel that there’s that you have like this sense of entitlement. Right? And that they don’t understand. You’re laughing but it’s like it’s so true, right? Because yeah, they look at you meaning anybody today and they just think you’ve always been there and they don’t understand like how hard it was to get there. Yep. does that inform you think still today, the way you look at other people, even when you’re just building not just product, but when you’re hiring people and bring them in? You try to understand a little bit more about them. So that then you can better like fit them in to where they belong. Does that make sense?

Anand Jain 9:52
Yeah, it does. So a couple of things there one while making a hiring decision. It is not about what school you went to you know how, how many degrees you’ve got, and all that right number of years of experience actually check for depth of experience. So when I’m talking to candidates these days, it’s, it’s, it’s not as many like, you know, I can’t interview everyone. Unfortunately, that’s just a function of the size of the company now. But then I do get a chance, like, you know, I asked him, like, you know, hey, why don’t you tell me your favorite topic, like, it could be anything, it will be classical music, it could be programming, it could be finance, like, you know, and I will, we will go to the depth of the topic. Because I want to measure how deeply you understand your own subject, like, you know, that’s close to your heart, right?

Michael Waitze 10:34
Like, if you tell me, it’s important to you, you have to know more than just like this stuff, you can skim off the top. Yeah, so

Anand Jain 10:39
Exactly. Exactly. Right. So that is one way I do this. The second way, like, you know, once you hire someone, and they’re in your company, they’re working with you. You have to I mean, that’s what I tell, you know, new new employees, new joiners, like you know, that, hey, we hired you to be like, you know, because you’re an engineer, or because you’re an HR person, and all that, but do not get restricted by that, like you’re not, you’re more than just the function for which we hired you. So be curious, learn about other things an engineer should know, why do customers buy our product? Like, you know, how, what happens when they don’t pay for it? Or what does the salesperson tell them? Like, you know, while selling the product, it’s very important for you to form a well rounded view of not only the product, but the entire company, right? How does marketing work? Like, you know, what do they decide to put up on the website? And how often do they change it? So don’t be you’re an engineer, you will do engineering, you will write code eight hours a day, right? You will work with other engineers, but and please do that really well, by the way, but yes, yes, absolutely. Right. That’s your, that’s, that’s what we hired you for, but don’t get restricted by that. We, from a culture perspective, we have a very open culture. In fact, there are days in the office where I show up at work. And there are people coming in one after the other to kind of talk to me about some issue or the other, and I, at 8pm, when I look up, then I kind of look at my desk have not even taken on my laptop, like you know, right, so now I’m thinking I’ll go back home, and I’ll do some I’ll take care of all my emails and exactly right. That’s openness of the culture. It’s not like you know, you need to know how to take an appointment to meet on and or any of the other people in the company, like, you can just walk right in and discuss anything that you want to discuss, right? Because you’re what you have in your mind, you have to get out, like, you know, if you have a question, or if you have a topic for discussion, or if your decision to make again, like, you know, I’ve learned by a lot of things in my life, I’ve learned by triangulating or connecting multiple dots, right. And I really want people to do that, because that will make them a much rounded person, a better person, as they graduate up, like, you know, become leaders, whether in cover tap or somewhere else.

Michael Waitze 12:45
Do you wonder sometimes how the engineers explain to their friends like What clever tap does? Do you know what I mean? Because if they’re meant to be not just like coding every day, I mean, they are but you, you know, if they’re meant to be curious, and if they’re meant to understand a little bit about this, and a little bit about that. And that’s the company called Do you wonder sometimes, like, how they explain what clever terpenes

Anand Jain 13:05
Yeah, in fact, I do that, like, you know, I mean, Sony has gone through this, you know, she’s head of PR and communication for us. And, you know, I put her to this, like, you know, so we have this meet the leaders have clever tap. And so it was my turn, I think I was fifth or sixth in the line. So and I said, like, you know, how much do you know about the clever tap the product? So why don’t you tell me? What do you know about clever tap? So that was interesting, right? Because it’s not even an engineer, but like, you know, any person in the company what, after having heard us as leaders, or after having gone to the website, what is their opinion? What do they really think we do, versus what we actually do? And I want to, I want to make sure that GAAP is very, as close as possible. Once you understand what the product does, once you understand how the company works, then you can contribute. Otherwise, you’re living in an assumption, you’re living in a fantasy world,

Michael Waitze 13:56
but also you’re just doing tasks, right? Anybody can do a task. But are you actually adding value to like this overall goal and mission, which may be two words that are a slightly overused, but you’re right, if you don’t really understand where we’re going, you can even help give directions kind of thing. Does that make sense? Exactly.

Anand Jain 14:12
Exactly. Exactly. And again, and maybe I’ll harp on this thing one more time, like, you know, I truly believe that a manager can be appointed, like, No, I can appoint you as a product manager or a manager of sales or whatever, but a leadership is truly earned. Now, you don’t need a title you don’t need, you can’t declare yourself a leader. Right? You need to have people who look up to you for certain things. And that’s a true test of a leader. So it’s not about is the Junior was person, can they become a leader they can they can become a leader right now, like, you know, just by their actions and how they think about things.

Michael Waitze 14:48
It’s so funny, you mentioned this, I was listening to somebody talk yesterday and they were making this sort of general comment about the difference between leadership and management management. Again, this was their opinion, is it just somebody there to tell you what to do? Here are your tasks. Here’s what I need you to accomplish. And a leader is probably somebody who shows you how to do it and why, if that makes sense, and you’re right, like the youngest most junior person, there can be a leader merely through the way they’re behaving and through the things that they’re doing and the way that they act and the way that they treat other people, whereas even the most senior manager can just be a manager and not necessarily be a leader is Does that make sense?

Anand Jain 15:23
Absolutely, absolutely. And we look for leaders, like when I asked them the depth of their knowledge, yeah. You know, that’s what I’m I’m not saying how many people have you led before? And when did you do their one on ones and OKRs? And all that, like, you’re actually looking for leaders, not managers.

Michael Waitze 15:40
I love the way you ask those questions. Like it’s so ridiculous, like all these silly things that people said, can I ask you this? Where are you based?

Anand Jain 15:48
I’m based in Mumbai, you are nearby, right?

Michael Waitze 15:50
And have you always worked in India?

Anand Jain 15:55
So I, I can, I can, I can talk about that. I grew up in Ahmedabad, like I said, in the western part of India. And then as fate would have it, and, Michael, that’s an interesting story, too. I got an opportunity to work in the US. In the West Coast, in the Bay Area. Wow. So the I was handpicked to work for a very hot startup that had raised $200 million in the first round of funding. I was employee number three. So I worked there for about three and a half years, then the company went belly up, these were the.com days. And then I found then I you know, then I moved up to Seattle. And I was in Seattle for for three years working for 18, T wireless and then Motorola. Through an assignment in Motorola, I kind of work. I went to China for about eight months, came back to Mumbai. And then I’ve called Mumbai home since then, this was year 2006. And I do travel quite a bit, I go to meet clever top customers. We are a global company. So they’re all over the place. I do meet clever type employees, attend conferences, and so on so forth. But home is Mumbai for me.

Michael Waitze 17:11
I need to go back to this for a second, if you don’t mind. Surely, I feel like you know, we already talked a little bit about the way we grew up a little bit, right. And I feel sometimes like the likelihood of me, meaning Michael, sitting in Bangkok, after living in Asia for 30 years. And looking back on where I was when I was that little boy that we talked about is almost in Congress bubble. It’s hard to believe. Do you remember when you went to Silicon Valley to work for a well funded startup, that feeling of like, I can’t even believe this is happening to me kind of thing? Do you know what I mean?

Anand Jain 17:50
Yeah, absolutely. I I used to buy Forbes and Fortune Magazines, and sometimes Harvard Business Review, you know, books from the flea market. And I would like, you know, flip the pages and see leaders and they’re talking about technology. And this is what’s IBM going to do when Microsoft and and you hear and read about these companies, right Oracle. And when you land at the San Francisco Airport, and you get out and you’re you’re kind of going through the Bay Area, like you notice, wow, man, this is Oracle. It’s in Redwood City, and three times and all the names. Yes. All the names that you have heard about, like, you know, already in, you know, secondhand books. They’re real, they become real for you. And you’re like, you know, you’re so blessed. You realize that you’re so blessed that you’re now in Silicon Valley, you’re working alongside them, like, you know, you’re part of Silicon Valley. Now. That was a moment. Just think for me. Yeah, to realize that.

Michael Waitze 18:43
It had to be the right let’s I this is what I think about too, right? It’s like, you kind of dreamt about this not in like a fantasy way but and just like, I know this thing is out there and then you become part of it. It has to change the way you think about what isn’t isn’t possible over time. No.

Anand Jain 19:00
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve always believed and I say this to everyone like you know, if you look at my life story, my family like to go back to what you were saying earlier like no, you become a doctor, you become an engineer or you become a disappointment for the family. I was strictly in the third category. And then fortunately, my mom saw you know, my life change before our eyes before her eyes. You know, person who is not good at studies end up in the US like the people who go to the US from India, as usually engineers or doctors Yeah. And then they go for higher education, right? They go for the master’s degree or they go for something else, right, a PhD and most of Silicon Valley and now other parts of the US to like you know, are extremely highly educated, very competitive. You know, people and then you find someone like me, who’s not gone there through relative like some relatives sponsoring your green card or

Michael Waitze 19:56
hand picked though, right?

Anand Jain 19:57
I was hand picked.

Michael Waitze 19:58
Yes. Why though? Because that’s not random, either.

Anand Jain 20:02
Yeah, that’s a that’s an interesting story also in a very good coincidence. So, like I said, like, you know, we were trying to make ends meet, I was trying to do multiple things at the same time. So helping mom with her, like, home, with at home business trying to sell. So in all sorts of things like, except for studies, I would do everything else. And it happens so that I joined as a salesperson, in a company. I actually I, I forced my way in, in the in the sense that I was in my last year of college. And I saw a newspaper ad for the devil, they wanted salespeople. So, you know, there was a walk in interview, I went there, like, you know, borrowed some of my dad’s clothes from before, like no walked in. And the reception person, like the lady at the reception, who also doubled up as HR, you know, these are small, five, six people company, right? So, people play multiple roles. So she’s like, Yeah, so when did you graduate? Like, you know, and did you do B E, which is bachelor of electronics or B Tech, which is Bachelor of Technology? I said, No, no, I’m, you know, I’m in my third year right now. She’s like, third year of what I said, commerce. She’s like, No, no, didn’t you see the you know, requirement? We are not hiring non engineers. I said, you know, what, can you just wave that part off, like, you know, where your degree is more important, and just get to the interview? I won’t waste anyone’s time. I promise. If you ask me one question that I can’t answer, I will walk out myself. That my self respect. Anyway, they did not let me in because they were much more qualified candidates, you know, that fit the requirements, etc. I waited there for eight hours. from 10 until six in the evening, no lunch break nothing for me. Then in the end, she said, Okay, man, you’re like a pest, you know, that you need to get rid of us to talk to you. Yeah, go meet the boss. Like, you know, he’s angry, because, you know, he just wants he’s already selected. So I’m not even sure what you want to do there. So I went and I spoke to this person, I said, You know what, I know I’m not qualified. It’s all about can we get just get to the questions, whatever question you want to ask. They may not even be the same question that you’re asking everyone else. Just keep it to technology questions, anything that you want. And four questions later, he’s like, you’re better than everyone that I met today. And I want you to, you know, join us and when can you join, I said, I can join right now I work 21 hours a day, anyway, and it’s only six o’clock, like, you know, I can go on until. And that’s true story to like, you know, I would work from 9am until 6am, sleep for three hours, and then and then get back to you know, get back on the road. So I said I can start like, you know, this is like, halfway through the day. Anyway, he said, You’re just mad like, you know, you come back tomorrow at eight o’clock, we open the Office of eight and then. So I joined in as a sales guy. Okay, I was selling modems. And believe it or not Netscape Navigator browsers back in the days. Yep. So I would, I would go there to the you know, some big industry industrial houses in Ahmedabad, you know, and sell them a modem, sell them a browser. And in one of those meetings, I met someone who bought everything from us, like, you know, the browser, the modem, and all that, but wanted help for more than what he just bought, like, you know, he wanted to set up some web servers, email servers, FTP servers, and I helped him set that up. And he’s like, wow, this is great. You know, all this, like, you know, I’ve been struggling to find, you know, any help here. So, anything anywhere, one thing led to the other, and he was like, what do you do? And how do you know all this? I said, I just like, I love what I do. And I absolutely, I’m, you know, this is what I absolutely love, like, you know, so in case you ever get stuck, um, you know, a phone call away, just call my office, and they will put me on it. And then you know, I can help you troubleshoot, debug, whatever, he offered me a job, I did not take that. So fast forward, like, you know, three years, I was working for a company as a junior programmer at some other company. And, and, you know, there was a, there was a town hall that was set up, and they said, well, there are going to be a few people invited to the town hall. So not everyone would make it. And they actually got all the good engineers, like, you know, gold medalists and Dean’s List and some of the other ones like, you know, senior, more senior people in the company to show up for the town hall. They had just received investment from a big like, Silicon Valley based investor. And this person was visiting the office. I was obviously not invited.

hallway, I ran into this person in the hallway and in the hallway, and that person says, Hey, what the hell are you doing here? Are you not with them anymore? I said, you remember we like know from four years ago, he said, Of course I do. Like you know, and he says, What are you doing here? I said, Well, I write code. And he says, But I I told you what a sales guy said, no, no, I do multiple things I can sell also, but I am writing code right now. And let me show you something very cool that I built. So I build something very cool like a distributed computing thing of salt. I showed the demo to him. And he took me to the Vice President’s office, and he says, This person here, he is going to lead the project that we spoke about this morning. And my vice president is nodding his head. He’s like, no, no, no, no, hold on. There’s a big mistake here like no, you don’t understand. So asked me to step outside his office and say, Can you please wait there while we sort this out? I think there’s some misunderstanding. They had a big discussion. 45 minutes later, Vice President walks out of the office, invites me back into his office and says yes, and you’re about to lead the project. It was a life changing moment for me, because at that point of time, you know, there is self validation, this validation from others not that I was seeking validation from anyone else, it doesn’t matter in a way that right, the Vice President was a very, it was like a PhD in computer science, very important looking guy, you know, very senior. And someone like that stepping out of his own office inviting me in is was a big deal, like, you know, so I started working on the project. In the course of the project, I went to the US a couple of times, since it was like a US based project. And that’s where the same person offered me a job and says, you know, what, we are going to wind up what we’re doing right now. And it’s time to start up and go raise money from venture capitalists. And we have commitment to, you know, to raise $200 million from a from a tier one investor. And we really like you. And I’ve seen your progress three, four years. And I think you’re going to be a very important part of the company. So that’s how I got my h1 B. I said there is a little problem. I don’t have an engineering degree. He says, Don’t worry about it. With the money that we are raising and the prominence of the investor, we will make sure the Labor Department waves of that requirement. And today, yes, they did. So an unbelievable story, but it really happened. And in the year nine in the year 2000, on an h1 visa, I landed in the US in a sentence on the Census credit report.

Michael Waitze 27:09
So I’m always curious about this, right. And for me, it’s reversed because I’ve lived outside of my home country, almost my entire adult life. Right. So and I’ve always had to explain to people even when I was in Japan, that, like all this stuff you read about Japan, it’s not wrong, but it’s skewed. Does that make sense?

Anand Jain 27:28
Yes, I mean, where it’s like I’ve been to Japan, I’ve been to Tokyo. So I can relate

Michael Waitze 27:33
to samurai people or not like to demean everyone doesn’t doesn’t just eat right, like all these silly things that people say, yeah, yeah. But I feel like in a way that India, even though it has 1.3 1.4, like do the do the math yourself, right, billion people? And has this like robust and dynamic economy? That there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about a bunch of different things? And do you feel like, we can talk about this maybe in the context of the series D. So congratulations, clever. Tap itself has just raised a really large round. Again, a little bit of external validation, not really necessary, because the business itself, which we can talk about two runs nicely, yeah. But do you feel like when the foreign press writes about companies that are India based, that they miss this aspect? This like, not just the fact that there are lower cost engineers, but that there is this incredibly hardworking, and also well educated group of people that are building something that’s transformational for the rest of the world? Do you know what I mean? Like, do you read the reporting? And just think, like, Why do you have to say, it’s just low cost? Why can’t you just say, it’s incredibly great technology kind of thing?

Anand Jain 28:50
Yeah. So I, that’s a very important point, Michael, and this happens quite a bit. So you know, in fact, I’ll give you another dimension or another perspective to the same point Tommy, in the US. I had an Asian Boss in, in at&t wireless in Seattle, and and she was asking me, How come all you get i Indians are so smart. I said, No, no, no, you’re not very smart. If, if you were all that smart, like, you know, India would be a superpower, we’d be the best, you know, we’d put a man on the moon before anyone else and all that. But I said, what you’re noticing here in the US are people who have passed a certain filter, right? They have advanced degrees, they have come here to maybe study like, you know, and, and it smartness is not just about like, you know, whether he, how well educated you are, or how well they did in the ones. Yeah, exactly. Right. How did you do on your SATs score and all that. It’s actually also like people who are in the company that you meet every day, etc, like, you know, they’re there for a reason. They’ve not got kicked out like, you know, so you look you have a survivorship survivorship bias. Yep. These are people who are here right, right. But we have our own tribe, like equally stupid, like, you know, we do dumb things all the time, like anyone else like, No, it has nothing to do with us. Right? So now, to answer your point about India being a low cost base, or like, you know, engineers being, I think that’s a perception that we need to correct. There is a lot of innovation happening, not only in the India, startup or the India ecosystem, even beyond the startup, but Indians everywhere. It’s the same sort of people, right? This is first generation, engineers, doctors, other professions, like, you know, who are now going everywhere across the globe. And, you know, kind of setting up their presence, like, you know, they’re, they’re very well known right, Indians in the Silicon Valley, is, is, is very well known. And not just Indians, like, you know, immigrants of all kinds.

Michael Waitze 30:49
Yeah, they seem to agree with you. Go ahead. Yes,

Anand Jain 30:52
this is 40% of all companies, you know, there are founded in the Silicon Valley are founded by immigrants. And that’s a phenomenal that means it us is a place that gives you an opportunity to grow and thrive.

Michael Waitze 31:04
It works. It works. Yeah,

Anand Jain 31:06
it does work. So coming back to the Indian ecosystem, I think we have the same thing, we’ve discovered that we can make products, we’ve discovered that we don’t have to copy someone’s business model. We can innovate, we can build something. And we can build something and we can kind of figure out a market to serve. This was not the case a few years ago. So when I, when I moved back in 2006, from the US, like, people thought that I was like, why would you do this? Why would you come back? You have you know, hey, you’re in Silicon Valley, what do you do? You’re there. Like, if you’re two months away from a green card, who withdraws the green card application, like, you know, you’re young, you don’t have anything else? Like, why would you want to come back to India? And I said, Well, you know, what, my life has been full of surprises. i Let’s try like, hey, what wrong could because I wanted to start up like, you know, I started a consumer company in India at the time. But the, we didn’t have the depth of talent back then it was very hard to find good engineers, it was very hard to find product builders, it was very hard to find designers. I think now, it’s fast forward, like, you know, yeah, 15 years later, like, you know, we have a lot of good, very good talent, global level, talent, who can give anyone a run for their money? Like,

Michael Waitze 32:23
do you think do you think risk taking this idea that you’re two weeks away, or whatever it is from a green card, and yet, you still want to take the risk to come back to India. And I would submit that actually, reverse culture shock is way different and much harder to deal with in culture shock, right? And like, and tell me where I’m wrong here. But when you go to California, like, I’m just a kid from a small town in India, I don’t know anything about California. So whatever happens has to be what normally happens ever, when you come home? You’re just like, where’s the and I’ll use Indian quotes, or like, where’s the India that I left? Because it’s not here kind of thing. Right? So it is risky. But is that part of the culture of clever tap as well, this idea that, like, it’s okay to do the thing that’s not expected? As long as there’s a reason for it. Yeah,

Anand Jain 33:07
we are big believers in that. I think that also stems from the founder DNA, like the three via three founders, mostly learned Suresh Sharma, the two founders. And we always thought, like, you know, hey, let’s do the right thing. And I’m not talking about decision making or a morally right, we are ethical the right way. Even technology decisions, right? So when we started the company, we said, hey, we are going to be able to solve the problem of user retention, user engagement. What does it mean? It means that we all receive too much, too many emails, too much spam products that are not relevant to us to noise communication, that’s not relevant. You know, it’s too noisy, right? It’s like you don’t know. And but, but on the other hand, no, no marketing person wakes up and says, Hey, I’m going to spam my users today. Right? Right. So they’re doing their level best to, to send the right message to you. But you don’t like you know, you don’t receive what is meant for you, right? You just received, I mean, they probably they don’t have the tools, they don’t have the technologies. The in the end, you know, you don’t like if they’re sending too many emails, or they’re sending you messages that you don’t care about, you want to unsubscribe, you want to delete that I’ve never visited their website ever again. So when we started the company, we said, well, we got to solve this problem. But we need a database, we need something we need a technology that can do this at massive scale. And it has to be real time. And you know, we had three four other criteria like that. And we figured out there is nothing in the market that solves this problem. So if you are like a traditional startup, you would try to build the minimum viable product, ship it, test, whether it works or not. And you know, come back and refine it or pivot or change. We said the right thing to do here is actually to build the database. Once we have the is core technology, we’ll build the product around it. And I call it took us 30 months of startup, first 30 months of our startup, we build the database. It’s incredible, right? Because companies don’t do that. They don’t wait 30 months to, especially when you don’t have a job. It’s not like we had a job. And we were doing this on weekends and evening. This is this. We left our jobs. We don’t hedge. We don’t have our own hedge.

Michael Waitze 35:24
I love it. No, go ahead. I love it. Yeah,

Anand Jain 35:26
yeah, we go all in. Right. So this was it. And that’s my, that’s what I tell. That’s what I told my co founders, either we do it or we don’t. If you want to run the startup, it has to be full time. I call this the shower thoughts like, you know, varying when you are in the shower. Yeah. At 738 in the morning, the thoughts that run in your head are probably the most creative thoughts. Yeah, it has to be about, you know, whatever’s top of the mind, like, you know, whatever you’re working on 24/7. It cannot be about multiple topics. So,

Michael Waitze 35:56
so here’s the thing. Can I jump in for a second? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Here’s, here’s the thing for me is that you can you’re right, if you go through the normal process of the way, a traditional, if you can even say that sort of works, it’s like, Let’s build the minimum part of everything else, we’ll have all these products, we’ll go out into the market, and we’ll test it, we’ll make sure it works. And then we’ll go back and we’ll fix it kind of thing and make it the way we wanted to make it. And what you’re suggesting here is, all of you got together and said we’re not doing that at all the core for this is having this database, that’s real time that’s dynamic, that’s fast, that doesn’t exist in the market. And I don’t care if it takes us 30 minutes or 30 months, we’re going to build this thing first, because we cannot go back later. And finish this because in a way, there’s too much risk there, like migrating from some terrible implementation, to the better implementation may even be more risky, if that makes sense.

Anand Jain 36:47
Yes. And we would never know whether our product did not work, because we did not build it right, or we were too quick to go to the market. Right. So the risk that comes with 30 months of no salary, and you know, like, just everyday you leave home, you know. So in the in the initial days, we would go to snails, living room, like all gathered around his dining table, and called away until you know, his wife and kids got tired of us. And then we had to go find someone. So I used a friend’s office, I told him, Hey, until we get our first round of funding, I’m going to use one of your conference rooms, we promise not to be a new sense. Like now we’ll find our own food and everything else, which is give us the keys to that room. So, but 30 months of doing that, like showing there was no product, we were building a database like No, we were building a technology that would store that would make data accessible, affordable, and available. Right, but we were not selling the database. Yeah. So imagine like this being a car industry, right, you’re building the engine of the car, you still have to build a car around it once you build the engine, right? Whether it’s a V four, or a V six, or V 12 engine, you still have to build the car. People are buying the car, they’re not buying the engine. Engine just helps run the car. So we wrote we built the engine, then we built a car. And then we went to the first customer and said, Hey, we have a car to sell to you. Why would you care about this?

Michael Waitze 38:12
But here’s here’s the other thing, too. Were there any points of time during that 30 months where there was like this slight impatience? Like, when are we going to build the car, guys? You know what I mean? Because there must be at some point in time where, like, I think about this for me, but also for you as well. Like, you can’t get any lower than I was when I was a kid. And I know how to survive. So I don’t care. Like I was never afraid of not having a salary because I was like, I’ll figure it out. But everybody’s different. And in month, three people would just steal a gym and away we’re building a great thing. And we’ll get to the car later. But in month six and nine and 12 Somebody must say we’re gonna build this car or not. If you want to make that happen.

Anand Jain 39:00
Yeah, no, absolutely. You’re absolutely right. And I think that’s a that’s a very, that’s a very important point. Right? What happened in the 30 months? I think you got to have micro validations of what you’re doing, right? But you because, you know, I track a lot like an In fact, tomorrow, I’m going on a track in the beautiful hills of Mumbai. You You have to pause, you know, after having done 100 200 300 meters, and look around and see whether we are on the right track or not like it’s very important, right. It’s true for the tracks. It’s true for startups. So when startups build core technology, like the ones we were building, you’ve you have to make sure there are many milestones. And I’m not talking about like now the Hey, the code, we ship some new code, that’s the milestone has to be from an external world. So in our journey of 13 months, there was a very good coincidence here. One of India’s largest movie ticketing and event ticketing websites, you know, I know the founder, he called me he was He was kind of describing the same problem. He’s like, You know what, Alan, I, I’ve noticed that, you know, people, not everyone watches a movie every weekend, right? But there are new new movies that come out every week. But not everyone does it. Like, you know, people sometimes wait for the reviews to come in, right? Before they decide someone, sometimes they wait for the favorite actors and so on so forth. Right? That means, why are we sending the same newsletter to multiple people to the same like, same newsletter to everyone who’s in my, quote, unquote, database, like no list of people signed up? It has to be different. I said, Hold on, man. You know, what, I’m building something in a similar space. Like, it’s called personalization, like, you know, it changes the way what we send you, depending on who you are. And if you don’t react to what we are sending, it changes the frequency and the timing, and, you know, the, and so on, so forth, right. And the mini validations actually came from an external party, like, no, so as we started building the core technology, we deploy parts of it to them, and but we told them, like, you know, here’s a caveat, do not depend on this, we may be gone in any year, like, you know, maybe we have a fight amongst the founders, right? Maybe run out of money, or patience or something else, right? Don’t do this already. Yeah, exactly. Right. Or maybe Google decides, like, you know, they want to get into our space, who knows, right? What could go wrong in a startup. So don’t do this. But like, you know, you can put this on a, like a less visible part of your of your website. And I think seeing real data come in seeing a business actually getting more and more dependent on your product, as you roll out this technology to them. Right, it used to be only on Thursdays, they would go check the dashboard, etc, to figure out like what’s going on, then we noticed that the visits to the dashboard have now increased. Now they do this every day, then you notice that there are now multiple people logging into the dashboard, you know, so you kind of noticed a little, like, we were talking about validations, right. But this is like customer validation. I mean, this was not even a customer. We never discussed commercials, then. This was like, you know, user validation, if you will, right, like more people that that piece there. Now, depending on your product, if your product goes away, you know, they won’t like it that much, right? It’s not like, Okay, we don’t care. You’re indifferent to it. And I think that’s what gave us confidence that after month, 30, we said, Okay, we are ready to monetize this product. Now. Let’s go find more customers. Right, this thing works. So yeah, I mean, even for rockets, like, you know, all cars, like you got to drive it around the parking, you got to make sure that thing works, right. You cannot say that. I’ll see you after 30 months, and then we will find out whether it works or not. That’s too much of a you know, like you’re flying blind? Like, I would say that,

Michael Waitze 42:38
yeah, look, it’s way too risky. You gotta get some kind of feedback, right? You can’t. And this happens all the time in software development, right? So when I was at Goldman Sachs, you couldn’t just give like our IT department a thing, it’s a build a trading system, it was never going to work, you’re never gonna get what you expected. And they weren’t gonna feel bad about not delivering like it goes both ways. But if bit by bit, you just met and tested and met and tested them at the end, you should have what you wanted, because you were part of the process as well, right? Yes, yes. Yes. How this idea of personalization is so interesting to me. And I know we’ve been at this conversation for a bit, but just stick with me for a little bit longer, please. How would you think has personalization changed? Right? Because it’s not a fixed target. It’s not it’s not static, right? And what I like to be personalized today, I may not like in three years, but you’re still building this tech to be able to do this and to be able to notice this right? And how is the database that you’ve built also evolved? Because I think those two things are related? Yeah.

Anand Jain 43:36
Yes, yes, they’re very closely related. I’ll talk about personalization first. So this has been the Holy Grail, like, you know, the utopian dream, let’s build technology that would personalize so you only receive meaningful things from us, right as the brand or as the company. Back in the days, if you remember, like, you know, magazine subscriptions would have a form where you had to check, you know, there was a physical form that you had to check and say, hey, I’m interested in science and technology, and golf, and music and food and wine, and you know, whatever. And then they would, they’d have some sort of a marketing database, and then those advertisers reach out to you and say, the golf tournament going on from there or whatever, right? Like, here’s a new set of wines that we thought you’d like. So that was static, like, you know, that that was the assumed that the preferences will never change. Right? But when they do, like you said, like, you know, we change, and humans change all the time, like, you know, what, our friends circles, change, our preferences, change the shows that we watch, you know, the food we eat, I mean, all evolves and changes. So instead of asking someone, what do they like? Can you implicitly instead of it being explicit, can you learn from their behavior? Right, right. Can you learn on how they end this is exactly how you know our friends, or family people, you know, in the office colleagues like and etc behave with us. They don’t say hey, I’m gonna declare a preferences on day one, like, you know, they learn and adapt like, you know, if I If I’m putting on if I put on a pair of headphones, and I don’t like to be disturbed, like, you know, I’m working on something very critical. And I show up and annoyed face, well, people are not going to, you know, come and talk try to talk to me when I have a pair of headphones on my on my head, right? So people learn they adapt. So can you build a technology that adapts, the more behavior you exhibit? And I’m not talking about purchase here, I’m just talking about even browsing, right? We go to ecommerce sites, we browse products all the time, like, you know, I, you know, or we listen to songs or whatever I like sometimes watch movie trailers online, can you learn and adapt? And then how the person reacts to that also becomes an input mechanism. Right? Right. So and that’s an important thing. And that’s where we wanted this thing to be real time. Like, you know, this core technology has to be real time. It cannot say, hey, we saw that you were browsing something yesterday. Like think of a thing. I mean, today’s world, everything is real time, right? ride hailing is real time movie watching is real time ordering food is real time, right? Especially if you’re in Bangkok, right? So Asia is mobile first. And everything happens on an app like and everything happens to the phone, like you know, payments, etc. So imagine an app sending your message saying that, hey, we saw that you were at the airport yesterday looking for a cab. It is 5% discount. And you’re like, Dude, I’ve already you know, I’m home. Hello. That was yesterday. I was at the airport. I just come back from a trip like and I’m back home. Now.

Michael Waitze 46:25
It’s really scary. Because I was at the airport yesterday. Picking up my daughter. So now I’m really nervous. No, but it’s funny you say this, right? Because I think about this personalization all the time. And sometimes when I do use a ride hailing service, because I know how dynamic pricing works, right? If I’m always going to the same place, if I’m always leaving from the same place, right? I mean, this is why they want to know where your home is, where your office is, release things. It’s not they’re not trying to send you flowers on your birthday. But what’s interesting to me is that sometimes I’m trying to game the game that’s gaming me because I’m trying to be like, I don’t go there anymore kind of thing. So that the, you know what I’m Yeah,

Anand Jain 47:04
yeah. Anyway, yeah. No, but in the ideal world, like, you know, you would not have to do that you wouldn’t have to, like, you know, they would, in fact, predict and say, hey, it’s time to leave for home. Yeah, you know, from the office, and there’s a cab, waiting that’s waiting for you. Like, you know, that would be the I call this the James one experience, like, you know, yeah, and, and, and I’ll give, I’ll tell you one more story. You know, this was my CBC, pitch to Axel, who invested in us. Axel is one of the world’s most prominent investors. Yeah, we don’t know. We don’t know how to make decks like, you know, if you, you know, to save our own lives, like, we’ve seen how to make a presentation or a slide deck, I would not be able to do that. So we had to present we were scared, this was the first time ever my previous company, like, you know, we had never responding. There was big pressure on our shoulders, like, you know, we had to go raise money, the database was coming along very well. So, we went to XL, you know, they have an IC meeting that is, you know, all the investors, the, you know, the senior partners and also, India. Yeah, this is in India in Bangalore, good for you, Sunil and I kind of show up in the office and we like, and they’ve been pestering us with email saying that, hey, can you send the presentation, we want to pre read the might so that we can be ready with the questions, you know, very absolutely fair ask. Yeah. But we don’t have a deck. So what do we do? So I said, you know, let’s just, you know, not have a deck you know, what, what’s the worst the Lord invest in us? Right? But But hold on, like, you know, let’s create a two three pager, we just say, you know, hey, what does you know, Anand, Sunil and Suresh like, you know, do and then the money slide. And then thanks like like, so that is your three pager Of course, which is not how you pitch to VCs, not normally. So we send that at 2am landed in the office, Bangalore, eight o’clock. And then we started the James Bond story. So I came up with this story. And so here’s what here’s how it goes. So James Bond lands in the in Mumbai and he heads to the hotel so there’s a beautiful hotel called touch in Colaba, beautiful part of town like North faces the sea and it’s a beautiful property so let’s say James one goes to that hotel. And the person at the door like recognizes that it seems pawn opens the door. Nice smile, welcomes a person. Now James Ford is inside the hotel. It’s a heritage Hotel. He’s admiring the foyer like you know the beautiful paintings. Then the person at the reception notices it seems spawned they walk all the way out and say Mr. Bond, we are so happy to see you here. And thank you for choosing to stay with us. Your suite is ready let’s go upstairs and the person takes the takes James Bond upstairs to the presidential suite and shows James Bond around like saying that hey, this is exactly how you’d like your you know room to be set up like you know, it has gadgets and it has all sorts of you know, Geek you know all the things like and I press this button something pops up from the you know side of the bed, all the things and while the person is showing around, a hot blonde walks in, with a martini that is shaken, not stirred, right? And then like the reception person says, hey, you know, I leave you guys alone. But in case you want to go towards the beautiful city of Mumbai, there’s an Aston Martin waiting for you in the lobby. And then the person leaves. This is the James Bond experience. Now, our experience at a hotel is not the same, because you have to first cue up, no one recognizes you. Then they’ll ask you like Smoking or non smoking twin bed or single bed spacing, with a view to nowhere or you know, like busy street, and all sorts of things like you know, and you’re, you know, sometimes no one walks you up, no one greets you. No one you know, you’re just a faceless. Name them and they’ve got your name and the credit card, but you’d like literally they don’t. You’re one row in the database. Yeah. So can you humanize? Can we personalize the experience? And that’s what the literally the pitch was, and they’re like, Whoa, this is good. Like, you know, how would you exactly want to do that. And that’s when we spoke about the most comfortable part. For us is technology. We spoke about technology. We spoke about how it starts building a database. That is real time that solves for data access. lets you store No, you know, there has no limitations, lets you store unlimited amount of user history first party data. So what did Anan do on a website what did on and do on this app, and learns and adapts. Right? And then you can use the data to learn more about your users. Send them personalized communication, and so forth. And and that’s how we got our first round of funding $1.6 million. So I call it the $1.6 million dollar story, the James Bond story.

Michael Waitze 51:49
I love it. I love it. I feel like that is the perfect way to end this conversation if that’s okay with you. Absolutely. But I feel like I want to have you come back as well.

Anand Jain 52:00
Thank you, Michael. You’re too kind.

Michael Waitze 52:02
Aand Jain, a co founder at CleverTap. This was an awesome conversation. I learned a ton and I learned a ton about you as well. That was really super.

Anand Jain 52:11
Michael, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure to talk to you

 

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