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Management Consultant to Start-up CEO

"How to start a business?" Most Management Consultants ask this at some point. So I sat down with my former colleague and friend, Ram Soundarajan who started Quber Tech.


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Sudeshna

Hi, I'm Sudeshna from The Abundance Psyche, and you are listening to the Not-so-Corporate podcast. Here we talk about all of the not-so-corporate things that we corporate entrepreneurs do within and outside our work.


And today, I have with me a very special guest, my former colleague from Strategy& Ram Soundarajan. Ram and I used to work together at Strategy&. Recently, he has delved into the area of entrepreneurship. We'll talk a lot about that, but I have a bit of an anecdotal story to share.


So some of you might know that I had a career gap, and I used to paint a lot. In my career gap, I took up oil painting, and I painted a few pieces, and I put them up for charity auction in Strategy&, and Ram bought them. And when I heard that, I was like, if it's, if it wasn't for the charitable angle, I would have really questioned your question your taste. But there you go! Anyway, he is a really, really passionate entrepreneur. He has been an inspiration. And he cares really about diversity, gender equality, immigration, urban and rural qualities, all these good topics that we are going to cover. Welcome to the show, Ram. So lovely to have you!


Ram

Sudeshna, thank you so much for inviting me to your show. Really appreciate the opportunity. Very, very excited to be speaking to you again. By the way, your paintings were absolutely fantastic. So don't let yourself down. It is hanging right in front of me here in my office here. So well done on that.


Sudeshna

Right. Okay, Ram, tell me a bit more about your journey and your story.


Ram

Yeah, sure. So I currently run a B2B SaaS company called Qubertech. I founded it about 4 months ago, in November of 2020, alongside other co-founders, and we are really moving at a great pace. And we are building team building products, all the cool stuff that's happening, which I'll tell you a bit more about later. But before founding this business, the last 17 or 18 years or so, I spent most of my time in the corporate world, half of it in the world of strategy consulting between firms like McKinsey and Booz & Company which later became the Strategy&, and another half of my career in firms like ITC limited in India, which is one of the largest FMCG businesses and in another fortune 1000 industrial packaging business.


So, I would say about good 18 years or so, in the world of corporate, but the first 20 odd years of my life, I can tell you, it could have been farther away from anything that looked like corporate. I was raised in a very small village for the first 12 to 15 years of my life, I spent most of my time in a place called Aniol, which is really, really close to a city called Madurai in India, and then after that, I moved on to a tier-three city called Trichy in India and nobody in my family or my extended family or my extended circle worked for any corporates at any point in their lives.


180 degree diametrically opposite experiences of starting with something that doesn't look anything like corporate to then spending a good 18 odd years of my career in corporate and now have ventured on to do something quite different. And something that I'm very passionate about.


Sudeshna

That's brilliant. So you had an amazing career, a very, very successful career working for McKinsey and Strategy&, and you were quite young when you managed a multimillion-dollar business. Why give up all of that, and venture into entrepreneurship?


Ram

We all have different journeys and paths. We have our own struggles and our own successes. I certainly felt this for the first 12-13 years of my career, I was definitely chasing success and chasing achievements. And you could even say I was chasing trophies right?


So for me, it was always about what next, what am I going to achieve in the next six months? What am I going to achieve in the next 12 months? When am I going to actually run a business? When am I going to run a big business, right? All these things tend to motivate people like us, but I guess around 2014- 2015 timeframe, and I was just coming off running a fairly large business unit out of the Middle East… it was a $250 million business unit, over 2000 people that were a part of the organization. And I was barely 31-32 when I was running that business unit.


So I felt like I had achieved a lot from them. But at the same time when I was coming off that role and took a three four-month career break, I somehow recognised that you know, we cannot measure ourselves and I cannot measure myself with just the yardstick of achievement. It felt like a very narrow way of looking at my own journey. And increasingly I felt more and more people were moving towards this notion of achievement.


And I questioned myself, how did people live over the last 50 years, 100 years, 200 years, 300 years when no corporates existed? And what did they measure themselves on? What was more important than achievement? So it certainly felt that achievement cannot be the only yardstick. And therefore, I chose to take a slightly different path.


So instead of looking at my own journey, and life as one focused on achievement, I started thinking about it as a set of experiences rather than a set of achievements. My focus became one on how can I gain as many experiences as possible as I go through the rest of my life, rather than as many achievements as possible. And clearly, one of the big things I wanted to do was to start something from scratch. I felt very passionately about building things. And it didn't have to be a company that I had to build, right? It could have been an art enterprise I could have built or, I could have built an NGO. But at this point, in my time, it certainly felt the next five to seven years or so, I should go and build a venture. And that was largely the drive behind doing something different rather than just being on the same path and trying to go for more and more achievement.


Sudeshna