Episode 117 / May 16, 2021

The unconventional journey of Karan Bajaj, Founder, WhiteHatJr

01 hr 06 min

Episode 117 / May 16, 2021

The unconventional journey of Karan Bajaj, Founder, WhiteHatJr

01 hr 06 min
Listen on

In this episode, we chat with Karan Bajaj, Founder, WhiteHat Jr. From being the CEO at Discovery, to being an author with Penguin Random House & HarperCollins Publishers, to curating his Edtech venture Karan has donned many hats.

Founded in November 2018, WhiteHat Jr is focused on helping children between 6 to 14 years in developing commercial-ready games, animations, and apps online using the fundamentals of coding. In August 2020, Whitehat Jr was sold to Byju’s in a $300 million all-cash deal.

During the podcast, Karan talks about how he took 3 breaks in his professional career and how they impacted him as a person, he also talks about what roles should a founder play at various growth stages in a startup’s journey.

For anyone looking to make a planned approach & setting outcomes for sabbaticals, or for any founder confused with prioritizing the impactful things in their journey at various stages, this conversation can be of great value.

Notes – 01:03 – Early childhood & career prior to WhiteHat Jr

03:49 – Taking breaks in a professional career

04:10 – Becoming consistent with writing – “Natural consequence of living what I thought was a very interesting adventure, an experience that I thought that many people should do.”

07:04 – Major career sabbaticals throughout his journey

14:24 – Impact of 1st Sabbatical: Understanding that the world is very boundary-less

15:06 – Impact of 2nd Sabbatical: Productivity as an individual

15:41 – Impact of 3rd Sabbatical: “If I pick up something, I just have to keep at it every day.”

17:00 – Growing leaps and bounds in corporate career after 2nd sabbatical

18:30 – Self-doubts while writing and publishing his books

22:04 – Accepting and realising that growth isn’t linear

28:43 – Ideating and pursuing WhiteHat Jr

34:46 – Initial scale, revenue, and metrics tracked at WhiteHat Jr

38:17 – Top mistakes at WhiteHat Jr while blitzscaling

41:45 – Being mindful as a founder while facing criticism

43:15 – “The founder in a blitzscaling phase has to let some fires burn.”

45:41 – Byju’s & WhiteHat Jr deal: Startup economics for Acquirer, Acquired & Investors

51:19 – Enabling 11000+ women teachers on the platform

52:07 – Karan’s perspective on the Wolf Gupta’s Ad

1:00:14 – WhiteHat Jr’s journey in a book & chapter names for each phase

1:04:32 – One major personality change while building WhiteHat Jr

Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:01

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x entrepreneur podcast. Today I have with me Karan Bajaj founder of white hat Jr. Karan, welcome to the podcast.

Karan Bajaj 00:12

My pleasure, Siddhartha. Great to be here.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:15

Karan, before we start on the journey of White Hat Jr, I would like to know about, you know, how you grew up your family and the background and the cities you grew up in.

Karan Bajaj 00:26

My father was in the army. So obviously, we moved around quite a lot. So I changed like about 15-18 schools in my 12 years of schooling. And much of my I mean, I’ve like I was living in Assam to Ladakh, Jabalpur, or Delhi, all almost all parts of like, north east-west, south, I covered during my schooling periods. Essentially, that’s how I grew up. And I think that has been a very enduring influence in my life. Because even after I started my career, I moved around a lot myself, you know, I think probably part of it was the restlessness that always was part of the childhood of, so I also chose a very similar path unconsciously, you know, I kept changing locations, jobs, careers, you know, so I think that’s probably influenced a lot of things.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:17

And tell us about, you know, your journey as a professional before starting white hat, your education and how it shaped your career.

Karan Bajaj 01:26

Um, I had, I would say, two parts, and I spent almost like a decade on each in my own way, part of it was my professional path. So, I went to IIM, and after IIM, I joined Procter and Gamble, after Procter and Gamble, I went to Boston Consulting Group, then, then, you know, I lived half of it in India, half of it outside India, and worked basically in consumer-packaged CPG companies p&g than Kraft, before I became the CEO of discovery in India discovery network in India, and parallely, I was saying, the other part of my life, which was going very active in parallel was my writing. And as a consequence, so I wrote three novels and you know to progressively first in India, then outside India, and I took a lot of years off to actually focus on my writing. So, like, just before I was the discovery CEO, for example, I’ve taken two years of full time, and I was living in New York and, you know, trying to write my novel and get it published, then, yeah, and then it was prior to that I’d taken multiple sabbaticals to travel to write to do yoga and meditation. So that’s, I think that there were two parallel paths that are happening in my life. My professional career was ongoing, but then I’ve taken a lot of time in the last four or five years to really perfect my like writing and my other parts of my life began,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 02:44

When was the first time that you started taking off breaks in your professional career.

Karan Bajaj 02:50

The first time was I from Business School in 2002, to 2008, I was with p&g, Procter and Gamble. And I didn’t take any breaks, I left Procter and Gamble to travel. And that’s the first time I took a break. I traveled for a year in 2008. And I lived in South America for four months and Eastern Europe for four months and Mongolia for 4 months. So that was the first time I really decided to backpack and travel.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 03:15

And what was that desire that made you start writing and then take it seriously,

Karan Bajaj 03:21

um, the first thing the first time, it was like, not as much desire for writing as much as it became a natural consequence of living, what I thought was a very interesting adventure and experience that I thought that many people should do. Right. So, for example, like, I felt like this idea that you could leave your job and travel for a year, like, you know, for somebody who has, like a, you know, typical average person doesn’t come to your mind. And I was like, you know, I also had the same path as everybody else. So, like, I didn’t have any family money or anything like that. So, but I found that that experience was incredibly rich and really transformed me, right made me think of the world as very boundaryless. I was traveling in like, in backpacking in Brazil, at that time in India, like, you know, not too many Indians were traveling there, and they hadn’t met Indians. And like, you know, I couldn’t speak the language. I couldn’t speak Portuguese at all. But I really found very boundaryless kind of world emerge for me because of the travels. So, I really liked that the first novel that I wrote was a consequence of that. And then after that did reasonably well, I wanted to write a second novel. But at that point of time, the surprising thing was that when I started to write a second novel, I realized that I had nothing to write about, right. So, I think the great part about doing one creative activity well, whether that’s a startup or a novel is that it takes all of what you have as a human being, I guess, and you pour it into that creative activity. And after that, in a way the well runs dry. So, I think that was a very good catalyst because in order I realized that in order to create a career as a writer even to write a second novel, my life had to change very significantly if I was doing like really nothing much more to save the world. So, I think that was a very good catalyst for, like, as a result of that I took a lot of chances with my life, right? I think after that I left for a year to learn yoga and meditation. My third novel was a consequence of that year. So, I think the fact of doing the first creative activity, which is writing the first novel, pouring all of myself in it, realizing that the well runs empty. And then in order to realizing that in order to have more of a creative career, I would just have to fill my life with more experiences led my life down a path which would not have it would not have gone otherwise. Yeah.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 05:38

And in 2008, when you took your first break, that was a risk, right? What was going on in your, in your mind that

Karan Bajaj 05:45

you got the first jump is very hard, I think the first jump is very hard, because it was a particular, I was also I was just turning 30, if I’m not wrong, I was like 29 years old, and there was obviously all the family pressure to get married and settle down, buy a house and stuff, and I was, you know, it, I don’t 30s when Indians start to hit their, like, some kind of stability in their career. And it felt very foolish, right, because I was like, not settled in any way I did, like, you know, didn’t have a house didn’t have, like, you know, wasn’t married at that time. So, you know, I was like, leaving everything and going and without, like, and I was also leaving a job. So obviously, the kind of the public view, or the public view of friends, family, etc., was very negative. And surprisingly enough, I think the, like a blessing in in retrospect, but actually, when I came back from the sabbatical, I really lived my worst-case scenario, because what happened is that I left for my sabbatical in January 2008. I came back in December 2008. And that time, Lehman Brothers had crashed in the US say, there was no jobs. And I really didn’t have a job. And I’d actually taken all my savings and spent it on traveling. So, when I came back, I came back with no money, no job prospects, and I was really on my live living on my sister’s couch really, like, you know, like in a in the living room, right. So, I kind of, thankfully, in a way, we later I realized I had lived my worst-case scenario. And I realized that look, to three months later, I found a job in BCG than I had. So, I felt like okay, if the worst case has happened, and like I’m okay, like, you know, it’s not great when it happens. But like, you know, it the pros of having taken a big leap for growth is much more than the cons of having to, I think that liberated me so the subsequent loop leaps became a bit easier. the second big break was I took a year off to learn yoga and meditation. In India, mostly I was I traveled from with me with my girlfriend, who became my wife at that point of time, we traveled from Europe to India by road and then reached India after two, three months, and then did yoga and meditation in an ashram for 4-5-6 months, then I kind of wrote my novel in Portugal. So that was the second major break that I took. I think what happens is that life rewards growth, right? Alive, rewards growth very significantly. So, in a sense, that pattern had formed in my life that growth, life will eventually reward growth. And I grew a lot in the first sabbatical. But traveling I grew a lot in the second sabbatical with yoga and meditation. And I knew that each of these times, I was taking a major leap for growth, eventually, life would reward me and I think that became a pattern that I’ve really figured out. Because after I came back, yoga meditation thing, I realized that I was actually moving, I moved up in my work very fast, right, I became, like a C-level executive very quickly, because I was like, I changed a lot as a person. So, I felt each time that if you chose growth, I think life eventually will reward you. Right? It doesn’t come in the immediate moment, but it will reward you and I should just keep choosing growth all the time. So, each time I was like, okay, continue one more year doing the same thing or take a leap for dramatic growth opportunity, which will be very high risk, and I now have become a clear mental model. Right. So, after discovery, when I left to do the startup, you know, it was the same thing discovery, CEO, you make a fair amount of money, like you know, when you’re like, kind of doing something that 20-year-olds do, right? Starting trying to start a tech startup without any background of tech. But by that time, I was like, Look, I’m going to grow lot in doing a tech startup, so I’m going to take the risk. Yeah.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:04

When was the second break and when was the third break In which year?

Karan Bajaj 10:07

2008 was the first break 2012 was the second break 2016 was the third break. So coincidentally, it happened a little bit constantly. But more also plan, every three, four years of hitting stability in what I was doing, and realizing that my growth was flattening out, that’s when I would take a leap and like, completely do something which was very, like it was not a leap of relaxation, I would have very strong goals for that period of leap. Like in the yoga meditation here, for example, I was working very, very hard, right? I would wake up at like, in an ashram in South India, and seven and dosham. Like, they would wake you up at five o’clock in the morning, and you had to kind of keep doing your kind of discipline till 10 in the night, and then you have to kind of rinse and repeat every day, you have to do the same thing for months on end, right. So, it was not about working like this chilling out, it was about taking a different goal that dramatically expands your mind in a different way. Right. So, it was writing or like writing a novel or the second goal was like really becoming a yoga teacher and knowing yoga very well. And the third time it was about like, writing something very enduring, which would last in the world, in publishing the US, right, and not just keep writing minor stuff in India. So, the third time, I really took a, like, full two-year effort to become a great writer and or like trying to become a great writer, whether I became or not, but trying to become a great writer in New York. And so each time I really chose a goal when I took a sabbatical and, and really worked very hard towards it. Yeah.

Karan Bajaj 11:36

And second time, when you took a sabbatical, you left your job in Boston Consulting Group. Second time when I took the sabbatical, I left the job in Kraft. Yeah, yeah. So yeah. So the first time I left the job in Procter and Gamble, then I left the job in Kraft, then I left the job in the Kraft again, actually there because they took me back after the sabbatical. And then I kind of worked there for two, three years, and then took off again, too, right? Yeah. that I had a good mathematic in all of these are very good mathematical frameworks, right. So, I had a mathematical framework that the salary divided by $20,000, is the amount of time it takes to find a job. So if you’re making $200,000, we’ll take you 10 months to find a job. If you’re making 400,000 take you like 20 months, right? Like, the lower the salary, the faster to find a job, right? So that’s one framework. So, I was like, Okay, once I come back from a sabbatical, it’ll take me this much amount of time to find a job, which is six months or whatever. So if I take a 12, month sabbatical plus six months of a job, and I put six months of extra emergency cover, if I have these many months of saving, then I’m good. So, I would have this very strong mathematical frameworks. And I would like do it, you know.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 12:58

And Karan, you said, you pursued growth, because you took each year of sabbatical as a growth opportunity. So, if you can share, you know, what was the major change in you in the first sabbatical in the second, and in the third?

Karan Bajaj 13:16

year, very, very significant changes, right. So very, like in a very measurable changes, if you will, the first sabbatical, I think, the when I traveled a lot, I, like had this very strong sense of feeling that I would

Karan Bajaj 13:31

like, like that, you know, that the world is very boundaryless. And my world will be very global. I think it happens a lot, right? white Hat Jr., for example, I chose to go to the US very early into the journey into the company, typically, people would like build a company, spend many years then eventually go to the US then go, like, I was so clear that, that anything we can create from India is going to be good enough for the world that I took that bunch very early, right? So very, very clearly correlated to those early years of like traveling and figuring out that the world is very more similar than dissimilar. I would say the second time, which is to do yoga and meditation, it’s been a gift. I think, for all my life, I think the productivity that I had, as an individual has significantly shot up after, like, the spiritual practices, right? So, I’ve been I was just very much more productive have been more like see, I’m a 40 year old entrepreneur who can just keep working all day, right. I don’t like feel any sense of fatigue. And I think that’s been an energy that’s helped throughout and then the full-time writer experience was very good, because I failed very dramatically in that. So, for two years, I wrote a novel that was rejected 60-65 times, so 61 times totally by every kind of agent, publisher. And I was very persevering and I kept going after it. So, I kind of again, created a clear mental model that look, if I pick up something, I just have to keep at it every day. Right? If I as long as I just show up every day. I’ll eventually make it. Like I’ll eventually make it a success in some form. So, I think when you start a company

Karan Bajaj 15:00

Maybe it’s just like full of failures, as you would know, as an entrepreneur, right? There’s just like mini failures and mega failures, like there’s just like, so I was just very in that period, I was very calm that all I have to do is to just keep coming up every day. And like, you can take a blank page and turn it into a 300-page novel and eventually publish it after like, you know, ups and downs, man, I’ll take company, which is an idea right now. And like, I just have to show up every day, and I’ll turn it into an organization. So that’s how, yeah,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 15:29

and you mentioned, after your second sabbatical, you grew leaps and bounds in your corporate career, correct? What was the reason for that? Like, what was how did your input from your corporate career change dramatically?

Karan Bajaj 15:45

Um, See, the thing is that, yes, so the year that I spent was heavily like, I spent about six months in an ashram three months, like, I guess, traveling from Europe to India, then three months. So, I think the biggest thing that happened was, my life was very bare in that period. Right? So very bare in the sense. I was just in the moment doing the right thing. And I think that has a huge effect, right? Because you just do what the right thing for that particular thing is without caring about the like I was in the moment doing the right thing for that point of time. And I had this clear sense that when it’s no longer the right thing, I have full freedom to leave and the ability to leave, because I just don’t need much at all. I think it’s helped a lot subsequently also like leaving discovery to form a startup. Like, every time I think that parameter, that framework has helped a lot that you need very little to them by hand.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 17:45

What are what are the kinds of self-doubts that you face during that period? That was at any point in time

Karan Bajaj 17:52

similar to know that I’ve lived in I would say, three creation industries very deeply, right. I’ve lived in the writing world very deeply, right? kind of started published a novel multiple time I have in TV channels in discovery, I launched a TV channel from scratch, right. And like, you know, I saw the whole TV and media industry, and then obviously a startup I’ve seen from, like, built from basically nobody to kind of creating a company, then I think they all form the very similar pattern, which is, by its nature, creation is very hard, because nobody’s asking for it. Right? Nobody in the world needs it. Right? Nobody is saying I want a new TV channel, or I want a new book, or I want a new company. So, by its nature, the barriers have really penetrating consciousness of people to

Karan Bajaj 18:41

like, you know, to even acknowledge, get acknowledged that there is a need for them for that particular thing is very high. So as a result, the success rates in all of these industries is very low. Right? All of these industries I’ve seen is that they follow a surprisingly, a very similar pattern, where 90% of will fail, out of the remaining 10% 9% will be equal to doing the job, right? The payouts or the kind of the end outcomes will be very similar to doing a job and 1% will succeed, right and 90%, you’re entering these activities with a knowing that this is going to be a failure. So, I think I just knew right like that look. 90% this one work, right. And that’s fine. Right? I think it’s the there are two things that were that helped me a lot. One was that, in this effort, I’m going to transform, right? And that’s good enough, that itself is a great outcome, like in the effort of creating a startup in the effort of writing a novel, I’m going to transform as a person and I think that’s the biggest goal that I’m going to embark on is transformation of myself. And then the second part was that a bit like life is like a slot machine, right? You have to come up and video all you owe life is your gift of energy that you that it’s a slot machine on which you play the slots every day. And sometimes it’s going to hit a jackpot and sometimes it’s going to be a bust and you don’t know why and when not how, because it’s a bit unpredictable. So, I just knew that look, all I owe my life every day is the gift of full energy, and play the slots every day. And that’s what, that’s all I can do. Right? I can never think of output because it doesn’t like so my first novel was written three months, part time, it was the best seller. The second, the third one was written two years full time and was rejected 60 times and failed even after it got a big deal with Random House. So, I just feel I realized that the input and output have no correlation almost. So, all I owe my life is my input. That’s been very liberating, I think. So, I think knowing that I’m going to transform the input, and all I can really commit to them is the input has really just allowed me to keep doing things, you know, like, the guy like, even when I started the startup, I was like, not, you know, expecting or planning that I would like sell it for a few 100 million dollars in like 18 months or so that was obviously never the plan, that can never be the plan. But I knew that I would transform in the process of creating a tech startup and be, you know, like, you can’t complain about output, you can just think about the input.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:07

Growth is never linear, right? growth. When did when did you start to realize that a person that

Karan Bajaj 21:14

growth is never linear? Yes. By I started to realize that when I think it was a moment of time, when I was like, I accepted, right, I was 31 years old, I was sleeping on my sister’s couch. Right. And everybody around me was like, buying houses and sending pictures of the first kid. And I don’t know, I think there was a realization that I was on that couch that look like my destiny will be different, right? And it’s fine, I have to accept it that look, I can’t be envious of people with the output, which I haven’t, which I haven’t valued and I haven’t worked for. So, it was very easy at that point of time to feel like the like, you know, they were all my batch mates from like, you know, from like, engineering college, and I am and they were all reaching, like, milestones, right that the world values and I was like, kind of nowhere close. And I think I think I was just kind of at that point of time quite clear that look, I’ll have to like measure life by my own milestones. Right? So, I think that that was very liberating. Because after 31, or at that age, I mean, I just stopped caring about who’s reaching where that is, I would I would be very clear in saying that for the first five years after I am, I would really think about stuff like that on who’s where and where am I? And I think after that, I’ve never really even though who’s where right, like, I’m just feel that you have to follow your own. I think you know, your own kind of inclination, your own karma, if you will.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 22:39

I’m going to ask a very personal thing and you can say also, No, your mom passed away around seven to eight years ago, how did that change, you shattered you as a person, or that experience altered you.

Karan Bajaj 22:53

So, the thing is key, I won’t say shattered me as much as I was always very pulled to the Gita, the Upanishads, the Buddhism, I was I was very pulled to it. from very early on, I would say from IIM days, I was very pulled to all that stuff, right. But I was always reading about it was very theoretical. So when with my mom, she had a cancer and she really withered away as a body, right? Like, she really went through a lot of physical decline. I was with her a lot that that period, right in my sabbatical, or whatever I was, like, I saw the body decline and, like, saw how tough the end is, right. And I think that really put my sub-meaning of life questions at the center. And as a result, I was very, like, immediately after that, almost, I kind of decided to do this yoga meditation thing for a year. And really, I wasn’t in yoga meditation to like, you know, improve my productivity at that point of time, I was really comfortable with the idea that I might become a monk, right, really get into the, the severe practices of enlightenment and stuff, because I was very, like, I was very deeply kind of interested in the in this in this site, right? But then, you know, I different learnings from that period, but I came back to the world. But at that point of time, I was very committed to, like, the, you know, the cycle of birth and death, the meaning of life really getting to the bottom of it, intellectually, feeling spiritually. So, yeah, so I think it impacted me to go forward in my trust to go there. Yeah.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:17

And if you can share, you know, insight from your meditation journey, you have been meditating for, I believe, seven, eight years.

Karan Bajaj 24:23

Yeah. Since 2013. Yeah.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:26

So, at any point of time, you became inconsistent or What kept you consistent during that journey,

Karan Bajaj 24:31

I would say reasonably consistent. There was a period of time which was very deep during that period, I was living in an ashram that was quite deep and long, but after that, since I’ve been back into the world, it’s been a very consistent like 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the night as a pattern. And I think that pattern is almost continued throughout, helped a lot with other things because I valued that pattern so much that for example, alcohol went out of my life because I knew that when I drank like You know, when I was drinking, then like the night meditation would not happen in the morning meditation would be very clouded. So, a lot of things kind of like automatically happened because of that vegetarian, I became a vegetarian because I realized, like, I was more conscious of the effects of food on my body. So, stuff like that, I became more conscious about what was happening in my body because of the meditation apart from obviously, the, the, like, the mind being like, um, you know, like, you’re like being like being somewhat more tolerable to work with because, like, I was able to channelize my energy better

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 25:33

and up on your blog, or, you know, current I believe you share a lot of insights about publishing a book about distribution, what is the things about distribution and marketing, you learned your first principles by doing your own experiments?

Karan Bajaj 25:47

The, it’s a good question. So, I haven’t written in five years. So just like I haven’t written a blog in five years. So, I think it’s a date, maybe the world has changed overall, but I think my biggest insight is one or two distribution mediums work. Once you figure out those one or two distribution mediums that work you should go blitz scale on them. And just let go and let go of everything else. So, I think that like I in my, in my writing days, I was like, whenever I was like selling the novel, it became very clear that look, Amazon advertising is working. And second thing this is working right or two things would work and I would just go and really spend my own money to scale them. Now it helped a lot. in white hat Jr., for example, very early, we figured out that Facebook was working, we built an entire 100 crores a month business just on Facebook advertising and referrals, right? People were referring white hat jr. and Facebook advertising is working. And we did nothing else. Right? We just did that. And just did that. And just did that and did more of that. And more of that and more of that. And so, I think with distribution, what I’ve seen is that every brand, which is good, we’ll figure out one or two mediums that really hit a chord, and then you should just scale them like crazy. Versus like diversifying too much. You know,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:00

and for your own books you mentioned on your blog, let’s say five years ago that that’s what you mentioned, the last blog that you did all your distribution and marketing on Facebook yourself. You didn’t do it?

Karan Bajaj 27:12

Yeah, yeah, no, no, no. I mean, I was, uh, I had a convention publisher, obviously, Random House HarperCollins. And the first then Penguin Random House. So, I had good publishers, and they did the best they can. But obviously, publishers are not going to be, you know, despite their best efforts, they are not going to be marketing experts. And so, you have to take it in your hands completely.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:34

And now coming on to the white hat, Jr. Journey, right? Among all ideas that you wanted to start with what made you stick with white hat Jr.

Karan Bajaj 27:44

I think it was very, very mission. I like mission a lot. When I first came up with the idea. I think the whole idea was that very, very personal for me, like I had my own kids, they were very young four and two, when Whitehead Junior I started it, the idea was, I had formed a clear framework that, like my life changed after I started to build things, I wrote a novel. And then as I said, my Creator bell shaped I added more to the creator well, so I always thought that the first set of creation, the earlier you do it in your life, the more your life will transform, I wish I’d done it in 18, I wish I’d tried to write my first novel at 18 or so. And then I read some research around how kids speak in creativity at age six, then what happens is more and more rules and systems enter their lives. And they keep getting more and more system oriented, if you will, right. And creativity keeps going down. So, it actually is very good research by George LAN Benjamin from NASA that kids actually if you take a random group of people, kids, which tests 886 would test in the top 98th percentile of creativity, right free forming associations, etc. and age 35 they test in the bottom 2% right. So, what happens is that more and more as rules and systems enter your life, you become less and less creative, and you become more and more of like, you know, fixated on the right and wrong, the binary truths of life, you know, yes and no right and wrong.

Karan Bajaj 29:05

So, I wanted my kids to build and create early. So, when I read about early childhood coding, I was like, boom, right? This is exactly what I should be doing. Because coding early really just makes kids builders, right? They can like put two and two together. They like to write this code this thing and they create an output. And they are transformed by the fact that they are like, they think that look, everything in the world is an object that’s created by someone and I can make it do right and that’s very powerful. So, so yes, so I think I really liked that mission. It was about coding and then as we went along, it became bigger about the fact that we could transform every subject through this mechanism.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:42

Yeah, so before starting white hat jr. did you yourself learn coding or teach your kids coding? My kids?

Karan Bajaj 29:48

Yeah. So, I started to kind of experiment with scratch, scratch Jr. started to like, you know, teach them and started to or like my four-year-old that started to like and started to realize what the limit is.

Karan Bajaj 30:00

As well, of not having a one-on-one teacher, right, like, or not having a small group teacher, like self-learning apps versus, like, you know, like, teacher assistant, like, I was able to form some mental models around that.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 30:15

Because I have a one-and-a-half-year-old right now. And the biggest interest he has is in watching Baby Shark on YouTube, those the YouTube icon and being a kid, you know, back in 90s. So just sharing a personal anecdote, my father’s business suffered our mega huge crash when I was 10-11 years old. So, at that point of time, just to help my father, I started selling cricket cards, cricket and WWF cards were really popular back then. So, I sold like 1000 cards worth rupees 500-600. So that took away fear of selling from me very early in the childhood,

Karan Bajaj 30:53

wonderful, wonderful. I knew the model and how it would be like different than anything else, because of the one-on-one teaching, creativity-oriented class where kids would build something. So I had a very clear sense right at the onset, what it would be and we actually executed against a plan. We didn’t deviate too much from it.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 31:43

When did you raise your first investment?

Karan Bajaj 31:45

I was a bit fortunate that because of my background, there was interest he at an idea level itself. So, I was with discovery in August, when I decided when I first came up with this idea, actually. And I gave discovery my resignation in August, and there was a six-month period, notice period. And I just had a PowerPoint presentation. And I’d raise funding based on that in October, and October, November. So, while I was still with my notice period and discovery, I’d got commitment of funding from Nexus. There, but I was formally able to start on March 2019. And

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 32:22

how did you get to connected to these VCs? Nexus Illumina?

Karan Bajaj 32:27

To be honest, I think I would have been one degree of separation away because my batchmates were founders and stuff, but I reached out to them by a cold call on LinkedIn. So, I just sent a message saying that look, hey, I’m current Bajaj I’m the CEO of discovery. You know, like, I’ve, like, you know, I’ve, like had a track record of like, just seeing things through whatever I do them, whether that’s writing a novel, or like being a CEO. And, you know, so I’m now going to do a startup, and I’m going to see it through sort of like it was a positive, positive messaging that look, I mean, I’m doing it and, you know, so I think people responded positively to that message.

Siddhartha 33:03

Yeah. And

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 33:05

why these only two VCs like how did you identify that these two others?

Karan Bajaj 33:09 I reached out to five, I reached out to the five top guys, Sequoia Nexus Sequoia Nexus matrix, yeah. lightspeed maybe the top five VCs right out of which Sequoia rejected matrix and Nexus were very interested. And I think lightspeed rejected sort of the five, three rejected two were very interested. And that’s it. Like that’s how it happened. Yeah. And then as soon as we got Nexus on and I got Nexus on then we looked for, like a second complementary player who would help us with the industry, if you will, education and Omidyar was great. We reach out to them and Blume, if I remember correctly, like as like to help us with education, if you will. Right. And that’s fair. Omidyar was very interested. So, I close it very quickly. I would say fortunate, I don’t have a very big struggle story around it. Yeah. And this was before, like, you were out of a job. This was all in that area. This is out of the job. It was not planned that way; I had given my notice period to discovery. And I had a long notice period. And I was like really going deeper into the idea. I had a good business plan. So, I kind of reached out into the market and got interest immediately. So, I built I almost kind of built in parallel after that. And really the company started in March 2019.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 34:26

Can you share your first 12 months of execution and the metrics on the business, what you track here?

Karan Bajaj 34:32

so, I had very strong metrics, which we were tracking right from the beginning, we had defined that product market fit would be when to pay, there would be a conversion of a very, like I call it a 50-50-50 rule 50% Net Promoter Score 50% renewal and at least a 50% chance that I’m getting a predictable trial conversion of 10 to 12%. Right. So that’s how so till then I kept a team very small, so six people in my house, right. And we built everything from there, the moment I hit that, I turned into a different animal altogether, I just blitz scale like nobody’s business site, I just scaled like crazy. So, to give you a sense, I did one crore of revenue in about per month of revenue in about the first nine months with less than 20 people, one cr per month revenue I hit and after that, I did 100 crores of per month of revenue in six months. So, every month I doubled after that, one crore to corrode four crore 8-16-32-64 I went up to 127 crores a month, roughly, in about six months’ time from there, six to seven months’ time. So, and then the acquisition happened in about 18 months’ time. So, so it was a very austere disciplined approach pre product market fit. And a completely I would say, completely uninhibited approach after scaling. And I made a lot of mistakes also, which are very public now, by the way, so, like, you know, like to journal heavily criticized and stuff, and they’re not, you know, as I said, like, these were public mistakes, right? I mean, we just blitz scale after that, because I, like, you know, the context was that they were, I was the last to arrive in the ed-tech market in 2019, people had been around for 10 years, you know, made it a category, anybody with no very little capital, I have, like, raised $1 million to start with, and then 10 million, and everybody was very well capitalized hundreds of millions of dollars of capital, the moment I realized that I’d created a category, and it was like, like, you know, then I, you know, I, before I raise the next round of funding, I just like, even in the talks of raising the next round of funding, I just, like scaled it so fast that, like, basically, nobody could enter that category at all. So by the time kids coding became a category, we became like, there was nobody who could like by the time, they even figured out that there’s this category being created, it become a huge category, you know, so I, so that’s how I planned it.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:13

And if you can share, what are the top five mistakes that you made during blitz scaling?

Karan Bajaj 37:19

first big mistake is like, I would say, five, okay, let me go count one by one, right. So, there’s a fair number of mistakes. So, if I were to prioritize the mistakes, I would say, number one is that the founder’s strength becomes a weakness of the company. That’s my key learning. So, I came from a brand management marketing background. So, I assumed I would be able to do it easily. So, I never hired Marketing Leaders at all, I hired all the things that I was not strong. And so, my tech team, my product team, curriculum, team, ops teams, they were like, excellent, right? I just thought that I would do marketing on my own the problem. The reality is that the founder’s general become the biggest weakness of the community is the founder has no time. Right? The founder can’t be a vertical owner at all. The founder has to be somebody who owns the whole company, right? Especially. So, I think that was one right I really the founders and becoming the weakness of the company, I think marketing, legal compliance, I think those things became the weakness of the company, I think overall, right? I think that’s just one second, I think, is that the founder’s role, I think, now I have a very clear sense, right? The zero to one the founder’s role is the product, they shouldn’t you should not hire a product manager in zero to one you are the founder is the owner of the product, right? One to 100 the founder’s roles are business system scaling, right? Your whole system should be instrumented and architected so that they scale 100-1000 your journey changes to becoming a culture person, right? Who’s really just championing values cultures, and does very, the business. It’s so instrumented that you’re just doing reviews and stuff, right? I think I made the zero to one transition quite well. I was very focused on the product, the product did very well with the users, the one to 100, I think I did quite well, with systems and stuff, the 100 to ,1000 I think I was too late. Maybe it was also the nature of the time I the zero to one was nine months. Like for us, everything was very compressed in a like, rapidly short period of time. But I think I should have made the 10 to,1000 transition of being a champion of values and culture much early. Right, which I’m just doing now, like after, you know, so I think that would be the second broader mistake, right? I think that the other mistakes are nested within them. Right? If I if I were to well, right, but the founders to immediately change the hat when he’s blitz scaling. And then when he when the blitz scale successfully happened, if you continue to go down that path also is not correct. Actually, you have to immediately change the so just to before we in March of 2020, we were 300 people, right? In August 2020. We were 6000 people, right? So, in six months, I went from 300 to 6000 people without a very clear framework around values and stuff. So obviously there were mistakes made all over the board. But you know, you live and you learn. nothing.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 39:57

The current metrics in terms of monthly revenue at white hat jr.

Karan Bajaj 40:02

yeah. So, I think consistently about, like 100 crs a month. So that would be like the, I would say the steady second as we open up to new markets and new courses that would keep going. Yeah. So, I think our stable state is about 100 crores a month until new initiatives keep coming in, like, you know, like taking it forward.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 40:20

Yeah. In the team would be roughly at around 6000 people

Karan Bajaj 40:23

at about 5000 people. Yeah, correct. Yes.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 40:27

And once you started, like, you mentioned about criticism once you started facing criticism, right? as a founder, how did you react at that moment? Did you say, you know, criticism happened in business? Let me focus on the business and scale it on you. While you’re mindful of that criticism? And let me change very mindful,

Karan Bajaj 40:43

I think very mindful on like, like, we were like, like, obviously, you know, it was like, the BYJUs acquisition huge Limelight on the company, the company wasn’t ready for that kind of Limelight, because it was really like, it was true, like, it was 18 months old, a huge like amount of Limelight and, like, a lot of like, holes in the in the systems and processes, right? I think it just kind of came in droves. And I was like just correcting one by one by one. Like, looking at everything and think okay, fix this is something that’s as simple as that system. So, I think, you know, I like I think the thing was a no, I would say, criticism was looked at to figure out how to make systems better. And second, I think at during all of this time, I just kept saying, look, let’s keep making the curriculum and the teacher quality better and better and better daily. That’s the product that we have. Right? Let’s so I had always had a separate team working on learning experience and teacher quality. And let’s keep making that better and better. So, I said, Okay, let’s even as we are fixing holes, and plugging, I don’t want the whole company to become about plugging holes, we should keep getting better at the same time. So, I kind of kept, like the like, I restructured very quickly, right and restructured the company to focus on learning experience and delivery, with as much intent as growth and systems. So, I was able to restructure the company to deliver on both objectives of growth with solid systems and improving the product daily.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 42:08

What are the side effects of you leading the marketing function for the company?

Karan Bajaj 42:13

The side effect is that it got no attention at all. Like because obviously, I had no time at all right? Like, in the end, the founder in a blitz scaling phase will always be extinguishing fires, right? That’s going to be the nature of the blitz scaling phase. And the founder has to let some fires burn obviously always has to let some fires burn. Because if you start to extinguishing every fire, then that, again, is not the best use. And, you know, these functions that you think you will just do, because they’re so easy, they get completely neglected. So, you know, every intern could just post on social media, whatever they wanted, like, be it was a free for all right marketing, like there was a bunch of 20-30 teams doing whatever they wanted, because there was no oversight on them at all. Right? So, I think, yeah, I mean, we kind of that was the consequence of that period.

Karan Bajaj 43:04

In retrospect, I think the founder’s strength will become the weakness of the company because of our things that are very easy. And it becomes so easy that you never attack it, right? Because you think that it’s like like you think it’s a solved problem? Because it’s solved in your mind?

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 43:16

And how was the acquisition experience? Like, like, what you open to, to that experience? Have you seen that I’m already 100 car company? Why should I go?

Karan Bajaj 43:27

No, I think I was very open, I think there were multiple things. One is basically I was at a stage of life where it was more about the mission than the like, so I felt like look, soon, because I was really blitz scaling then going like in the plans were more courses, more countries, I thought that 50% my job will become fundraising. Right? And if I were to think of my mission in the world, is that the mission to kind of build my own company? Or was the mission the kids becoming creative, or like kids never losing their spark of creativity. And if that’s the mission, then, you know, they BYJUs, like, you know, they have the biggest reach and the biggest, like, you know, they’ve, they built the biggest tech company. So, I think I will just be able to focus on what I do very well. And, and so it was very clear in my mind that anything I wanted to do on my own, we would be able to do faster, better, stronger, under the broader network. And I was at this phase of my life where I didn’t care whose name was on the company, or like, it doesn’t matter right at all at that, like I was, I mean not to say arrogantly. But I was reasonably accomplished in my other fields of life that I wasn’t looking for this as my like, only sorts of accomplishments. So that’s why I was never hung up on that. And then second, I think in startups, it’s very important that people understand the economics of a startup very well, right. I was at the perfect phase where it’s very hard for the acquire the acquired and the investors to be happy, right? Because if you raise too much money, valuations become out of control. acquirer who’s looking at a company with such exaggerated valuations will always pause right on the other hand, if you sell for less than investors who’ve invested in high valuation will be kind of like penalized, right, so, he is a bit of a perfect stage where I’d raised only $10 million, right? The last sound company was valued at only nine months ago is valued at $30 million $300 million straight cash deal would get all of the investors or at least a 10x exit and minimum in less than a year, right. Which is kind of a dream from a venture capital exit perspective. As a founder, I diluted very little my team, I was very generous with the ESOPs in the team they had, like, you know, so the team has been a ESOPS hadn’t diluted much. So, I knew it was kind of transmitted well for most people. And then from an acquiring perspective, to be very fair to BYJUs they had basically, this was a company that had barely been around, right, like February to March 2019, the founder actually left her job. And by requiring it in August, 2026 15 months in the requiring a company. You could like put a valuation around 100 crore a month. But you also have to say that, look, they haven’t lived through cycles of ups and downs, maybe the 100 cr per month is exaggerated because of the pandemic, maybe it’s not the cycle of the business. So I gave a heavy discount for the fact that I hadn’t lived through cycles in the business at all right? Any other company with 100 cr a month would be in India charging, like, you know, would be asking for billion, like, you know,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 46:24

a 1200 cr ARR

Karan Bajaj 46:25

1200 cr arr and it but I give a huge discount on the fact that look, the company has not lived through ups and downs cycles, right? It’s just been in the business for barely 15 months. So I think in a way, that wholly kind of equivalent of the founder, the founding team, the you know, everybody can have like, a, you know, reaching, like having a satisfying outcome is very hard in a startup. I don’t people don’t realize that right? I think people are too focused on the valuation of the next round. But it’s a very tricky thing, right to be a billion-dollar company, the investors look for a $2 to $3 billion exit, right? To be a $3 billion company, you have to kind of scale up to that level in a very short period of time, a lot of choices get made, that are not truly in line with what the founder really set out to do. You know, so I was quite clear on that. Yeah. So, it was actually a somewhat easy decision.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 47:14

Yeah. And how did life change after acquisition?

Karan Bajaj 47:18

life change after acquisition, I said, the relentless scrutiny on every moment was very new. You know, that guy. Like the scrutiny I got would have been the skirting that discovery would have gotten after 20 years of being in business and setting up every system well, right. I knew how to run discovery, but I was suddenly getting the script in here for discovery while being, you know, still in too many big things. Right, I think. But other than that, I would say, like, you know, I’ve learned to kind of live with that quite quickly. But other than that, I would say, no, it’s very pleasant, I think, to give BYJU a lot of credit, he has a very boundaryless vision of the world very similar to mine. But to give him even more credit, I think I developed that through travels and living outside India, for almost half of my professional career, he’s developed in sitting in India, you know, despite coming from a small village, he’s developed a very clear view that like, you know, that an Indian Education company can and will go global. Right. And I think because of that kind of alignment, I think we are able to do our things, right. He believes in the model a lot. He believes in the boundary lessness of the world or not. So, I think that’s, that’s great.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 48:21

Yeah. Then when parents criticize a white hat, Jr, not all, like some fraction of the new thing, or the value, or the mission you set out to is getting accomplished? Or has the business taken over that value observation?

Karan Bajaj 48:39

I actually think very, very few white engineer parents have, like, and I would be very open and like what would be very open to their criticism. But I would actually say the Net Promoter scores of white hat jr. are really unthinkable, right? I mean, I’m in my second year, like full and scaled and right, we’ve gone from 50 to 70. Typically, with scale in a services model, you actually decline. And we’ve been so religiously following this NPS metric that there was only kind of one month in the middle where that fallen to 41 after all the like the backlashes and everything and people weren’t proud to be associated with the company. Right? I would say I’ve never said like, I like the retracted, rigorous, rigorously, I think we’ve, through all of the distraction, we’ve just kept focused on delivering a very, very good customer experience, the creativity of the curriculum, that the teacher’s empathy and compassion, right. I think we’ve kind of kept very faithful to that overall, through all of this period, right. So, I think in that way, I haven’t had to worry about that contingent much because they we’ve really delivered on that on every promise we’ve made on that front. I’d like that as a KPI, almost NPS monthly class ratings are really right, live dashboard that I look at every day, right that that commitment of a great class, like a great project. It should never go down; it should keep getting better. So yeah,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 50:04

I think one thing, which is not highlighted much is that you have all teachers which are female, right? And this has become like an A, maybe some of them have gone dropping out of work, they have come back again into work. Correct? How many of these would be number today,

Karan Bajaj 50:22

we will have 11,000 Yeah. Well, so 11,000, like, amazing, yeah, incredible. You know, like hugely qualified educated women who didn’t have a voice in the workforce, because they obviously, women in India have to choose the right either go out of home and travel long distances, and, like the safety in big cities versus we gave a bit of an ad, right, they were very qualified. And they had the ability to do express their qualification at home, to kids all over the world, right. And that’s why the decision to go global, very early was used tremendously useful, because they wanted to do the night shift, right? Because they wanted to, it was not even a shift, right, they chose to open hours in the night, to allow kids from all over the world to take classes, because it meant it was the right thing for them. Right. They had families in the morning, and then they were able to, and they’re just so many stories of how they become independent. And like, you know, because of because of that, so I think, you know, that’s a very powerful

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 51:17

one, you know, please free Feel free to answer or not one criticism, you know, and which was very public was that, you know, there was one crore jobs, which are being advertised that kid who had gone to white hat Junior coding programs, got one cr jobs, naming wolf Gupta. And then you had to take back that campaign, like, how did this pan out? Like?

Karan Bajaj 51:44

See, I think, see, I would say let me put it like, I think you have to remember the context, right? We are talking about like 1200 creatives on Facebook, out of which six or eight creatives out of 1200 or maybe like, you know, creatives. You know, our social media creatives that somebody thinks is it’s not that there’s a claim that this kid has made 1 cr out of it junior at all, I think there’s somebody there is an intern who has who has apparently in his mind, a very fun idea that there should be a Wolf of Wall Street, there should be like, you know, there should be a wolf of Wallstreet kind of a kid who does great with coding. Okay, I mean, bad sense of humor. Okay, fair completely. But to treat it like that this is a claim that has been made in marketing for a while, like it’s true, like everything was so well before an exaggerated right. The reality is that, yes, definitely creative like that we should have rigorous compliance and legal mechanism for creatives like that to not go on, on Facebook, social media, whatever. And, and I think that’s the failure, right, not having the, like, strong enough legal compliance mechanism. But out of like, 1000 creatives, like we talked about eight creatives. I mean, that’s like a small proportion of what the companies talked about that too, in context of a humorous campaign. It was so overblown, that look base that I mean, I was like, okay, like, got it mistake made, identified, fixed, I mean, but it doesn’t represent, like, you know, 92% of like creatives, and it doesn’t represent the fact that 70% of revenue comes from referrals and people telling other people and the fact that like, 100 crore a month business in India has been created with no capital or already, like, at the time of acquisition at $14 million cash in the bank, when I picked up $11 million, because word of mouth was spreading and referrals because the product was good, but like, you know, again, in the noise, it just feels like, okay, they’ve kind of put some, like whole deceptive advertising, which has led to like that, but it was really so overblown, like, a few pieces of data. But having said that, they weren’t correct, you know, like, there is no, like denying that, but I’m just saying that, like, proportionality has to be kept in mind on the overblown nature of criticism versus the actuality. Having said that, you know, we fix that, a lot of that, and I think, like, I’ve cleaned up to a level that, you know, like, we don’t have any, like, any, like, we have a six-sigma process, right? As much in the upside as there is on the creative side.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 54:06

Yeah, in other country also, you know, we, when we criticize, we create criticize, and masters Be it cricket, or anything else. Really, players also, we

Karan Bajaj 54:19

truly know. And I think it’s fair to I think like, kind of brand suit and that sort of thing to see brands of our size and in the industry, we are in should be very responsible. I think that’s a well and truly a true science, writer Jr. in the education industry should be very responsible. And and, you know, we were not like at 15 months old company was not as like it was a, it was a big brand with a very, I would say work in progress back and, you know, in every form like work in progress systems and processes. So I think now it’s a brand with the systems and processes that are also as robust as they should be. So I think yeah, I mean, they’re not people. We’re not wrong in what they’re saying, but what proportion

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 55:01

From the point of view, you know, if you think from even Mark Zuckerberg or what people in Silicon Valley advocate, move fast and break things, right? You move fast, you know, things broke.

Karan Bajaj 55:14

Always Yeah. See, there are fires running all over it. As I said, You and your blitz scaling I hope many entrepreneurs reach that state when they are going from one to 100 crores, it’s a very fun journey. There are fires everywhere that you can see, right, your job is to figure out the fire, fire, the forest for the small fire that can eventually become a forest fire. And you do your best to prioritize what that forest fire is like, you can’t like, extinguish all fire. That’s the reality. And maybe I chose the wrong. Like, you know, maybe I chose one wrong fire that I should have extinguished early, but it’ll happen. I mean, I’m just telling you that anybody who’s lived through it, and most critics haven’t, it will happen. I just am I my, you know, like something will go wrong. You know, I think it’s just the nature of this game. And, you know, now, yeah, like, you just have to fix it quickly.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 56:00

Yeah. And startups are not focus on they shouldn’t be focused on, you know, but that’s also wrong issue. But they should be focused on improving the brand image, their job is to get the best product out. And once the product is out, get in the hands of as many people as possible.

Karan Bajaj 56:16

1 to 100 correct, 100 to 1000. as I said, you have to suddenly take a completely different view about brand and culture. Right. And I think that’s what happens, right? I think the 00 to one founder is the product founder, the one 200 is the scalar. The 102,000 is actually a very different and a mature lens. It’s a compliance culture brand. I think, for me, the 100 should have happened at about say probably 10 crores a month or 20 cr a month I started to focus on that and very large scale. Right. Like, like, so I we just like did scaled very, very fast. I think so I think Yeah, but you know, lessons learned, as I said, that’s why, right at the beginning, you were talking about second founders second time founders. I think that’s why they have the benefit of all of this. Yeah. The first-time founder, despite the fact that I ran discovery itself will never have the benefit of knowing all of this stuff, you know,

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 57:04

in things don’t happen to his team. So fast and slow heart rate when you are really leading this in discovery.

Karan Bajaj 57:10

Correct? Exactly, yeah. And also, things are matured and other systems and processes mature to a science. And although by the time I came to discovery CEO, I didn’t have to set up the quality process of getting TV serials on air, that process was set up, right, I had to execute and scale that process that was set up. Now in this case, you are setting up and scaling and executing at the same time.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 57:36

I’m also one of the one last thing, you know, around our critical aspect, right? You first know the white hat, Jr. First Data case on Pradeep punia for 20 Cr and then took back that case if you can share the topic,

Karan Bajaj 57:52

you know, I mean, like I’d rather not share on too much stuff on the Judiciary side. I think, like, you know, I think that’s the one area I would just say, because it’s a, like a judicial thing. I wouldn’t want to, like say something that gets misinterpreted overall. But in general, I would say like, you know, overall, if I were to look at the learnings of the whole, like, experiences and stuff, I think, you know, like, mistakes were made mistakes are corrected. And you know, and like I think, yeah, like, You’re, like, I’m very, I’m really positive about the next phase of the company. I feel fortunate that I lived through all of this because it’s really a transformative experience as an individual in its own way, you know, yeah.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 58:33

In fact, you know, even if you have seen the movie social network, right, yeah. Yeah, that scale of scaling. Yeah, correct. Exactly. Yeah. Mark Zuckerberg was criticized so much, right? Because that became legendary, right? When when you’re scaling, so, so fast, there are numerous amount of things that can go wrong. And founder being a human, right, he can be right on so many things only. So so that, you know, I think Silicon Valley is more forgiving.

Karan Bajaj 59:09 Maybe that could be

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 59:13

if you have to write, you know, your next book about the journey of white hat, Jr. You know, what, and you have to divide the first 10 chapters, what was the headings of these 10 chapters that you would want to aspire to imbibe in every entrepreneur?

Karan Bajaj 59:33

Oh, you mean? So, the whole journey into 10 chapters? Yes, yes. And I think that we the three phases are zero to one obsessive product focus, right and not scaling in that period. Not like just being what I call what is the famous term is the ramen profitability, right? Which is, like living on ramen noodles, right, which basically means really, very bare bones structure. Like very low salaries to people very low office space, right, really, really, till you figure out that you’ve reached the one phase. And I think the one to 100 phases should be very unapologetic again, like in the one to 100 phase, you have to be relentless at scaling. And in that like, you know, ops business systems hiring, like just go crazy, right at that at that phase. And, and then like, and at that phase, you’re, you know, you should be like fundraising aggressively because that’s your moment in the sun. Right? If you figured out the zero to one model than the one to 100 model, I’ve seen so many people blink during that time, right? I mean, before me they were live learning models, right? And I didn’t see them at that scale, because I don’t know what they like, you know why they weren’t, if that figured out that journey, they should have just scaled. And then the 101 to 1000 phase, as I said, you just have to wear a different hat of brand culture, compliance legal, and really make that transition. So yeah, so I think within these journeys, I think they’ve been learnings. I think my one other big learning that I’ve seen, if I were to really look at where I’ve seen other founders go a bit wrong, I am or what I see in front of me, because I was, I was the, as I said, the last to come to EdTech, right, there was very established players already. I’ve seen that a one 200 phase was not executed. Well, the blitz scaling was not done? Well. Second, I think it was too much focus on building products, without knowing what you are, what your real core competencies. So, for example, building your own video platform for a live Learning Company is just like, in my opinion, it’s the worst thing you can do, because there’s a solve problem with zoom. And so many people have solved the live learning video problem, right? Your problem, your problem to solve is content and delivery with the teacher, right, for example. So, I didn’t build any products at all that I didn’t think, was my core competence. So, we use coding platform coder to RGB, use the video platform, off the gate appear jitsi zoom, we used, like, you know, we just use platforms that exist. And we really believe that our job is to create content on them. Right as they are they are providing the blank canvas, we will create the content on them, and then we will make our teachers better and better daily. Right. And I think that’s what I see is that there’s a lot of like, building products that are not needed. For us a small setup should be very focused on what is your core competence, and only build that and try to outsource everything else, right, or outsource or, you know, use off the shelf products for everything else. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s the thing. And then the one to 100 phase, again, my biggest learning is the rhythm of metrics, really having the metrics like for example, I think even now, it’s been three years into, or maybe two and a half years into the company. Now, there is a practice that we had at 10 o’clock in the morning, we will look at all the metrics 10 to 11 o’clock for the day that went past. And I still do that daily. without a break, right? We look at how many people signed up for the trial, from which medium, what was the classes completed? What was the conversion, so we have like 20 metrics that we track daily for each market? And I still maintain that rhythm of tracking that monthly for like a daily. And I think that’s whatever gets measured gets managed, right? So, the like the management was very strong, because the measurement was very strong. And then I think as I sit down 100 to 1000 journeys, really investing in that the founder of becoming a culture champion, and really like wearing that side of you and taking dedicated time for that, which is very hard to do when you’re always busy in execution.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:03:29

If I have to just point out one thing, what would you say that one thing changes in Karan after this experience of building creating White Hart Jr.

Karan Bajaj 1:03:39

Very good question. Very, very good question. I think one thing I don’t know if anything has changed, but I would say one thing which has solidified is this view that you just need to show up every day with full energy and play the slots, right? So, like, which means that that that’s like, I feel like you just have to show up every day. That’s it like I’ve lived through thick and thin here, right through like in a two-year period. I’ve lived through the kind of starting booming busting, boom-bust, as I’ve lived through everything, right? The panic when the first lockdown happened and realizing that I was in the middle of a fundraising process. And everybody had, like all the fundraiser had, like, you know, everybody had kind of retreated that time, right? Nobody, right the first panel in the first lockdown, all the venture capitalists had kind of like decided not to invest or that or till the electoral certainty entered the world. And I was right in the middle of my blitz scaling phase, then I’m looking to raise capital. So, like, you know, I’ve lived through that period and then all of this like the whole wave of kind of criticism that came after the big was acquisition but I think what I’ve consistently done is I’ve just shown up every day and said look, every day I’m going to make the product better and my business metrics better and I think it always comes at the end of it, you always see the light. So, it’s just kind of solidified my view that you just have to show up every day, you know that eventually, all barriers break.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:05:05

Thank you so much, Karan. It’s been a wonderful experience, to know your mind, your mind, and your life journey on this podcast.

Karan Bajaj 1:05:13

My pleasure. Thank you for your time. Bye

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