Started my new project, the High Achiever’s Project with a conversation with someone truly inspiring and insightful – Mr Rahm Shastry, CEO and Cofounder, DriveU! I am so grateful to Dr Trivikram Rao for the wonderful nomination!
Rahm left India in 1980 after completing his B.Tech in Electronics and Communications. For the next three decades, he gathered rich and diverse experience in the field of technology and startups in Silicon Valley. His given, legal name is Ramprasad but he shortened it so that it would be easier to pronounce for his colleagues in the US.
DriveU, founded by Rahm and his son Ashok, is India’s first app based solution for private car owners to book curated drivers with a pay-as-you-go pricing model. DriveU even offers a trip insurance !
My first question was around Rahm’s reasons to launch DriveU. I thought this question would give me insights on how high achievers choose where to invest their talent and energy – what is their mindset while birthing new projects. The answer has interesting facets –
- The desire to question existing ways of doing things and asking how can they be done in a better way. This to me, is a hallmark of minds that create extraordinary results – a pattern seen time and again with those who do trailblazing stuff.
- A very deep desire to give back to his country. Our conversation was on the phone, I was in Bangalore while Mr Shastry was in the United States, yet, in spite of the distance, without any eye contact, I could sense the emotion with which he expressed this thought and it was very touching and inspiring. I feel when one takes up a cause for a reason that is bigger than himself/herself, the motivation to make it happen, is at a totally different level. Naysayers or doubts (even self doubts) don’t hold one back!
- Given his vast experience and understanding of the startup phenomena, he feels, today India is in a very exciting phase of growth. This is a journey he wants to be a part of!
- A desire to create a business that is not only about generating wealth for the business owner but also for everyone associated with it, especially those who execute the idea – in this case the drivers at DriveU. The underlying thought is to go beyond just paying the drivers – it is to ensure a fair system that truly does justice to their effort and creates a positive shift for them and their families. I could sense a mindset focused on creating impact, touching lives and ensuring win-win situations!
I was curious to know if questioning existing ways of doing things and the habit of pushing the envelope came naturally to Rahm. Tracing back the origins of this pattern, he fondly recalled an incident from his school days when his father first opened his mind to topping the board exam at the state level (he was consistently among toppers in school but had not thought of the possibility of topping at state level). The possibility not only excited him, it also triggered his intrinsic business acumen – he asked for a puppy in return for the commitment to top the state. His father got him a puppy and guess what, he topped the state board exam ! The culture in Silicon Valley helped further strengthen his habit machine. “Questioning existing ways” and “pushing the envelope” are an integral part of the culture in the Valley. By the way, topping the state board exam also started his journey of discovering his love and compassion for animals.
Working for a cause beyond personal success is also an interesting trait I have noticed with high achievers and I was interested in exploring this aspect. An anecdote narrated by Rahm gave me an interesting insight. During his student days at NITK ( National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal), an incident drove him to take a rather unconventional decision for those times – the decision was to run for the Student Union President election! This incident was – witnessing a bus being set on fire by students in the campus. His sense of gratitude towards his institute guided his decision. He was forewarned that as per the history of these elections, those who chose to contest, fail their exams and take 7-8 years to graduate. Rahm handled his academics as well as the elections – he won the election, did great work as the president and topped his batch! The insight I got here was the reason “why” he chooses to take up what he does is driven from a place of gratitude and a desire to give back and create value – be it now through DriveU or three decades back through his decision to become the President of the Student Union. That to me, is such a powerful insight about the exceptional drive that the reason to do something from a place of gratitude can create!
Through his vast experience, Mr Shastry has chosen 5 values that are integral to the culture at DriveU. They are :
- Customer Focus ( Customers for him are not only the end users but also the Drivers)
- Integrity (Do what you say and say what you do)
- Kaizen / Continuous Improvement
- Accountability – Taking ownership! In fact, at a personal level, he feels that as citizens each of us should take ownership of what we can do for the country rather than relying solely on the government.
- Team Work
A trait I am personally very excited about, is bringing more of “yourself” (your unique traits, and what you value) to everything you do. It was interesting to see Rahm’s version of this trait. His love for dogs extends to his family and work – I think the journey started with the puppy who came as an incentive to top the board exam 😀
His love for dogs is seen in DriveU’s pet friendly culture. Employees can bring their pets to office. There are interesting perks encouraging adoption of Indies – if one adopts an Indie, they get one week off from work along with some other interesting perks! So far, Rahm and Ashok have adopted 5 Indies
Ever thought what could sometimes hold High Achievers back? Rahm says delegating was something that didn’t come easy to him. He had to work on it. He feels learning how to delegate effectively and even more importantly, learning how to “give space” once you have delegated, could make a world of difference to managing time so that one can create bigger impact in the limited time available. He also recommends limiting one’s to do list to three or four high impact items per day and delegating the rest effectively! Rahm also strongly advocates creating ways to prevent the mind from shuttling between past and future. Creating effective results in limited time comes from razor sharp focus when one is fully “present and mindful”. According to him, Bhagwad Gita, has interesting insights on how to run a good business.
Work life balance is often an area that makes High Achievers feel guilty.
Long hours and weekends away from home take away from time with family. For the last 20 years of his startup journey, Rahm has creatively integrated his work life and family life together. His sons and pets came to work with him when they could. His sons worked for his company when they were teenagers. DriveU was Ashok’s brainchild and now the father-son duo run the company together.
As he looks back at the events in his life, he feels they converge beautifully! He had a desire to give back to his country, to touch lives and here he is, with his experience in technology and startups, launching a startup in Bangalore, his hometown, at a time when this country is going through a growth spurt in the startup space and by the way he is doing all of this using a business model that doesn’t just create wealth – it shares profits and touches lives of the families of the drivers who have implemented the idea! He believes “Every event in life, good or bad, happens for a reason which makes sense only in hindsight”. I feel that is such an empowering belief. If I were to rephrase, a belief one could leverage is “Everything happens for a good reason”!
Rahm’s humility and openness to share his experience have evoked a feeling of respect, gratitude and admiration in me. He was on a trip to the US when I reached out to him. He generously accepted my request and took out time for me. There is so much that I could learn and absorb from him in just one conversation – the code of his High Achiever Mindset!
- Questioning existing ways of doing things and pushing the envelope
- Choosing goals that are driven by causes beyond personal success – giving back from a place of gratitude
- Learning to sense the timing (when is the right time to implement an idea and where it should be implemented)
- Using time wisely and learning to delegate
- Being “present and mindful” in the moment.
- Having a strong set of personal and business values
- Bringing more of “yourself” to every aspect of your life
- Being creative with work-life integration
- An empowering belief “Everything Happens for a good reason”
Very grateful to you Rahm, I wish you all the best – may you create the impact that you desire because I know it will touch many lives and bring tremendous value!