Thursday, August 12, 2010

Know Your Alumni Series: Part 3

" Ujwal Tikoo, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder"

PGSEM Batch: 2006
Total Years of Experience: 14
Current Organization:
Current Role and Responsibility: Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder
Role Before Joining PGSEM: Senior Product Manager, Yahoo!
Role After Completing PGSEM: Director Product Management, mChek

LinkedIn Profile :

Taggle Internet Ventures Pvt. Ltd., the Internet startup Ujwal co-founded, recently attracted $8.75 million venture funding. We interviewed Ujwal for "Know Your Alumni" series.

Q. Tell us about your journey to where you are today?

The Journey has shaped in the most unexpected ways. I had not imagined or planned exactly about where I am today. I have mostly gone with the flow and I don't know how things will shape tomorrow.

My entrepreneurial venture has been a work of serendipity, though I always thought that some day I may take the plunge. I got interested in Product Management after some experiments in my career and stayed on as I enjoyed the role. Work at Yahoo! taught me the most about the web and then I dabbled with mobile to complete my understanding of how mobile internet and web convergence would happen.

It has been a *lot* of hard work and work and more work. Nothing has come easy or on its own..

Q. Tell us something about the family?

I live with my wife and two wonderful kids in Bangalore. My children are the source of a lot of satisfaction.

Q. 3 words to describe you.

Thinker, Communicator, Friendly.

Q What could have been an alternative career for you?

Teaching. I still hope that someday I would be able to do it to my hearts satisfaction.

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Every day is new. You close one issue many new problems pop up. Sometimes its hard to not feel exhausted. Entrepreneurship is vastly different from whatever you can ever read in a news article or a book or a biography. There is only some truth in stories we read, because they are painted beautifully for an audience. Experience is the real benchmark.

Q. Describe THE incident which has influenced you the most to be what you are today.

While working in a MNC, headquartered in the US, a series of incidents made it clear to me that if I wanted career growth I would have to venture into the startup world. I was doing very well in the MNC and loved the company, so it was quite a big shift for me.

Q How do you unwind from the business pressures that are an inseparable part of your job?

Playing with my children, reading, watching TV, yoga meditation. I find Ayurvedic Massage quite relaxing.

Q. When was the last holiday you went when you were completely shut off from the outside world?

Last year I went with my parents and family to Kashmir.

Q. Lighter elements/ interesting bit that no one knows about you!

I used to be quite stressed out in PGSEM days before exams. Sometimes I wouldn’t know whether I would even do well. But I did eventually pull it off quite decently!

Q. Your personal slogan.

I kind of don’t believe too much in Slogans and one-liners. I read a lot of spiritual books and draw inspiration from lives of great men. Life throws new challenges, unexpected bits that no one slogan can make up for all that I have seen and experienced in life.
Q. Whom do you consider as your Role Model and Why?
Venkat Panchapakesan, Ex-SVP at Yahoo! (now VP Engineering at Google) has had a great influence in how I think of leadership and influence. Whenever I have spoken to him, I have felt uplifted and good. Though he would face a lot of organizational issues as a leader, I never can think of a single occasion when the pressure of those situations made him not inspire someone he met. An organizational leader has to inspire people around him to rise to their best potential, by feeling good about themselves and the challenges they are facing. I feel Venkat has mastered that art.

Venkat also cared a lot about people in his organization. During some tough times, he and I were talking and simply said "let’s take care of our people."

Also, one of things I learned from what he used to say regularly "when you reward people, don't be a socialist, be a capitalist". People are tight fisted when they are rewarding performance. Venkat's approach was refreshingly different and he applied the idea of capitalism to rewarding people.

In him I have seen a lot of traits that are looked for in a Level 5 leader

Q What was the influence of PGSEM in the professional life?

I learned a hell of a lot at PGSEM. Not only from the mainstream courses on entrepreneurship, marketing, strategy but also the courses that shaped my thinking about myself e.g. REIL, PIE, and Spirituality in Management. These courses helped me build an outlook and a personal toolset to cope with personal challenges that are thrown by today’s complex work places. Its work in progress.

Q. What is your message for PGSEMers?

IIM B has an exceptional community and PGSEM is an outstanding program. Stay in touch with the faculty and they will mentor and advise and help you a lot. What you will learn from PGSEM will immensely shape your life in the future. There are challenges in being a PGSEMer but where else would you get an opportunity to study from some of the finest teachers of management while continuing your work and meeting your financial and other obligations? Though it is tough when its on, you will miss it when its over! I would any day love to become a student again and sit in a class to learn more!

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