A techie at heart, Amit has played a key role in bringing an innovative approach to the traditional learning management system (LMS) and has been instrumental in putting UpsideLMS on the global map. He leads UpsideLMS’ technology solutions team, orchestrates the sales and marketing operations, and consults businesses in making their learn-tech initiatives a success.
1.) How have you kept abreast with times to achieve the position that you’re in today?
ANS: The world has changed more in the last decade than it has over the past 50 years. And it continues to change at an exponential rate. The only way to keep abreast (and sometimes ahead) is to learn, apply, unlearn, learn anew and repeat. At a personal level, I make sure I keep a tab on all that is happening around me, which helps me anticipate it even more. At an organization level, UpsideLMS was founded on the very principle of innovation and progress, to ensure we always stay ahead of the times. The key to this is to really listen to customers and keep an eye on the future while keeping an ear to the ground. Bringing innovations to our product, processes, people, and our workplace as a whole is at the core of what we do.
2. Can you share with us some defining moments that tested you as a man of mettle?
ANS: My earliest experience dates back to the day I was the first person in line to select a branch of engineering and the college where I would pursue my future education. I had just graduated and cleared the entrance exams. My father couldn’t join me for the counselling and I was categorically told to choose Mechanical Engineering, which was in demand back then. However, my gut feeling wanted me to choose Computer Science, and that’s exactly what I ended up doing. It took a lot of inner strength for me to do that, and I realized that life keeps throwing us such tests and you must stick with your gut feeling. The next defining moment was when I decided to quit Infosys within 15 months of joining. This is when being at Infosys was considered ‘the’ dream job. Once again, I followed my gut feeling and joined a small start-up instead, where I grew and developed and finally pursued entrepreneurship. However, what has helped me tremendously is my family’s blind faith in my capability. It made me bolder and encouraged me to take some risks. There have been many other moments, but these two have completely defined my life and my career as I know today.
3.) How has the entrepreneurial spirit and environment changed? Has it come a long way?
ANS: Yes, it has certainly come a long way. The IT wave has given millions of people in India a new hope and better standard of living. It is quite heartening and assuring to see the newer generation and even the experienced people who take the plunge and define their own paths. In a country like India, the size and diversity can truly grow only when everyone has the entrepreneurial spirit. Today, what we have is a testimony to Indian grit and innovation. Of course, there’s a long way to go, but we are already running and gunning in the right direction. Pune is a great example of the change in environment. Along with skilled talent, it has certainly contributed a lot to the entrepreneurial spirit!
4.) Where do you see the enthusiasm for self-employment going?
ANS: As difficult as it can be, for a country, to get hooked on to the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s equally difficult to slow it down once it starts. At macro and micro level, the Indian economy is very strong and it will only fuel the enthusiasm for self-employment much further. With the right support from the government and the increased focus on start-ups, it is indeed a step in the right direction. However, we also need to be cautious, as the foundation has to be very strong. We need to quickly learn the new set of skills needed for the new era and take the spirit right back to our schools, preschools, and even homes.
5.) What did you have in mind when you started off as an entrepreneur and how much of it have you achieved, you think?
ANS: Doing things my own way and doing them better than others has been the driving force behind becoming a successful entrepreneur. Today, UpsideLMS serves global companies and is counted amongst leading LMS platforms in India and abroad, and that speaks a lot in terms of achievements. Personally too, I have achieved a lot. Coming from a humble middle-class family to becoming a successful entrepreneur has certainly been a fascinating journey. I completed my MBA from IIM Lucknow, after which I joined Infosys in Pune. But, I always knew that I wanted to be on my own. For UpsideLMS’ success, I must to fully assign credit to the incredible team that I have been very fortunate to work with. They’re the ones that will surely take UpsideLMS to newer heights. On a more personal front, I couldn’t have done a single thing without the unconditional love of my family and their support at every step. Life has been extremely good to me.
6.) How much emphasis would you lay on lateral thinking? How has it helped you in your journey?
ANS: More often than one would like, things will get stuck at a point where the logical solution approach would fail you. And the pressures and the demands at that point in time will not give you enough time to think elaborately. Lateral thinking is the only way to survive. And it will happen with customers, team members, force majeure situations, technology and so on. Quick thinking, ability to think out of the box, and thinking laterally are the key traits of an entrepreneur. It is important to keep your cool and approach the challenge calmly because you will need all your creative power to solve it.
7.) How do you generate new ideas? What keeps it ticking?
ANS: Number one thing is to be passionate about what you do and be completely invested in it. This helps you to be always on alert, to stay relevant and even one step ahead of everyone else. And then, you absorb information or intelligence or ideas from books, your social network, meetings with people, interactions with clients and team members, and to be on the lookout for what more you can do for your customers. There is no magic formula for this one – its simple and straight – learn, learn, and learn! At UpsideLMS, we do regular and intense brainstorming and we involve people irrespective of hierarchy and roles, because you never know where that next bright spark will come from. And then we use tools and technology to ensure we don’t lose those ideas. We have a simple mechanism for people to share and collaborate.
8.) Words of advice for the new generation.
ANS: Whatever I can offer is my experience. It is for the audience to take away something, if it relates to them. What I know, and what is true for any entrepreneur, is that entrepreneurship is a one way street and there is no going back. Jump on it only if you can go on even when you hit a wall that seems impossible to climb. No cribbing, no complaints, just moving forward with all you have got. Fail but never quit! Learn and start again, but never quit! While it’s lonely at the top, you can’t realize your dreams without trusting and empowering people who share your dreams and passions. Trust them 100% and give them all they need to make it happen, and then get out of their way. Be there to resolve conflicts and brainstorm with them, but let them work it out.
“Don’t fall for the glamour of the entrepreneurial world. It’s all but temporary and transient. Be honest to yourself for the reasons you are in it for and be prepared to make some big sacrifices along the way. Sheer hard work, undiluted focus, and trust in your people – you don’t need much more than this.”
And my last advice is – whatever you are building or offering or serving, always put your end user at the centre. Do not get carried away by technology. Technology is not the end game! The user is the end game!
9.) Who influenced you the most in your life? Any experiences that you would like to share?
I have learnt a lot from my parents. Their capacity to raise four kids with expenses four times of the income, and never losing their cool, that was the most valuable lesson ever. Positivity, perseverance and planning can turn around everything. Never lose hope (but do not sit idle). While I learned the value of money, it also taught me the place of money – as a tool and not the end of it all. This has enabled me to think of people first before the money or the cost. You might earn a rupee less in profit, but you will earn smiles and happy faces forever. I also learnt collaboration, sharing and support from my siblings and the power of unconditional trust from my wife. And, my daughter has made me realize the true meaning of keeping work out of the home. In terms of philosophy, there have been many influences from Swami Vivekananda to Sigmund Freud (surprising but true!), and I also attribute a lot to the famous book by Ayn Rand – The Fountainhead. Of course, I have been fortunate enough to have amazing friends from school, my engineering as well as MBA days.
10.) What are your future plans?
ANS: At UpsideLMS, we are now building the next generation of learning platform. Next six months will be committed to just that. We want to give our users and customers a complete, smart and a hassle-free learning experience. We are also working hard on how we can leverage Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and other smart technologies to provide time and cost effective solutions to our customers and users. The entire UpsideLMS team and I are also very excited and looking forward to an aggressive global expansion over the next six to nine months. So, the future is looking promising for sure!