My Interview with Rashi Kakkar - Management Consultant and Writer of Decks and Diapers
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I had the great pleasure of interviewing Rashi Kakkar, a management consultant from Toronto and writer of the newsletter Decks and Diapers.
Rashi grew up in several cities across India and then went to university in Delhi. She worked in consulting and sports management before moving to Toronto in 2016 to pursue an MBA at the University of Toronto. Today, Rashi works for one of the world’s top consulting firms and balances work with being a new mother.
What are the most exciting trends you are seeing in India today?
The boom of digital adoption in everyday life. I link part of this to Reliance Jio, who provides dirt cheap data that made all of their competitors reduce their data prices. Now everyone from the household help to your grandma has a smartphone. People are much more comfortable with digital and this acceleration has happened so quickly over the last four years. In India, people primarily access the internet through their mobile phones and that makes the power of Whatsapp another exciting trend. Whatsapp in India isn’t as powerful as Wechat in China, but people in India consider Whatsapp to be the internet. It’s a commerce channel. People can place orders on Whatsapp.
Another thing is the boom of OTT platforms. I left India four years ago and at the time there wasn’t Netflix or Spotify. Now they are both in India and my grandmother has started referring to Netflix as ‘TV.’ And another trend is the boom in professional sports leagues over the last 8-10 years. It was hard to make a living as a professional athlete, even just fifteen years ago. Today, sports is more societally acceptable as a career and there is a clear path for athletes to make a living.
How do you think the coronavirus has affected business and society in India?
Coronavirus is not so much a disruptor, but an accelerator of trends. One example is tele-health. My aunt is a paediatrician who has her own private practice. She had never previously considered delivering healthcare through technology but she has quickly pivoted to tele-health out of necessity. Another growing trend is the need for people to do things on their own, like household chores. There has been a boom in home appliances that wouldn’t have been as popular several years ago. Many people no longer want to rely on domestic help and are instead considering home appliances because of the coronavirus. And a third trend is the move to online education. With everything being taught online, parents now have a better idea of the quality of their children’s education and what could be better. This will create demand for higher quality online education products and services.
What is one thing people outside of India misunderstand about the country?
People refer to India as one unit but the first thing people need to understand is the sheer diversity of the country. I always tell people to think of India more like Europe - it’s a bunch of different nation states that are somehow magically staying together. I keep telling people in Canada that the term “Indian food” is a misnomer. There is no food in India that’s really consumed across the entire country. And from a business perspective, a solution that works in one part of the country will not work everywhere. Another misunderstanding is that people just assume all Indians aspire to come to the West. That may have been true twenty years ago but not now, when opportunities are more attractive in India. I don’t think all people in India look to the US and say ‘that’s where I want to be’ or ‘that place is miles ahead.’ Increasingly, there are certain pockets in India that are as global as major cities around the world. Many Indian students who attended the University of Toronto with me ended up going back to India because the job opportunities were better.
What are some companies you admire in India?
One company that I admire is Zomato. They are like a combination of Uber Eats and Yelp. It started in 2009 or 2010 and the two people who started the company previously worked at Bain. When I started at Bain, everyone was talking about the guys who had just left the company to start Zomato. The two founders used to work late into the night and would get frustrated with the process of ordering food. They started off by taking pictures of restaurant menus and posting them on Bain’s intranet. They began as a restaurant discovery platform, but moved into food delivery over the last five years and are now valued at around $2 Billion. I admire them not necessarily because they’re super innovative, but because they have such a high level of ambition. Zomato is one of the first Indian startups to have such a massive level of success. They have expanded all over Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and even the US. To see such an ambitious Indian startup with its global headquarters in Delhi is truly inspiring.
Another company I like is Cult, an Indian fitness company. They used to be purely brick and mortar gyms but because of the pandemic they created an app for on-demand live workouts to be delivered online. They’re also expanding into areas like mindfulness and meditation and partnering with restaurants for healthy eating. They were basically a gym they could have been completely bankrupted by Covid, but they’ve moved so quickly to adapt and are now more successful than ever.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone trying to get their business to thrive in this time period?
I would tell people to cut the flab and become hyper focused on profitability. That’s what you need to survive. Give people value and then people will buy from you. Be focused on your core mission. Be super aggressive with your budgets and make sure you’re not in a situation where you’re in the red. Obviously it’s super tough right now for a lot of companies, but with razor focus and hustle I think there will be companies who will come out of this with a completely reimagined business model. Every crisis leads to innovation. We’ll eventually look back and see that superstar companies were created during this financial crisis.
A - What’s the best thing you have watched recently? (Film, TV Show, Ted Talk, Youtube Video, etc.)
Honestly, I’ve literally not watched television since becoming a mother. We’re trying to not expose our baby to screens until she’s two!
B - What’s the best thing you have read recently? (Book, Article, Research Report, Tweetstorm, etc.)
One book I’ve read recently is White Fragility. While I don’t agree with everything in the book, the way the author looks at racism is something I’ve never thought about. It describes racism as a structure and system, which is really interesting for me as a person of color living in North America. The other thing I’ve enjoyed reading is the newsletter Not Boring. Definitely recommend people to check it out!
C - What’s the best thing you have listened to recently? (Song, Album, Artist, Podcast, Audiobook, etc.)
I listen to a whole bunch of podcasts, but here’s one I binged recently - Land of the Giants by Vox. It talks about the fascinating history behind big tech companies like Amazon and Netflix. It almost feels like you’re listening to a documentary!