THE UNEXPECTED ENTREPRENEUR
CEO India|January 2020
Naveen Tewari, the co-founder and CEO of marketing cloud major InMobi, talks about how he challenged societal — and his own — perceptions around entrepreneurship and created a disruptive new age technology company
PRIYANCA VAISHNAV

When you speak to Naveen Tewari, the first thing that strikes you is not the fact that he is the cofounder and CEO of the world’s leading marketing cloud company, InMobi. What really rings close home is the reminiscence of humble beginnings and aspiration to offer incisive solutions on a global scale.

Tewari’s “philosophy of constant innovation and disruption,” his website bio says, “is embedded deep into the DNA of InMobians and is resonated across InMobi. His dream is to reimagine advertising in a truly ‘user-first’ way and unlock the true potential of the mobile ecosystem.”

An engineering graduate from India’s premier technology institution, IIT-Kanpur, Tewari did his MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was bestowed with the Dean’s Award for his exceptional leadership and contribution. In 2013, his alma mater, IIT-Kanpur also honoured him with the esteemed Distinguished Alumnus Award for his excellence in entrepreneurship. But for the longest time, including his years at IIT, the young student was just not interested in starting or running a business at all.

But ask him if he’d goad more juniors and aspirants towards entrepreneurship and you get a glimpse into Tewari’s evolving thought process about it: “I was a lot more interested in technology. I grew up in an environment wherein business was not to be considered (as a career) at all. Business was not perceived as something that created value. It was perceived as an occupation that generated money. Money generation and value creation are not necessarily tied together.”

“Entrepreneurship is today seen very differently — it creates employment that is meaningful, moving the world forward, drawing services, and making the world a better place to live, especially when you look through the lens of technology. So obviously I would advise people differently than what I grew up with, which had a lot to do with the thought process I was surrounded with at that point of time,” he says.

The now seasoned entrepreneur, however, cautions whilst encouraging not just individuals but the community at large: “It’s not easy, for sure. The failure rates are high. The key for any society to grow is if many of its people are creating things. It is great to be an employer as against being an employee. The society needs to be able to promote entrepreneurship so more people can veer towards it. Not a very large proportion of the population will prefer it as a career because of the risk of failure. The ones that will succeed will produce results. A lot of people should try so a lot more successes would come out of it. I’m also a big believer that people who aspire to become entrepreneurs should work elsewhere (as employees) to understand the craft — sales, product, project management, business development, and so on — there is anyway a lot of risk in starting and running a business, why increase your risk by knowing less?”

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