A Chartered Accountant (CA) by degree, an innovator at heart, a coder by passion and an author, Mr. Saurabh Jain, Vice President, Paytm has had an unprecedented career path.
I first met Saurabh sir when he visited IIM Rohtak for a guest lecture. He talked about his journey from being a CA to becoming a successful entrepreneur and eventually leading Paytm’s “Build for India” initiative. His success story, his perseverance on the way and at the same time, his unwavering modesty is what left me with awe and respect for him. Post the lecture, without having any second thoughts, I associated myself with his initiative “Build for India”. Since that moment it has been my privilege and honour to have been in constant communication with him. Unquestionably, it was his name that first crossed my mind for interviewing a senior corporate professional for this valued write-up.
After friendly greetings and a brief introduction about the competition on the call, sir delightedly agreed to share with me some invaluable insights from his life experiences.
Notable Incidents in College/B-School that helped shape his professional career.
Saurabh sir believes that more than college it was the experiences at school that transformed his life path ahead. A student in Modern School, Barakhamba, he stumbled upon his passion when he became a member of the computer club at school. As a member of this club, he participated in a symposium. This symposium hooked him to computers and programming. Then, there was no stopping him, and he explored and dug deep into his fascination for computers. That one symposium gave birth to the aspiration of becoming the best coder in the world. He channelized his enchantment with computers and programming into building complex and delicate software products.
However, his path was sought with uncertainties and detours. With increasing interest in computers and programming, he wanted to pursue engineering. However, due to the untimely death of his father and the resulting increased responsibilities towards his family, sir chose to pursue a career as a CA. But this didn’t reduce the passion he held for computers. He continued to learn and explore more about computers science along with pursuing the study of CA. He went on to write India’s first book on mobile app programming in 2003.
He reflected that if that one life-defining opportunity to participate in that symposium had not happened, he would not have been in Paytm and would have worked as a Chartered Accountant (CA) all his life.
One passion that helps him stay on top of his game at work.
Reading is one passion he believes has helped him a lot. He got addicted to reading about four years ago, and has since read 174 books. The list of the books he has read can be found on his blog. The knowledge he acquired from reading has helped him get some big consulting contracts.
Earlier he used to have big ideas and vision to create something impactful but faced challenges in putting across those ideas to the audience with intensity and clarity. He believes that the learnings from reading these books has positively impacted his negotiation skills, brought more clarity to his vision, improved critical thinking skills and helped him in communicating effectively the idea of Build for India.
One incident where he really felt the impact of reading, was when he was invited for a meeting with Mr. Vijay Shekhar Sharma and other senior executives to discuss on “Paytm - Build for India” and he had little time to prepare. The knowledge he acquired from the readings, helped him to effectively put across his insights and vision for the initiative.
When looking for people in his team, apart from specific skills, the kind of attitude and approaches he looks for in candidates.
He looks for four things in a candidate:
- A candidate who is a ‘Maker at heart’
- Can work in a fuzzy environment where the candidate can ‘do’ and ‘undo’ at a fast pace
- Person is transparent and works with integrity
- Person can be in flow with the work
He believes that,
“If a person is in flow, the person, even if he is from an average background and not from tier-1 colleges, can beat any IIT/IIM person. In flow, you don’t feel like you are working, produce excellent output and time just flies.”
Citing his own example, he believed that even though he is currently doing work in his official capacity, he doesn’t feel like he is working because he loves the work he is doing. He believes that in Paytm they hire people who love their work and are in flow with the work they do.
This brief yet engaging conversation left me with some significant takeaways. I am an avid reader myself but never truly appreciated its value in terms of how greatly and irreversibly it can expand a reader’s thinking. The passion which was resonating from Saurabh sir during the interaction could make me very well understand how ‘work’ and ‘being in flow’ co-exist. I hope that someday I can carry the successes and failures in my life with such humility and vigor.