Chief Guest's Speech

Video Format

Naveen TewariGood afternoon, Mr. Karnik, Prof Jalote, faculty members, Professor Sanghi, graduating class of 2016, parents, it's an absolute honor to be here today. You know, truth must be told, you know when Professor Jalote and Professor Sanghi sent me an email, I wasn't sure why they were sending me an email to invite, because you know, I am from IIT Kanpur, they've seen my grades. So I was a little confused, not if, that wasn't enough, I also grew up on the same campus where they were professors, so you know in the classical way I would call them uncles and I would typically shy away from them because you know if you see them on the roads they would ask a simple question 'Padhai kaisi chal rahi hai?' the answer to which question I would generally not even have or at least would not try to entertain them with it because it would be a complete lie of what I'm trying to do.

So, you know, it's an, again, it's an absolute honor to be here. About 15 years ago, I sat on the other side as I was a graduating and I know some of these are the most boring lectures that you can get. So here's the deal between you and I. I wanna try and keep it as short as possible, don't sleep on it. I've dozed through some of them, and they're really tough, so I hope we can kind of continue this dialogue happily. You know, before I even dive deeper into anything, I think for all the students out here, be very very proud. Be very very proud, you're graduating from one of the best institutions on the planet and that's not an easy feat.

Only 1% of the people on the planet get what you've just gotten. So please give yourself a big big round of applause. I actually couldn't hear the guys on the top by the way. By the way, this day's even more and much bigger for few other people and I always say this at any convocation that I go to, this day is much much bigger for your parents, specially for your mothers. They've sacrificed a lot to see you where you are today. They're probably been the ones who would've gotten up in the morning to make sure you have the tea, so that you can get, you know, study through this. So I wanna do one thing, and I want everyone who is graduating today, please stand up and even those who are on the upper floors, I know we can't see you but I'm pretty sure you can see us. Can you guys give the loudest applause to your parents and to your mothers for who deserve this. I don't think it's loud enough here guys. It has to be louder than this. They've done a lot to you. Thank you.

You know, I remember my own graduation quite well. It was, as I said, it was 15 years ago. It was a great day of pride but at the same time, it was a very sad day for me also. It was sad because that was the day I found out that my father had cancer. And I knew at that point of time, he was my inspiration, he was everything to me. And then you find out that he only has a few years to live. Suddenly as you try and step into a new world, a different world is actually going underneath you. I wasn't sure what to do and I wasn't sure how I would go through life without him. We all knew it was only a matter of some time before he goes away. That day, he told me a few things, he told me actually three things. Some of them didn't make sense to me that day. They make a lot more sense to me now, obviously I'm a little older. I wanna share these three stories with you, just the three stories.

The first thing he told me was do what you love. You know, a lot of us in life, I come from a family of academicians, as I said I grew up on IIT campus, my grandmother was a professor, my father was a professor, my uncles are professors, everyone that I knew around me were professors. The pressure to be a professor, to go into academics is pretty high. Thank god I'm not one. You know, it's better to be an okay entrepreneur than to be a bad teacher, because then you impact lives of many. I didn't get into that, I didn't go into that. Probably wasn't sure why, wasn't sure because maybe I didn't like it. But I did get into the rat-race of the world. I did get into the rat-race of the world of looking for compensation, looking for promotions. Spent few years doing that. Everyone was happy. Specially the neighborhood people were very happy. Because people in the neighborhood, that's what they tout about. I realize I wasn't living my own life, I was living a life for my neighbors, and that was becoming challenging. I didn't want to live a life for somebody else, life is short.

You have roughly about 30,000 days. You've lived 10,000 of them. The last 10,000 of them are not that productive, you've 10,000 left. Let's make sure you do something that you can really really do well. When I started InMobi, it was not so much to say I want to build a company, a big company. No it was not, it was to say I want to do something that'll just keep me happy. But I realized soon after, if you do something that you love, you will succeed in it. So therefore my first message, please go ahead, as you leave these halls today, and go into this wide world, avoid the rat-race. Avoid doing things for others, and this does not mean that you are not, specially avoid living life for others. Do what you love and you will see what you achieve for the next many many years, will be astounding and will surprise you yourself. So it is very important to do that, and I'm glad I did this by the way, because I've loved every moment of the last 8-9 years that I've run InMobi. I've had my own set of challenges, but those challenges don't even come close to the amount of excitement that I get on a day-on-day basis. So therefore, my first message that I understood many years later from my father was: do what you love.

The second thing that he said which took the longest for me to understand was, have faith.You know, having started InMobi, and it was not easy. We, as we founded InMobi in 2008, we started on working on the first version of the product, we worked day in and day out. We would burn midnight oils, we worked for 8 or 9 months. 8 or 9 months later we realized whatever we had built is complete crap, so we had to shut it. We shut it. Very tragic, very heart-broken. We said no issues, we'll come up with the next version. We started on the next version of something, but soon we ran out of money, we were broke.

We lived for about 7 or 8 months without money, not just myself, but everyone in the family, and everyone in the company was without money. People stuck on. They worked on something. Every moment, by the way, while this was happening, every moment, every day, and at times many times a day, you wanted to give up. There was an urge to give up. You could see your friends out there driving cars, buying homes, having dogs. You didn't even have enough money for food, you'd live days in and days out just on idlis, because that's the cheapest form of food. At that point of time, I'm not sure what kept me going, what kept the team going, but there was at some level, there was a belief that things would turn. And they don't turn that easy, you don't know when it will happen. It's literally like walking into a fog. You're walking into the fog, every moment you drive into the fog, you want to turn back, why? Because you know what's back there. What is the problem with the fog, you don't know what's ahead, so you don't want to move forward. But suddenly, I don't know how many of you have driven in fog, you live in Delhi, you must have done it a lot of times. You suddenly see openness, you suddenly see everything, the fog would vanish.

People told me this would happen, I just didn't believe it. I had to see it for myself. As I said, I ran out of money. We had no money, we were three weeks away from shutting the company, I was travelling in the US, trying to pitch to people to give me some money, beg people. Despite all the degrees and trophies I might have had, people kicked me out. They basically said whatever you're doing is not going to work. It's very tragic because at that point of time, your own confidence is at the least. You're at the ebb of life, you want to give up everyday. And as that went through, there was one place where I ended up. Don't know why, and suddenly at the end of that meeting, 40 minutes, someone stood up and said 'Hey, I like what you're doing, I'm going to invest in it'.

And you're standing there almost half dazed on why someone said this because for the last 5 months, there has not been a single person who's said yes to you. The only things you've heard is no. The only thing that you've told yourself is that you're an utter failure, and that one yes didn't come from anyone, it came from the best venture capitalist in the world. People who've been responsible for creating Google, who've been responsible for creating Amazon, and companies of that nature. I was stunned, I didn't know what to speak, what to say. I drove for four hours after that to clear my head. Came back, was at the top of my confidence. In a matter of two days, from being about to give up, to being at the top of your confidence, that's what entrepreneurship is about, that's what beliefs are all about. You should face this.

You, if you're going to try something different, you need to have faith, you need to have belief that something in the world will actually work for you. Up there, things are already designed, you have to wait for it. It took me the longest, and I've many many such stories on the belief, but it took me the longest to understand that having belief is one of the most important factors in succeeding as you go forward for the next many many years of your life. The third thing that was told to me was crazy is good. It sounds crazy, you know, how can crazy be good? You know, I grew up in mid-90s, as I went through schooling. And as Mr. Karnik was saying, you were used to told, 'jitni badi chaddar utne hi pair failao'. I think that the days were changing, that same didn't apply to our world anymore.

Craziness meant doing things that everyone else would disbelieve in. So as we started to grow InMobi, one of the decisions we made was to build InMobi globally. Not a single person that I spoke with to get advice said go ahead with this idea, it's brilliant. Everyone else said, don't do it, it's the worst thing to do, you've going to fail, and they had hundreds of data points. And you're brilliant, by the way, all of you, you're brilliant because you've done great amount of data crunching and pattern matching, everything and you'd basically come back and say hey, it's not going to work anymore. We didn't listen to anyone. Why? Because we didn't understand what they were saying. We didn't understand the fact that if it didn't work in the past, why would it not work in the future? That didn't make sense.

So as foolish as we were, we went ahead with it. And I'm so glad we did that, because today, we have offices in 25 counties and we do business in 100+ countries, and that single decision at that point of time allows us to be the third largest advertising platform in the world after Google and Facebook. And that is why crazy is good, because people will not allow you to make decisions which are different. If you're not different, you're going to be like everyone else. It's a simple mathematical equation, you want to be like everybody else, you will be average. That was not the single decision that we made by the way. We made one more decision, that decision was made in 2009 that we want to build a global company.

In 2012 we made one more decision, we said we want to grow into China. You talk to anybody about China, please don't go in there. They will steal your stuff, they will not let you grow, they will not let you build a company, nobody has been successful, look at Google, look at Facebook, look at Microsoft, look at all the companies, nobody has succeeded. That makes sense, so you shouldn't also go. Again, didn't make sense. Why? Because there was a pattern matching that was going on and that pattern matching basically indicate you should not do what has happened in the world in the past. Don't change the world order. We went into China. Today, I'm very happy that we made that decision despite everyone telling us not to do it. We're the second largest platform in China now, after WeChat. And we are one of the most important companies in China, in China's internet economy. And it gives us amazing strength to compete at a global stage because you're controlling a very very large market-life, China. So again, crazy is good. Try to do crazy things in life, and by the way the younger you are, the crazier you should do. Don't try to wait for a time that'll come when you will make those decisions, I don't think that time ever comes, it is purely a very logical way of pushing out what you should do much much earlier in careers.

So those are the three things, and as I said, I was told to do what you love, do it with amazing amount of faith, and while you're doing these things, do them as crazily as you can. And that has certainly worked for me in life. So as each one of you go out of life, go out of this college, I think it is very very important that you trust yourself. You trust yourself because you are really good. You're really really good. By the way, the reality is, none of you are going to die of hunger, none of you are going to be living on roads, you're way past all of this. You're going to be doing either really well in life, or exceptionally well in life. You've to choose between the two. And the choice between these two is very subtle. The choice between these two is what will make you good, or what'll make you great. I also have a request for parents, a lot of the parents are sitting here: trust your children.

They are graduating from one of the best institutions on the planet, they are really smart. They're significantly smarter than you were ever, because they have more information, and they will do the right things, they will surprise you if you allow them to do what they actually want to do. And I think that changes the whole world that you're in. I actually think each one of you are very privileged. Why? Because you're living in India. What's so great about India? Well, there are so many things that don't work in this country, that's what's great about this country right now. What does that mean, that basically means you can fix them. That basically means that there are so many things, I wish by the way that I was graduating now as against 2000-2001. The opportunity size here is just crazy.

Whether you want to solve for healthcare, yes you can use technology to solve for healthcare, for you know only technology can solve in teeth for children in this country anymore. Only technology can solve for doctors anymore, you cannot create more doctors. Only technology can solve for security, only technology can solve for transportation. There's no way we can build as many roads as there are needed. All of these are opportunities, and you're absolutely lucky in an environment in India where you have people with capital, consumers who are willing to spend, technology that has advanced enough for you to not go recreate that technology, you're exceptionally lucky. Exceptionally lucky.

So to end this, I would say realize your potential, realize your potential of what you can do in life, because what you can do in life is only what you know. Make this country proud, make yourself proud, make your parents proud, the opportunity is literally in your hands and it's not in anyone else's hand. It's only for you to lose from here onwards, and the country to gain. So with that, best of luck with whatever you want to do in life, but as I said, please go ahead and do what you love. Do it with crazy amount of passion, and make India proud. Jai Hind.