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I am Suchita Salwan, Founder & CEO of Little Black Book, and This is How I Work

I am Suchita Salwan, Founder & CEO of Little Black Book, and This is How I Work

If Alice from Alice in Wonderland were to take a real life persona, it would be closest to that of Suchita Salwan, the Founder & CEO of Little Black Book - a local recommendations and discovery platform for places, services & events, who began her journey of exploring Delhi back in 2012 at the age of 22 and found hidden gems, oblivious to most in the city. What began as a blog on Tumblr with a community of 100,000 users a month turned into an elaborate dream gradually, reaching over 2 million a month. Suchita's journey is quite magical and adventurous, as she spiraled from zero funding to INR 10 crores (till the time this article was published) from prolific angel investors, and from a humble team of 2 interns and 3 colleagues to around 50 colleagues. Suchita tells us how she works and what it takes to be a girl with a personality & passion in a mad, mad world.

Location : New Delhi
Current Gig : Little Black Book/LBB
One word that best describes how you work : Passionately
Current mobile device :One Plus 3
Current computer
: Macbook Pro

Tell us about your journey and how did you get where you have?
Born and brought up in Delhi, I did my B.A. (Hons.) in Economics from Delhi University, after which I started working in the capital itself. While I was working with the broadcasting organization BBC, I would spend my weekends exploring and documenting my local discoveries in the city, on a platform under the name of "Little Black Book".

What I found was:

A. The number of local businesses constantly emerging in Delhi, be it in food, shopping, decor, events, activities, was neck-breaking in the most wonderful way

B. Unfortunately, the only platforms that were aggregating this information were static listing pages with little personality, tuned to showcase the most "popular" place but not the most "unique" one

C. I also saw that people in the age-group of 18-35 years of age were constantly looking for ways to break out of their city-fatigue

And that's really where the idea behind LBB came from. How could we build a platform that made you feel like a tourist in your city? How do we do this in a way that unique, local businesses actually benefit from our algorithms as opposed to be buried on page 10 of a search? How do we personalize the experience for each unique user through this platform?

After about a year and a half of bootstrapping the business and developing product market fit, in 2015, I brought on board Dhruv Mathur as our Product & Growth co-founder, and that's when the product, technology and scaling of LBB really started.

The journey, like any startup journey, has had its share of hits and misses. What makes us really proud is today we're a community of over 2 million monthly active users who discover and share information about unique local places, services and events; and through our model and product, over 30,000 local businesses across our country have benefitted.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Google maps for saving time, LBB's app for doing new & interesting things, Calendar for managing my schedule, Asana for managing work projects, YouTube for making my commute more interesting, Nike Training Club for finding new workouts.

What's your workspace setup like?
I sit on the same community table as a couple of my colleagues. Expect to find stationery, my Muji notebook, cookies, headphones, and a cup filled with coffee. When I need silence to push through tasks/brainstorming, I sit in one of our meeting rooms that overlook a lot of greenery.

What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Don't drive yourself. It's the biggest waste of time.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?
I've tried everything- Asana, Trello, Evernote- but nothing really beats a notepad for me. I usually use a Muji/Origin One notebook and this really cool Japanese pen brand called Le Pen.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
You can do everything on your phone now! I appreciate new gadgets, but I'm not much of a collector/hoarder, so my phone and laptop is all I really need.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Not sure if I'm better at it than others; but the one thing I do really well is make decisions. I'm not one to sit around over-analyzing everything. Calculated risks are the best kind of risks that no startup has the luxury of making; and I believe in objectively looking at a problem, and working towards a solution, as opposed to waiting to find the best possible solution.

(Also read: I Am Peyush Bansal, CEO Of Lenskart, And This Is How I Work )

What do you listen to while you work? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
Hip-hop. No genre "sounds like" hustle more than hip-hop. Off-late, Anderson Paak (though not pure hip-hop) is my favourite. In the mornings, I usually listen to podcasts. I'd recommend Recode-Decode more so for their selection of topics and I think Kara Swisher is a great host. I'm also starting Reid Hoffman's podcast called Masters of Scale.

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
This sounds weird, but I usually don't want to forget about work. The past 2.5 years (of structurally starting-up) have been the best education that no amount of money can buy. So when I'm not working, I am either reading up on what's going on in the world of startups, how to make better decisions, or some non-fiction/biography/books on behavioral economics. Apart from that, I also love exploring my city (especially with my dog, Oliver), so you'll usually find me at a dog-friendly cafe in town, or exploring a new part of the city I haven't been to, with LBB.

What's your fitness and sleep routine like?
As much as I like to run, I get pretty lazy about it to be honest. But when I do get the chance, running (indoors in the summer, outdoors in the winter), training, planking, yoga is my go-to. Our office is on the 4th floor of our building, so going up and down the stairs 3-5 times a day is a daily fitness hack for me. I don't really like sleeping, so 6-7 hours is the most I need; usually asleep by 11.30pm, usually awake by 7am.

What are you currently reading?
Nothing diligently. But I'm shuffling between The Sellout and re-reading Thinking, Fast and Slow.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
"No matter the sport- no matter the human endeavour, really- total effort will win people's hearts." Read this in Shoe Dog (by Nike co-founder, Phil Knight) a couple of months ago, and this is the best advice I've (indirectly) received.

Is there anything else you'd like to add for our readers?
If there's one thing I've learnt, it is that life and work are what you make of it. I see this across all successful founders and leaders that I respect; they don't necessarily have big degrees, a stamp of approval from great colleges (some of them don't even graduate from college), and not all of them inherit success; they just take life and work and everything they want to be in their own hands, and make it happen. Though I'm not my idea of a successful leader just yet, to be inspired by the right people- that is the secret :)

(Also read: I Am Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO Of OLX India, And This Is How I Work)

The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Ishita.

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