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I am Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO of OLX India, and This is How I Work

I am Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO of OLX India, and This is How I Work

"A leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way", and Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO of OLX India, is one such robust leader who successfully turned the organization into the largest online classifieds marketplace in India with his vision and zeitgeist. He has been at the helm of OLX India for over 8 years now and follows the "Stay hungry, stay foolish" approach to build something better each day, every day. From working at home for the initial 2-3 years to getting an office space and now leading the organization of over 200 employees in 2017, he has come a long way, and so has the brand. In an exclusive interview at the OLX office in Gurugram, Amarjit tells Ishita Blaggan all about his journey and how he works.

Location: Delhi, India
Current Gig: CEO, OLX India
One word that best describes how you work: Curious
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6
Current computer: MacBook Pro

First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
My journey is pretty long but there are two parts of the journey - personal and professional. My father was in army so I stayed in various parts of India. Though I am from Punjab, I grew up mostly in Jabalpur, MP. My work life started from Chandigarh and Ludhiana.

I entered the internet scene in 2000. That was the year internet went bust. I began my journey by building marketplaces in B2B (business to business) space, and then I worked for Bazee (which was acquired by eBay). I worked for eBay for 5.5 years and that was the time I learnt about C2C, B2C and how marketplaces work globally. In 2008, I joined OLX and since then, I have been helping people transact with each other as individuals on India's largest classified marketplace, OLX.

What apps, software, or tools can't you live without?
Twitter: I find articles of my interest on this microblogging site and it fills me up with all the important news around the world. At times, I even skip reading newspapers because I find relevant content on Twitter. It is a great platform to follow the people I am interested in and also get to know what people in my domain are looking at.

OLX: It is a very high utility tool for buying and selling pre-owned goods online. I bought a tennis racquet on OLX recently and have sold an Xbox and cycle in the past.

I am heavily dependent on our internal social network for OLX -- we call it LIVE IT, which is how we live what we are doing daily. For us using the platform is living it daily. It is a part of our social network and a great place for me to connect with my teams here and globally. It allows us to learn from each other.

Also Read: I Am Deepak Chhabra, CEO Of Crocs India, And This Is How I Work

What's your workspace setup like?
I like colours and my favourite is blue. Luckily, I am in a brand that has three strong colours - orange, green and purple. Orange is all about energy, positive spirit and community spirit while the green in our logo symbolizes environment, and at OLX it is fundamental to us. Purple denotes to the premium appeal of a useful platform like OLX.

Also, I like cleaner spaces. The mind is always so cluttered that it is better to have your personal space uncluttered. I like to work with people who are uncluttered and a desk which is spic and span.

What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Working from home to save travel time to work is my biggest life hack. Initially, I worked from home for 2-3 years. I start work early and finish late, so working from home helped me. After the initial toil, I built a team and got the office space, although I still work from home on weekends to save my time on commute.

Another lifehack is to reach office early. The office starts at 9:30 am but I reach work by 8:30am. My home is about 17 kilometres away, so I leave early before the office rush hits the road and it becomes a hard task to escape the traffic.

Also, I like being driven to work to utilize that time to read. All through the ride, I read something. It is "me" time - no chats, no phone calls, no discussions, all you are doing is reading.

Finally, I avoid partying in the evening. You are socially connected to a lot of people at work, and meet a lot more at official events, so you don't really miss out on much by skipping parties later in the evening. Rather, I invest that time in family or doing what I love.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?
Google Keep - to manage checklists and to-do lists, or conference call codes

Notepad - to document the day's line or important work

Apple calendar - to keep a track of meetings and schedules

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget and things can't you live without and why?
I like reading. Kindle is always with me to read books I can't carry all the time. Also, iPad is very important as I prefer reading documents and PDFs on it rather than on the small screen of the phone. I can't live without my squash racquet either, because I am very fond of the game and play it regularly.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I want to be better than what I was yesterday, than compete with everyone else. If we don't improve, businesses die. The philosophy of getting better is by learning and keeping yourself open to ideas, criticism and finding new things.

At the same time, focus is very critical. We are exposed to so many great things out there that we can easily get distracted by better opportunities at work. So, setting a goal and staying focussed are critical. If you don't set a goal, you don't achieve it.

Finally, feedback is necessary for a reality check. In personal life, take feedback from family and in work life, from colleagues. Feedback brings your blind-spots into light. Most of us either rate ourselves too high or too poorly, so feedback is important.

Also Read: I Am Swati Bhargava, CEO Of CashKaro, And This Is How I Work

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
Work is not something that stresses me. I am doing something I love. Work is rather energizing. Although, keeping a balance between work, family and personal physical fitness is important. Don't overindulge in one thing and ignore everything else.

When I feel like I need to recharge, I play sports. I would recommend squash. The game makes you physically and mentally strong.

What are you currently reading? Or what's something you'd recommend?
I read multiple things simultaneously. I read books and articles to keep up with business. I am currently reading Who Gets What - and Why, a beautiful book on how marketplaces work. Everything nowadays is a marketplace. The author, Alvin E Roth, mentions how everything is a marketplace. He says, "Even if matches are made in heaven, they are found in marketplaces", which is so true. Now-a-days, you will find that marketplaces are defining everything -- it could be online or offline.

Another book that I am reading is The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen Covey. It is a great read to enhance decision-making skills, get better at team work and improve productivity.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
In 2005, Steve Jobs delivered the commencement speech for the 114th graduating class at Stanford University, in which he said "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". I heard his speech 10 times. I have been at OLX for 8 years now and my challenge every day is to be hungry, to do more. Staying foolish comes from never allowing yourself to settle with a feeling that you have mastered it all and are now certain about things.

In our business, new things emerge often and it is very important to continuously learn and grow, even if you falter at times. Steve Jobs' advice in his speech was the best advice one can ever get.

Masterminds like Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet made a lot of vital decisions based on their instincts. How about you - what wins in the war of instinct and intellect?
There's a famous saying "In god we trust, all others bring data". All of us get a gut feeling in complex situations, however, if you see carefully, it is your years of experience inducing a feeling about a decision at hand but it looks like gut feeling. Every decision I make comes from my experience and is substantiated with data.

I made a lot of big decisions based on gut feeling at OLX in the formative years but they were backed by data points.

Today, I make data-based decisions but gut is somewhere involved in them. I believe data and gut are closely interlinked. An analytics driven company has to see data and then use gut before making vital decisions.

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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