Ideamensch met up with Manish Godha of Advaiya to see how the company is progressing and what their next “big bet” is on.
Where did the idea for Advaiya come from?
It was a convergence of many experiences. First, my job at a large bank exposed me to both the potential and pitfalls of enterprise IT, and I began to think about better ways to provide enterprise-wide services. Second, my father’s business (where I helped) executed engineering projects and I learned a lot during that time. Early on, I started a small accounting and audit business that taught me about reporting and control processes. In addition, my brother (a partner at Advaiya) had previously worked in project management consulting and shared a lot of his ideas with us.
So, I had a unique mix of experiences to help organizations adopt project management technologies for better visibility and control over their projects. Given all that experience, Advaiya started off as a project management and collaboration-solutions company, and eventually grew into the digital transformation services company that we are today.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my days with a pot of Assam tea and exercise. I use a journal to structure and manage my day. In my journal, a day page is used to identify daily focus areas, record the activities, and reflect on wins and learnings. I keep a substantial part of my day unscheduled, which allows working through multiple aspects of focus areas in a lateral and creative fashion, and to walk around and casually meet team members. I try to have at least one focus area be investment related such as new learning, new customers, new offerings, etc.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One of the key learnings from my consulting career has been about implementation. A challenge is always that of the “missing-middle.” Ideas in their abstraction can be appealing and valuable. The minutiae of everyday activity are easy to fathom. What we miss is the connection of ideas to goals, goals to plans, plans to work, and work with monitoring mechanisms. This is not a mechanical exercise at all. This takes passion, teamwork, persistence, creativity, rigor and problem solving.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some exceptional people, who don’t just generate great ideas, but also have the faith and discipline to work with me through this process to ensure that we make an effective connection in the middle.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The rise of business ecosystems and increasing diversity within them. The rise of dynamic, multi-company systems as a new way of organizing economic activity is an interesting and immensely exciting emerging phenomenon. Also, as a previous MIT Sloan Management Review research highlight article pointed out, ecosystems thinking is more prominent in faster-growing companies.
As the business world faces the current COVID-19 crisis, more companies are realizing the importance of creating diverse business ecosystems to build business resilience. It means opening to a much larger set of suppliers and partners, which can lead to new opportunities, and the rising need for technology and business readiness to manage the diversity.
I believe much of the digital transformation focus should be on enabling distributed teams, multiple businesses and diverse locations to work together and integrate effectively. This requires systems for information access mechanisms, business automation across different systems and integration across multiple platforms. Advaiya has strong expertise in helping organizations ensure easy and secure access to information, integrated applications, automated processes and flexibility and resilience.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
As CEO, my productivity is based on efficient execution of various strategic initiatives, which usually involves teams of people with diverse capabilities and backgrounds. One of the most effective habits, in this regard, is setting up appropriate metrics which can be monitored and acted upon in time. I believe in setting up objective and measurable outcomes—often in consultation with the teams involved—ensuring visibility of progress. An important caveat is to be flexible and revisit the targets and the metrics regularly, but always for good reasons.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Patience and persistence pay.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is the best time ever. It’s easy to be unduly influenced by the gravity of current crises. What’s important to realize is that we’re better equipped than ever to address the same. We have a better understanding of the world around us, our values are more mature and humane, we have superior technology and we are learning!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Whenever I exercise gratitude or genuinely appreciate someone, it always leads to something good. I believe that any outcome is a result of numerous causes, of which the doer is only one. Our gratitude keeps us grounded and ready.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focus on customer value. We’ve always prioritized achieving the intended purpose that the client has stated. We’ve delivered even when engagements turn unprofitable for us, and often have advised our customers against options which may not be optimal for them, even if they meant more revenues for us. This requires us to have a thorough understanding of our clients’ businesses, generally leading to deeper and much more trusted relationships. Our customer relationships have been lasting and we’ve grown with our clients.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had a lot of failures, and have learned important lessons from all of them. An early lesson came from my first venture which was to create a shared SaaS financial accounting system, and included software and accounting services. We were new, and the SaaS concept was novel. It was a tough sell and we overpromised and underpriced ourselves.
As my co-founder had observed, I had my other goals and had this as a plan B, and that made me less persistent and patient. The second time around, I knew that being a technology entrepreneur was my true aspiration, and there was no plan B; therefore, I put all my energy and focus into this one new endeavor.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Any business involves a lot of decision making on a regular basis—whether to hire a person, extend credit to a customer, choose a particular vendor, and so on. Often, these decisions involve incomplete data, urgency, and personal biases. At Advaiya, like many other businesses, we’ve built an analysis framework, processes and data tools to make better decisions, but it’s not easy to ensure rationality, avoid over-reliance on available data and eliminate biases. It would be great to have tools which build on cognitive sciences, game theory, decision theory and statistics to make sense of uncertainty and to highlight gaps in analysis. We would be happy to incorporate such tools in our data analytics and business intelligence projects.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best by far was contributing for food and staples to villagers and workmen effected by the COVID-19 lock down in India. I am way happier for doing so and all else pales in comparison. On a minor note, I recently bought a subscription for Roon — music player. It has helped me organize my entire digital music collection, streaming services (Tidal), and improved the music quality through my hi-fi. I am enjoying my music better and more with Roon.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
OneNote is a favorite. It has helped me consolidate my thoughts, meeting notes, written notes, ideas, and items I learn. Available across devices, it helps recall information quickly, to follow-up effectively and use knowledge well.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” While we all have some understanding of how biases affect us, this book provides a fruitful understanding of our systematic irrationality. It points to various flaws in our thinking, and identifies the limits of our rationality. It’s a great guide to anyone who wants to design organizational decision-making processes or whoever is in need of a little humility.
What is your favorite quote?
As an entrepreneur, I find it counter-productive to put my endeavors in silos. L. P. Jacks puts it so well: “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”