Part I – “Soft” factors as truly “hard” drivers for success

Reliance Jio (see Introduction) is an owner and entrepreneur driven startup. Like all startups – small and large – owners, founders and entrepreneurs are mad about customers, product, quality, perfection and results. It is about outcome, differentiation and customers’ excitement beyond anything, which has been there before:

I will start with the “soft” factors, which drive behaviors and success: This covers a truly inspiring vision and living up to it. It needs the best people available, mixed in a unique and inspiring environment. And it needs a personal attitude of being an owner within everybody working within the startup or as partner with the startup.

1. Powerful ambitions move mountains

It makes a big difference, whether the ambition is to be “market leader in India”- or – to “boost India’s society into the digital age”.

By credibly pursuing a very bold ambition, the mobilizing forces of employees, partners, customers, politicians and even society provide an endless source of energy and motivation to reach the objective – by any sensible means. As in every start-up, only a mind-blowing, bold, inspiring and consistent ambition can create a truly new outcome. But in this case, it provides everybody with a true “purpose” beyond making money or producing a good success story.

Not every company, not every department, not every team can boost a whole society into the digital age. BUT, every aspirational team must have an ambition to change the world – in a particular way, for a particular scope. Otherwise it will be “business as usual”, and thus, non-transformational.

2. Very best people – combining global experts and Indian talent

Smaller start-ups do it all the time – heavily relying on own people, growing knowledge, especially around customer experience and technology. Also, this huge start-up could only be successful by providing an inspirational environment for many different leaders, experts and thought leaders from all over the world. Attracting the best talent from leading internet players, device manufacturers, large communication service providers and especially new technology start-ups was one of the key recipes for success. By combining them with highly talented and/or experienced people from India it is ensured, that maturity, joint learnings and knowledge is not disappearing with the experts. Rather, it is growing multifold beyond the knowledge base of the original experts. It is fair to say, that this start-up is probably the richest pool of technical talents in India if not Asia.

The main learnings for any digital organization is, that people matter and people make the difference. Over are the times of outsourcing these important competencies. Rather, to cope with ever increasing pace of technological innovation, a solid base of highly talented and experienced technical people is mandatory for any transformation towards digital. Also, as elaborated later, whatever you get from a technology partner is typically only second best for your own dedicated purposes. So, going open source, challenging your technology partners, building core assets by yourself and heavily deploying scalable cloud solutions for commodities is key.

3. Personal Ownership for end-results – no limits

In a large digital start-up, there is no time nor space for large organizational debates. Some basic principles are needed, in this case a “platform-based” organization was defined. Hereby the key platforms relevant for the customer (e.g. On-Boarding or Bill and Pay) were defined and people associated to it. But this was done more to be able to classify skills. But, the real relevant management principle was to ask everybody to own the full accountabilities for their respective outcome. This implies, to step well beyond the classical understanding of organizational boundaries and work with anybody you need to solve the issue or produce the results. People capable to assemble the right teams, because they would believe in the success of the undertaking, turned out to be the real heroes of our start-up, not the typical managers. While this sounds chaotic, even counterproductive to some extent, this was precisely the recipe to not just build another telco, but to create a digital service provider to boost India into the digital age. One of those examples were the creation of the consumer app, which turned out to be number one in India’s app-store very soon after launch.