Bangalore to the Silicon Valley and back. Rahm Shastry’s journey is intriguing. Rahm, the CEO of DriveU founded the company in mid 2015. He specializes in Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and has a proven track record of leading EDA companies to profitability and successful exits. Rahm’s grit, passion and dedication towards making his ideas work are commendable and inspiring .
DriveU aims to provide on-demand driver solutions to private-owned vehicle owners, who have largely been ignored in the sharing economy frenzy. With DriveU, you don’t need to deal with a full-time driver and his absences. Instead, you can hire a part-time driver-on-demand at an affordable cost.
This is a part of our special blog series Sales SuperHeroes. The series showcases the very best of sales & marketing leaders, business heads, CXOs across the globe giving us an insight into what it takes to be them. The blog offers valuable sales and marketing knowledge, future industry predictions, strategies and career advice to professionals in the industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and brought up in Bangalore for most of my formative years. My father, being a civil engineer for the Public Works Department was frequently transferred around the state. While Bangalore was always our hometown, I was fortunate to have spent a few years in North Karnataka. Those years gave me the opportunity to experience the distinctive culture over there. I studied at Basel Mission High School in Dharwad. My father had challenged me then to top the statewide SSLC exam. I said I would if he got me a puppy dog. He brought home a 4-month old Pomeranian pup and I stood third in the state. I have been a dog lover all my life. Later, I went to National Institute of Technology in Surathkal for a B.Tech degree in Electronics & Communications. Five years there gave me a taste of yet another distinctive culture of coastal Karnataka, which I cherish even today.
Tell us a bit about your journey from being an electronics engineer to being CEO of DriveU
After graduating from Surathkal, I studied Computer Engineering from State University of New York in Stony Brook. I specialized in semiconductor chip design. After a couple of jobs in New York (Standard Microsystems Corp) and Boston (Apollo Computers), I realized that I wanted to be in marketing and sales. My first job in marketing was at Viewlogic Systems, a software startup. I spent a couple of years in their marketing department and provided technical support to its Japan and Asia-Pacific customers. I then moved to California’s Silicon Valley with my family. I quit my job and founded my first startup, TriQuest with a couple of colleagues.
The most important aspect of a CEO’s job is the ability to prioritize
What does a typical day at DriveU look like for you?
DriveU is growing steadily month on month since inception in mid-2015. So, the challenges vary each day. There is no such thing as a typical day for the CEO. A competent CEO must delegate responsibilities yet, be always available to monitor and guide as required. You have various groups requiring your attention – be it the tech team, operations team, customer service, finance, partners, the press or investors. The most important aspect of a CEO’s job is the ability to prioritize what is important on a given day and allocate enough time for that task.
What principles/beliefs have helped you get to where you are in your career?
I am a big believer in core values that set the stage for a company’s direction and growth. It is true that a company’s culture emanates top down, from the CEO. I believe in the adage ‘A fish rots from the head down’. Keeping that in mind, it’s important for the leader of a company to “do what you say and say what you do”. There are five principles I religiously follow: Integrity, Customer-Centricity, Continuous Improvement(Kaizen), Accountability and Teamwork. I believe in thinking long term; these principles have helped me navigate my career. In the end, this is what I look back upon proudly as my achievement.
There are five principles I religiously follow: Integrity, Customer-Centricity, Continuous Improvement, Accountability and Teamwork
How did entrepreneurship happen? What gave you the idea of starting the company?
My father always encouraged me to not be afraid to go on my own. Having worked and retired from the bureaucratic Public Works Department, he always told me that I should one day start my own company and work for myself. Being in Silicon Valley, it was natural for me to start up. People looked up to and helped folks who wanted to start their own company. No idea is dismissed. There is no place like Silicon Valley to start a company. Yet it is a brutal environment. Only the fittest survive and thrive over there. Now that I have moved to Bangalore, I see a nascent Silicon Valley here which is gratifying.
What’s your best career advice for young people today?
Whatever profession you choose, make sure you are passionate about it. You can always earn money in life doing various things. However, if you have a job while being super happy about it, there is no better gift than that. Don’t live someone else’s life, live your own. Secondly, pick a career that reflects your strength and passion. Always operate from a position of strength to be successful. Thirdly, never stop learning. Keep an open mind to learn new things. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope.
It is important to communicate, communicate, communicate
How do you motivate your team at DriveU?
I give my team the tools and freedom to do their best. I ensure that they have a safe environment to explore new ideas without being criticized or ridiculed. Also, it is important to communicate, communicate, communicate.
What do you consider the most important traits in a sales person?
- A win-win attitude. Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes so that you are solving his/her problem
- Tenacity, never give up! It is hard enough to convince someone to use your product or service, but it is much harder for them to pay the price that you want
- Always be the voice of the customer in your company
Name two things you believe will shape the market in the next 5-10 years
- Relentless automation – Machine Learning and AI can make your job obsolete in a jiffy
- Climate change – Results in a lot of repercussions for today’s way of life and opportunities
Where do you see the gig economy headed?
The gig-economy has already started. There are no permanent jobs tied to one location. You have temporary jobs that you perform for employers across the globe. The gig-economy is also about sharing. You share your possessions – your car, your home, your work space, etc.
The gig-economy has already started
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I am passionate about astronomy and astrophysics. I try to catch up on new things in these areas either online or through books. I love listening to music and playing the piano. I enjoy playing with my two miniature dachshunds. I also love travelling and exploring new places.
What is your favorite quote?
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs
OK, last question: tell us three fun facts about yourself?
- I have a wicked backhand smash in Table Tennis
- I own a portable Karaoke system ready to be used for any occasion… company parties, weddings, etc.
- Translated a Bengali song into Kannada and sang it at the United Nations General Assembly; Spoke as the best man in Japanese at my friend’s wedding in Tokyo