Ritesh Jain, co founder of Flexiloans, a digital lending platform catering to MSMEs, is an avid self-learner. With the sea of content available online on any topic, Jain spends some time every day browsing to improve his knowledge. Since the pandemic, it’s become a sort of a personal improvement habit.
An alumnus of ISB Hyderabad, Jain started Flexiloans in 2016 with three others from the same institute. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Jain worked in varied industries, at companies such as Citi Group, Tata Teleservices, Starwood Hotels and Housing.com. Last year, Flexiloans entered into partnership with Google Pay to provide instant loans to small business owners.
Mumbai-based Jain talks about what it means to be a mentor, his productivity principles, and what running has taught him about productivity. Edited excerpts:
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
I don’t consider any single individual as a mentor. I believe, you can learn from everyone around you. I look for unique traits among people around me, including my colleagues, and learn from them. For instance, as a startup, you are constantly problem-solving day in and day out, and everyone’s problem-solving approach is different. I look at other people’s approach to the same problem and if it’s better (than mine), I modify my approach.
One major insight/change you worked on with a mentor's guidance?
One of the most important things I have learnt is to focus on few things. Instead of trying to do multiple things — and as a startup you will be tempted to solve multiple problems — choose few and do them well. That’s the only way you will be successful. Earlier, I used to think we should grab all opportunities that came up, and capitalize on them. But I have learnt that doing this takes a toll on the organisation, as the resources are limited.
It’s also become a personal productivity mantra for me. If you focus one thing when you start your day, you will (achieve completion) by the (time the day) ends. But if you have 10-20 things, chances are you may not complete any.
How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
I am always reminded of the adage ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ when I think of being a mentor. You hold a position of great power when you mentor someone. I am careful in not giving direct solutions, when mentoring someone. I can’t claim to have the best solution or a solution that would best suit the person’s need. Instead, I give a framework of how to make decisions, and try to convince them to use that framework.
I have realised people are resistant to mindset change. I recall a team member had asked for advise as she wanted to change industries. I gave her my view of the company and industry, whether there will be growth in that industry, chances of the company’s success, etc. This decision-making framework could help in taking decisions that could help in all aspects of her life in the long run.
What time do you wake up and what's the first thing you do after waking up? Basically, what's your morning schedule after waking up?
I wake up by 4.45-5 am. By 5.30 am and I get out of house to either go running or for yoga. I am back by 6.45 am. After that I dedicate an hour to focus and plan for the day and also respond to all the emails, so that I don't have spend time on them when I am in office. I then have my breakfast and spend time with my family till I start work by around 9 am.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Since there weren't clear boundaries between the personal and professional boundaries while working from home, I would consciously take time out, in half an hour slots, to learn something unrelated to work. I realised that if you want to learn something new, you need to start working on it continuously for three months in order to develop (the learning) into a habit. For instance, I developed an interest in nutrition, and would spend 30 minutes every day listening, watching or reading about the subject.
Any book/podcast/app/videos you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?
A book that I would recommend is Jack Welch’s Jack: Straight from the Gut. It’s sort of a mini MBA, as Welch explains how to build organizational culture or organisational way of doing things, in an engaging manner. It would be useful for people who are in the initial stages of starting their venture.
Do you have any productivity tools and why does it work for you?
While I use the usual productivity tools, what I find useful are productivity principles. One of the principles I follow is to take notes when I am in a meeting. The role of the brain is not to memorise but to analyse. When you take notes, your mind is free to analyse. Otherwise, the brain starts memorizing what is being said.
Another principle I have learnt comes from running. The most difficult part of the process is to get up early in the morning everyday. There is always inertia in starting something; it’s not that we are lazy— it is fear. Instead of looking at (something as a) big project, look at the first activity that needs to be done, and start that. Once you begin, you will eventually complete it. But it's important to initiate that first step.
When was the first time you took a loan, and for what?
I took my first loan to buy a house when I was 27. The next was an education loan to do MBA from ISB Hyderabad. That was the best decision I took. In hindsight, I would recommend investing in oneself, rather than borrowing money to buy property.
How do you overcome an afternoon slump?
It’s important to understand your body. I don’t schedule any problem solving meetings between 2 pm and 5 pm.
How do you unwind on weekends? Any serious hobbies or family routines that you began since the pandemic?
On Saturday evenings, I watch a movie, mostly an action film. Later in the night, we have a family game night. My daughter loves to design games and we spend an hour playing together. And on Sunday mornings, I do a longer run.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.