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Sabeer Bhatia: Guiding colleagues to be better human beings

Since launching Showreels, his latest venture, Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of the iconic Hotmail, on mentorship, and being humble, honest, hardworking

Sabeer Bhatia tries keeping Zoom calls to a minimum.
Sabeer Bhatia tries keeping Zoom calls to a minimum.

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Like the majority of the world’s population, the pandemic disrupted Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia’s regular life, moving all of his work home. The one pandemic-forced change that he looks forward to undo, is the Zoom calls, he says on a Zoom call from his home in Los Altos Hills in California.

Ironically, however, it is these video calls, that gave Bhatia the idea for his latest start-up, Showreel, a social video messaging platform. He is the co-founder and CEO of this new venture. Bhatia’s first start-up, Hotmail, which he co-founded in 1996, came at a time when the word “start-up” didn’t mean what it has come to signify today. Hotmail, which was eventually acquired by Microsoft, went on to democratise email for the world.

A armed forces child, Bhatia grew up in Pune and Bengaluru and studied at BITS, Pilani, before moving to the US to study — he graduated from Cal Tech and Stanford with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He continues to live in the Bay Area, the hub of all tech giants including Apple, Google and Facebook, neighbouring the city of San Francisco.

Also Read: Gurumukh Uttamchandani of Syska on genuineness in mentorship

The 53-year-old is a pre-diabetic now but counts on his habit of always staying active to keep the condition under control. For this, he combines intermittent fasting with tennis and golf. “It really works,” he says enthusiastically as he sips his coffee in his study during the call.

In this interview with Lounge, Bhatia speaks about his new found passion for long distance cycling in addition to tennis and golf, how he strikes a work-life balance, and his favourite email etiquette.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I consider Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi as my mentors. I admire Steve for his marketing genius and deep understanding of consumers while I am deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi for his moral philosophy.

One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?

I learned to be humble, honest, and hardworking.

What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?

I focus on guiding my colleagues both at work and in their life outside of it by helping them become better human beings.

What's your morning schedule like?

I wake up at 6 am and start my day with a cup of coffee. Then I take my dog for a walk. After that, I’m busy until 9 am driving my kids to school. Some mornings I head out for a ride on my cycle, which is something I have been enjoying of late.

Also Read: Prioritise ruthlessly, says Shopify's Bharati Balakrishnan

What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

The pandemic threw everything in my and my family’s life off. The kids’ school stopped, they were at home a lot more. Everything and everyone was in the work-from-home mode and that resulted in a lot of video calls. Hence, I have started focusing on keeping Zoom calls to a minimum.

What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have made your professional and personal life much easier?

I am always eager to learn new things which have kept me going throughout my professional and personal life.

How does it feel to create a new platform almost three decades after creating Hotmail?

I am loving it and enjoying the experience.

What is the one email etiquette you follow and would like others to adopt?

Keep it short and simple.

How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?

I enjoy cycling, especially long distances as it is great for calming the mind and keeping the body active.

What’s your secret to striking a work-life balance?

I compartmentalise my life. My life has just three buckets — family, work and workout. And, I stick to just one bucket at a time. While I am working, I am only working.

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.

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