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‘Mentorship is more about inspiration than instruction’: Vikram Chopra

The CARS24 CEO and co-founder says being close to his team has helped them work better

Co-founder and CEO of CARS24, Vikram Chopra.
Co-founder and CEO of CARS24, Vikram Chopra.

In 2012, Vikram Chopra dropped out of Wharton School of Business to begin his entrepreneurial journey with online furniture retailer FabFurnish. The venture lasted only three years, but his learnings helped him launch CARS24 in 2015. “I learned invaluable lessons on the crucial balance between supply and demand. This experience was an eye-opener, emphasising the need for a robust supply chain to sustain business growth,” says the Gurugram-based co-founder and CEO of CARS24.

The 41-year-old says the intent of launching CARS24 was to offer a service of hassle-free transactions, while ensuring a steady supply of quality pre-owned vehicles. And along the way, build trust one customer at a time. “We wanted to tackle things like unclear pricing, prolonged selling times and a lack of safety in transactions. The idea was to transform the used car marketplace into a space of confidence and ease,” he says.

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They started out with physical stores to understand the needs of their customers, but since the pandemic, the business moved online, where buyers are offered the convenience of inspecting and test driving a vehicle at home, he adds. 

Chopra talks to Lounge about the importance of being connected with his team.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I reach out to Rajeev Jain, CEO, Bajaj Finance, for his insights, direction and a fresh perspective.

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

His guidance centred on the mantra, “be in haste but not in hurry”, stressing the need for urgency without sacrificing strategic planning. Additionally, he underscored the importance of “building moats” and urged us to embrace a long-term outlook, envisioning at least 10 years ahead. It proved immensely effective in helping us instill a culture of rigorous planning, essential for navigating the complexities of running a scaling company. 

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

Mentorship is less about instruction and more about inspiration. It’s about demonstrating through my own actions the values I hope to instill in my team - determination, honesty and the courage to face challenges head-on. This practice of doing, as compared to merely saying, reinforces the importance of authenticity and action in leadership. To effectively mentor my team, I focus on a few key actions such as leading by example, regularly providing feedback, encouraging them to learn new skills and take on challenges, besides fostering an environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities.

What’s your morning schedule like?

My day typically starts at 6 am with a gym session for an hour and a half. After breakfast, I head to office and spend most of my day there, before heading back home to my family.

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

My productivity philosophy is built on several essential principles. At its core is a deep commitment to strategic, long-term thinking. I aim to look beyond the immediate, ensuring that every decision contributes to our overarching goals. This approach helps us navigate beyond just the day-to-day, guiding us towards a deliberate path of progress.

Equally important is the ability to say ‘no’, since not every opportunity is worth pursuing. Dedicated time for deep work is another pillar of my strategy, allowing me to tackle complex challenges with undivided attention. However, it’s not about speed for the sake of speed. Moving with intention and precision ensures that we’re not just fast, but also right. And then there’s the habit of regular reflection, a practice that lets us measure our journey, tweak our course, and grow from every outcome.

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

The most significant change in my work routine has been deepening my personal involvement with my team. This has helped us work better together, in alignment and understand each other more.

Any book or podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?

Some of my recommendations are Amp it Up by Frank Slootman; The Outsiders by William Thorndike; Working Backwards by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr; Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; and Poor Charlie’s Almanacks by Charlie Munger.

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

Gym sessions are a staple for me; I never skip them. My evenings are reserved for family, my ideal unwind time. I love adventure sports like skydiving, scuba diving and skiing. It helps me unwind and energises me for work. When I’m not seeking thrills, I like to enjoy a good book, switching from physical to mental refreshment.

Monday Motivation is a series in which business leaders and creative individuals discuss their mentors and their work ethic.

Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.

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