Rahul Yadav deserves a second chance, say investors

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder, Paytm is not funding Rahul Yadav of Housing.com fame in his new business venture – Intelligent Interface, which has got the backing of Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, Founders of Flipkart.

Contrary to recent reports, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder, Paytm has clarified that he is not funding Rahul Yadav of Housing.com fame in his new venture – Intelligent Interface. The startup has got the backing of Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, Founders of Flipkart.

At Flipkart’s annual technology event slash n, held in Bangalore last Friday, Yadav revealed that his new venture would provide tech solutions to government agencies to solve India’s problems through e-governance.

Then the 25 year-old Yadav, who is described in the media with epithets such as ‘maverick’, ‘impulsive’, ‘brash’, ‘eccentric’, among others, went on to say tongue-in-cheek that ‘this time I have decided not to take VC money’.

In July this year, Yadav was sacked from Housing.com, the company he founded and ejected from his role as Chief Executive Officer. This followed fights with investors and Yadav letting out conversations and communication with the Board on social media.

The behaviour of the former Founder of Housing.com has been much discussed, debated and ridiculed in the media. However, people Tech2 spoke with were bullish about the new development in Yadav’s career.

Referring to Yadav as a 'great entrepreneur', Paytm’s Sharma remarked on the former’s acknowledgement of his mistakes at the Flipkart event on Friday. “He has had some learnings, he said. So something will emerge out of that for sure,” believes Sharma.

Unique personality traits

Any talk about Rahul Yadav cannot exclude his behavioural traits. It is par for the course. Sharma would rather not discuss about it. “There are personality traits that are unique to every individual,” he says.

From taking pot shots at the founders of Zomato and Ola asking them to give away half of their shares to employees to then trolling Vishal Sikka, CEO, Infosys on Facebook with a picture of him sleeping at an airport lounge, Yadav was the enfant terrible who made news for his off-court antics. He wrote on his Facebook page: Infosys CEO Sikka. When I asked something he replied “I just want to sleep’ without listening to the question 😀

Paula Mariwala, Executive Director, Seedfund – a Mumbai-based early stage fund, agrees that was ‘eccentric and impulsive behaviour.” But, with the new development in his career, would like to believe that he learnt his lessons.

“The Vishal Sikka incident was uncalled for. Such things are not forgotten ever by people,” remarks Anish Jhaveri, Co-Founder, Oliphans Capital, an early stage investment firm. He points out that Yadav’s immature behaviour could also be in keeping with his age. “If you fund a 25 year-old smart kid on the block and put him on steroids, what do you expect?  I would blame the investors who did not get on the right side of Yadav’s brains. Some of them could not comprehend his way of thinking and working.”

Jhaveri feels the damage would not have been extensive if Yadav had not communicated much to the world outside. “That is something he should not have done,” he believes. Mariwalla added that a good mentor could have helped Yadav.

Good track record

The public image of Yadav may have taken a nosedive due to his behaviour, but his entrepreneurial skills have hit home. Housing.com was a brilliant idea which Yadav executed well, says Jhaveri. “Don’t we all make mistakes? Everyone deserves a second chance. And so does Rahul Yadav,” he says.

Yadav’s spats with the Board are not unique to him. It is an issue that most investors face, shares Ramesh Loganathan, President (Hyderabad Software Enterprise Association HYSEA) and Managing Director, Progress Software and a mentor for start-ups. What upsets people, he says, is when they are run down in public as Yadav did. “You can’t make private conversations public,” he reiterates.

Loganathan concurs with Jhaveri that behavioural issues cannot take away from Yadav’s 'very good' track record.

Pre-nup contract?

Does reputation have no impact in the market place? Yadav has managed to get the backing of the Bansals of Flipkart, after all. Mariwala says that it is commendable that there are people willing to believe in Yadav’s idea and back him. “His new start-up is not a B2C. It is a different game for Yadav now. I think the key difference here is that the investors this time are entrepreneurs who are investing in an idea and will be able to view his execution differently.”

The Bansals would probably have drawn up clauses to ensure Yadav does not tarnish their image in public. Loganathan says that most investors factor all this into the contract, but the important concern for them is the idea and the opportunities that it offers. “The idea that launches a start-up usually gets pivoted as the organisation goes on, say after six months or so. But the opportunity that the idea offers is crucial. And that’s what matters,” he says.

The odds become the game changer, sometimes. “Reputation is all that matters 99 per cent of the time,” explains Jhaveri. “But in Yadav’s case, it is the remaining one percent that has decided to support him. If he goes wrong this time, he will not be given a second chance. Then it would be time to write the obituary of his career.”

Perhaps, as he has confessed, Rahul Yadav has learnt his lessons!

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