Housing.com crisis points to need for CEO coaches: Experts

It’s not difficult to believe that young CEOs and entrepreneurs could get carried away with early success


A file photo of Advitiya Sharma & Rahul Yadav, Housing.com’s founders. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint
A file photo of Advitiya Sharma & Rahul Yadav, Housing.com’s founders. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

Bengaluru: The happenings at Housing.com have led experts to point out the need for leadership coaching and mentorship for entrepreneurs, especially younger leaders, who are dealing with unprecedented amounts of money, pressure and fame in the ongoing start-up boom in the country.

Rahul Yadav, the chief executive officer and co-founder at the real estate portal Housing, withdrew his resignation and was reinstated on Tuesday as CEO after reaching an uneasy truce with investors. Yadav, all of 26 years old, was widely criticised for his behaviour toward Housing investors as well as his public outburst against Sequoia India managing director Shailendra Singh.

Yadav’s tech talent is well known among investors and techies, as his arrogance and disregard for people who disagree with him.

Though Yadav’s behaviour is seen as an extreme case, it’s not difficult to believe that young CEOs and entrepreneurs like him could get carried away with early success, which these days is considered to be the ability to attract large amounts of capital.

Indian e-commerce firms raised more than $4 billion last year, and that amount may be exceeded this year.

“It’s very important for entrepreneurs and senior executives of start-ups to have access to coaching, counselling and mentoring,” said Rishi Das, co-founder at CareerNet Consulting, a talent recruiting firm. “Most founders are very young and they need to be coached in managing people and managing themselves.”

Currently many start-ups get informal mentorship and advice from experienced entrepreneurs.

For instance, Redbus co-founder Phanindra Sama had a mentor in Sanjay Anandaram, a former Wipro executive. Now, Sama, who sold Redbus in July 2013 for an estimated $135 million, himself guides many entrepreneurs in Bengaluru. Even Advitya Sharma, the co-founder of Housing and Yadav’s friend, acts as mentor to some start-ups at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. Yadav is an icon at the same engineering school, which he dropped out of.

However, experts said that apart from advice and mentorship, entrepreneurs require professional and formal coaching to help them cope with the demands of running a start-up. Already, a few entrepreneurs work with professional coaches who are accredited by International Coach Federation (ICF), a reputed non-profit coaching organization.

Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal signed up for personality training and leadership coaching to improve his people management skills over the past two years, according to people who work with him.

“Earlier, Binny (Bansal) was very, very aggressive and would often lose his cool while dealing with people. Now, after the personality training classes, he’s become a much calmer person,” said one of the persons cited above.

Coaching is not necessarily about giving advice, it’s more about helping a leader get to where he or she wants to be from where they currently are, said Sridhar Laxman, an ICF certified coach who works with start-ups and companies.

“Coaches use various approaches such compassionate listening, powerful questioning, perceptual positioning, visualization, mindfulness, silence, etc to help leaders get insights, new perspectives and thereby increase their self awareness, sense of responsibility and self belief,” Laxman said.

Senior executives and CEOs at established companies in India and abroad already subscribe to such professional coaching, which lasts anywhere between 6-12 months.

Coaching offers a useful sounding board for entrepreneurs, Satish Chandra, another ICF certified coach and former Wipro executive who runs rechargemycareer.com.

“Many times, the most challenging thing for entrepreneurs is to emotionally cope with running a start-up. The market environment is very dynamic and there’s tremendous pressure on them to deliver. In such a situation coaches provide a positive sounding board and help them increase their self awareness and become more mature,” Chandra said.

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