Why a prize idiot like Rahul Yadav is precisely the kind of startup hero India deserves

…and exactly the opposite of the one it needs.

rahulyadav

Earlier this week there was a startup event where the founders of Flipkart, Inmobi and Paytm—arguably India’s most-lauded startups —were panelists but they were largely ignored.

The loudest applause and the highest media attention was centered squarely around their fellow co-panelist—a man by the name of Rahul Yadav.

Rahul Yadav—enfant terrible of the Indian startup ecosystem, erstwhile CEO of the soon-to-be-erstwhile startup Housing.com, numero uno startup hero, premier role model for all young and wannabe entrepreneurs in India…and all-season buffoon.

I watched in morbid fascination as the media studiously held on to every trivial thing that Rahul said—like beggars gratefully accepting the leftover scraps from a rich man’s five star buffet lunch—breathlessly reporting them in blaring headlines as non-obvious insights that the rest of the startup ecosystem ought to heed.

The most tone-deaf article from this lot was the one that reported on Rahul Yadav’s skewering of the media—calling them out as “poor talent” who lacked basic courtesy. The complete lack of self-awareness was starkingly ironic.

Here was a kid whose only achievements were firstly around running a company that has raised over a hundred million dollars of funding into the ground and secondly being abusive and generally disrespectful to all around him…

Yet he was being deified and apotheosized by the media.

“Mera naam hai Ibu Hatela, khayega kela?
“Mera naam hai Ibu Hatela, khayega kela?

That’s when it struck me—a prize idiot like Rahul Yadav is exactly the kind of startup hero that we in the Indian startup ecosystem deserve…

Why so

For two reasons…

Our laser-focused obsession with funding

As a startup nation, we have always been somewhat enamoured by funding—but earlier, this was like the stolen glances that a smitten lover would snatch off his object of affection. But today, this obsession with funding is more akin to a full-on, shameless public orgy…

We no longer care about what a startup has achieved or aims to do, the problems it solves, the benefits it provides or the impact it has had.

We only care about one thing—how much funding has a startup raised. And that amount determines where you are slotted in the startup caste system…

And in this buffet of buffoonery, Rahul Yadav is the veritable pièce de résistance—the roast suckling pig with a rotting apple stuffed in its mealy mouth.

The fact that Rahul has raised a boatload of funding for his startup implies that he has earned his place at the top of the totem pole and needs to be celebrated and venerated.

Our Arnab-ized media

99% of the credit to painting this narrative shaping Rahul Yadav as a startup role-model goes to our clueless media.

Except for a few notable exceptions, the media folks covering the Indian startup ecosystem are invertebrate hacks who are more interested in chasing page views than in providing any kind of meaningful commentary or insights.

But who can blame them when we live in a country where the number-one media person is the insufferable and cacophonous Arnab Goswami.

One can almost sense Rahul Yadav playing to the galleries in front of these media monkeys—assuming a persona that paints him as a startup savant doling out sensational headlines to help these journalists sell their newspapers, websites and events. So what if this persona is doltish as long as it drives page views?

So against this backdrop of an obsession with funding and an emasculated gutless media hungry for sensationalism, it is no wonder that Rahul Yadav is a startup hero. Precisely the kind of hero we deserve.

The tragic part here is that positing a cretinous neophyte like Rahul Yadav as a startup hero shows how starved we are for real role models to look up to.

Despite all the buzz around India having arrived as a hot startup destination, there have been precious few aspirational startup exemplars since the halcyon days of Sabeer Bhatia and Narayan Murthy. A false dawn if ever there was one…

Equally tragic is the fact that folks who could potentially be startup heroes—a Sachin Bansal or a Vijay Shekhar Sharma—seem to be idols with feet of clay…either backing the likes of Rahul Yadav with angel investment to continue this cringe-worthy charade of faux startup-ism or needing him to fill seats at their own events. The signal is loud and clear—it doesn’t matter if you are a lout or have demonstrated zero meaningful startup skills as long as you can string the media along in this charade…and if you can do that, we are all happily complicit.

This is not to say that there are no startup heroes or role-models in India.

How I wish the media highlighted the story of a Santosh Panda who has diligently persevered to build Explara over several years with almost zero funding…or of a Nikhil Pahwa who selflessly fights for a public good like net neutrality at a great personal cost…or a Girish Mathrubootam who is pioneering a seminal “value arbitrage” competitive differentiator that other Indian SaaS startups would do well to emulate.

But what fun would that be?

There would be no sensational headlines.

No avalanche of page views.

No bums in seats at your startup events.

So I am not holding my breath hoping that we will get the kind of startup heroes we need…

Instead I will get my popcorn and join the mob as we watch yet another episode of “Rahul Rants”—another episode chronicling the monomyth of the startup hero we deserve…

[Guest article by Sumanth Raghavendra. Opinions expressed are his own!]

27 comments

  • Can’t agree more. I have done a little bit of startup coverage where almost always the mandate was: One cannot cover a non-funded company. But at times, it hardly makes sense to write on fly-by-night copycat companies who burn cash as quickly as possible and melt away without leaving any trace. In India we are too fond of big money and loud-mouthed exhibitionism and hardly bothered about value-generation. It’s the same in startups, in politics, in many other fields. Unless the mindset changes, we will continue to suffer.

  • Is the author pissed off with the media coverage of RY or RY himself. Either ways this is taking shit bashing to a newer level

  • True that. The likes of Rahul Yadav sit high on top of Indian medias’ beat list! And the reason they thrive is because that’s what Indian populace wants to see.

    We grow up watching Bollywood’s larger than life ‘Heroes’ and that eventually seeps in to our thought process. We love to make mole out of mountains. No wonder why Sachin is a God to us! It’s always been money over matter.

  • Hi Team NBW,

    I’m following NBW from 2011(Pluggd.in) to till date and i’m big fan of Mr.Sinha on his opinions and his analysis. Everyone in startup ecosystem knows first pluggd.in first after that now Yourstory.

    Ashish knows Yadav personally and at last stage of his tenure he participated in Unpluggd event as speaker and sponsored event also. Yadav told me before unpluggd event that ashish is very nice guy and he has great analysis on startups and we should support him.

    Now look at these article and i never expected NBW will come to these stage writing articles on RY and author is completing attacking with his personal agenda.

    Any retrospection on these article ? I’m seriously would like to know how can NBW allow these kind of authors to write articles like these because NBW is only portal posted on public platform.

  • Because what the author seems to hit the mark i.e. 100% true. Your logic seems to suggest that since Ashish and Rahul are friends, NBW shouldn’t write anything against Rahul. You have flawed logic – may be you should join Rahul’s next venture.

  • I find it hard to understand why we can not criticize the person to stepping so low and make personal attacks. Raising capital is a hard game and Rahul Yadav seem to have done well in it, I think we should respect him for the same. Of course we can criticize him for his subsequent actions but words like buffoon etc. undermine the quality of the arguments.

  • Because its a free country… and the author has a right to express his views… and Rahul is not a demigod (well, maybe yours). What is criminal though is your horrible abuse of the English language (Yes, I’m exercising my right to criticize you :D)

  • Hello Sumantha, Through all your article – you are screaming about media giving attention to a brat. Buddy then how come you ( I guess you are a part of media too- correct me if I am wrong) have decided to publicize him?

  • @Catapult : I respect your opinions but why not NBW is writing same on OYO Ritesh/Goozoomo/ZO rooms and many other young entrepreneurs . Check the timings of these article published on medium (Sumanth) and NBW and we all knows sinha also knows sumanth very well.

    Bhai people wants traction and page views, media in startup ecosystem is in a stage for adding masala to get what they want. I’m already with him mentally for last three years and we all support him to any extent. We have seen good/bad days and we know how people change tones according to their requirement.

  • Free country bhai and it’s fine everyone has their own opinions. Rahul is not demigod but he is a Ex leader of organization which is still running it’s own business. I’m happy if you criticize me but NBW joined in league where people are trying to assassinate character RY with their articles.

    I still remember Times Internet Ceo and sinha were discussing about quality journalism. Now there is big difference between Times and NBW.

    https://twitter.com/_sachinbansal/status/666486476935294978 (Classic example about author)

    https://twitter.com/cnha/status/615820498186797056

  • @Ashish : Thanks for your reply and we admire you alot and frankly i know more about startups via pluggd.in only but there should be a moderation before publishing article. Author can express his view but NBW should have take appropriate measure on content without naming other entrepreneurs in headlines(Including Rahul).

    I’ve seen that article,your tweet the day he left and we follow you and NBW actively.

    These author and his articles on NBW leads to more controversies.

  • Well written Sumanth. This is an opinion that needs to be shared and isn’t far from the truth. Kudos to Ashish and NBW team for airing it.Finally, a response to the one-sided cacophony of coverage on the enigma that seems to be Rahul Yadav.

  • Lol, its funny how RY-Fanboys are descending on this article and criticizing NBW/Author for this. Now, this has become just like politics – why did you criticize RY, why not some X, Y, Z? you have ulterior motive against RY.

    SMH

  • Author is absolutely right, we are chasing the funding dream. As an entrepreneur everybody thinks that once you have the initial funding, you will become a millionaire and to hell with the company. This is not how things go. It is typical of our psyche that we don’t think long term but only short term. That is why so many startups are opening these days which are just copycats of the existing ones or who don’t solve any problem.

    This guy is not the only founder in Housing. There were other founders also and they collectively raised the funding so don’t give him all the credit. It is just that he was made the CEO of the company and a public face that people think he is solely responsible for funding etc.

    And believe me without VC money, this guy would be sitting in one room office and still struggling. So, he should not be saying things about the VCs he said earlier.

  • Well he is now focusing on new funding story as done by USA company magic leap.com and I am sure he must have done a good research on what is going to be next big thing in investment area. I am pretty confident that he is going to fool many more with Augmented reality story and whether he is able to crack a great application in that area depends lot on his personal skills. He works in the right direction ( inspired by startups in US) but cannot work without causing stir in media.

NextBigWhat brings you curated insights and wisdom on product and growth from the wild web.

Over 2 million people receive our weekly curated insights.

Newsletter

Newsletter