Arjun Nagarajan

Co-Founder of Syook

Arjun Nagarajan is the co-founder and CEO of Syook with over 16 years of industry experience. He previously worked in the Oil and Gas sector in various parts of the world. He is a graduate from IIT Guwahati, 2006 graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

To improve my productivity, I generally use Sunday evenings to plan the next week.
– Write down stuff that needs to be accomplished during the entire week.
– Allocate time blocks where I do not want to be disturbed and want to think.
– Allocate time blocks for meetings.
– Allocate a lot of contingency time slots during the day for all the “urgent” stuff that comes up6

Of course, this does not work all the time, but it’s great every time it does work. Looking at it from a weekly perspective helps since i can measure tangible impact better and always have contingency time to make up :).

Also, My typical day involves waking up early around 6am in the morning, doing the daily tasks, following which, I exercise for 15 minutes before starting work in the morning. Also, We have a morning call of the team everyday at 9am to discuss what is happening and what everyone was up to the previous day. ๐’๐จ๐ฆ๐ž ๐š๐๐ฏ๐š๐ง๐ญ๐š๐ ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ž๐ž๐ง ๐›๐ฒ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐š ๐ซ๐ž๐ ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ ๐œ๐š๐๐ž๐ง๐œ๐ž ๐œ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ has been:

  • Get a holistic view of whatโ€™s going on.
  • Breakdown silos and build cross-functional synergy.
  • Have a structured approach to the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe in getting started, continuing to work to perfection rather than starting with perfection

Whatโ€™s one trend that excites you?

The trend of artificial intelligence and it’s use in various domains such as content and collateral creation, coding is something that I am excited about

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

One thing which helped me a lot is waking up early. I wake up at 6-6:30 am every day and this has enhanced my productivity.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say that with five years of experience, one can start the entrepreneurship journey. Since you tend to get more comfortable as you get older.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

I believe startups are often romanticized, but it is a very challenging journey. The funding helps with the risk element but there are plenty of challenges when it comes to building a startup.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

I would recommend everyone to wake up early in the morning to as it helps me do exercise, get a lot of work done and set the day in place.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

As an entrepreneur, it’s very easy to get caught up with the ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐›๐ฅ๐ž๐ฆ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐ฒ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ž๐ฅ.

When we listen to problems, solve them, feel a sense of accomplishment and we want to solve more problems. This gets addictive.

Everyone starts highlighting problems !!!! Gradually we are swamped with problems. Solving them is all we seem to do on a daily basis. This does not scale, is not healthy for the company, and also hampers the growth of an individual.

We have adopted a simple rule at Syook. When discussing a challenge or a problem, do come up with a solution BEFORE you present it to everyone or escalate this.

One simple question we always ask the person who highlights any issue is, ” ๐’๐จ ๐ก๐จ๐ฐ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ ๐จ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฌ๐จ๐ฅ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ข๐ญ” ?

Of course, no solution is perfect and the team builds on the initial proposal or works towards a new one.

๐“๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐š๐ฒ, ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ข๐ซ๐ž ๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐š๐ง๐ข๐ณ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐›๐ฎ๐ข๐ฅ๐๐ฌ ๐š ๐ฌ๐จ๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐ฒ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ž๐ฅ ๐ข๐ง๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐š๐ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐š ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐›๐ฅ๐ž๐ฆ ๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐ฒ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ž๐ฅ.

and this changes the team’s perception from a problem highlighting mindset to a solution highlighting mindset which is really important for building a healthy startup culture.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

We have focused on being ‘process focussed’ organisation in order to be able to scale effectively.
Being process focussed reduces stress at the workplace to a great extent and improves the work life balance. For example,
– One knows what is expected of them.
– Performance evaluation is more objective ( there is still a subjective component ) , but at least goalposts are clear and in writing.
– We avoid a lot of ” Why have you done this in this manner” or ” I had expected something better from you”
– Most important, it is less stressful for new members of a growing team to understand how to get things done.

Being process oriented greatly removes the uncertainty of “what do I need to do” , ” Am I doing well ” etc and basically un-clutters the mind and helps one contribute better.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Few years ago, when my cofounders Aman, Saurabh and I were fresh out of our jobs, we had a lot of ideas and wanted to hire engineers to build product. But no one would want to work with us because we were just 3 guys and an idea. Lost a lot of time and money to freelancers ( could not afford to hire the good ones).

After 3 months of struggle, Aman and I reached an understanding, I will learn backend if he agreed to do the mobile coding bit. In fact our first product was completely on Rails and taught us a number of things including product thinking.

Today , We have a no code IoT platform which handles millions of data points in a day , is modular, configurable and scalable. We are proud to have Syook deployed in some of the largest organisations in India and the middle east.

What is one business idea youโ€™re willing to give away to our readers?

An interesting idea could be to have a platform that helps B2B companies find more system integrators and partners .

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Taking a leaf out of Atomic Habits, I decided to write down things that were important and make sure I write something everyday. This has helped me slow down and focus on things that matter. Writing forced me to think through, since there is no backspace button with a pen. Apart from this, At Syook, We use tasks management platforms to be improve productivity.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

I have started buying more finance related books as while chatting with one of our new investors at Syook, he had a candid observation. While our domain knowledge, product quality, traction was great, our knowledge of finance was really poor.

He added that in order to build a world class company, the founders needed to understand the basics of finance, structuring and how capital flows and is utilised.

This was a major blind spot for us. So challenge accepted, I decided to learn basics of finance.

I started reading this book called Romancing the Balance Sheet, which really helped me demystify finance. The most important thing this book did for me, was remove the fear of finance as an unknown factor.

Amazing book !!! Strongly recommend this for all business owners, managers and of course entrepreneurs.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which youโ€™ve received much value?

I love this book called ‘Atomic Habits‘ by James Clear.

I love the concept of incremental small changes everyday. Mathematically at least, they seem to create a much larger impact. For instance, I now ensure that I exercise for 15 mins everyday before starting work in the morning.

Whatโ€™s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

I am personally inspired by Sir Richard Branson, when it comes to tenacity I look up to him. So, I have been inspired to watch his documentary Branson

Key learnings:

  • The most key thing would be that I would advise fellow startup founders to make sure that they are up for the long haul. It is important to chalk out the timeline and make a fair estimate. It helps you a great deal.
  • Secondly, In search of perfection, We tend to procrastinate. Then things pile up and then we might tend to procrastinate more. At some point, panic sets in and we just focus on getting the work done as soon as possible. So, I would advise everyone to procrastinate less.
  • Also, Waking up daily at 6 a.m to ensure that I donโ€™t skip exercise and go to the gym every day has really helped.
  • Additionally, Making small changes like meetings that have no agenda will not be done. This has led to improved productivity.