Stay true to the course but be prepared to make adjustments when the situation changes, and learn to pivot while managing your ego. So often things change, and there is a temptation to try to force the first idea you have to solve it.
Aspart of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ravi Rishy-Maharaj. Ravi Rishy-Maharaj is the founder and CEO of GigSky, the first global mobile data network designed for travelers. Since its inception in 2010, the company has continued to expand its services and partnerships to provide a range of services for consumers, enterprises, and manufacturers.
Jason Crowley: Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ravi Rishy-Maharaj: I am a serial entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in solving complex technical challenges with elegant solutions. As an engineer, I feel it is my mission to solve problems in the best way possible. I’ve been a part of six start-ups including Kinaare and GigSky.
The genesis for GigSky came from the frustration that international calling was so expensive due to high roaming charges. Time after time I would experience large bills when making calls while traveling for business or pleasure.
I heard the same thing from colleagues, customers, and friends. So, I thought to myself, how can I change this? With this in mind we set out to solve the problem, and the result is GigSky. A solution that facilitates and streamlines mobile connectivity to deliver a service that is genuinely global, flexible, scalable and intelligent. Today, GigSky provides eSIM data services across 190 countries in six languages.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Rishy-Maharaj: It was my time at Kinaare Networks that lead me to GigSky, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Founded in 1999, Kinaare was an intelligent consumer devices and services company. I invested all my savings into the company and I eventually lost millions of my own money.
I had a family to support, a mortgage to pay and overnight it was gone. It wasn’t that Kinaare was a bad business proposition, it was just that it was an idea ahead of its time. The purpose of the initial service came from my own need to stay connected with my family back in Toronto when I moved to Palo Alto in 1995. As with any failure, it taught me many valuable lessons, some of which have helped GigSky become far more successful.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Rishy-Maharaj: Focus. Persistence. Execution.
My drive comes, like most engineers I believe, from my desire to solve problems. I needed to focus on the challenge in front of me. I needed to rebuild an asset base. So, I was fortunate enough to see this as motivation and not a failure. I had to believe in myself and my abilities.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Rishy-Maharaj: I attribute overcoming adversity to three things: vision, persistence and drive. I have had to learn patience as well. As far as the next chapter, I plan to follow this journey of discovery and see where it takes me.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Rishy-Maharaj: #1 Focus, Focus, Focus
Find and focus on the real problem and ignore the external noise. It is so easy to get bogged down by distractions. When we were developing GigSky, we had to write a lot of the software we required. It was tempting to veer off course and create software for different applications, but success came when we stayed the course.
#2 Be Flexible
Stay true to the course but be prepared to make adjustments when the situation changes, and learn to pivot while managing your ego. So often things change, and there is a temptation to try to force the first idea you have to solve it. I find you often have to let that idea go and so you can create a better solution.
#3 Always Think Ahead
A popular phrase comes to mind: Failure to plan is planning to fail. It’s helpful to consider the way highly skilled athletes operate — they envision the outcome, plan for its achievement, anticipate the next step, and then continue to practice that vision until they’ve met their goal. In business there is the great temptation to get ahead of yourself or believe you will be successful simply because you were in the past. But every endeavor needs the proper planning before you can execute, it requires a new and flexible vision, and the honest assessment of results achieved to find long-term success.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Rishy-Maharaj: There wasn’t one singular person who inspired me. However, my family and Indian culture is a great inspiration to me, and I draw strength from them to keep going during challenging times.
Being an immigrant from Trinidad to Canada and now the United States has taught me the value of persistence, accepting others, and self-belief.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people.
Rishy-Maharaj: I always start new endeavors with the focus of solving a problem. I encounter a pain point and think how can I alleviate this and make it better.
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Rishy-Maharaj: I think of the words of John Lennon when I think of how I would inspire others:
‘“Give peace a chance.”
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Rishy-Maharaj: Young entrepreneurs need to focus on finding solutions to big problems that provide benefit to many. We have so much power to change the world for the better, and it’s important to remember that you take one step at a time.
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Rishy-Maharaj: You can follow me on Twitter: @rishym; @gigsky
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.