Samyak Pandya of Ridecell: “Manage your day, manage your life”

We’re transforming mobility from the inside out, for all kinds of fleets — passenger as well as commercial. We focus on how to improve utilization of fleets and lower their cost of operations across the entire mobility ecosystem including telematics, insurance, repair and maintenance, among other things. As a part of our series about business leaders who are […]

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We’re transforming mobility from the inside out, for all kinds of fleets — passenger as well as commercial. We focus on how to improve utilization of fleets and lower their cost of operations across the entire mobility ecosystem including telematics, insurance, repair and maintenance, among other things.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samyak Pandya, VP of Business Operations and Finance at Ridecell, a high-yield mobility platform.

Sam oversees Ridecell’s global and new business expansion, and has deep career expertise in building scalable organizations and businesses, helping them grow by 10s of millions of dollars. When he’s not working, Sam is an ardent musician who lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Two words come to mind: lots of curiosity and serendipity. Over the past 15 years, I’ve made software for banks and stock exchanges, taught math and English, planned strategy for India’s largest tractor and UV (Utility Vehicle) maker, roamed the villages of India to promote greater use of micro-irrigation and better farming practices, and ran a health food business — all before joining my current company, Ridecell, which is focused on high-yield mobility.

I’m a software engineer and MBA by training and am deeply passionate about improving the quality and satisfaction of human work through the intersection of technological automation and diligent execution. My decision to join Ridecell was a combination of curiosity, a few serendipitous encounters with our CEO Aarjav and Ridecell’s mission of ‘moving the world better.’ Both Aarjav and I spent a week convincing one another why we shouldn’t work together and, by the end of it, we were pretty certain that this was a good idea.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’re transforming mobility from the inside out, for all kinds of fleets — passenger as well as commercial. We focus on how to improve utilization of fleets and lower their cost of operations across the entire mobility ecosystem including telematics, insurance, repair and maintenance, among other things.

We’re focused on improving the core operational and financial fundamentals for fleets, a seemingly boring and unsexy matter to focus on. But that is where the highest impact both for fleet operators and end users is. In today’s world, the relentless pursuit of improving business fundamentals for our customers, one behind-the-scenes variable at a time, feels pretty disruptive.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first started, the idea was to be the on-demand platform for everything. Our first offering was taxis & plumbers on-demand. We soon realized that the two were as different as chalk and cheese requiring two completely different markets and competencies.

From that mistake, we learned the value of focus, quickly adapting to what the market was telling us, and the pursuit of relentlessness. We’ve since narrowed our focus to mobility. We’ve certainly made mistakes within this niche and dealt with adverse market cycles and events, but we have always quickly learned and iterated to become stronger with every vicissitude.

Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have sought out mentors in the form of books, projects, and people who had knowledge and experiences about what I wanted to do throughout my life. Books have been my omnipresent and unfailing mentors. I have a serendipitous relationship with books; one shows itself to me whenever I need it the most. To Kill a Mockingbird taught me about kindness and empathy; Harry Potter, The Little Prince, and The Alchemist taught me to look at everything in life with a degree of wonder and magic; Atlas Shrugged taught me about taking responsibility for my own life. I discovered How will you measure your life by Professor Clay Christensen during a challenging period in life. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People showed itself at the beginning of my career and steered me toward developing an enviable work ethic.

On the people front, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with amazing individuals and teams throughout my career. My ex-manager Ashok Sharma (the president of my erstwhile employer Mahindra group’s agribusiness), and Aarjav, Ridecell’s CEO would stand out as two of the individuals I’ve learned the most from.

Mr. Sharma helped me comprehend the power of living in the ‘and’ vs. the ‘or,’ focusing on possibilities and working backward to make them a reality instead of focusing on constraints. He also helped me understand the power of the Have-Do-Be paradigm. We usually want to Have something, so we Do things, hoping to Be someone. Whereas the universe operates in the opposite direction. We have to Be someone who inspires us to Do things aligned with that being, and then we get to Have things based on who we are.

Aarjav is one relentless bugger. He has taught me what it means to be relentless and how to communicate truth in the best light.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is defined as an interruption in continuity. It is a form of change and change is the only constant in life. So, disruption is always happening. I don’t think there is a positive or negative to it. It is just that we fail to notice that change till the time it becomes really big and then it feels like disruption to us. All that matters is how we respond to it.

What is not good is stasis. Life is not built for stasis. It is the precursor to death. So any system that has withstood the test of time has done so by constantly examining, testing, and tweaking itself. We should keep doing that to every aspect of life, including the work that we do and within the industry that we operate in.

What I’ve observed is that the things that are susceptible to disruption are functions of structure. For example, any process that can be automated or any supply chain that can be shortened or eliminated or any structure that is based on expectations, such as any services based industry. These are things that are easily disrupted.

What is not easily disrupted is functions of human nature. Things like Leadership or lack thereof. Ambition, Grit, Mindset, Hard work or lack thereof, these are things that are difficult to disrupt. And one of the reasons for this is the time horizon involved. These are changes that happen over a couple of generations or more and therefore don’t appear like disruptions to us.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

‘Embrace your serendipities and zemblanities.’ My journey so far has been circuitous; far from a linear path. I’ve optimized for curiosity and interest over money and titles. So far it has served me well. Once while working with farmers in the villages of India, I was held hostage for a few hours. By the end of two hours, since they were not letting us go, we requested the villagers to take us to their houses and help with some arrangements for us to sleep at night. This broke the ice, we were able to learn more about them, and eventually they let us go. It was scary yet civil. The whole incident taught me many things, and on top of it, it makes for a very interesting and memorable story.

‘Manage your day, manage your life.’ If your day is intentionally lived, and you keep putting in the reps day in and day out, it makes for a satisfying life and, in turn, life usually takes care of you. This year I’ve done close to 7,000 push-ups with a target of over 10,000 before the year ends. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in nearly a decade. In 2017, I read over 50 books. Every year, picking something new and doing it intentionally has helped me immensely

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

One of our most interesting sources of leads has been our investor and customer network. Many of our investors are global automotive ecosystem majors and have partners and customers that can benefit from our platform.

Our market network platform is positioned to seamlessly create opportunities and savings for both fleet operators and ecosystem partners. Active Partner referrals have helped our business generate a substantial part of our prospect funnel.

How are you going to shake things up next?

At Ridecell, we’ve already helped multiple consumer vehicle sharing services launch and grow profitably over the past several years. We are eagerly looking forward to expanding our areas of impact. We hope to do for commercial fleets what we have been able to do for consumer fleets, at a much larger scale, and simultaneously integrate the ecosystem components like telematics, insurance, and vehicle operations. This will mean leveling up for our teams and me personally at multiple levels. We’re excited to unleash the next wave of innovation in mobility.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’ve mentioned books previously so I will focus on podcasts. Naval Ravikant’s talks on his own podcast, the Knowledge Project, as well as Tim Ferris, and Joe Rogan podcasts, have been very impactful. Naval’s wonderful multi-disciplinary way of thinking has been very useful to inculcate.

Naval shares how anything meaningful takes time, how to manage the false dichotomy of focus and breadth, reading, and how different books speak to different people, how he views life and its purpose. What resonates most with me is his take on life — the greed for life; the desire to do everything in one life; and yet how we should not take anything that we do or our own selves too seriously.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson is a combination of two quotes. First, “A fit body, a calm mind, and a house full of love cannot be bought — they have to be earned,” by Naval Ravikant. Second, “Success is never owned, it is rented, and rent is due every day,” by Rory Vaden.

By actioning these two thoughts, one can live a pretty well-sorted life. These thoughts help keep me grounded and not take anything for granted. They also help me strive to be a better version of myself each day.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The one thing I would love to see happen is for more people to become intentional about life. Human beings are one of the only forms of life endowed with the gift of agency and ownership. We can imagine a better future and we have the power to change it. Yet most people never discover this power or let life happen to them.

Once you discover the power of agency and ownership, the universe appears very different, it almost starts bending to your will. Anything that helps creates awareness and helps people experience this would impactfully improve life on earth.

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