“Shuttling between loving what I do and doing what I love…every single day!”
Meet Puru Gupta, Founder of True Elements. He has worked across various industries in different capacities – As a National Category Manager managing the national business of Gillette (Grooming Category), as a Key Account Manager across Delhi and East UP selling shampoos near Nepal or understanding buyer behavior of North Indians, developing IT Architecture for Clients in Hawaii (in CSC), to developing robust programs for credit card processors in Europe (in Cognizant). Also, his urge to learn took him to Rural Maharashtra to understand rural retail and e-Choupal, and then he traveled to China on an exploratory trip to understand the market – each of these pieces forming a significant part of his story!
He loves taking up challenges – be it turning around a bleeding business, launching a new category in a competitive market, building a market for a new brand, or, building a venture from scratch with the sole objective of changing people’s habits!
Puru also assists companies in Marketing, specifically Retail, foods, and FMCG companies. He has worked with a few Health & Wellness companies, assisting them in Marketing activities, before venturing out on his own. His hobbies include Teaching, Photography, and Writing. Overall, when it comes to various forms of expression, he is a ‘Marketer’ by heart, and now, a dreamer by design.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Puru Gupta: I loved watching people buy in stores – what goes behind their decisions, what they bought etc. While I called it snooping, I learned later that it is also done professionally, under the “Shopper Behavior” bucket as part of Marketing. One thing led to another, and I ended up spending more time in Rural Indian markets, as well as Chinese Retail Markets, both as part of my obsession with “watching people”. But part of this experience made me love Green tea and the way the Chinese internalized this simple, yet powerful habit. And from there the love for health grew. However, in 2009, when I lost my dad to cancer, I realized that there might be more people who acted after things went out of their hands – and if people could just be nudged to be a bit more proactive about their health, the world could change. And that’s how my journey started, along with my co-founder – towards creating something that makes the world a bit better, piece by piece, story by story!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Puru Gupta: During the first 6 years of our journey, there were at least 3 times over a span of 6 years where our bank balance went down to double digits, just a few days before salary time. It was extremely stressful for us, but then every time this happened, we learned something, corrected and moved forward. The first time it happened, we learned that there is a difference between P&L and Cash Flows and we realized what’s more important at our stage, the hard way. The second time it happened, we learned that Growth is critical, but efficiency cannot be compromised – some buckets have a longer horizon of payouts, and you need to keep looking backwards to define the level of ‘risk’ you can take. And then the third time it happened, we realized that all said and done, such things would keep happening as long as we know the solutions and have figured out a way to come out – since then, we take less stress about such times – some call it resilience as well!
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Puru Gupta: I think entrepreneurs thrive in chaos but can die in insecurities – as a startup, we always want to stay independent. But then when you are told about the world, you always end up emulating them. Whether it was survivorship bias or confirmation bias, we were usually advised to do things that “attracted VCs” – and make ourselves more investable. Most of these things also meant a compromise in building a sustainable business. I must admit – most of the time, we ended up listening to such pieces – thankfully, we are clearer now on our direction and have minimized such behaviors – we know our priority is customers and that helps us in making clearer decisions.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Puru Gupta: I feel Resilience is experience coupled with preparation. This largely entails 3 things in our experience – embracing uncertainty, preparing for failure, and having a positive mindset of coming out of the tunnel. The last one mostly involves sticking to your gut and getting less influenced by what the world is talking about. If you have these 3, you usually avoid surprises and keep moving forward.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
Puru Gupta: While all 3 are critical, according to us, Values matter the most as that is something that touches everyone – Mission and vision could evolve with time and are usually top-down. But values drive our daily decisions and outlook towards the world around us – something that matters the most to us, as we scale up globally!
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Puru Gupta: I believe the ability to listen more than hear, communicate more than talk, and empathize more than sympathize is what enables all of us as leads in the team to grow with a smile on everyone!
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Puru Gupta: This is critical when your value system is the foundation of your organization. In that case, it is absolutely critical to be mindful – as you are practically living your values every day, and also expect everyone who is part of the ecosystem to live that as well.
How do you monitor if the people in your department are performing at their best?
Puru Gupta: There are three things that help us assess –
- If their managers are excited about having them in their team.
- If their reportees are excited about being part of their team.
- If they are excited about coming for work every day, and find the work meaningful to them – this last bit is usually a combination of their experience as well as aspirations.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Puru Gupta: I feel everyone should try their hands at entrepreneurship once in her/his lifetime – not just for the sake of learning about business, but more about learning a zero-to-one. Even parenthood is somewhat like being an entrepreneur – not sure how many parents would agree to parenthood being something you are born with (no pun intended!), or if it’s something you learn along the way!
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Puru Gupta: While there are many quotes that continue inspiring us, one that stands out is the one Steve Jobs mentioned in this 2005 Stanford Commencement Address – “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” and “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Puru Gupta for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Puru Gupta or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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