A Q&A with business mogul Sarayu Srinivasan.
New York-based Sarayu Srinivasan is not your typical CEO.
Her career portfolio includes accomplishments that top-tier business students dream of.
Prior to founding Kaargo, a new online consumer shipping company, Sarayu was a venture capitalist, most recently at Intel Capital.
She invested in global businesses—even relocating to India to launch a $250M emerging markets fund.
With a background in tech, she’s held operating, strategy and growth acceleration roles at successful startups, while also impacting the consumer and retail worlds.
Basically, Sarayu’s career rocks.
PowerToFly spoke to the powerhouse about Kaargo’s experience with remote work, and how traditional business owners should think about it, as it rapidly becomes the norm.
As a venture capitalist, who has worked with various entrepreneurs, and as the CEO of Kaargo, why is remote work something that you stand behind?
We live in an increasingly compact and connected world. We work across offices, time zones and cultures. In many senses, the world is contracting. Sometimes the talent or configuration desired is not local, and seeking that—wherever it can be found—is an increasingly common practice. There is room for the best in any field. And for the best, they can work from anywhere.
What are some projects that you’ve been able to develop as a remote company, that you wouldn’t have been able to do if you were working from a brick and mortar location?
We have been opportunistic and value being fast and effective. That has sometimes decentralized our work locations, allowing various modules, at various times, to operate in geographically disparate locations.
Based on current trends and your own vision, how do you see the business landscape changing as a result of increased remote work?
If companies manage the challenges of building and growing via a remote workforce, then it paves the way for more proliferation of this business model. We seem to be moving into an economy characterized by a lot of flexibility; with the rise of the on-demand economy, employees opting for flexibility over security, companies looking to gain advantage through optimizing their workforces and the convenience/productivity gains that come through flexible work forces (on both sides). Remote work could very well become more commonplace.
You’ve written about risk. How much risk is involved in setting up a remote business? What should traditional owners be aware of when setting up a remote business?
On the domestic side, remote workers can face the challenges of not having a group to connect, dialogue and get feedback from, which as we all know, is something that is incredibly important. They can suffer from a isolation, a lack of motivation, distractions and lack of reinforcement. On the other hand, there have been numerous studies underscoring the benefits and raised productivity from engaging a remote workforce. I think it really depends on the culture of the company. Some roles lend themselves well to more remote work set-ups while others demand on-site presence. As a cross-border investor, I’ve seen disasters as well as success stories with remote workforces. There’s risk and in part, due to that risk, investors generally prefer to back companies close to home. The most common challenges I’ve seen in a cross-border (international) situation have to do with cultural issues (attitudes to time, bureaucracy toleration, orientation towards innovation, ability to pivot rapidly, communication styles, differing work ethics). You also have currency, political and other country specific/geographical driven risks. If setting up shop outside a home culture, I think it’s important to really know what that means and the implications, so it requires some deep understanding followed by deep thought.
In addition to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, what type of employees and employers thrive in remote environments?
As a venture capitalist you are out in the field, meeting companies, participating in events, attending meetings, so you spend a good chunk of your time outside or working away from your actual desk at odd hours. As an entrepreneur, you do whatever it takes to make things happen so you are always working remotely, even when you have an actual office! Many IT and back-office functions work well (and) roles that require lots of travel, customer or in-person engagement. You need to be disciplined and motivated, as well as have the ability to tap into the group as needed.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs that are considering hiring remote workers or working on remote projects?
There are many secondary and tertiary type of roles that may lend themselves better to remote work situations that can provide much needed flexibility for a young, resource-strapped company. Dipping into remote work forces may also be a way to have access to quality professionals on a just-in-time and as-needed basis, maximizing a lean company’s resources.
PowerToFly’s mission is to link accomplished professional women, globally, with work opportunities that fit their lifestyle. This includes remote and in-office work. What type of skills do women and/or working moms offer, that are valuable to both types of work environments?
I think working mothers have to be incredibly efficient, productive and versatile given their responsibilities and time constraints. They are great organizers and time managers. They couldn’t be working mothers sustainably if they weren’t. In addition to being valuable employees, I think they can be really great role models for everyone. I also think, generally of course, women tend to be very detail oriented, strong communicators and organized. These benefits all accrue to the companies they work for.
Power to Fly is a company connecting accomplished women with remote-work jobs that actually lead to work-life balance.