Indus has 20 years of business growth, product management, and SaaS experience. He has analyzed SaaS buying for 20+ companies with over $500,000 in SaaS spend and has been the leader of growth for a unicorn.
Indus grew up in a mining town where 2-3 homicides daily were a norm, and eventually escaped what he calls the “India Coal Mafia” that plagued his life and left for America. He made the most out of this move and became a founder, a father, and a pilot. He now aims to help others make the same growth in their business and life.
In this episode, Indus shares his favorite mistake story about selling a previous company “prematurely.” Why does he now think they should have persisted? What was the thought process at the time? What was the risk of not selling? We discuss all of that and more.
Questions and Topics:
- What's a unicorn?
- What do you mean by the “Indian Coal Mafia”?
- If everyone is telling you it’s a mistake… are you wrong or being a visionary?
- What positive comes out of a mistake?
- Lessons learned for next time? Trusting your gut? Putting your foot down as you said? Risk of overadjustment?
- Learning vs. agonizing over it
- This isn’t your profession, but I have questions for you as a Pilot – preventing mistakes?
- Difference between preventing mistakes in a repeatable process (like taking off and landing) vs. doing innovative things?
- Doesn’t mean anybody can fly a plane?
- Get there-itis may have killed Kobe Bryant
- Tell us about your current company, Quolum…
- Mistakes companies make with their portfolio of SaaS applications and spending?
Scroll down to find:
- Video version of the episode
- How to subscribe
- Full transcript
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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)
Mark Graban (0s):
Episode 222. Indus Khaitan, founder and CEO of the technology company, Quolum.
Indus Khaitan (7s):
As an entrepreneur, you live a life of making mistakes and correcting it.
Mark Graban (17s):
I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite. Mistake In. this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes. But what matters is learning from our mistakes. instead of repeating them over and over again. So, this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at MyFavoriteMistakepodcast.com to learn more about Indus his company, and more Look for links in the show notes or go to markgraban.com/mistake222. As always, thanks for listening. Well Hi, everybody. Welcome back to My Favorite Mistake.
Mark Graban (58s):
I'm Mark Graven. Our guest today is Indus Khaitan. He is the CEO and founder of Quolum. It's a company funded by Sequoia and Nexus. We'll learn a little bit about Quolum here, but Indus has 20 years of business growth, product management, and SaaS experience software as a service. If you don't know that term, he is analyzed SaaS buying for more than 20 companies with over $500,000 in SaaS spend, and has been the leader of growth for a quote unquote unicorn company in just grew up in a mining town in India, where as it says in his bio, there were two to three homicides daily. That was the norm. He escaped what he calls the India coal Mafia, that, that, that plagued his life.
Mark Graban (1m 41s):
He left for America where he's made the most of the move. He became a founder, a father, and a pilot, and then Indus aims to help others make the same kind of growth in their business and their life. So, Indus, we've got an interesting background in bio. Welcome to the podcast. How are you
Indus Khaitan (1m 58s):
Doing? Very well. Thanks for having me. You know, great to have, good to see you again. Yeah,
Mark Graban (2m 2s):
Good, good to talk with you. You know, real quick, because we, we have listeners who are from, you know, the tech and entrepreneurship space. I explained SaaS, I think I got the acronym correctly. When you say unicorn, like what's the quick pitch of what that means? These days in tech circles,
Indus Khaitan (2m 16s):
Unicorn typically is a word used in venture funded startup circles for companies that have achieved a valuation of a billion dollars.
Mark Graban (2m 25s):
Yeah. And how, I mean, it's not at, well, I guess we, we don't have, I was about to say rarer, not as rare as a real unicorn, but that's a dumb thing to say in the late afternoon. But it's meant, it's meant to indicate that it's rare. Are we seeing more unicorns in the tech space now?
Indus Khaitan (2m 43s):
I think we saw quite a bit of jump in the unicorn. It's supposed to be rare. You know, when the turmoils coined, probably 10 years ago, if I'm, if I'm getting her name right, there's a lady by the name Elene Lee. She coined the term when she wrote an article on Tech Run saying, oh, we need to define these mythical creatures, startups that have achieved a $10 billion valuation, let's call them unicorn. And it became a rage. You'll not believe it at that time. Supposed to be a few. Fast forward to 20 20, 20 21, 20 22. There's so much money flowing in venture capital.
Indus Khaitan (3m 24s):
Every entrepreneur, what they saw saying, I wanna be a unicorn founder, doesn't matter what my business is. Or not so rarer when it was coined, but 1600 of them today, if I'm not wrong. Yeah.
Mark Graban (3m 35s):
So if everybody's a unicorn, nobody is a unicorn, I guess, or Yeah. But we can all aspire to that, that there's nothing wrong with that to, so to growth and, and that level of valuation and success. Right.
Indus Khaitan (3m 49s):
I think it's a, it's a good goalpost and a milestone to have, but valuations are sometimes a false indicator of success, whereas revenue, customer acquisition team and how good your product is, you know, not very much quantifiable revenue is not officially disclosed. That's another problem. Hence media bonds over valuation. Hence it became, you know, a much maligned term to be associated within the last couple of years. Yeah.
Mark Graban (4m 24s):
Well, thank you for, for explaining that a little bit. And then, you know, normally when we wanna jump right into the, the My Favorite Mistake story, but I'm gonna deviate from script a little bit more that, that phrase in your bio. I have to ask a little bit, 'cause this, this is your phrase, not mine, India Cole Mafiaa. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and when you, when you say it plagued your life, tell us a little bit about that.
Indus Khaitan (4m 48s):
So, I grew up in a mining town in eastern India. It, it is called the Ria coalfield. If you correlate with the history of let's say, Tennessee Valley coal deposits or Pittsburgh neighborhood, the larger Pittsburgh coal deposits, you know, Pittsburgh is the region. The, the whole region, region of Pittsburgh became very popular because coal deposits a confluence of, of couple of rivers, so easy in and out, and then money coming from Mr. Rockefeller and others. So imagine that playing out in a smaller scale on a small, in a small town.
Indus Khaitan (5m 28s):
And that's where I, I grew up. It's called the area Coalfield in a, in a small suburb called Dunbar. The problem is India is still immature in terms of politics and their, you know, citizen wellbeing. And the Mafiaa essentially would have their army to mine coal to trouble people. And whosoever gets in their way like, you know, very much like your New York mafiaa, but for coal, not for drugs or booze, but for coal. And I vividly remember my house was located on the edge of a road, hundreds of dump trucks, you know, debris going one way, and then coal going the other way, debris or sand used to fill up the mine after coal has been excavated.
Indus Khaitan (6m 14s):
And the life was, I would say very mellow. You know, you know, living in that every day we'll hear stories about people getting killed, people getting shot at, at gas stations or randomly bystander. Not, not a good position to be in, but you know, luckily the undergrad and left India and been here for so long.
Mark Graban (6m 35s):
Yeah. Well, and, and is are things, is, is the violence still a problem back there as it was before you left?
Indus Khaitan (6m 44s):
The violence has abated quite a bit. The mines have been nationalized controlled by the government. The corruption has not gone away. The violence has gone away. Plus media, you know, highlights the violence. It kind of brings national politics into the mix. It kind of fixes it to a greater deal. so it has reduced to probably 10% of what it was like even lesser. It's, it's quite a bit checked now, so it has kind of gone away. My dad's still there, my mom's still there, so it's much better than what it was.
Mark Graban (7m 15s):
Okay. Well that's, that's good to hear. So thank you for letting me ask about that a little bit. So we'll come back to talking about, you know, column and some of your startup and entrepreneurship experience a little bit. But Indus, as we normally do, we'll get back on the theme of the podcast here. With the different things you've done in your career, what would you say is your favorite mistake?
Indus Khaitan (7m 41s):
I think as an entrepreneur, you live a life of making Mistakes and correcting it. You know, some of them you could correct on a daily basis. Let's say you had a wrong hire. You try to amend, you know, train that person. If not, you figure out a way to part ways. Yeah, that's fixable. Many Mistakes are not fixable. It's like linear, you know, going forward and you cannot come back. One of the startups I did before, the current one is a, or was a mobile security company called Bitzer Mobile. You know, me and two of my co-founders, and this was around the time when iPhone became hugely popular, and every executive wanted to have an iPhone in their holster.
Indus Khaitan (8m 22s):
And if you are an enterprise employee, your IT department would say, Hey, no way, you gotta use the Blackberry because Dasp, you know, approved device of choice, right? But the executives would, you know, sh shoot the dictum and say, no, are we gonna bring our iPads and iPhone? And this was this war that went on and we found a hack to enable executives to use their iPhone in an enterprise environment without violating security policies. That's how Bitzer my previous startup was born. But, but again, we were early and hence it took us time to reach a velocity of, you know, consistent customer acquisition.
Indus Khaitan (9m 5s):
And we hit a plateau in 2013. And, you know, one thing led to other, another, and we found Oracle one is interested in us. So we sold the company to Oracle in 2013, December, 2014, January, you know, happy ending, right? Yeah.
Mark Graban (9m 26s):
Now congrats. But, but, but what happened then,
Indus Khaitan (9m 30s):
Fast forward four or five years later, or three years later, all of a sudden the market for what we built and sold it, we found that we did it premature because the market that,
Mark Graban (9m 44s):
And you sold it prematurely,
Indus Khaitan (9m 46s):
We sold it prematurely. The reason we sold it, we thought that the market for what we built is small. There are only 500 customers in the world that would potentially use a product. So it's a small market, but 2014, internet and enterprise and SaaS were just about to come out. A lot of new applications were getting ready. We were a single sign-on product. We are a security product for mobile device. And fast forward to 2021, Okta, the security and and identity vendor acquired a company called Auth zero for six and a half billion dollars.
Mark Graban (10m 31s):
And that was much more than the price Oracle paid.
Indus Khaitan (10m 35s):
We paid, we got less than a hundred million dollars. Okay. So, you know, a hundred times magnitude of what could have been possible, not just the number in terms of acquisition dollars, but number of customers, the, the revenue, the impact you could have. And the mistake there was we should have persisted, we should have iterated the product. I should have convinced my board to go at least couple of years more instead of saying, yes, let's get acquired by Oracle and reflecting on that is Of course, give me 60 seconds, you know, gap in my heartbeat still alive, right?
Indus Khaitan (11m 25s):
But at the same time, it's a huge learning in terms of you cannot win the market in a day. You gotta persist, you gotta try, you gotta iterate and, you know, figure out the longer horizon of the journey rather than, hey, you could have a win and a loss in a shorter moment.
Mark Graban (11m 40s):
Yeah. So I mean, I think, well, for, for one, thank you for sharing the story and, and the reflections. And just I'd love to sort of unpack a little bit of, you know, the thought process, the discussion at the time, you know, because like any major decision, I mean, well, I'm curious, like how, how much did you think, I mean, how convinced were you that it was the right decision? Before we talk about, kind of later evaluating how it panned out, was there pressure from the board to go ahead and sell, get the exit investors could cash out? Were were you wanted to stick with it? Or were you sort of, where, where, where were you? Like, were you on the fence or were you convinced to help sell?
Indus Khaitan (12m 25s):
So me and my co-founders were divided amongst three of us. You know, I would like a pendulum sometimes swing on this or the other side. So we were conflicted and, and divided that is this the right path? But at the same time, we are also being rational that, hey, if we don't take this path, we won't be able to raise any more money and it'll be shutting down the whole company in next six to 12 months. We'll run out of cash and we'll shut down Now Of course, little bit of pressure from the board saying, Hey, you got the bird in the hand, what more do you know?
Indus Khaitan (13m 9s):
And in the back of my heart and Ali, my co-founder and c t o, we both talked quite a bit saying maybe we should persist. But then, you know, we, when we were down in the pitch, they say, no, we should exist. You know, you know, again, it's never a right or wrong answer. It's a rumination of a decision. So Of course, a little bit of a, I would not say pressure, but you know, justification of the cause from the board saying, Hey, you have Oracle, this be great for you, the rest of your Careers, you know, you wanna align yourself. So I think reflecting on it, I think we should have at least I should have put my foot down and said, oh no, I disagree.
Indus Khaitan (13m 55s):
Sometimes you agree thinking maybe they are right. Hmm. Even if you, if you think you are right, but you don't have data, you know, you just go on your gut.
Mark Graban (14m 4s):
It's projections and forecasts and assumptions, right?
Indus Khaitan (14m 10s):
Yeah. And, and this is 2013, if that was the same case like a few years down the road, it was easy because either market has slightly more opened up, you know, whether you wanna run it or not, the decision. So we did not run out of steam, so we still had it enough to do it, but the variables were not aligning with us to say, no, we wanna go longer.
Mark Graban (14m 34s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's fascinating to think through a scenario like that. There's, you know, the ri as you, I think touched on the risk of not selling. Like, I mean, that could've worked out as a mistake. You, you don't, you don't know, you're, you're making the best decision you can at the moment. And you know, I'm kind of curious, like, it seems like maybe there's a different thought process. You were one of the co-founders, this is your company, as opposed to investors who are looking at you as being one of many portfolio companies. Like what, I mean, it's a, there's a different thought process and a different calculus, would you say?
Indus Khaitan (15m 12s):
Absolutely. So investor in all their goodness, right? So they have a view of the company, what we as entrepreneurs running the company project to them. You know, as an example, if I go back on my monthly board meeting and say, Hey, business is not doing well, they'll get a temperature that the business is not doing well, they are not running this, right? You as an entrepreneur are entrepreneurs view and investors view are essentially projections of each other. It's a mirror. And contrary to fact, if I, every day I go and say, Hey, the business is doing great, and all of a sudden 30 days later I say, oh, business is not doing great.
Indus Khaitan (15m 53s):
I'm gonna go outta business tomorrow. That's equally bad, right? Yeah. So you have to project like a, a truth checklist to them saying, this is what's right. This is not, not going well. These are the issues I screwed up in these areas. These areas require fixing like a very objective checklist of things that are going well, not so well. And let them draw a conclusion whether you're doing great or not. And, he, you know, to your question, investors, look at that lens as in what you are doing and what you're telling us, this is what you should do.
Indus Khaitan (16m 35s):
In, in our case, we were conveying this to our investors back then, hey, sales is not happening, right? And it went on for six months. So imagine if you are an investor who only gets that narrative in every monthly board meeting because they feed the number, the sales is not happening, which means the market is not there. How, and if they say, oh, you're spending money on marketing, you're spending money on customer acquisition, you have a product which has been sold to like 10 companies. So there is a need, but the demand is very little because the number of customers we could buy. And that's the story they were listening to on a monthly basis, that they'll say, Hey, the best outcome is go sell. And this is what happens with investors across portfolios.
Indus Khaitan (17m 17s):
And what you mirror is what they're gonna give you back. Yeah.
Mark Graban (17m 21s):
Yeah. I have one, one question about the tech because, you know, my wife's worked in big corporate settings, she did not wanna give up for Blackberry. Like she was one of the last holdouts. She loved that keyboard. And, but I I, I understand the appeal, you know, with iPhone was, was that something that Apple was going to find a way to address that maybe created risk then for that company at the time? You know, when, when do they build in a feature that basically does what your company had been doing? Is that a risk?
Indus Khaitan (17m 57s):
Definitely a feature could be projected as the risk. Very much so. If you remember, if you remember Steve Jobs in his famous iPhone keynote, he used the fact that the screen does not have any tactical input. You know, it was all screen and you tap it on screen instead of having the 50% of the screen. I very much remember he had a, you know, PowerPoint or, or keynote slide where the 50% of the screen was taken up by Q keyboard, And, he laughed at it. So their value problems not having a keyboard, which in my mind pissed off a lot of puritans who wanted a keyboard on top of iPhone.
Indus Khaitan (18m 44s):
Now. And that's the reason many people hated it, because you don't have a hack tactile feedback whether your key is pressed or not. But I think we got used to it. I think we got used to tapping on the hard screen all the time, right? so it was, it was definitely a detriment. I remember many executives who felt threatened by Apple, if I'm, if I'm not wrong, Steve Ballmer made this comment saying he doesn't even have a keyboard and, and laughed out loud on why iPhone would fail.
Mark Graban (19m 21s):
A lot of people thought that was a mistake. I'm, yeah, I mean, and sometimes the only time, only time will tell when it comes to these things, these big decisions, whether it's the design of a product or the sale of a company, there's no, there's no easy answers for, for that type of quote unquote mistake. A big decision and on, on, you know, in the innovation realm, right? So there's probably this different question of, like, earlier you talked about maybe you put your foot down more, I'm sure you know, from a, from a product design or software design standpoint, sometimes the founder has to do the same thing. People are saying that's a mistake. And you're like, well, I could be wrong, or I have a vision here.
Mark Graban (20m 3s):
Indus Khaitan (20m 5s):
And there are examples supporting that because if you look at, let's pick one, let's pick Amazon phone, I think fire phone.
Mark Graban (20m 15s):
Indus Khaitan (20m 17s):
Yeah. And Amazon Fire TV and other products. And I remember reading, they spend billions of dollars building and promoting that it was a mistake. But from the ashes of fire phone and fire TV came out, Alexa and Echo.
Mark Graban (20m 35s):
Indus Khaitan (20m 36s):
So I think as, as an entrepreneur looking forward, you project what would happen in the market and Yep. If it fails, figure out how to, you know, cover your losses and make lemonade out of it. So I think, yeah, yeah,
Mark Graban (20m 51s):
Yeah. Taking some piece of what might have otherwise been a failed technology. Wasn't that part of the, or was that part of the origin story for Slack or also Twitter? Or am I, am I thinking of Yeah, yeah, it was like a mess that was just something internal and they're like, oh really? That, that's the company, right?
Indus Khaitan (21m 12s):
Yeah. So Twitter's origin story, that Audio Corp where everyone Williams was working And, he was the c e o and the podcast application platform failed. And they, Hey, what else do we have? All right, we have this, you know, way to project to the world, broadcast to the world. And that's how, you know, I think Jack Dorsey and others, they got this idea. They start working on it. I think same thing with Slack. They were working on gaming product, if I'm not sure.
Mark Graban (21m 44s):
I think that's right. Yeah. Yeah,
Indus Khaitan (21m 46s):
I think so. And they were using some hacky tool to message each other or did not find something suitable and Slack was born.
Mark Graban (21m 54s):
Yeah. Yeah. So happy accidents sometimes, I guess.
Indus Khaitan (22m 2s):
Yeah. And, and even in science, you know, you know, Peter and Madam Curie, the husband and wife, they discovered like three greatest scientific discoveries of that time. And in fact now, right. You know, radium was discovered and a couple of other things. And it's all happy accidents.
Mark Graban (22m 21s):
Yeah. So I wanna ask one other question, kind of maybe wrapping up, you know, the story you had told of selling that company, wishing you had held out and put your foot down. When you think about, you know, a possible future opportunity to sell a company to be acquired, would you think through that differently? And if, if so, w would you try to guard against the risk of over adjusting and being in a situation where then the story is, ugh, I held on too long, I should have sold it years earlier. I mean, it seems like there's a risk of over adjusting. What, what are your thoughts on that in general, even?
Indus Khaitan (23m 3s):
Definitely there's a risk of over adjusting, but I think in software we have not seen enough. The software bets are very long and, you know, opportunity to grow thousands of times from the original idea, because I'll give you an example. You know, today, software is a trillion dollars every year across the world. If you look at hundreds of other things like automobile, there are billion automobiles across the world. The g d p of automobile itself is 10 trillion.
Indus Khaitan (23m 43s):
When I say G D P, the value of all the automobiles and parts and services and around it software is very early. So I think it has still 10 x more to go. So I think every bet in software could be, could be waged to be overindexed. You could take a bet saying, I'm gonna overindex on it, maybe I'll fail. But the the chances are lower. You could fail for other reasons. Running out of cash, your wife or your spouse saying, no, you're done. You gotta spend time with kids. You shut it down or sell it to someone. But I think softer, you could take a bet, but there are other reasons to sell. And, you know, you need cash or you've done it, you're burnt out.
Indus Khaitan (24m 26s):
And, and that's real, you know, founder, I could say that, you know, if I, if I run one thing for 10 years, I'll be burnt out midway. I'm a hundred percent sure how my mind works.
Mark Graban (24m 37s):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I appreciate you, you sharing that story into senior reflections and soon to be holding your head high. You've moved on to, to other things instead of wor spending too much. I know you've written about it on LinkedIn. I hope you don't spend too much time thinking of what you wish had happened, what you wish you'd done, that you've learned from it, rather than agonizing over it. I hope,
Indus Khaitan (25m 1s):
I think it's 10 years, so I've kind of tempered down quite a bit. Don't agonize over it at all. If I had not done anything about it, I'll give you like 32nd bite on that. If I had not started another company, if I had not worked for another high growth startup, I would be in that mode of regret forever. Versus I can moved on, I, I gotta take another shot at things and see what, what life does to me. That's what it's,
Mark Graban (25m 29s):
Yeah. Well that's very well said. It's very thoughtful. Thank you for, for sharing that. Now, I, I might be making a mistake here 'cause people might be saying, okay, you've got a, a, a serial entrepreneur, multiple times founder, a C E O of a company. I wanna ask you about Flying planes, if that's all right. Sure,
Indus Khaitan (25m 49s):
Absolutely. Let's do that.
Mark Graban (25m 51s):
You mentioned the word checklist already and, and, and that's very associated with, with aviation. So I was wondering, you know, if you could talk about Flying a plane and, and, and the need, you know, it's different than let's say an innovation mistake. We tried to invent something and like, oh, didn't work out, we found something positive. Life goes on, Mistakes and I, we all know like Mistakes in aviation could be really, really bad to the point of being deadly. So it's a different environment. How do you think about preventing Mistakes when you're Flying, whether that's through checklists or, or other methods? Tell, tell us about that.
Indus Khaitan (26m 32s):
I think checklist is, is a great way to summarize the life of an aviator. When I started Flying, my instructor told me, you don't trust yourself. You don't trust the plane, you don't trust the environment around you. You don't trust anything. Only thing you trust is the checklist. So let's say you are up in the air and your engine dies, what do you do? You don't freak out. You don't trust your emotions. You just follow, okay, engine fire or engine stop, what do I do? Okay, restart. Okay, what do I do? Check my fuel line. Okay, what check my throttle, what do I do?
Indus Khaitan (27m 13s):
So you basically follow a debugging procedure for everything that happens in that moment, painting for going up in the air. So let's say I go out to fly to the afternoon, okay, I have a 18 item checklist to inspect the plane. Then I go inside and inspect the instruments, then I do a runup checklist, then I do a takeoff. So it's all series of checklists, some shorts, some long up until the time I'm in cruise. Even if you're in cruise, all your checklist is done. But you are hyper aware. You are looking at your surroundings, your headphones are on, you're listening to a T C.
Indus Khaitan (27m 54s):
And that is completely orthogonal to how software is built. Yeah. Software is, Hey, let's throw it at the wall. If it fails, I'm gonna redo and throw it at the wall again, because there's no life loss, there's no damage done. Way different life in the air versus on the ground.
Mark Graban (28m 11s):
Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I used checklists related to podcasts, webinars, situations that are hardly life altering Mistakes of something when something goes wrong. But checklists can be really helpful. You know, that said, like there's, I think especially when it comes to aviation or when people apply checklists in the operating room, the presence of checklists doesn't mean I can come in and fly the plane or that I could come in and do surgery. You know, I think it's just this interesting balance of having training skill practice. But then, you know, checklists seem like they're there for, for the unusual situations.
Mark Graban (28m 53s):
You still have to be a skilled pilot.
Indus Khaitan (28m 55s):
Mark Graban (28m 56s):
Pilot aided by the checklist, right?
Indus Khaitan (28m 59s):
Yeah. The goal of the checklist is to throw away your emotional decision making skills and you know, throw away your ego and pride in the dustbin and use a checklist to follow. Because you know, unfortunately what happens is as human beings, we trust our brain, our judgment, our memory more than we should. And that's where fatal Mistakes happen. Yeah.
Mark Graban (29m 27s):
And there's a lot of situations, I don't know if any, you know, there are so few aviation disasters, thankfully these days, I'm gonna say knock on wood is someone who flies a fair amount here. But I, you know, I, I know stories and I've included in my book from operating rooms, surgical Mistakes started happening as an aftermath of, of people getting lax about following the checklist. So like there's almost this, this form of cognitive bias where you're using the checklist and there's no Mistakes. And then like somehow people forget like maybe there's been no Mistakes because we're using the checklist. Like people maybe get a little overconfident and say, well look, we don't make these Mistakes anymore.
Mark Graban (30m 8s):
Maybe we don't need the checklist. And then, hmm, maybe not that first time, but then, then that reinforces, right? Like, oh, we didn't use the checklist today. We didn't make a mistake until a mistake happens. Yeah. Or you, you get a cluster of Mistakes. Is it fair to say, and I know you're on the, you know, the private aviation side of things, but I, it seems like commercial aviation or pilots in general, is it fair to say or, or, or much more disciplined about the checklist?
Indus Khaitan (30m 41s):
I think all of us are. so it has been injected into me, you know, in a very nicely paneled piece of paper that I printed out and then filed in a booklet that I always carry. If I don't do it, it's at my own peril. Nobody's watching me except, you know, my, my kids who want me to come back home after a successful flight, right? In, in commercial aviation, it is hyper data entry driven, log driven. So your cockpit voice recorder is recording you. If you did not follow a checklist, set set of items, your co-pilot, your junior officer, he is looking up to you if you have not followed the checklist.
Indus Khaitan (31m 26s):
And the reason we have two people in commercial is for that reason, one's reading, one's doing, and this guy who's reading, he's also skilled and, and the guy who's doing is also skilled. So if somebody meets, misses a beat, there is at least one more person to catch it. Yeah,
Mark Graban (31m 42s):
Yeah. Well, and aviation I think has a better track record of learning from incidents accidents or near, you know, near misses where like you, you point out into some one, one person in the cockpit clearly Flying the plane, the other person looking up things. So there was one crash, I believe decades ago where both pilots were in involved in debugging, troubleshooting. Nobody noticed that they were running out of fuel.
Indus Khaitan (32m 10s):
Mark Graban (32m 10s):
Right. So I think there's this like division of, you know, who, who is doing what, don't lose track of Flying the plane or, or looking at these other, these other details. But when you say, when it's, you know, not following the checklist is at your own peril. I think that's the clear difference between aviation and healthcare. The surgeon is not putting themselves at peril the way, you know, the pilot's in it together with, with you as the passengers. You can count on that. And I'm not trying to besmirch surgeons or, but it's just, it's a different, it's a different dynamic. Are we in it together or Yeah, I can see where people would get more lax for different reasons, time pressures.
Mark Graban (32m 55s):
And again, I'm not trying to blame surgeons or, or beat them up. It's just, it's a different system.
Indus Khaitan (33m 1s):
Yeah. Time pressure is absolutely, you know, even in aviation, all the disasters have happened because of a term that we use in aviation called get, get their right hits. Which means if you somehow want to get to a place and you wanna bypass your common judgment of following a checklist, following the weather, listening to the weather, listening to the plane, listening to your own instinct, and you just want to get there, get there, right Test. And most of the disasters are fatal. Mistakes are because of you thought, I'll give you an example and I kind study these in my part-time. Let's say the weather was projected to be not so great, a rational decision would be, ah, we are gonna fly tomorrow.
Indus Khaitan (33m 45s):
But an irrational decision is, ah, I'm smart enough, I can navigate my way around. All I find a, a path to avoid the cell that I see on the map, get Theis and you'll eventually get sucked into it. And God forbid there'll be fatal accident,
Mark Graban (34m 3s):
Well get Theis may have killed Kobe Bryant in that tragic helicopter accident. There was fog, there was weather, there was probably, you know, pressure to perform hip neuritis was probably at least a factor,
Indus Khaitan (34m 21s):
I think. So I'm trying to piece that story in my head. Yes, definitely. The, I remember, you know, at least the re report said yes, it was fog. The, the chopper was Flying way too low to beat the cloud and because of the visual and they didn't see the mountain ahead of them because they're too low.
Mark Graban (34m 39s):
Yeah. One other thought on checklists, when you talk about the debugging or if an engine goes out, you know, we can see the movie about the miracle on the Hudson River, and I've seen Captain Sullenberger Sully speak at a conference. And like for one, he is the most gracious about reminding everybody that he had a, a co-pilot, Jeff Skilling, I think was his name, that that was a team effort. And you know, he talked, I remember him talking about how there was no specific checklist that, that, that answered the question of what do we do when we've taken off? We've lost both engines because of a bird strike, and we have to decide, do we go back to the airport or land in the river?
Mark Graban (35m 21s):
Like, there, there wasn't that magic checklist, but they had different checklists and you know, it sounded like the real skill there was knowing which checklists to go to, of trying to restart the engines, evaluating the decision of go back or, or not. And you know, as we know from from the movie, I think this was, this was realistic that that Solen Berger was criticized, you know, they say you made a mistake, you could have gotten back to the airport. Yeah. When I think as it turned out, they finally decided through simulators that that probably wouldn't have happened. That he did make the right decision.
Indus Khaitan (35m 57s):
Absolutely agree. So one thing, what happens in, and I think it shows in the movie LY as well, that when a crash happens, the, you know, the NTSB, when they come out, what they're looking for is the situation, what the pilot and the plane went into. Was it the weather? Was it the mind of the pilot? Was it the plane itself? And checklist helps better situational awareness and decision making. So they're looking at using the checklist, did the pilot make the right decision or he didn't follow the procedures. Now, if we, if the pilot followed all the procedures and the checklist and things have happened, not in the pilot's favor or the plane's favor, NTSB always gives a card saying, all right, we trust the pilot's judgment, but in the first place, you didn't check whether the plane had enough fuel.
Indus Khaitan (36m 54s):
And most of the time, at least in private aviation, single engine Cessnas, the accidents or ditching of the plane happens because somebody's running out of fuel. Again, get the right test. I don't wanna stop for 40 minutes and, you know, refuel the plane, I think it's just enough. I'm gonna get there. You'll burn faster than you could think. And then Of course, you lose the engine in the air. So I think they look at, or N T S B looks at, you know, did you follow the procedure based on the book that they have written? Yeah. And there's huge amount of documentation on that. Yeah.
Mark Graban (37m 31s):
And, and I, and I believe one other part of the story was we talk about impro learning from incidents or near misses or situations that I, I, I believe there were updates made to some of the checklists to help make that decision of, you know, go back or, or try to do an emergency landing somewhere that there, that they identified, well, you know, there, there were some gaps. They used their best judgment and that they could learn from that to try to help pilots in the future.
Indus Khaitan (38m 3s):
Yep. The checklists do get updated, but not that frequently. And unfortunately in aviation, we kind of joke about it, and I'm sure you've heard it, that things do not move. You know, things just sit there, you know, you die and come back and could be same checklist for the jokes of it because it takes time to ratify the changes. You know, push it down to every plane manufacturer, to every aviation enthusiast, every Flying club it, and, and the reason is because they wanna make sure that there's enough data to make those changes available to everybody. Yeah. They, they're very careful about rolling any new changes out.
Mark Graban (38m 44s):
Yeah, well probably as, as, as, as a passenger I'll say, yeah, they, they, they should be careful. There's this fine line of like, don't be glacially slow, but yeah. You don't want them to be irresponsible either. So. Well, our, our guest today is Indus Khaitan. Before I wrap up, tell us a little bit about your current company Quolum. You know, read a little bit about what you do helping companies that are buying different SaaS software platforms. And it seems like, from my reading of it, and I wanna hear your explanation or correct me if I don't have this quite right, that, that there are some, there are Mistakes companies make when there's this portfolio of different SaaS applications, different people spending money, kind of, you know, talk about that situation and, and how you help companies either, you know, discover or maybe prevent Mistakes when it comes to, to buying systems like these
Indus Khaitan (39m 38s):
Yeah. Good. Dovetail into the Mistakes part of it. Thank you for that. So software has, you know, helped the humanity in general. It kind of helps us do things faster, quicker, and more efficient. But the dark side of software, at least in SaaS, what has happened in the last five to eight years, it has become increasingly easy to buy one. So imagine, I'll give you an an analogy. In consumer business, you buy a subscription for Netflix, Prime, Peacock, Hulu and, and whatnot. You have like eight or 10 subscription services and then you forget about it because you needed them and you needed them.
Indus Khaitan (40m 19s):
Now kids are into college and whatever, you're still paying for eight of them on a monthly basis, like waste off, you know, a hundred dollars every month.
Mark Graban (40m 26s):
Well, real quick on that, I mean on a consumer level, we see advertising for different services or apps that will help you as an individual pull out and say, oh yeah, there's some of these subscriptions I'm not using, so I I can get rid of it. But you're, you're helping do that on, on, on a corporate scale.
Indus Khaitan (40m 43s):
We are, we are able to do that same, or we are doing the same for businesses. So we go out and say, Hey, Mr. Acme Corp, you have these 150 applications, you know, it looks like 35% of them are duplicates and then you only have 500 employees, 300 people use it, 200 people are never using these applications. You're spending, let's say $3 million, you could save half a million dollars or a million, put some processes in place. So we come in and help trim the fat and as a nutritionist, put a diet plan that you remain in hygiene forever.
Mark Graban (41m 17s):
So it's not just fix it and let the problem come back a couple years later. You're, you're putting some preventative procedures in place to make sure that the company doesn't end up in that same situation again, duplicate systems. How do, how do you prevent that? Right?
Indus Khaitan (41m 32s):
Yeah. So we become the flow of the software purchase cycle. We inspect it, we flag it, we catch it, we cancel it so that the same Mistakes do not get repeated and you know, you don't have an accumulated shelfware of software, which is losing money. Yeah.
Mark Graban (41m 50s):
And you're able to do that in a way that doesn't slow the business down in signing up for services that they really do need right away, right?
Indus Khaitan (41m 59s):
Correct. So the users remain productive Of course. Some users may come back after a year saying, Hey, where is my account that you took away? Hey, you didn't use it for a year and now you're asking for it. Yeah. But yeah, rationally, you know, if you're using something regularly in a 90 day cycle, it'll remain as usual. Others, we will recommend cutting, canceling and downsizing.
Mark Graban (42m 22s):
Yeah. Yeah. I guess what I was asking, maybe, you know, as we wrap up here, do you, do you help find a balance where having some approvals or procedures in place is helpful without it becoming too much of a bureaucracy?
Indus Khaitan (42m 35s):
Yep. So we institute a workflow process where people can request new applications. The system will automatically catch, let's say you are a Microsoft Teams environment, you know, all deployed and some employee says, I need 50 licenses of Zoom. It'll automatically flag, Hey, why do you need 50 licenses of Zoom? Because you already have meetings. Then it'll go through an exception change, get approval before you are allowed to use this duplicate software. So you put these processes in place automatically catching and then exception handling and hence, you know, the diet plan remains intact.
Mark Graban (43m 12s):
Yeah. Well cool. Well, I will put a link to the company's website in the show notes and link to what you had posted on LinkedIn about your story and, and other resources for people wanna learn more. So again, our guest today has been Indus Khaitan. He is a founder and CEO of Quolum. So Indus, thank you. I, I can't, you know, you know, I think you're a perfect fit for the podcast. I dunno how how many people could come on and, and talk about, you know, a big entrepreneurship mistake and piloting and checklists altogether. I'm, I'm glad we could do that.
Indus Khaitan (43m 47s):
Absolutely. Yeah, fantastic. Sharing some of the tidbits and stories that I've experienced, so, you know, great. Having you know, this conversation.
Mark Graban (43m 54s):
Yeah. Thanks. Thanks again for being here and good, good luck. Good luck with the company this time around. Yeah. Well, Again, thanks to Indus Khaitan for being a fantastic guest today. To learn more about him, his company column and more, you can look for links in the show notes or go to markgraban.com/mistake222. As always, I want to thank you for listening. I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own Mistakes, how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive. I've had listeners tell me they started being more open and honest about Mistakes in their work, and they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems because that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me MyFavoriteMistakepodcast@gmail.com.
Mark Graban (44m 41s):
And again, our website is MyFavoriteMistakepodcast.com.