Young, energetic and always flashing a ready smile; one would not have guessed that 26-year-old Kshitij Hastu has had eight years of experience in the startup industry.
In 2012, he founded his first startup Dial Ever, a logistics service that catered to home bakers. This happened shortly after he started a website for his mother, who is a baker.
“I decided to set up a website and sell her cakes online. It really was just looking at something I could monetise, quite literally within my own home.”
Shortly after the website was up and running, he identified another problem - bakers in the city didn’t have access to the ingredients that they needed.
“Once again, I identified the problem within my own house, and built a business out of it.”
The New Delhi-born finance graduate says that he very quickly realised that he was never really going to build a career in finance.“It was just something I was interested in at the time,” he laughs.
Hastu has since found his place in the world of startups and hasn’t looked back. To date, he has worked with startups ranging from India to North America and even Europe.
As the Head of Growth at MoEngage, an AI-based cross-channel customer engagement platform, Hastu says one of the biggest challenges he faces is, in fact, something that sounds fairly simple - most solutions are created to solve American and European problems.
“Very few products are focused on what plagues Southeast Asia. Problems that brand marketers face in Asia are very different to that in North America and other parts of the world, so one of our challenges has always been to ensure that our product caters well to markets in both North America and Southeast Asia.”
Despite being only five years old, the startup has managed to secure some big clients, including three out of the four Indonesian unicorns: Tokopedia, Traveloka and Bukalapak as well as Europe’s T Mobile, India’s Airtel and even Samsung.
With increasing concerns over AI-based tech and privacy invasion, Hastu says that this concern is a good sign, as users are becoming more aware of the data that they are consenting brands and companies to use.
However, he doesn’t think that AI directly ties into an infringement on users privacy, especially with MoEngage anonymising their users.
The key to success, for me, is to grow in everything you do. Grow at your job, grow at relationships, grow at the business. Just improve. Grow.
“We understand the user’s profile, we understand who the user is, we understand their behaviour, and we learn based on that.”
The company complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is of the opinion that irrespective of legislation and policies, it is crucial for new-age digital companies to treat customers as sacrosanct.
GDPR is a data protection and privacy law that was put in place by the European Union, aimed at giving individuals full control over their personal data.
With all this talk about the era of digitalisation, Hastu says that AI is not just a buzzword anymore, it’s a reality.
Although he is certain that AI will play a major role in the future, he opines that it is vital to have human intelligence in everything that one does.
“It’s important for brand marketers to understand who their users are and the type of content they want to be engaging with, but AI is definitely a vehicle that’s making things more efficient, that’s reducing the work that somebody really needs to put in.”
Hastu acknowledges that the increasing reliance on AI might affect the job market, but the way he sees it, AI will also create more avenues for employment. “Any change will have an impact on the status quo”.
“However, I don’t believe this will result in doomsday scenarios about machines taking over the world. Amidst all the hype, we need to understand that the purpose of AI to help make lives better. AI is about supplementing human knowledge, not replacing it.”
If his mum inspired his first startup, his dad is the very reason this rendang-loving foodie got into the startup business.
“I look up to a lot of people. My dad, Steve Jobs, and any other successful startup entrepreneur, really. There’s a lot to learn from the people around you - look at their success, and learn.”
“The key to success, for me, is to grow in everything you do. Grow at your job, grow at relationships, grow at the business. Just improve. Grow.”