Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved


In Conversation with Mohit Saxena, Co-founder of InMobi

March 29, 2020

InMobi is an Indian global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers.The platform enables consumers to discover new products and services by providing contextual, relevant, and curated recommendations on mobile apps and devices. Their mobile-first platform allows brands, developers and publishers to engage consumers through mobile advertising.

The company was founded in 2007 under the name mKhoj by Naveen Tewari, Mohit Saxena, Amit Gupta and Abhay Singhal, and has since then received multiple laurels and awards. It found a place amongst the ‘50 Disruptive Companies 2013’ list by MIT Technology Review, and was the recipient of NDTV’s “Indian of the Year Award” in 2016.

Watch Out! And E-Cell had a chance to interact with Mohit Saxena, an alumnus of our institute and the co-founder of InMobi.

What campus groups did you associate yourself with?

Actually, it’s a very funny story. When you were in your first year, you must’ve figured out what groups you want to join and then applied for it. For us it was very different. In those days, hostels were rife with ragging and it so happened that one day I was just going somewhere, when someone grabbed me and before I knew, I ended up in a hall and was asked to climb a ladder and install some light bulbs. Later I learnt that it was a part of my induction and recruitment to Lights Section. So, this was the group that I used to hang out with during my time here. Incidentally, I was also selected as Secretary in my 3rd year. I also contributed my time to Watch Out!, thanks to my room-mate who was responsible for it.

What kind of work experience do you think a budding entrepreneur needs inside the campus?

In my opinion, you guys have a lot of opportunities which allow you to contribute to many things, and besides that, I think entrepreneurship is not all about experience, and it might be really overrated. Guys like Ritesh Agrawal of OYO didn’t even attend proper colleges and still they are where they are. I am not asking you guys to leave college, but what I am trying to tell is that other things matter as well. Yes, college does provide you with perspective and knowledge which helps you a lot, but entrepreneurship is all about ownership and accountability. Anything that you do, you should really feel passionate about it. You should give 100% to what you are doing. Because if you believe in a cause then your mindset reaches a state where you don’t worry about failure and success. To me that state of mind is entrepreneurship. So, you can pick up anything that is out there that you are passionate about because right now there are a lot of opportunities in college.

What are the elemental skills one should have to start one’s own venture?

I don’t think it’s about one particular set of skills, because skills you can build over time. Entrepreneurship generally is a very long-term commitment and you know these “necessary skills” keep changing and someone who can adapt to those changes and continue to move forward eventually gets success. What is more important for entrepreneurship is temperament. It can easily be correlated with our endeavours in college. We try to find our comfort zone and give up at the slightest sign of trouble. This is why perseverance and temperament are necessary. Along with it you should be willing to compromise and make sacrifices. For example, I don’t get enough time to spend with my family, which will always be a regret. Bottom line is it isn’t about skill so much as it is about values such as these.

Other co-founders of InMobi are alumni of IIT Kanpur. So how did you meet them and feel confident to collaborate with them? What are the qualities one should look for in their business partners?

I met Naveen in the US. He had just completed his MBA from Harvard and he was quite passionate about the Mobiquel system of India but he was not clear about what he wanted to do. He and his other three classmates wanted to start this venture and he asked me to take the position of the CEO. At that time, I was in a comfort zone and was doing a very mundane job, so I decided to go for it. Within 10 days, we packed our bags and before I knew it, I was in India and it all started. So it doesn’t matter where you have studied and what your background is, what matters for entrepreneurship is a common interest among the co-founders. You should be able to understand each other very well because things will get tough, and the only thing which will keep you going is the ability to solve those problems collectively.

What is the message you would like to give the enthusiasts who are searching for a co-founder of an enterprise?

Partnership in business requires a very close relationship and a huge amount of trust. I know it from experience when I say that chances are that you already know your associate. It might be one of your best friends. You might observe that a lot of companies are run by people who grew up together. I think that partners have some level of connection already because building trust is a long process. If there is someone new, it is hard to put up. So out of the companies that are successful a majority of them have co-founders that have a history together

How did you come up with the idea of InMobi, and when did you start implementing that idea?

We had no idea. We had a very vague thing in mind that we wanted to build a technology company based in India. And we were very clear that this is going to be a Product & Tech company which will be known for its Tech-related jobs. At the end of the day, the main objective was building a universally known start-up, and it is quite amazing how far we have come. You know, tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft know us and some of these companies are our partners. We are a global company. Today we have an engineering team of people from China, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangalore.

What was the real motivation of starting Rizort after dedicating so many years of your life to InMobi, and how does it feel like starting from all over scratch again? What was the journey like?

As an entrepreneur, whenever you see any problem, you try to solve it. At the moment, I’m a part of two companies, InMobi and Rizort. With InMobi, we have made it big and now I don’t have many responsibilities. So, before the time we started Rizort, we were moving to the US. At that time, I found a huge problem in this industry and that’s how the idea of Rizort came up. So, you can say InMobi is professionally very close to me and Rizort is something that I always wanted to do, something that I liked doing.

What is the journey like starting all over again?

It’s very difficult. On one side you have such a large team and you are operating on such a big level and immediately you need to switch and operate in such a small team. But both of these scenarios have their pros and cons. In a small team, you get to work on every detail and in a large team, you get to work on something very big. Plus, in Rizort I was purely on the sales side, I was not doing anything on the tech side, unlike here InMobi. That was a blind spot for me earlier, but this change helped me to learn and all this worked out quite well.

What differences do you see in the start-up culture between when you started and today?

A lot has changed, especially the awareness. From hiring to setting up, everything was difficult in my time. Initially, none of our own VCs were Indian. This has definitely changed now. People are willing to take greater risks. Currently, there is a very strong growth of Indian ecosystem over there, being such a large country with many problems, and hence many companies are building India-specific solutions. So, if you have the right idea, now is the time to make it happen.

Has people’s risk-taking capability increased?

Over the years, people in general have had more of a safety net, and lesser pressure to take up a job as soon as possible, and hence people do have some extra cushion which allows them to take the risks demanded by a start-up.

What has been your source of motivation for your start-up journey?

Well, according to me, if one has a certain passion to solve a problem, then beyond that I feel no extra motivation is required to keep one going, unless the problem gets solved.

What major operational challenges do you face daily?

InMobi is a large company with a very diverse demographic, so keeping all these people working together in one direction is a challenge. In a small company like Rizort, there is a constant hustle, and things get affected by several external factors too, like how travel in the South East Asian hub has been affected by the Coronavirus.

How difficult is it to maintain work culture in a big, and small company?

According to me, maintaining a work culture should be the same, irrespective of the scale and scope of your company. I believe that it’s people who are important, and given the right space and environment, they can do great work, irrespective of whether it is a big or a small company.

What message do you have for the budding entrepreneurs on campus?

I think now is the best time for you to enjoy life and make lasting friendships. But try not to waste 4 years of your life and get an idea of what you want to do in your life, and hopefully get a head start in the competition of real life.

Can you describe an entrepreneurial journey in your own words?

Entrepreneurship is a mindset, where you own something, you feel accountable for it, give what you have, try to grow that component to the best of your ability, and continue to progress in a direction where it would eventually be a success.