IIM Americas

Gautam Thakar

Chief Executive Officer and President. LivingSocial

1. Tell us something about yourself, your early days of career after graduating from IIM and the transition to being a CEO of LivingSocial?

I graduated from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai followed by an MBA from IIM-Lucknow. I started my career with P&G in the brand management function. P&G was a great training ground in consumer marketing and general management and I brought that to bear to my next role as Chief Marketing Officer for baazee.com –India’s pioneering ecommerce player. After eBay acquired baazee;comin 2004 , I spent a couple of years as country manager of eBay India before moving to the US to set up eBay’s International Marketing team. Leading a global team was significant learning but I wanted to get back to general management and moved to a subsidiary company of eBay called Shopping.com. I spent the last few years of my eBay career at Shopping.com as CEO and transformed that business to what is now called eBay advertising. After 10 years at eBay I recently moved to LivingSocial as CEO to take on the challenge of scaling a mid-sized private company.

2. How did you prepare yourself for the transition from being a senior executive at a leading company to being a CEO of an upcoming company in the industry?

The learning over the course of my career contributed to my taking on the current role as CEO of an upcoming company. I have worked in very large companies (P&G), large growing companies (eBay), midsized companies (Shopping.com) and very small companies (baazee.com). I have worked in the ecommerce space for over 15 years, in the consumer space for almost 20 years and in creating new segments and industries for many years. I believe that the training over my entire career is what has prepared me for taking on this role.

3. You recently started as CEO back in August ’14, what are your big plans for Living Social, where do you see the company in five years?

LivingSocial is uniquely positioned to win in the local commerce space. We have millions of buyers and thousands of merchants and a strong brand. Our long term goal is to be an experiences marketplace. What I mean by that is that LivingSocial is the place that will help you do interesting things in your city, help you plan and enjoy a perfect weekend, help you lead a fulfilling , fun and social life. We want to help you create memories by selling experiences. Whether that is a helping you have a great date night at a nice restaurant and concert or have an adventure of a lifetime with a hot air balloon ride or a simple stress relieving spa day or a paint and wine night. We want to ensure you have interesting things to do every weekend … and do it at a great value.

4. Describe a typical day at work for CEO of LivingSocial?

There is no such thing as a typical day JThat said an average week is spent in some of the following areas (a) reviewing business results and changes to the plan (b) 1:1’s with team members to help resolve any open decisions (c) team meetings to communicate progress and get feedback on plans (d) Hiring –always be looking for good people (e) board and investor updates (f) partnership and external meetings.

5. As an investor how involved has Amazon been with LivingSocial, does it benefit to have an ecommerce giant as an investor?

Amazon is a great investor and partner. They take a long term view, help us be customer focused and are supportive of our plans and strategies. It’s great to have an ecommerce giant to lean on but they are not involved in the day to day details of the business and are a strategic partner and investor.

6. What do you think are the next big challenges and opportunities for the ecommerce industry?

Ecommerce is now becoming a daily habit across traditional (books) , recent (electronics) and new (grocery, services, taxis etc.) categories. Consumers are online across devices more and more every day. This presents tremendous opportunities on creating new businesses, new categories and driving significant share of wallet to move from offline to online. There is also dramatic opportunity to leverage mobile but also to find meaningful ways to have an online and offline play in categories. The future is very bright but there are also challenges of last mile delivery, privacy and security to work on to enable that future.

7. What advice do you have for recent IIM MBA’s embarking on the corporate journey?

There’s no silver bullet for a great career so it is best to spend the early years to help determine what you are good at and what you are passionate about. If you can learn that about yourself in the first few years , you can spend the rest of your career maximizing your potential and your impact. Build a strong technical foundation in the early part of your career and take some risks as you grow. Most importantly don’t over think things –your career is only one part of your life. Lead a full life.