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Roopa Kudva is Partner at Omidyar Network and Managing Director of Omidyar Network India Advisors, where she leads overall Investment Strategy, Operations and Portfolio Development. Prior to joining Omidyar Network, Roopa spent 23 years with CRISIL, and was its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer from 2007. She led CRISIL’s transformation from India’s premier ratings agency into a diversified global analytical company. Under her leadership the company’s market capitalisation grew four-fold and revenues tripled. 

In this podcast conversation, we spoke about her initial years in Assam and Meghalaya, her journey to IIMA after being rejected the first time based on a technicality. She speaks about her journey through CRISIL and how a stint in Standard in Poor (Paris) changed her mindset towards her career. She also talks about the various transitions in her career - getting to the Chief Rating Officer role, MD role and then to Omidyar Network. She shares some interesting insights around how she handled the passage of play from CRISIL to Omidyar Network in terms of exploring various pathways for her career. 

Roopa holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad (IIM-A). Published in May 2018. 

Omidyar Network and innovating for next Half Billion

Roopa talks about the flexible capital model at Omidyar Network (ON) and discusses how they do a combination of investing in tech enabled start-ups driving social impact and grants to organizations to impact a sector. She also discusses the unique characteristics of the next half billion in India that has access to the mobile phone and will come online in the next 5 years and how this presents a unique opportunity for these consumers and for businesses targeting them.

Early formative years

Roopa talks about how she grew up amidst nature in the North Eastern part of India and how some of her perspectives on working women started getting shaped right from an age of around 10\. She also talks about her first brush with Mumbai when she comes to pursue a B.Com in Sydenham College but quickly find the city overwhelming and goes back to Guwahati to pursue B.Sc in Mathematics. She also talks about the peculiar situation where despite clearing the entrance process for IIMA, she is unable to join. She decides to teach in a primary school and appears for CAT yet again.

Growing through the ranks at CRISIL

Roopa talks about how she drifted into CRISIL and how she was not necessarily career oriented in the early years of her professional life. She talks about the notion of focusing on excellence and on topics that are outside the realm of responsibility and how the culture at CRISIL ensured that her efforts were noticed and rewarded. She also talks about the transformative impact that one of her overseas stints had on her in terms of developing a “bird’s eye view”.

Transitioning to a General Management role

Roopa talks about the transition to the role of a Chief Rating Officer being the defining transition in her journey at CRISIL. She talks about how the profile of her responsibilities and stakeholders significantly changed when she moved into that role. She also talks at length about how she recalibrated the relationship with her peers when she got promoted, something that a lot of people struggle with.

Choosing career direction post CRISIL

Roopa talks about how she took stock of options after her successful run in CRISIL. She talks about the process she went through to first eliminate what options may not make sense for her before she ended up choosing to join Omidyar Network. She talks about having informal discussions with ~45 people over a 9 month period to get directional clarity on what might make sense for her.

Flexing leadership style at Omidyar Network

Roopa talks about how she had to adjust her leadership style when she moved from leading a team of 4000 plus people in CRISIL to Omidyar Network which had about 150 people globally and about 15-20 people in India. She discusses the power of listening, learning and tapping into the internal network to come upto speed and build credibility with the organization.

Developing a sense of judgment

Roopa talks about she developed a sense of judgment in the new context when she moved to Omidyar Network. She talks about the fact that she now has to exercise judgment on entrepreneurs who in turn will exercise judgment on several topics that are relevant to them. She discusses how she went about acquiring that nuanced sense of judgment by understanding the world of the start-up entrepreneur and the world of technology.

Women Leadership - The barrier no one speaks about as much

Roopa talks about the fact that there is a lot of commentary around women coming back to the work force after they start a family. She mentions that support structures and corporate policies are evolving and this problem is slowly being addressed. She discusses the barrier that shows up when women are in senior management roles. She talks about the notion of self-belief which often comes in the way of women raising their hand for top jobs and for a seat at the table.

Perspectives on Success

Roopa talks about how she thinks about success and frames it as a journey than a destination. She talks about how the notion of purpose has energized her during her days at CRISIL and in the work she does at Omidyar Network (Supporting innovations that can create opportunities for millions of people who are otherwise either excluded or underserved or disempowered)

What they don’t teach you at IIMA but should

Roopa first talks about what she learnt at IIMA before she delves into what they don’t teach there but should. She talks about the notion of first principles thinking that gets deeply ingrained during the time at IIMA. She goes on to talk about the criticality of work experience before pursuing an MBA.

In Summary - Playing to Potential

Roopa talks about the attitudes that have held her in good stead as she has gone through her journey. She also talks about how a lot of clarity around one’s own potential evolves over time and suggests that we don’t get anxious about it too early.

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