Rahul Yadav: The sudden decline of a brilliant entrepreneur


The moment you saw this comment you knew a backlash was around the corner. Not so much because of what was said but because of who said it. These days to be Rahul Yadav is to cop it no matter what.

That is not to say that the “mote uncle” comment was great. But it was not really a crime. In fact, it would appear quite funny if made by a naughty child who is otherwise so bright and interesting that you want to indulge him. Which is somewhat the case here, though, at 26, Rahul is no child.

Ravi Gururaj, chairman of Nasscom’s Product Council, the writer of that column, will be the first to admit that he cannot be called thin. He had written a column on yourstory.com about a supposed social media spat between Snapdeal’s Rohit Bansal and Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal.

Rohit was perceived to be saying in a newspaper article that India did not have enough good programmers. Sachin took a dig at him, suggesting that the fault lay in Snapdeal and not in the country.

Rahul’s was the first comment on Gururaj’s article. Others followed quickly, saying all he wanted was cheap publicity. Publicity? By trying to make fun of Gururaj? Come on. There are other ways; Rahul knows some of them. Almost inevitably, an article appeared in ET Panache about how Gururaj was large hearted enough to ignore Rahul’s comment. What was he going to do? Sue? Equally inevitably, Alok Kejriwal, an early entrepreneur, jumped to Gururaj’s side to say how much he loved him for his “stature and presence and depth”.

Now, Kejriwal and Rahul Yadav have a bit of background. Kejriwal had clicked pictures of two Housing.com hoardings and posted it online. According to him, the position of the hoardings was not right for getting the maximum return on marketing expense. That Housing.com’s founders were dumb to do it.

Rahul responded with an explanation about how the positioning was just right. He called Kejriwal’s arguments dumb. For good measure, according to newspaper reports, some people played around with Kejriwal’s Wikipedia page to edit his location and showed him as living under two Housing.com hoardings.

Funny. But Kejriwal waited for his chance. Which came when Yadav resigned — the first time. People who make fun of other people’s houses can’t live in their own, he posted. He also posted a power point presentation, for Rahul, on how to write emails.

Still ok. Nobody died. These are just young boys having fun – though Kejriwal, who is 46 and likes to call himself Rodinhood, is less young. Who hasn’t done it in college and hostel? With the internet start-up revolution, all the world is a boys’ hostel.

Rahul also got into other unnecessary spats with Deepinder Goyal (he likes to call Goyal a restaurant menu scanner) and Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh (the story is too well known to recount here).

Fine. He is cheeky, at times irritating. He likes to troll people. But he is not just that. This columnist had a chance to talk to him in March. He was then in the middle of the spat with Sequoia.

To his credit, Rahul refused to go into any more gory details about Sequoia (confession time: he was goaded). Instead, he wanted to talk about his ideas on how to run the world. All it will take, according to him, is 50 intelligent people. People like him.

It was easy to dismiss this as hyperbole. But he made some valid points about the way the human race has messed it up in areas like oil, education, travel, and housing. Why have been just burning oil instead of looking for sustainable energy sources? Why are all houses boxes, boxes and more boxes? Why such little infrastructure? Why has no innovation happened in house construction? Why are so many people in cities like Mumbai forced to spend so much time travelling?

Basic questions, you say? It was responding to the basic needs that made Housing.com such a success: show what it looks like, give her a tour, verify the location, good user interface, data, data and more data.

And now the man — the boy — behind it is gone. The sadness of it was captured in all its delicate sensitivity by Haresh Chawla, an early investor in Housing.com.

He brought out Rahul’s personality in all its complexity: a shy, socially-awkward, brilliant soul driven to pain and distraction because he was forced to ride the tiger of investor money.

It was tempting to call this article “Boy Interrupted”. But it is not just that; it is brightness, enterprise, spirit interrupted. Until he comes back.

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