Over the last 20 years, Haji Munshi (second from right) has held senior management positions across the Asia Pacific in big tech companies like Google, Dell, and Cisco. Last December, Munshi partnered with global infrastructure investment manager I Squared Capital to spearhead the buyout and merger of two cloud management service providers, InfoFabrica and Cloud Kinetics. Munshi currently serves as CEO of the newly established firm, Cloud Kinetics.
In his interview with Oasis, Munshi shares how he has changed his mindset from being a perfectionist to an entrepreneur with a situational leadership style.
The following interview has been edited and consolidated for brevity and clarity.
Oasis (OS): Having transitioned from working at a large corporation to being an entrepreneur, how would you describe your leadership style? Has it evolved over time?
Haji Munshi (HM): Definitely, it has evolved to some extent. For me, every company and every culture that I’ve been part of has allowed me to learn a little more.
For example, Dell’s corporate culture is highly performance-oriented, so I developed my leadership style around that. When I joined Cisco, it was really about thought leadership, thinking about the future, and how we can make an impact. At Google, it was something entirely different. Each of these unique corporate values has helped me develop a broader leadership style, which I think is very opportune at the moment.
As an entrepreneur, I realized the need to evolve with what I describe as situational leadership. For example, if a customer wants something, we have to be able to change our pace and how we approach that problem. There will be times where you have to roll up your sleeves and get things done.
With entrepreneurship, I’d say that there is a need to adapt your leadership style more to the situation. It requires being very humble, having a high EQ, and prioritizing what’s most important for a business.
OS: What is something that you carried forward to Cloud Kinetics? And what’s something that perhaps you left behind?
HM: I think one of the most important things that I’ve always held on to is building trust.
Ultimately, in every organization that I’ve been part of, it is all about building a very effective team. This can only be achieved when you have a natural flow of trust between different team members. You need to have some level of understanding of the other person’s value system, and then, you need to be able to blend those different values to have a culture you hold true within the leadership team. From then on, it will all be about building a shared vision in the company, but it begins with trusting each other.
If there is one thing I left behind, that’s being a perfectionist.
In general, I have a very high standard for what I expect from myself and those around me. It’s the kind of training that you get when you’re in a large company. However, when you’re in build mode, I’ve learned that it’s always better to make mistakes, correct them, and move forward. So, instead of trying to be perfect at everything, now I’m just focused on doing the things that really matter.
OS: You’ve spoken about gaining trust within teams, but how do you build trust with your customers?
HM: One example I’ll give you is Sony Pictures. They’ve been our clients for six years, and it started with baby steps. We were very fortunate to be brought in for one project. We did a remarkable job, and so we got the next project. This carried on, and we eventually became one of their key providers. I would say that with any customer, you have to earn their trust with your successes—there is no other way. A small success paves the way for a larger one.
OS: I’m also wondering about the high employee turnover that startups usually experience. Have you also faced that in your company?
HM: We’re in a very hot space right now; everyone wants to be in the cloud business. I think the critical thing for keeping the team together is to create a vision and a common purpose.
It is not about the job offer but about doing something meaningful—something that has a larger and long-term impact, that allows you to develop your skills. If we can create an environment where people can speak their minds and contribute, I think we will go a long way, as opposed to attracting talents through monetary benefits.