By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Ravi Sethi, the Country Managing Director of Lalamove, talks about his continuous quest for improvement and his drive to find new challenges.
29-year-old Ravi Sethi joined on-demand logistics company Lalamove in January of this year, bringing his passion to succeed and unflinching perseverance to the Hong Kong-based firm. Despite helming the country operations of a business that can boast over 15 million registered customers and operates in over 100 cities on the continent, Ravi remains humble in the face of success and refuses to rest on his laurels; a driving force for development and innovation both in and beyond the workplace.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you’ve been.
I was blessed to be born within a very supportive family here in Bangkok. I was educated in Ruamrudee International School and pursued my undergraduate degree in the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. During my time in university, I learned to juggle a double major in Accounting and Logistics, an active role in several sports teams, and two jobs: I sold gardening tools door-to-door and I worked with the Vancouver Police Department on a traffic logistics project.
After my graduation, I worked as an accountant in an oil and gas company in Vancouver for about a year before I joined Citibank in Thailand. I stayed with the company for close to five years, initially as an Operations Manager for Trade and Treasury before transitioning to a Digital Banking Manager role. After that, I led the operations team of honestbee in Thailand, which is where I shifted from banking into online deliveries.
How did your varied work experiences help shape where you are today?
Every step was a learning experience. Throughout the different industries and mantles I took, the most important thing I learned was the role of perseverance and focus in achieving my objectives. The variety gave me the adaptability and versatility that allows me to apply my skill sets to different industries.
What prompted your decision to join Lalamove?
The huge growth opportunity that I saw in the market and for the company. I knew that my previous experience in operations would be very useful in a company like this, and likewise, I saw Lalamove as the perfect partner to grow with. Their proven track record of rapid growth in Thailand appealed to me – in 2015 alone they grew 500 percent year-over-year! Despite this outstanding growth, I knew that there was a lot of untapped potential. A company’s values are really important to me, and I wanted to join one whose core values are passion, grit, humility and execution; one where we could partner together to grow and capture the market’s potential.
What was it about that potential for growth that attracted you to the industry in general and to Lalamove in particular?
I believe in continuous improvement, and I think that’s what’s so exciting about the on-demand delivery market – there’s a lot of room for improvement and innovation. I think this industry as a whole still has a long way to grow.
Thailand in particular has a lot of potential, with its current investment in infrastructure, its upcoming road initiatives, as well as its geographically strategic location for businesses. Not only that, but the paradigm of the Thai population is shifting to become more technologically adept through smartphone penetration in multiple demographics.
Statistically, Thai users are on their phones every six minutes, an average of 150 times a day. This leads to a psychology of instant gratification – because consumers are constantly bombarded with instant information, they believe they can also receive items instantly. Here at Lalamove, we want to be able to harness this psychology and give people what they need, which is deliveries done fast, and done reliably. We’re constantly looking for ways to be even faster and more reliable, and that appeals to me.
Would you consider Lalamove a disruptor of the industry?
Yes, Lalamove disrupts the lives of our consumers as well as our platform drivers, providing convenience to both the service provider and user.
With that being said, we continuously extend the magnitude of this disruption by providing better services to more people. Earlier this year, we expanded into Pattaya. We provide multiple vehicle types, which include not only motorbikes but also five-door hatchbacks and pickups trucks, which help move large inventory and furniture, often useful for homes and offices.
All of this has led to Lalamove’s success in its field – would you thus say it’s been smooth sailing so far?
We have over 120,000 registered drivers and have covered a total service distance of over 60 million km. I’m sure it was not smooth sailing to achieve such numbers, nor do I believe there’s any such thing as smooth sailing. Every day is a challenge and that’s what we thrive on – we challenge ourselves to do better, to provide better services for our customers, and to provide better opportunities for our partner drivers.
What about personal challenges? What have you faced to get to where you are?
Every company I’ve worked at has had its unique set of challenges. The one thing that kept me going was knowing I had to persevere so that I could manage a company of this size. Every time there was a challenge in front of me, I learned how to overcome it successfully. I then took what I learned and applied it to other challenges.
Those challenges build you as a person. I believe that no matter what industry you’re in, you need to learn about it at a granular level, inside out, and only then will you master it.
“Achieving the same results over and over again is not improving – our accomplishments should never be a constant.”
Over the years, what accomplishments are you most proud of? Do you have any regrets?
Never any regrets – even if something seemed to be a bad decision at the time, there have always been lessons to be learned, ones that I’ve used later in life. For example, I once invested in a restaurant with an expat partner. I was naive at the time and invested too fast without conducting proper due diligence on my business partner, who promptly disappeared. The business closed after three months of investment. Luckily, I recovered some money, but I learnt a valuable lesson about future investments that I carry with me till this day.
Various accomplishments have been very rewarding at different stages in my life. My first employment contract at Citibank, for example, was a big landmark for me at the time. But what you consider an achievement changes with your circumstance. The idea is to keep setting higher targets for yourself. Achieving the same results over and over again is not improving – our accomplishments should never be a constant, they should always be more than what they were.
Do you have any advice for others looking to launch their careers?
A lot of people coming out of university believe that higher pay is the one thing they need to strive towards. I personally believe that the right questions are, “is this job right for me?” and, “am I right for this job?” rather than, “how much will I get paid?”
After you find a job that is right for you, you need to think about what value you can personally add to a company and then execute it. I have not seen any situation where someone put in a lot of hard work and it didn’t pay off. Hard work always pays off.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Professionally, I would like to see Lalamove grow to new heights in the near future. Our platform has re-shaped the lives of consumers and drivers, and I would like to see us continue to expand and make a difference to them.
On a personal note, I’m happily married and have a supportive family by my side. I see myself continuing to be a part of their happiness as they are part of mine.
“Every day is a challenge and that’s what we thrive on – we challenge ourselves to do better, to provide better services for our customers, and to provide better opportunities for our partner drivers.”