Ronnie Screwvala: 'I can't twiddle my thumbs with the growth ambitions that we have'

Ronnie Screwvala, a Zoom call host in June 2021, spoke on his new book upGrad and the challenges of meeting over video.Ronnie Screwvala wrote his first book, Dream With Your Eyes Wide Open five years ago. He said it over Zoom that he was clear that he is an accidental author.His self-described status as an accidental author is changing today, July 5, 2021, with the release of his second book, Skill It Kill It: Up Your Game. A second time is a sign of greater thought.Skill It, Kill It is inspired by Screwvala's experience at upGrad, an educational tech company in which he was a co-founder.Screwvala's own experiences in honing and using soft skill are the bulk of the book. Screwvala said that any idea that was not based on his life experiences was rejected.The text will also include Screwvalas conversation about soft skills, such as communication with venture capitalist Vanikola, CEO of NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant and Tech Mahindras C.P. Gurnani and Harsh Goenka, Chairman of RPG Group.This section is taken from the book. Listening is a lifelong skill that we must constantly improve and practice. Kola says it is a delicate balance. It is important to be able to discern when you should listen and when you shouldn't listen.Or, this: Stories have the power to influence and affect people. They shape minds and move hearts. C.P. C.P. Let me tell a story. . These are the best five words to begin a presentation, pitch, or conversation.Screwvala talked about upGrad and the book in a conversation she had with Moneycontrol in June. Here are edited excerpts:This book grew out of your involvement with upGrad in the past five years.Yes! My original title was UpGrad your game. It was then changed to Up your Game. Then I changed it to Up your game. I called it Skill It Kill It. Because it sounds a bit like a commercial plug, people will assume I have an agenda.Why not Skill It Kill It!When I'm excited about my future and trying to inspire others at different organizations, it's because I need to be a Samurai. You need to be focused and sharp. Yet, a Samurai can also be very compassionate. You really want that level of precision and self-sacrifice.(For the cover), I originally wanted to photograph myself in a Samurai robe and sword (Hakama), but Covid intervened and I couldn't go to a studio so I did a graphic cover.You said that the book was not an endorsement for upGrad. There is an interlude to show you what upGrad does.Although we offer many soft skills courses, it is not marketed as an additional service. We have found that students who don't spend one month of their 11-month course on soft skills will not do well in their courses and fail their interviews.It is a mixture and match and marry. Many of the chapters in this book will be available as video chapters on upGrad's app.In the book, you mention that you participated in focus groups before starting to write. What were the lessons you learned from these focus groups?People's inability to self-confirm, or self-confidence was the real problem.Another thing that struck me was the comfort zone in which everyone lives. Everyone believes that if they stay under the radar they will have a greater chance of survival. However, that wasn't what was said. This was something you learned.Please tell us about the book's structure. The text includes quotes from Amitabh Khant and Vanikola. Why did you do that?The structure wasn't created immediately because I'm not an author and I'm a bit of a nonlinear thinker. My co-writer suggested that we first create an index. I refused. Let's make a 3x index. You can even write a few chapters, and if those chapters don't make sense, you can narrow it down to the ones that do. We had 22 chapters at one point, as there were 22 challenges we believed were there. Then we reduced it to 11 or 12.The second is that you ask questions when you're in writing mode. I used quotations (answers), from Amitabh Khant and Vanikola, as well as from learners. The quotes I used were easily identifiable.For me, third, narrative first person is extremely important. (Wherever) I felt like I was losing my first-person, as I was entering a how to book (we cut those chapters). My criterion was to not suddenly get into the four Cs and the three Ss of that.In my personal approach, I enjoy narrating in the first person and summarizing at the end (takeaways).Over the past 16 months, video and work from home have opened up new opportunities to develop and exercise our soft skills. What are your thoughts?Zoom lacks body language, which I believe is what Zoom needs. Body language is important when you interact with colleagues, interview people, hire people, or form new partnerships. This (placing one hand above his head and the other below it) cannot be considered body language. This is a problem.Second, the digital space sounds romantic in the beginning. Wow! It is clear that I am communicating, and I'm not losing my place. But the warmth of being in a room with others and having a moment to be silent (is missing). Everyone thinks that a Zoom call is the best. You could be having a meeting, brainstorm session or meeting and have 60 seconds of silence. However, you would not feel this if you were seeing the body language of others in the room. This is a very missing situation. This is a communication problem.The third problem is transactionalization, which I believe is a major problem.Fourth, and perhaps most remarkable is the fact that 75% want to hide their cameras. I feel that communication is becoming less and less.Over-communicating in times like these is important to me. Only when you communicate well can you build relationships. Connection is the most important thing.We would love to hear about your thoughts on thinking big. You have dedicated a whole chapter in the book to this topic.These mental handicaps are for everyone: small city, big dreams. It is not possible to start by saying that I am from a small community.It was a thought that crossed my mind when I transferred from Dunnes Institute (now Cathedral School) to Dunnes Institute. How could I possibly be comfortable in this new social strata? The first thing to remember is that small cities can be big cities. It's all in your mind.The same goes for you. I will say that your communication skills are what will make you stand out. Because you are proactive and take action, you will be noticed. This will make you stand out, no matter if you're at work or on Zoom.Participation is not a virtue. Even if you sit next to your boss for the rest, you won't get noticed.UpGrad received $120 million from Temasek in April. Company spokespersons spoke about going global. Is the company achieving these ambitions?upGrad is present in six countries, including the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Middle East. These are huge markets for us. We are also looking into M&As (mergers & acquisitions). We are making progress in this direction, I believe, because of our international footprint.India is a huge market. I believe the country's growth is incredible. It is price sensitive so the ability to sell and convert in India will take time. There will be an inflection point. To be honest, I cannot juggle the growth ambitions we have. It is an important part of our market.Which of these people do you consider your competition?There are usually two to three other players in higher education. Everyone is now opening the market. I'm not here to rank us based on who has raised funds. Deep learning is our key differentiator. We are not a marketing agency that works with universities. We are a team that helps, co-creates and has a high level of engagement and live touch even though we are 100% internet-based.What do you hope your readers take away from your book?It is important to think clearly and have respect for soft skills. You don't need to take 10, just one chapter. You don't have to take 10. You only need to focus on what is important for you. You won't be able obstruct the world without the right balance of subject expertise and soft skill.