Anshul Bhatt, head of intelligent operations product strategy and technical sales for Rakuten Symphony, is one of the leaders helping transform the global telco landscape. He’s also a runner, podcast enthusiast and meme-connoisseur. We sat down with Anshul to learn more about his career journey and what he’s interested in beyond his ground-breaking work with Rakuten.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m from Vadodara in Gujarat, India. I left home at 18 to do my undergrad at one of the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee). After graduating, I worked at Airtel, one of the biggest telecom operators in the world, traveling the country for the launches of 3G and 4G. Here, I developed an interest in tools and how they were developed, the algorithms working behind them, the modeling, etc.
During this time, I got an offer from [Rakuten Symphony CEO] Tareq Amin’s team at Jio, based out of Mumbai. I started working on internal product development because I thought it would give me an understanding of the telco business from a different viewpoint.
After this, I also worked at Subex – a product company based in Bangalore, understanding the business from a vendor’s perspective. However, I really missed the agility and speed of working with Tareq at Jio.
Apart from your relationship with Tareq, what drew you to Rakuten?
The multi-cultural aspect of it, having people from different nationalities. The fact that many partners such as Altiostar, Cisco, Nokia, InnoEye and Robin.io were working to build the Rakuten Mobile network and putting some of their best minds on the project was great to see as well. That we were doing something innovative and first of its kind: a cloud-native, fully automated approach to deploying and managing the network was also exciting. And of course, it was amazing being in Tokyo and having the opportunity to travel around Japan.
“I always try to challenge the status quo, try to understand the “why” for everything. All of these have helped me simplify things; to look at problems differently and reduce complexity.”
Right now, my official designation is head of product strategy and technical sales for intelligence operations, globally. I also do product management for Rakuten Mobile since it is our first and most important customer and its success is important to the success of Rakuten Symphony. Before that, I was leading AI Operations at the Rakuten Mobile Service Experience Center. I am grateful that Rakuten has allowed me to wear multiple hats and perform various roles instead of restricting myself to a single box.
My stint at Airtel was around the network and technical domains. At Jio and Subex, my focus was more on software engineering and development. Symworld is essentially an intersection of both these areas. Therefore, I connected the dots backwards. My stints at previous organizations, learning the network domain and software helped me understand and relate to the Symworld product requirement. This intersection of domain knowledge and IT knowledge is what makes Symworld interesting to me.
I believe that a happy person is someone who can interpret the ongoing events in a way that it does not interfere with their inner peace. Whatever happens, I try to make the best possible sense out of it. That is why a lot of people end up telling me that I’m always smiling.
I love running. That’s something I developed as a hobby in Japan. I try to run around 5 km daily, sometimes even 10 km. Apart from that, Denver, Colorado – where I am currently based – is famous for skiing. I also learned to ski in Japan and so almost every weekend, my friends and I visit a ski resort.
Podcasts are my new favorite format. A 45–60-minute podcast is the perfect accompaniment for my running routine. I have a very good podcast recommendation called “Masters of Scale”.
In terms of books, my favorite is “The Fountainhead”. I keep going back to it.
I am always watching a new TV show or documentary. Recently I watched “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a story about a stand-up comic. As a fan of the genre, I also love watching shows like Seinfeld centered around the life of a stand-up comedian.
We had a product summit for Symphony and as part of the event, I made a deck full of memes and cartoons. The deck was meant to look back at 2021 and reflect on lessons learned. To represent that, I ended up creating a presentation almost full of memes. I love memes around work and product management.
Personally, one of my goals is to run more. Last year I ran over 800 km and this year my goal is to do 1,000 miles. This number is almost double last year’s efforts but currently I am on track, so let’s see how it goes.
“I believe that a happy person is someone who can interpret the ongoing events in a way that it does not interfere with their inner peace. Whatever happens, I try to make the best possible sense out of it.”
I’ve always tried to look at the big picture. This allows me to think fundamentally, thinking by first principles. I always try to challenge the status quo, try to understand the “why” for everything. All of these have helped me simplify things; to look at problems differently and reduce complexity.