Dhruv Sood, Global Digital Marketing Manager for Rakuten Symphony, shares his unique telecom journey, the quotes that inspire him and why Rakuten Symphony’s bold vision for the future of the industry first struck a chord.
Too often in life, we tend to focus on the end game, only to wind up missing the larger picture. In my view, the most important thing to understand is that everything is not about you; it’s about people, moments, and developing a mindset that pushes you to become a better version of yourself so you can ultimately empower others. I recently joined Rakuten Symphony as a Global Digital Marketing Manager and I genuinely feel fortunate to be part of a people-first organization set on the path of industry empowerment. This is my story up to now and what I hope to achieve in my next chapter.
I was born in New Delhi, India. However, as an Army kid, my family moved all across the country. I completed my degree in Electronics and Communications engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 2016 and after graduating, began my telecom journey at the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). The COAI acts as a bridge between the Government of India and CSPs, ISPs, IPs and other critical stakeholders in the telecom industry. I was part of the CCC (Central Coordination Committee) that helped resolve industry-specific regulatory, policy, legal, and technology-related concerns at a telecom circle level in the country.
“They say, before 30 years old, follow somebody. Go to a small company. Normally in a big company, it’s good to learn processing. You are part of a big machine. But when you go to a small company, you learn the passion. You learn the dreams. You learn how to do a lot of things at one time.”
In 2017, an opportunity redefined the course of my career. At the time, Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Europe and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the U.S. were popular, established platforms, but there was nothing similar focused on the South Asian Market.
To address this concern, COAI and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India, and telecom operators started the India Mobile Congress (IMC), South Asia’s Largest Digital Technology forum for showcasing the latest technologies and bringing together industry leaders, government and academia to discuss and deliberate on critical issues affecting the growth of the TMT & ICT sector. I was fortunate to be the first employee of the IMC, which gave me valuable startup experience, a chance to work with some amazing people across the industry and the opportunity to be involved numerous path-breaking projects.
My first corporate experience came in 2019 when I joined Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL), a global industry-leading integrator of digital networks that develops end-to-end optical and 5G solutions. During this time, the company was undergoing a significant transition from being a manufacturing-based optical fibre company to an all-in 5G global solutions provider. I was a part of the central marketing team that played a significant role in making this transition happen.
The lessons I learned, the exposure, the mentorship and the opportunities I gained at STL truly made me a future-ready professional. STL entrusted me with the opportunity to lead the most incredible team of employees, helping me develop my leadership acumen. I still remember my last assignment of managing the company’s presence at Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona, with four launches, 11 product demos, and loads of excitement.
Now, I am glad to be a part of the team at Rakuten Symphony, on its way towards transforming the telecom industry.
“If we have a project and you're saying that we can do it, that’s not the project we want, the projects that say I don't know if I can animate that, I don't know if I can write that story, I don't know how to do that. Those are the things we want because, through that curiosity, you’ll reach a level that you didn't think was possible.”
Before starting my journey at any organization, I always ask myself the following questions:
At Rakuten Symphony, the answers to all these questions were overwhelmingly positive. But just what makes the company special? What makes it a destination for the most ambitious engineers and innovators in this industry (or any other industry)? In my opinion, it all starts with the unique approach Rakuten Group took to building their mobile network in Japan.
In 2018, the Rakuten Group decided that they would build Japan’s fourth major mobile network from scratch. Coming from the mindset of an internet software company, they wanted to do things differently. So Rakuten took a software-based, cloud-native design approach to building Rakuten Mobile. However, that was just the start. Rakuten’s unique combination of operating models and package of next-gen software platforms, clearly had the potential to transform an entire global industry.
In August of 2021, Rakuten announced the formation of the Rakuten Symphony, a company formed with the vision of making this unique cloud-native and software-based Telco model developed in Rakuten Mobile ‘generally available’ for greenfield and brownfield operators globally. This new model essentially changes the center of gravity from hardware to software in telecom, which is a transformational shift. For example, if you drive a Tesla, you’re driving a software experience with wheels. Fintech banks are a software space. OTT platforms have become the new source of entertainment. Even workplaces today have become virtual spaces thanks to communication innovators like Zoom. Softwarization is the industry’s destiny, and Telco-as-a-platform will be the end game. This journey is truly a marketer’s dream – my dream to be specific.
“Usually, marketing people in the industry are asked to position or message around something that doesn't exist in the hope that somebody wants to buy it, to when people try and build it. In contrast, people at Rakuten Mobile were so busy solving the business problems and technology challenges that they hadn't told the world. Now it's just about simply explaining to people how this network works and what benefits it can bring for the industry.”
This is what first sparked my curiosity in Rakuten Symphony.
I believe that the company is on a path to achieving the unthinkable, similar to what SpaceX did with the rocket industry, Netflix did for the entertainment industry, Apple for personal computing and so on. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of achieving these bold, transformative goals.
Of course, my interests aren’t just limited to telco and tech. I have multiple hobbies that include singing, trekking, mountaineering and playing various sports, such as table tennis, chess, lawn tennis, cricket, badminton, working out, shooting, running, cycling and swimming. Cooking is also a recent discovery.
The thing that I cherish the most though, is exploring places on my bicycle. When I was in Pune, India, I used to go on 50 km rides around the city every day, and 120 km rides every weekend exploring the awe-inspiring views of the Deccan Plateau.
Finally, ending it with a famous Hollywood quote:
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.”