InMobi, Empowering "The Nudge Foundation"

True life adventures of entrepreneurs inspired by InMobi

"The fact that I'm still working here, with InMobians, makes it even harder to draw the line between where the InMobi culture ends and the Nudge Foundation culture begins." - Atul Satija

Atul Satija

He joined InMobi in December 2010 as vice president and managing director of InMobi’s Japan and Asia-Pacific operations. He has been working as Vice president, Revenue and Operations at InMobi, part of the global leadership team since then. He’s the man behind building InMobi’s online sales channels for global demand and supply. Having a strong mobile advertising and digital media experience from his Google days, he served as head of business development for Google in India, before handling various sales and consulting roles at Adobe, Samsung and Infosys. April, 2015 he puts in his papers at InMobi to float a non-profit social impact startup.

Atul Satija always believed that he belonged in the social space. Having grown up around parents who were extremely active in the community, he learnt about the importance of giving back to society early in his life. "I grew up with the idea that when you retire at 60, you should get into social-service." Determined to not wait for that long to retire, Atul admits that he wanted to make that change before he hit his 40’s.

But his journey to reach this dream took longer than he anticipated. "The first time I volunteered with a nonprofit was in 2007-2008. I spent two years working towards poverty alleviation in villages near Gurgaon. These two years were formative in being able to understand how this sector works, what the challenges are and what I wanted to do about it. It gave me a feeling of frustration that I needed to be in this sector full time and not just help from the outside."

"When I moved to Bangalore to join InMobi from Gurgaon, I stopped working for them, and I carried the guilt of not contributing with me."

Atul remembers spending his time fully absorbed in his work at InMobi. “Look how far we’ve come. Each region, each strategy, each business has been nurtured with time and effort, keeping our vision in mind always.” Even through the busiest patches as InMobi’s CRO, he always had a thought at the back of his mind that he would, at some point, go back to his idea of poverty alleviation.

"InMobi had a lot to do with getting the process ready towards the goal I have now. In fact my first interview at InMobi was for one hour with Naveen. Out of that one hour, we spent 45 minutes discussing about non-profit and poverty projects."

Due to this common interest, the two instantly clicked the first time they met, "When I think about my interactions with Naveen, from the very first till today, we have probably spent as much time discussing about altruistic topics, as we have about work at InMobi." These active conversations and debates caused Atul to continuously think about what was a good time for him to give back. "To be honest I started to believe that there is no right or wrong time to serve those in need, and it all comes down to a question of belief."

Atul believes his time at InMobi had a big influence on how the idea of The Nudge Foundation evolved. "InMobi has given a lot of people, not just me, the freedom to play around with their ideas and think big. This really allows you to push your boundaries and try what you believe in. So while doing something in the non-profit space has always been at the back of my mind, InMobi encouraged me to fuel my ideas and keep them simmering."

At the peak of InMobi’s success, Atul decided it was time to leave behind corporate life, and move into the social sector in pursuit of his new idea of success. “I always love a good challenge, but the kind of challenges that used to motivate me earlier started to change, because of the larger goal I now had in mind."

Being in his 39th year and impatient to get into non-profit work full time, Atul remembers, "It was a personal landmark year for me to make the transition and beat my own window of a retirement age!"

Fully prepared to resign from InMobi and leave 17 years of corporate life behind, Atul assumed that the people he worked with would take a separate journey as well, but he was surprised when the opposite happened. "The most fascinating part of my journey is not only that I have continued to work out of the InMobi office, but since the day I announced I would be starting a nonprofit organization, InMobians have had a very warm reception to my idea. I initially thought I would have to go out into the market to find and build a strong team to work with, but many InMobians offered their time to support our mission. I don't even have a count of how many people from within InMobi are volunteering at the Nudge Foundation. I know so many people who work with us from 6 to 8 in the morning and 10 to 12 in the night! From a work standpoint, half of what we have done in the last two months has been the efforts of the InMobians as volunteers. The fact that I'm still working here, with InMobians, makes it even harder to draw the line between where the InMobi culture ends and the Nudge Foundation culture begins."

The Nudge Foundation team

Today, The Nudge Foundation caters to young adults who are entering the workforce with no educational background. Nudge gives them an economic and educational foundation by providing literacy and livelihood skills. “In the future, I want the Nudge Foundation to be able to reach lakhs of people in India and change their lives fundamentally in a sustainable way."

Enthused with his new found vision, Atul looks at success in a new light. "Over time I realized that the definition of what I wanted, from what I was putting time into has changed. Yesterday, what had been my idea of success today makes me look back and question, “Was that meaningful enough a goal?"
Today my definition of success is more about how many lives can be impacted by change. To me, real success now is about how many lives you're able to transform… one at a time!

In conversation with Sunshine Bhandary