PropertyGuru’s Hari Krishnan on failure and leadership

PropertyGuru's Hari V. Krishnan says staff need to "sink" before they can find success, in this second part of our exclusive interview.
By: | August 8, 2017
Topics: Features | Leadership

In Leaders Talk HRHRM Magazine Asia sits down with C-suite movers and shakers to talk HR and leadership.

Don’t forget to check out our main feature interview with PropertyGuru’s Hari Krishnan, here.


Hari Krishnan, the head honcho of PropertyGuru Group, is not one to back down from a challenge. No matter the potential outcome, he relishes the act of getting his hands dirty and being in the thick of the action.

After all, this is an individual who has been “super grateful” for having experienced failures, and one who firmly believes in letting employees themselves experience “sinking” in the corporate world.

However, Krishnan is anything but a reckless leader. A deep-rooted sense of adventure and an indomitable spirit have been the catalysts behind his rise as one of Asia-Pacific’s most-respected business leaders.

Having obtained his Bachelor and Master’s in telecommunications engineering, Krishnan began his career in Silicon Valley in the late 90s. He soared the highs of the dot-com boom and also rode out the subsequent dot-com bust.

“I’m actually very grateful for having done that because it taught me how high and low things can go in this industry from fairly early on in my life,” says Krishnan.

After five years in Silicon Valley, he pursued his MBA through Insead business school in France, and also spent some time studying at its Singapore campus.

That was where he witnessed first-hand the abundant business opportunities that were springing up in Southeast Asia, India and China, and he itched to be part of it.

After completing the MBA, Krishnan moved back to his native India to join Yahoo in a senior business development role.

Following a stint as Vice President and Country Head of India for Fox Interactive Media, he became the first Asia-based employee of LinkedIn in 2009.

“I was technically the first person on the ground,” says Krishnan.

He was LinkedIn’s Country Manager for India for three years before moving to Singapore to run its Asia-Pacific regional business for another three-and-a-half years.

“Personally, what I really enjoy is building organisations and cultures,” he says. “That’s what I’ve been doing in all the companies that I’ve been a part of.”

In January 2016, Krishnan was appointed as President and Chief Business Officer of PropertyGuru Group, before subsequently assuming his current role as CEO.



Describe your leadership style

A few years ago, someone asked me this question and until then I had not articulated it.

I start with talent and try to hire the very best people. I then coach and guide them in terms of what I believe are the expectations of the role and company, and I make sure they understand the vision and mission.

Then, I get out of the way.

I think this is a very important step. I benefitted from this when I was younger during my career; I had leaders who allowed me to sink or swim. If you’re developing talent, you have to let them experience “sinking”.

You cannot enjoy success unless you have failed, and you cannot really understand the dangers unless the environment allows you a slight chance to fail.

I don’t use the language “fail fast”. We focus a lot on “learning fast” instead. It’s quite hard sometimes to pause after a successful outcome to emphasise the learning aspect. You’re often so busy celebrating that you’re not actually focusing on the learning.

The culture we’re building in this company is to very much focus on that learning. Whether you’re successful or not in a particular project, we take the time to pause and learn. That is central to my leadership style.

How would your employees describe you?

I think they describe me as someone who is approachable and confident; someone who enjoys work and life, and hopefully someone who is decisive.

They know that I like making decisions quickly. There’s an emphasis on speed of delivery, which is definitely part of my set-up.


Lessons learned

What’s your biggest regret?

I’m not the kind of person who regrets. When I have a negative experience, I let myself experience it fully. I let myself feel it, so that I can learn from it.

Now that I’m a father, I’ve been teaching my kids that since they’re going to be learning throughout their entire lives, they’re going to have to experience a little bit of failure before they know what success feels like.

If you have failed, two things will happen: you will learn and you will tell yourself you don’t want to feel that way ever again.

I’m super grateful for having actually experienced failures consistently throughout my life, because it has shaped me.

The person talking to you today is a result of his failures as much as his successes.

What’s your top tip for leaders?

No question – it is to focus on talent. Leaders sometimes focus on revenue, or customers, and more often than not, they focus on dollars and cents. You have got to focus on your people, your team, and employees.

I firmly believe that if you get the best people, you win. It’s as simple as that.



I love: My family.

I dislike: Dishonesty and disrespect.

My inspiration is: People who smile all the time.

My biggest weakness is: A bias toward positive thinking.

In five years’ time, i’d like to be: Be happy and healthy.

Favourite hobby: Sports: tennis, swimming, and now also golf.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Always trust your gut!

What’s the best decision you ever made? To consistently put my family ahead of work.

What’s one thing people do not know about you? I listened to the Eagles song “Hotel California” every morning at breakfast during my four years of university.

Favourite quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

For more Asia-Pacific CEOs and business leaders discussing their HR challenges, head to HRM Asia’s  dedicated Leaders Talk HR microsite.