Uber's Sooraj Nair: Performing under pressure

Sooraj Nair of Uber India Systems is a friend and problem-solver for his team

Pranit Sarda
Published: Oct 19, 2020 06:13:52 PM IST

sooraj nair bg

It isn’t always easy to work for a startup. The business can be uncertain, the challenges are high, and so are the risks. The stress for employees has only increased with remote working. While the pressure can’t be eliminated from a workplace, it can be mitigated.

“That’s where a manager can play a key role. I help my team manage stress by bonding with them, helping them with prioritisation and planning,” says Sooraj Nair, hub lead at Uber India Systems Private Limited. “I partner with my team to help fulfil people’s career progression goals, and am on the lookout for signs of lack of motivation within the team so that I can weed them out.”

Nair, who leads safety and compliance in India and South Asia for the mobility tech startup, graduated in electrical and electronics engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur in 2011, and went on to do sales and marketing for ExxonMobil Lubricants for three years. He then enrolled for a two-year postgraduate management programme at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore. While he had a pre-placement offer from a consulting firm, Nair preferred to interview for a job at Uber.

The 32-year-old believes that a good manager works shoulder-to-shoulder with his team rather than the team working under him. “Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to manage teams of various sizes, once even handling a team which had more than 50 members,” he says.

His team members agree, and one of them says, “His [Nair’s] best qualities are humility and a down-to-earth nature. Working with him is a friendly experience. We can even share personal problems that he would understand and solve.”

Gurugram-based Nair believes that it’s about the bond and the partnership more than anything else that makes him a great manager. “Just like with any other partnership, trust and mutual respect are pivotal for creating a strong bond between the manager and the teammates. But these attributes are not always found from the get go,” he says. “It takes patience and commitment to make the partnership click, and my team has almost always mirrored that attitude. Whether it’s spending leisure time with my team, or getting to know each of my reports personally, or trying to understand each other’s ways of working, or constantly receiving and sharing feedback, all it takes is the right amount of intent.”

Nair, who has worked at various positions in Uber in the last four-and-a-half years, ensures that everyone who works with him follows three key principles. First, keeping a customer-centric approach of decision-making and being the champions of doing right by them. Second, being a truth-seeker by experimenting with different approaches and not settling for anything but the best answer. Third, understanding that decision-making with a high uncertainty and big bold bets are vital to succeed in a dynamic business environment.

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