Leaders hold the power to shape not only the trajectory of an organization but also the very culture that defines it. They are the architects of innovation, the catalysts of transformation, and the driving force behind the success of their teams. One such luminary in the digital business world is Nitin Sethi, Chief Digital Officer at Adani Enterprises, whose illustrious career has left an indelible mark on the internet industry in India.
Nitin Sethi’s role as the founding leader of Adani Digital Labs and the visionary force behind Adani One solidifies his status as an influential business leader. With Adani One, Nitin aspires to create a platform for one billion people, a testament to his commitment to innovation and remarkable ability to shape the future of business in India and beyond.
Nitin Sethi has worked in the internet industry for 23 years, during which his career has profoundly transformed. Beginning with Bharti Airtel and the Times of India Group, he witnessed the emergence of India’s first NASDAQ-listed portal, Rediff. His tenure at Infoedge saw the verticalization of internet categories in India, contributing to the success of iconic brands like Yatra.com, Quikr, IndiGo etc.
At Quikr, Nitin Sethi specialized in building product design and user experience teams, propelling the company into a unicorn valued at $1.5 billion. Quikr’s acquisitions, including Baba Jobs and HDFC, underscored Nitin’s leadership. Subsequently, he played a pivotal role in Indigo’s digital transformation, yielding a remarkable $10 ROI per customer for every dollar spent. With Adani Group, Nitin became the founding leader of Adani Digital Labs, leading a team of 500 exceptional talents from the startup ecosystem. In under 30 months, Adani One, an incubation of India’s biggest startup, emerged. Nitin envisions a platform for one billion people, and Adani One, a travel-based super app, marks a significant stride toward that goal.
Adani One-Stop Solution for Travelers
Nitin Sethi envisions Adani One as a visionary blueprint with a vast scope. While it represents a comprehensive vision, it’s crucial to recognize that the journey has only just begun. Nitin and his team believe in the importance of timely validation, with the first step being the development of capabilities. The second stage involves a deep understanding of consumer and business needs, paving the way for the platform’s launch. Adani One aims to provide an all-encompassing travel experience, redefining door-to-door convenience. With approximately 15 to 20 use cases integrated into the platform, it becomes a one-stop solution for travelers.
Adani One introduces an innovative global platform that seamlessly blends the physical and digital realms, providing a comprehensive range of services. From booking flights and train tickets to accessing cab services, parking facilities, lounges, dining options, baggage information, and personalized assistance services like meet and greet, Adani One transforms the entire airport experience into a convenient, digital journey. This visionary approach aims to bring the airport to the users, creating a perfect fusion of the physical and digital worlds. In essence, Adani One pioneers a phygital world, redefining how people engage with travel by offering unparalleled digital convenience.
Revolutionizing Travel and Profitability
Adani One represents a holistic digital platform encompassing numerous use cases. Nitin Sethi’s vision extends to integrating travel services seamlessly, from booking flights and trains to parking, lounges, dining, baggage handling, and more. The platform’s impact is profound. It converts traditional businesses into digital ventures, multiplying the potential for revenue generation. An illustrative example is the duty-free business service, which has expanded from airport sales to multiple online platforms, leveraging the full capacity of expensive airport real estate. Adani One intends to replicate this model across various services, offering travelers an unprecedented level of convenience.
Nitin Sethi emphasizes a two-way communication channel with consumers, fostering co-creation and continuous improvement. While recognizing that profitability may take time, Adani One’s strategic approach combines investment in business expansion with meticulous ROI tracking. The platform’s foundation includes:
- Centralized data linkage
- Cross-category single sign-on
- A loyalty program that spans different service areas
As Adani One gains momentum in the travel ecosystem, it anticipates further innovation, potentially extending its reach to co-branded credit cards and an industry-first travel and OTA services blend.
Adani Digital Labs
Adani Digital Labs, which Nitin Sethi clarifies, is not just a vertical but a digital twin of the entire Adani Group. With a portfolio spanning 32 diverse businesses, Adani Digital Labs aims to create a unified, customer-facing digital counterpart for all these verticals. This ambitious endeavor is characterized by organic growth, prudent resource allocation, and an entrepreneurial mindset.
Nitin Sethi prioritizes creating an unparalleled customer experience rather than solely focusing on discounts and customer acquisition. The goal is to foster trust, convenience, and customer loyalty, ultimately turning customers into brand ambassadors. The approach involves layering an experience-driven interface over the existing value chain, delivering a consistent experience across diverse categories and ecosystems.
Furthermore, he envisions the creation of new revenue streams by leveraging partner ecosystems. Adani Digital Labs is not merely a tech arm but a digital business, exemplified by Adani One’s impressive achievement of onboarding nearly 19 million consumers in just six months. The initiative aims to provide comprehensive, door-to-door services, integrating airports and online travel agencies into a seamless customer experience.
Nitin Sethi has witnessed significant transformations in the industry. He highlights the internet’s journey from being primarily an information platform to incorporating validation, commerce, and now, a focus on providing immersive experiences. A notable aspect of the industry is its rapid evolution, with technology and platform trends shifting every five years.
Nitin Sethi emphasizes the changing landscape of customer expectations, particularly with the rise of millennials and the influence of artificial intelligence. Today, the emphasis is on experience-driven interactions. Consumers no longer merely seek products and services; they crave meaningful experiences. According to him, brands have adapted by shifting their focus from products to holistic, values-driven experiences that resonate deeply with customers. He further underscores the importance of selling experiences. Beyond the product itself, its narrative, values, and societal impact are critical. Customers are drawn to brands that align with their beliefs, seeking a sense of belonging and a unique “cult” experience.
Versatile Leadership Approach
Nitin Sethi embraces a simple yet impactful philosophy—personalization. Recognizing the diverse needs of India’s population, particularly in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns with a growing influx of first-time travelers and blue-collar workers, he prioritizes crafting tailored experiences.
Nitin Sethi’s leadership approach revolves around understanding the nuances of the customer journey, pinpointing specific pain points, and delivering solutions catering to individual needs. Rather than fitting technology solutions into the market, Adani Digital Labs prioritizes personalization and contextual relevance, ensuring that every customer interaction is customized. This commitment to tailored experiences positions Adani Enterprises to not only meet but surpass customer expectations in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
Navigating Cultural Shifts
The digital transformation journey within a legacy company like Adani Enterprises presents unique challenges. Nitin acknowledges that this endeavor is difficult, likening it to constructing a digital Burj Khalifa. It requires significant effort, determination, and a shared passion for the vision. Adani’s leadership, led by visionary Gautam Adani, is committed to embracing this change and has supported the digital transformation journey. Nitin Sethi emphasizes that to bring about such profound changes. One must be prepared to hustle, figure things out, and be willing to step outside the comfort zone. Adani Digital Labs and Adani One are at the forefront of this transformation, crafting digital experiences and platforms that will shape the future of Adani Enterprises.
Overcoming Challenges & Building Resilience
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented challenge to the travel and tourism industry, bringing it to a standstill. Nitin Sethi, who led digital transformation at Indigo Airlines during this critical period, observed the industry’s struggles firsthand. Despite the immense disruptions and uncertainties, Indigo Airlines managed to secure a remarkable 10% market share during the pandemic, a testament to its resilience.
Nitin Sethi attributes part of its success to a digital transformation initiative with an impressive $10 return on every $1 invested. The pandemic allowed the team to focus on refining core services, optimizing processes, and achieving a digitalization score of 95% for many aspects of the business, a significant leap from their pre-pandemic state. In response to the lessons learned from the pandemic, Adani One has been designed as a digital parallel ecosystem, poised to weather future challenges. Nitin recognizes the importance of customer-centric self-service with empathetic frameworks, prioritizing customer happiness as the key to a successful business model.
Balancing Vision & Agility
Nitin Sethi’s approach to managing the dynamic landscape of technology and the internet revolves around a continuous influx of young talent. This strategy not only fosters a learning culture but also enables the refinement of processes in response to evolving challenges. Nitin emphasizes the need to adapt, akin to a World Cup match where only the fittest thrive, highlighting the importance of embracing change and constant improvisation.
In the context of India’s tech evolution, from UPI to ONDC and COVIN, Nitin Sethi sees these government initiatives as propellers of rapid progress. With India poised to become a $6 trillion economy in the following term and potentially reaching $8 to $10 trillion by 2030, Nitin envisions a landscape with hundreds of unicorns, many of which will be profitable. This promising outlook underscores India’s commitment to innovation and adaptability as the key drivers of its future success.
Strong Emphasis on Cybersecurity
Adani Enterprises recognizes cybersecurity’s role in crafting responsible digital experiences and safeguarding customer privacy and data. The company strongly emphasizes adhering to government regulations and is committed to executing the Data Protection Bill (DPDP) effectively. Adani One is dedicated to upholding the highest data security standards as a custodian of high-value transactions in the travel industry. Nitin Sethi highlights that all partnerships are established with world-class cybersecurity standards in mind. This approach aligns seamlessly with the government’s vision for data privacy and security, ensuring that Adani One’s consumers can trust the brand implicitly with their information.
Fueling Digital Revolution
Nitin draws his motivation from the joy he sees on customers’ faces and the satisfaction of his team’s achievements. He believes that the way one concludes each day matters most, embracing both the challenging and rewarding moments. Navigating uncharted territories in the digital realm requires a certain level of audacity and resilience, qualities Nitin Sethi exemplifies in his leadership.
In his view, true leadership involves being a coach rather than a boss, where every team member is treated equally. Nitin Sethi is committed to nurturing his team, embracing their failures, and celebrating their successes. His happiness is derived from his team’s growth and ability to surpass expectations, even if it means going beyond conventional boundaries. This philosophy guides him as a leader in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Team Building Philosophy
Nitin believes in building a strong team with courageous and smart leaders who have initiative, curiosity, and a love for learning. Instead of just job seekers, he looks for individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset.
He stresses that leadership should align with the mission, creating a shared commitment and a journey towards building a legacy. The team’s dedication goes beyond work—it’s a collective commitment and embodies their mission.
Nitin and his team are on a journey to pioneer a travel-based super app, aiming to revolutionize the travel industry. With a leadership philosophy grounded in courage and shared commitment, they’re set to redefine the industry, much like the legendary tale of the “300.”
Balancing Passion & Priorities
Addressing work-life balance, Nitin Sethi emphasizes the importance of setting priorities. He places his family at the forefront and believes that balancing work and personal life revolves around these priorities. For him, it’s not merely a job but a source of enjoyment. Nitin finds fulfillment in his work, and the enthusiasm he derives from it allows him to manage his responsibilities effectively.
Nitin’s dedication is evident in his commitment to the team and customers. He views his team as an extension of his family and understands that taking care of them is fundamental. This people-centric approach extends to their customers, where he emphasizes the significance of providing exceptional service. Nitin’s leadership philosophy centers on being genuine, having good intentions, and staying passionate, qualities that have contributed to his success.
Dream Big, Embrace Risk
Nith offers valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: don’t play it safe. He encourages them to dream big with open eyes and not be afraid to take risks. In his view, this is the best time to be in India, where opportunities abound, and the country is poised for tremendous growth.
Nitin Sethi believes that India’s vast population and its position in the global market make it an ideal environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. He urges new entrepreneurs to tackle challenges in various sectors, including technology, fintech, agritech, and health tech, emphasizing the potential for exponential growth. Nitin’s message is clear: seize the moment, aim high, and contribute to the next era of India’s growth and transformation.
“Adani One aims to provide an all-encompassing travel experience, redefining door-to-door convenience and a one-stop solution for travelers.”