Kunal Shah: Unconventional Success and the Power of Curiosity

 In a recent conversation with Abhinav Kejriwal, Chief of Staff at the Vice Chairman’s Office, Times of India, Kunal Shah, the Founder of CRED, shared his unique perspective on success, entrepreneurship, and the power of curiosity. Shah, who has achieved phenomenal success in the Indian entrepreneurial universe, discussed various topics ranging from seeking truth, cultivating curiosity, to the art of hiring high-slope individuals. This article explores Shah’s insights and provides valuable lessons for next-generation entrepreneurs.

The Business of Seeking Truth: Cakes that Tasted Good to Cakes for the ‘Gram

 Shah emphasizes the importance of seeking truth rather than aiming to find absolute truths. He discusses how consumer desires change over time, using the example of cakes. While there was a time when people focused on taste, the current trend is towards cakes that look good for social media validation. Shah raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of truth and its impact on business and profitability.

Simplification versus Complexity: Balancing Power and Longevity

 Shah highlights the importance of finding a balance between simplification and complexity in creating long-lasting products and businesses. While simplicity initially attracts users, it is the complexity of functionalities that ensures longevity. Shah provides examples such as the iPhone to illustrate this concept and explains how entrepreneurs are using simplification to attract customers while developing complex systems for competitive advantages.

The Currency of “Why”: Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity

 Shah shares his belief in cultivating a culture of deep curiosity, where individuals constantly ask “why” and challenge surface-level answers. He advocates for inculcating this curiosity from an early age to foster first-principles thinking and innovative ideas. Shah discusses the power of clear thinking and the ability to connect seemingly disparate concepts, attributing it to his natural need for summarization and abstraction.

Balancing Established Playbooks with Disruptive Ideas

 Shah addresses the challenge of balancing existing knowledge with innovative ideas. He emphasizes the importance of unconventional strategies in achieving groundbreaking success, using examples from swimming and wealth creation. Shah predicts the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence in various industries and advocates for a combination of discipline, playbook strategies, and disruptive thinking.

Creating and Scaling: The Art and Science of It

 Shah compares creating and scaling disruptive ideas to religious concepts, where different playbooks are required. He emphasizes the need for a balance between using existing playbooks for scaling and developing new strategies for innovation. Shah discusses the distinction between science-driven accomplishments and artistic innovation, cautioning against contrarian thinking solely for status signaling.

The Power of Distilling Quality Ideas

Shah suggests that timeless ideas have a distilled quality and endure over time. He emphasizes the importance of personal interpretation and contextual understanding when distilling great ideas from books or classics. Shah highlights the role of books in making the mind more porous and rewiring neural pathways, enabling individuals to absorb and process content effectively.

The Third-Person Perspective to Build Self-Awareness

Shah emphasizes the importance of accurate self-assessment before judging the world and developing self-awareness. He urges individuals to critically evaluate themselves from a third-person perspective and find humor in their personal weaknesses. Shah draws examples from comedians and biographers who observe others to develop better self-awareness.

Key Outlook on Hiring: Increasing the Slope

Shah believes ambition is a crucial trait to look for when hiring candidates. He emphasizes the importance of understanding what candidates are willing to sacrifice to achieve their ambitions. Shah discusses the concept of “slope” or trajectory in life, examining a candidate’s background, struggles, and sacrifices to determine their potential for success.


  1. How does Kunal Shah define success?

    • Kunal Shah believes success is about finding a place of stability where one can play without fear and enjoy life. He views success as an access card to meet the best minds and learn from them.
  2. What is the importance of curiosity according to Kunal Shah?

    • Shah believes curiosity is a superpower that fuels thoughts and leads to innovative ideas. Cultivating a culture of curiosity from childhood fosters first-principles thinking and clear innovation.
  3. How does Kunal Shah balance simplicity and complexity in business?

    • Shah emphasizes that successful products or businesses start with a simple proposition but evolve into complex entities. While simplicity attracts users, it is the complexity of functionalities that ensures longevity and competitive advantage.
  4. What is the currency of “why” according to Kunal Shah?

    • The currency of “why” represents a culture of deep curiosity, where individuals constantly ask why and challenge surface-level answers. Shah believes in the power of clear thinking and the ability to connect diverse concepts.
  5. What is the key outlook on hiring according to Kunal Shah?

    • Shah believes ambition is crucial when hiring candidates. He looks for individuals who are willing to sacrifice to achieve their ambitions and examines their trajectory in life to determine their potential for success.

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