Varsha Rao
Head of Global Operations, Airbnb
Varsha is the Head of Global Operations at Airbnb based in San Francisco. Previously, Varsha served as Senior Vice President of International for LivingSocial and was the first employee for the company in Asia. Prior to that she was the CEO of Singtel Digital Media in Singapore where she launched She also spent several years at Gap Inc., in a variety of roles including Vice President of She started her internet career as an entrepreneur, founding, the first e-commerce beauty site which she and her co-founder successfully exited. Her passions include global women’s issues, entrepreneurship and language study. Varsha received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her graduate degree from Harvard Business School.

The 3 most important qualities an entrepreneur should have

  1. Passion: Deep passion for the problem your are solving and belief in your solution/business idea are critical for entrepreneurs as you likely are charting untapped waters and will meet lots of resistance and naysayers along the way.  Without this passion, it will be challenging for you to inspire your team and also bring the energy needed to your work on a daily basis.
  2. Capacity to listen and learn: As an entrepreneur, there will be countless areas/problems that you will have to figure out. Listening and learning from others and then coming up with your singular point of view is a critical quality. This quality married with passion are an important combination to ensure you are not blindly following an idea but learning and iterating based on input from the smartest people around you.
  3. Persistence: Being an entrepreneur is the hardest job in the world and also the most satisfying.  It can be a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs.  The best entrepreneurs are persistent and resilient and keep coming back despite setbacks.


What makes a great leader?

Three areas are really important to be a great leader.  Communication, Confidence and Empathy.

  1. Communication Skills: Leaders need to be able to communicate their vision, clearly, succinctly and repeatedly.  This is especially important for an entrepreneur since often your company will be tackling a problem in a new way or in a new market and it takes time to persuade others of new things.  Communication skills are also key to building a strong culture and engaging employees around your vision.
  2. Confidence: Leaders need to have confidence in the people they recruit, confidence in their ideas and confidence in their decisions even when there are no precedents.  The closer you can get to your user and your community, the people who are most avid about your offering, the more confidence you’ll have in your decision-making and taking risks.
  3. Empathy: Connecting with others at a human level and being a great listener are the key to fast growth as a leader.


Why did you choose to be part of the Kstart ecosystem?

As a former entrepreneur, I enjoy mentoring young entrepreneurs as a way to give back to the community and startup ecosystem. I believe that entrepreneurs in India will be the most important driver of change and progress in India over the next decade and I’m excited to be able to contribute to that in a small way.  I also respect what Kalaari and its founders are doing with the launch of Kstart.  It is a great service to the Indian startup community and I’m honored to be able to support their efforts.


The one thing I wish I had known when I was 25?

I wish I’d had more mentors who’d been successful entrepreneurs in the past to provide guidance along the way.


Books you’d recommend

  • Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.
  • Originals by Adam Grant

Varsha Rao’s Crunchbase Profile 

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