Off hours: Truecaller app co-founder finds true calling

Nami Zarringhalam, 30, is co-founder of Truecaller, an app that identifies unknown incoming calls, blocks calls and synchronises with social media to update phone books with birthdays and pictures. It has 150 million users. Mr Zarringhalam, a Swedish citizen of Iranian origin, studied Computer Science at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He started Truecaller in 2009 with Alan Mamedi. He lives in Stockholm, where the company is based.

What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?

I spend a lot of time with my family and my friends. But honestly, my favourite hobby is probably just working, because as a founder, I have the privilege of choosing who to work with. I spend a lot of time with the Truecaller family, so I have two families basically.


What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

Since I was a kid, one of my favourite hobbies was to ride bikes. When I was a kid, I did a lot of downhill biking. Now I do more road biking. I participated in a contest here in Sweden about four years ago – it was 300 kilometres on bike.

What can’t you live without?

My smartphone. Ever since Alan and I started Truecaller, our dream was to work in the mobile industry. We were mobile phone geeks when we met in university. So having my phone and reaching everyone, and being accessible – that’s a great thing.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

The success of Truecaller has been that we have been able to learn very quickly. We listen to our users, what they tell us, and we take them into consideration. As an executive, I think one of the most important things is being able to build a scalable team – that’s something that I feel we have succeeded in. Having people that are smarter than yourself around you is always a good thing.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Initially, I would say listen to your users’ feedback and make sure you build for your users. Be open to changing your point of view based on the feedback that you get from the early adopters.

Second is being able to ask for help.

A lot of entrepreneurs know what they are after and can have an iron hand and say this is the way it should be. I think the strength of Truecaller, again, has been listening to our users and making sure that we are the best for as many people as possible.

Also, asking for help from around. Our initial funding came from people that we asked to support us. Being able to reach out to people and saying ‘this is me and this is what I am doing, please, help me however you can’, then you will find people who are willing to give you their help.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

That’s a tricky one. Our chairman was one of the first people who we asked for help and advice. He has also become our mentor. He is an investor. He is our mentor, not only on how to build a successful company, but also how to handle work and personal life balance. There have been several times when our chairman ordered us to take vacation – or go and do something with our families and friends. You need to have the relaxation part to be able to handle the long days of working – no matter how much fun you have at work, it is still quite stressful.

How do you relax after a working day?

Our working days are a bit odd, because we start at 8am or 9am and we go until 10pm – 5 to 6 days a week. If you can tolerate that, your weekends need to be a holiday.

We make sure that we relax during the weekend. In the evenings I would watch a movie or a series.

If you weren’t running your business what would you be doing?

I would probably be an entrepreneur for a technology company.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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