Share This Post

Most Popular / RodinStar / Startup

End of a Chapter

 

Awarded the

“RodinStar” Post 

of the week!!

 

 

When you set out on a journey, you generally get on board with the aim of embarking at the final destination. And then we hear people say that ‘the journey is always more important than the destination’. True that – but is it practically always possible? What if you actually want to reach the destination but circumstances force you to jump out mid way and switch lanes?

‘Agar tum sachche dil se kise cheezo ko chaahte ho toh puri qaynaat tumhe use milaane mein lag jaati hai’

Maybe not.

There are things you may not want to talk about. But certain eyebrows are always raised and your decisions always questioned. They may not confront you – but behind you they would always gossip.

I quit my first venture. The team gave birth to Theek Kar Do, we nurtured it, raised it only to be forced to leave it mid-way just when the journey had started. I abandoned my baby. I am not sure if I ever wanted to write about it – atleast not for public consumption.

The exit was questioned by many. TKD (as we fondly called it) was loved by the media and we did have some good media friends. So they wanted to cover the exit then. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t prepared to talk about it then – maybe not even now. But then when someone you respect and admire asks you to write about it – you just cannot deny it.

Before you read ahead, just to clarify this piece is not about the actual happenings which led to my exit but about how as an individual I went through the entire thing.

Things were bad in the venture time and again but what made it worse is the indifferent tuning I had with my co-founder. We were rarely on the same page but initially that worked well most of the times for us. But with time things started moving from bad to worse. Not that we did not try to sit down and talk it out and resolve things across the table but eventually that is just what we were doing most of the times and the business as such was suffering. Practically, it made sense to split the business – but emotionally none of us wanted to do that.

It was late August when I was almost convinced that it’s almost time for me to bid adieu to the venture. You do not want to abandon your kid but you cannot even watch it struggling in front of you just because its parents are having a tiff. A single parent would probably do a better job.

But still I decided to hang in there hoping against hope that the tide would change. This was the third time in the last few months that I had decided to move out – this time it was on a slightly serious note. Inside, I still had not come to terms with it that this was the only solution left if not the best.

This was something I could not build up courage to talk to anyone about. I was shuffling – almost every day. Life was swinging like a pendulum between practicality and my emotions. Apart from my really close two friends, nobody knew of my intention to exit.

And then we had one more of those arguments which was like a nail on the coffin. We split on a very bad note. My co-founder dropped in an email to split. I literally cried and was inconsolable for a while. This is not how I wished things to end. This was September end – the starts towards the end.

Quitting the venture is very similar to coming out of a healthy relationship. Both of you have put in a lot of efforts to be together, spent a lot of time with each other, made compromises but still did everything under the sun to make it work. But then destiny plays a different game. You have to split and carry a baggage full of memories. At one end you do not want to dump them and at the other end the baggage just happens to weigh you down in your personal life.

We still had to work out the formalities of the exit. Unfortunately, all these discussions happened over emails being exchanged. We could not stand each other; probably we did not want to face each other. Our colleagues were not aware of the back room happenings and unfortunately were caught in the cross-fire.

The entire month of October I did not go to office. Work was suffering but I had no option either. Life did come to a standstill. I – an educated middle-class Indian who is apparently only supposed to do a white-collared job, had quit the cushy corporate job to run his own business – is now sitting at home ‘unemployed’. I began hating a lot of things in life. My social media timeline was bombarded with sad posts. My friends and former colleagues thought it was because of heartbreak in a relationship. It was indeed heartbreak – just that the reason was something else which was still not publically known. I started being anti-social, underground, and aloof and all those devdas kind of terms which you may want to attach to me.

It is really really difficult to move out from something which you strongly believe in – something for which you have fought with half the world and now you have to surrender just when you were going to turn the tables and begun winning the battle.

Extracts from my resignation email:

“After a journey of several months where we built a company, a name, a brand from scratch, I have decided to move on in my professional life….

…I want to take this opportunity to thank each one of you for bringing in all the awesomeness at TKD. In my short stint at TKD I got to do a lot of things I had never thought of, met so many people and cherish the moments I spent working for building the TKD brand. It is amazing when people recognize and laud the efforts that we had all put in to make what TKD stands for – from being on TV to talking at events, with people loving your brand name and logo to customers appreciating the efforts we put in, with being covered by leading Indian newspapers and magazines to seeing your company adverts on buses and ricks – it has been an enriching journey. Unfortunately, I had to leave the dream mid way. Professionally, I am not sure where I stand today and what lies ahead for me but on a personal front, I think I am way richer than ever. Thanks for being with me in the journey. I am not sure if I will come close to experiencing even a part of this curve ever again. This year will remain etched in my memory for several years to come.

I am sure you all will make me proud someday by taking TKD to the heights we had envisioned.”

Staying at home 24/7 was a torture. Fortunately, my parents do not stay in Mumbai. That’s when I decided to make my annual visit to my parents.

Just before boarding the flight I made a status update.

capture

Yes, I was running away from reality. I needed a break. Needed some time away from the hustle of Mumbai.

With my exit, even some of my colleagues called it quits. I felt bad about it but then things were not in my hand. They felt betrayed with my exit. My friends abused me. But they could not reach me immediately. Did I let the people around me down? Just this thought made me panic and sadness creeped in once again.

My parents stay abroad and keep insisting I should shift back to the city. But this time I just hoped that was not going to be a point of conversation. But, I was wrong. That was the only point of conversation. They never enquired on why I had to leave Theek Kar Do but just kept insisting on me taking up a proper job. I felt all the more irritated and was succumbing to my emotions on a daily basis. I felt jailed for those two long weeks. I had gone thinking I would be able to get rid of the clutter from my mind but the trip ended up chewing my brain all the more. I needed some free air.

I came back to Mumbai and starting exploring and working with another organization to keep myself busy. But emotionally I was draining everyday. And your only companions are those sad bollywood songs. Trust me it cannot get worse than this.

But it did get. I had a fight with my best friend. He was irritated with work, me with life. That was like the lowest point post quitting the venture. The entire support system had come crashing down. I felt like running away to an unknown territory where nobody knew me and start life from scratch. I kept social media at bay to the extent that I deactivated whatsapp as well.

The usual goofy, fun loving, chilled out Hardik was sulking all over. Once I could fake my smile but now the sadness was all over me. Whatever the situation had been in all these 24 years of my life, my social life, my food and sleep was never affected. Random people would come and ask me after seeing my drowsy facial expressions.

Now a three-edged sword was hanging on top of me – my venture which I exited, parents who did not understand what I wanted from life and a friend whom I could not express my emotions to.

I started staying awake all night for several nights at a stretch thinking what the hell I am going to do now. The question lingered for a very long time. And things do change but at its own time. But I switched the gear and decided to take control of my life all over again. And that’s the reason that after almost 6 months I am in a position to talk about it without being adversely affected by it.

To a huge extent I am what I am because of TKD – it was my identity which I had lost with the exit. And finding yourself in this city of 12 million individuals is no mean feat.

I don’t think I regret quitting it, but I feel sad many a times and cry in the dark – could I have done something different to stay along and watch it grow and be independent?

How I pulled myself out of it, what I learnt from the entire episode and where am I today probably makes for another post – some other day. Writing this post has taken me on the ride once again – need to sit down and introspect all over again – but this time I know I am not going to break down.

You could connect with me @simply_hardik or read some of my posts at www.simplysoch.wordpress.com

Comments

Share This Post

26 Comments

  1. hardik,

    thank you for sharing your story with us – i can only imagine how painful it must have been to pen this down.

    i’ll call you over the weekend, k?

    i don’t know if you’ve read alok’s story. am pasting it here for everyone’s benefit.

    stay strong… at 24 this is just another beginning…. mark my words….

    http://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/the-toughest-decision-of-my-life-the-exit-of-mobile2win-india

    By 2005, a company I had co-founded called Mobile2win (originally started in China in 2001 and then brought into India in 2003) was sailing…

    We were first movers in the India Mobile VAS (value added services) space and things were looking up – thanks to all our learnings in China. The first Indian Idol voting platform had been successfully handled by us (and ever since) and Sony India had made us a long-term partner. We were partnering with lots of media companies, selling our mobile games on Vodafone and creating creative marketing platforms. Rajiv Hiranandani – head of the business was doing a great job.

    The success was also creating a sweet problem:

    The business needed a series B investment to scale and my existing investors – Siemens Mobile Acceleration from Munich and Softbank Ventures from China were not at the best of terms with the management of mobile2win.

    Just a month earlier I had come back from Shanghai and attended the most bizzare board meeting ever in my memory.

    The meeting started at 9 am and by 9:30 am, there was war in the boardroom. 2 Germans (Helmut Struss and Oliver Kolbe from Siemens), 1 Indian (Gopala Krishnan (GK) – the CEO) and 2 Chinese (Peter Hua and an Observer from Softbank) were all screaming at each other simultaneously in German, Chinese and in Hindi (me telling GK to control himself).

    The issue was typical start-up stuff – scaling up, finances, hiring, firing etc, etc, and while I let them go at each other (Softbank shouted at GK for pointing fingers with this hand – a very ‘disrespectful’ act in China), clearly this was a board that was not going to co-operate with me for raising money in India.

    Back home, when I started showing mobile2win around, there was massive interest. Sandeep Singhal of Sequoia India was kind enough to stay up late night in his room at the Taj, Mumbai and hammer out a term sheet for me the next morning.

    All these and more got no responses from Softbank and Siemens. So I asked them what they really wanted?

    Softbank was not going to put money in and Siemens wanted out. They were non-Indian VC’s and only Indian VC’s would understand Indian Mobile VAS space and hence invest.

    This was going to be a tough deal to close out.

    One afternoon, I met Pramod Haque and Vab Goel of Norwest Venture Partners. ( I later learnt that Anupam Mittal of shaadi.com fame had turned down a term sheet of Norwest for funding Mauj.com).

    Norwest stepped on the gas and took an active interest in talking to Siemens and Softbank and understanding their motivations. They engaged with mobile2win management and also spoke to other investors.

    A few days later, late afternoon I received a phone call that precipitated into the ‘toughest decision of my life’ :

    Vab indicated that he had settled all issues of valuation, exit and new investment between Siemens and Softbank and the management of Mobile2win (GK and Rajiv), and that Norwest and another VC was ready to go ahead in massively funding mobile2win at great valuation terms.

    Except, there was one condition:

    Alok (me) had to exit the company!!!

    At first I thought he meant Alok had to be distanced from management and I told him that I was barely involved. “Exactly” he told me – “You have no role to play, do not have the capacity to invest more money and your chunk of equity will free up lots more space for new investments”.

    Essentially Norwest wanted to buy out the promoter, make the company totally VC owned and then drive the management themselves.

    Over weeks, I understood that this was a non-negotiable stance by Norwest. Also, the other 2 investors – Siemens and Softbank were sold on this solution and began to pressurize me to exit (For the innocent – if most VCs want an exit to happen, they can force the promoter to do the same using the ‘drag out’ clause).

    So, here I was – someone who had founded a good company, sitting on the brink of VAS value explosion in India, and now being offered millions of dollars to walk out. It became a very puzzling and difficult situation to handle..

    Since the Company was structured in China, I took a legal view from a historic law firm in Hong Kong called Haldanes and I remember the very polite British accented lawyer talking to me for 1 hour non stop till I interrupted and asked him – “Do I have a case to stay in”?

    He replied “No Alok”.

    I then consulted my most supportive VC and guardian of all these years – ICICI Ventures. Bala Deshpande and Nandini Satam were so objective in their advice and mentoring – I still regard ICICI Ventures as the best thing that ever happened to me as an entrepreneur.

    Late night at 2 am, I got up and sat in my living room and brooded about the exit from mobile2win. I would be rich, the company (contests2win) would receive substantial cash to do other things etc, etc … At the same time I would also have to sign a 3 year non compete from doing anything mobile in the world (!!) and have to live without what may become a billion dollar company without me.

    Legally, I could battle it out… A ‘drag out’ would take months to execute and kill the deal and also the funding – so it would finish the company. I would have at the most won a Pyrrhic victory…

    The next morning I called Vab and said ‘ I’m selling’.

    The deal closed within 4 months. It made me a dollar millionaire and more importantly put cash into the mother company (since share were held by contests2win) that allowed us to pay a 1250% dividend to shareholders. We invested 1 million US$ into games2win that jump started the business and received funding from Clearstone and Silicon Valley Bank.

    The months that passed were dark. VAS continued to haunt me and I would wonder if I had lost the biggest opportunity of my life… Mobile2win India hired big wigs from TV and elsewhere and moved into a 10,000 sq feet office (from the 1500 sq feet office I had). They hired over 200 folks and seemed to the hottest company around…!

    So, what was the outcome you may ask?

    In 12 months post the deal, the cracks in the VAS business began to appear in the Indian Mobile space. Operators were unrelenting to share more than 20-25% revenues, payments were delayed by months and the business became strangulated with lots and lots of wannabes giving away content and revenue share for free.

    24 months later, mobile2win was flipped over by the VC’s to a Chandigarh company called Altruist for a non-cash deal. The business had collapsed and this was clearly the VCs saying it was over.

    For me, this was not sweet revenge but just the toughest decision (to sell or fight) that had turned out so positively!! Added to this was the fact that the non compete got over in 2009, so I became free to do anything in VAS!

    And what happened to Mobile2win China? GK left and a smart Chinese called Nick Zhang was hired by Softbank and Siemens as the CEO. Nick turned the company around and then astoundingly sold it to Walt Disney (USA) in a multi million cash $$ transaction. Softbank China, Siemens and my group got lucky again!

    ****

     

  2. Hey Hardik – It actually takes tons of guts to come out and speak your heart. Some of our live stories stay with us, some do not. 

    I remember meeting you first time at the Google event and sensing that I have seen you earlier. It happened to be an EY connection !! You are destined to reach places and this episode is one of the steps. And I can remember a Steve Jobs quote at this quick moment – Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Cheers dude !!

  3. Thanks Asha for pushing me to write this 🙂

    Looking forward to talk

    Have read the m2w story earlier.

    This reminds me of a quote from one of my earlier bosses “Such is Life”

    But I am still a firm believer of “Jo bhi hota hai, ache ke liye hota hai”

  4. Thanks mate 🙂

  5. Guts and glory are yours. You have achieved and lost more than most of us have gained in more years than you have lived ( I am 49). So keep your chin up my man.

    Undoubtedly you will rise and gain your podium finish as you go along. Remain cool and level-headed as you are. Now get back to work and create an empire. 

    Best wishes,

    Anjan

  6. Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

  7. Hi Hardik

    Focus on future ,,, start working on new idea and keep yourself busy with work.

    Wish you all the best for future

    prashant dedhia

    prashantrd1980@gmail.com

  8. I SALUTE YOU

    Please also check this


    As featured in the December issue of Entrepreneur Magazine:

    Mr. and Mrs. Co-Founder – How do you do?

    I have been married for the past 21 years (I am 43 years old) and I think I’ve done pretty well so far ☺. Yeah, I bet I got a better deal than my wife (I mean, who wants to be married to a crazy entrepreneur?), but that’s the way life is.

    In this month’s column, I want to explore the fine and delicate relationship of Co-Founders, using the metaphor of Marriage.

    Marriage is right there in your face. You are either married or you aren’t. Everyone knows folks who wish they were married or wish they weren’t. Marriage ‘Aunties’ abound. Those who have had terrible marriages become marriage counselors! Everyone knows something about being married!

    So, what’s the connection between Marriage and Co-Founders?

    1. It’s about surviving, really.

    I meet a lot of people. That’s my job and also my passion. I’ve noticed how young people go on and on about how they met each other, who smiled at whom and how they shared their first train ride, etc. A couple of years later, those stories seem to vanish.

    On the other hand, when I go for spiritual treks, I meet couples married for over 30 years, who barely speak to each other. But they are supremely happy and completely in sync with other!

    Co-founders essentially need to last. And last for a long time. If you look around at the biggest entrepreneur success stories – Microsoft, Google, Hewlett Packard, Infosys, Naukri.com, etc… they all share a common theme of long-term co-founder survival.

    Good things take time. Great things take forever.

    If you want to build long-term and great entrepreneurial value, you must partner with a co-founder with whom you can last forever.

    2. It’s about what’s common – not uncommon!

    Many entrepreneurs, VCs and management experts believe that great co-founders are those who have distinct complimentary skills. If one co-founder is aggressive, outspoken and extroverted, the other co-founder could be soft spoken, introverted and mild. From a skill set point of view, having a co-founder who is great at Business and Finance is a perfect match with someone highly skilled at Technology and Operations.

    All this is common sense and makes good theory.

    What really matters is not how many ‘uncommon’ skills and idiosyncrasies co-founders have between them, but rather how many ‘common’ traits they share.

    I say this because of my experience in marriage. I believe that if husband and wife have to really get along, they must share a common set of values, morals and outlook towards life. Yeah, it’s fun to have a wife who likes Air Supply while the husband likes ACDC but the point is, they both enjoy music!

    When difficult and personal decisions come up, couples who ‘think alike’ pass through well.

    In business, finding people who can fill up your lack of skills is difficult, but not impossible. Lots of great professionals are available on hire. If you are an accountant building a website that predicts the weather, it’s easy for you to hire a meteorologist and a technologist.

    But if you want to make it the most successful weather forecasting business on the planet, then you need a co-founder who is more ‘like’ you than ‘unlike’ you. You need another twin, a photocopy of yourself, someone who shares the same DNA as you.

    The reason being like in life and marriage, business also imposes a set of values, rules, morals and character expectations on its owners. It’s best if co-founders share a common set, so that when critical decisions arise, both co-founders think alike.

    3. The Citizenship Test is passé – Try my Conference Room Test

    I’ve heard in the US, when disparate people get married and claim Citizenship benefits (automatic grant of citizenship because the spouse is an American citizen), these couples are put through a rigorous test! They are asked questions about which partner snores, what is the wife’s shoe size and whether the husband lifts the toilet seat up when he takes a leak or not?!

    The test is to conclusively prove that the marriage is not a commercial one (‘marriage for convenience’) where the couples happily separate after gaining citizenship.

    For co-founders, I have a similar test. It’s called the ‘Conference Room Test’. To check if co-founders are really compatible and will last long-term, do this:

    Separate the 2 or 3 co-founders into separate conference rooms and ask them a really tough question. Eg: “Your brilliant CFO has secretly borrowed some money from the Company and is secretly planning to return it. Now that you know, will you tell the board? Will you fire the CFO? Or, will you just let it pass?”

    Trust me, truly compatible co-founders will answer this difficult and tricky question almost identically.

    It’s this sync that makes them successful.

    4. Being Nasty is being good

    I have terrible fights with my co-founders. To one of them I said, “You are my partner; I have the right to tell you anything I want, and expect you to do the same.”

    Co-founders can tell each other what no one else can. That’s exactly what great marriages are about. And the reason it works is because it needs a heart of steel to tell the truth and another heart of steel to listen and accept it.

    When you know that the other person is truly being genuine, that steel melts and becomes gold.

    So if you are planning to build a great business, find a great Co-Founder. If you are happily married, use the same principles. If you are not, get counseled, fix your marriage and settle in.

    All so that when someone asks the both of you, “Mr. and Mrs. Co-Founder … how do you do?” – you don’t fumble or merely look at each other or keep so quiet that a star can be heard twinkling! Instead, you will smile (and show your newly polished teeth) and answer in unison, “Very well, thank you…!”

    ***********

  9. Hey Hardik,

    Wish you all the best buddy. I had been through something similar couple of times in my career but never have the guts to speak out my heart. Solute you bro. 

    Best regards, @amar

  10. Best wishes for your next move Hardik. 🙂

  11. I remember asking you about his exact scenario, when it almost was on it’s last string…

    There are people who put their Dreams in a little box and say, Yes, I’ve got Dreams, of course I’ve got Dreams. Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they’re still there.

    These are Great Dreams, but they never even get out of the Box. It takes an uncommon amount of Guts to
    put your Dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, How good or how bad am I?

    That’s where Courage comes in. Erma Bombeck~

    You are free to make your Choice, but you are not free to Choose the Consequences !!!

    Don’t let your History interfere with your Destiny.

    Let your Past make you Better, Not Bitter!!

    Your Past Mistakes are Meant to Guide you, Not Define You.

    There is no such thing as a loser. Only quitters.
    And a quitter is someone who gave up on their Dream.
    A True winner is someone who will fight for their dream even when the World says they cant have it.

    Dreams are like Horses, if you follow them, they wont really notice you, but if
    you Chase them, they will Run with You.

    Here’s Wishing you a Rapid Healing and Better Bounce to get back once again on your Feet!!!

    I don’t measure a man’s Success by how High he climbs, but how High he Bounces when he hits Bottom.
    George Patton~

  12. We always work towards achieving the best for us, professionally and personally. We seldom aren’t prepared for the worst case scenarios. But they are the best catalyst of learning in life and often leads you towards the best! And even if we prepare ourselves for the worst, we always want to end it on a good note. The best farewell speech, breaking up mutually, healthy call-offs.. If life was so rosy, we wouldn’t have become entrepreneurs then! 

    I was into a 6 yrs long relationship, too loyal and too committed. She meant the world to me, of course with its own sets of ups and downs. But getting habitual isn’t good either with people, things or materials in life. So she decided to call it off.. It was a BAD break up, even if we decided to end it that’s not how we or rather I expected it to end. Felt like I had filed for bankruptcy overnight. I had no much friends or family to explain how I felt or empathize with me. I cursed everyone, first her then the world for being so mean and then myself as if it was all my fault. But today at the hindsight, I felt that betrayal is what made me strong, immune to shocks and downturns in life. There was no better way we could have broken up. And I thank God for showing me those days! Its sometimes best for somethings to end on a bitter note even if they meant the sweetest thing to you at a point of your life!

    Thokar nahi khaayega toh thakur kaise banega!!

    Wishing you the best always!   

  13. The right decisions are almost always the toughest to make. And, when you do make them, you know you’ve done the right thing. Sometimes you may look back and wonder if things could’ve been different… It happens, don’t fight these thoughts, embrace them, come to peace with them and move on. Don’t carry any baggage cause its not worth it. 

    Introspect and march ahead. The journey has just begun. 

  14. Thanks Prashant 🙂

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I am not sure if I am going to find a perfect co-founder but I am sure not to get an imperfect one now 🙂

  16. Thanks Amar. Cheers.

  17. Thanks Rishi. Cheers 🙂

  18. I so well remember the conversation Darshan.

    Cheers 🙂

  19. But honestly I am a big Bollywood film buff.

    “Jab tak happy ending naa ho, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost”

    And then, I strongly believe in “Jo bhi hota hai ache ke liye hota hai”

    Cheers 🙂

  20. So agree with the thought process.

    I hated the fact that I quit my well to do corporate job for this venture. But today, the pieces of puzzle are gradually falling back in its place and everything – every action just makes complete sense.

    Cheers 🙂

  21. ATB.

    You are a lucky guy. At your age, you have undergone a fantastic experience.

    Fear is generally the absence of a difficult similar prior experience. Attachment is generally the cause for emotional/irrational decisions.

    Both of these you have encountered and overcome at an young age. It only gets better from here on..

    Btw, I encountered some such experiences at a late stage in life.. and so I can tell you it is a fantastic blessing early on..

  22. Thanks Hemant.

    Cheers 🙂

  23. yo hardik!

    felt like messing up the top part of your post…!

    sowrie 🙂

  24. Ab ki Baar “RodinStar” 😉

    Cheers!!!

  25. It inspires me to get back to the battle field.

    Thanks Asha 🙂

  26. Hahaha – nice one 😉

Leave a Reply

Lost Password

Register