Until now, I have been an avid reader here, an inert participant. I’ve always waited for a new article/blog to be uploaded here. I have made ‘friends’, with Alok on Facebook, which is primarily to track his Rodinhood updates. I really enjoy reading the tips and stories of fellow entrepreneurs which always inspires and uplifts me in ways that only an entrepreneur would know and understand.
Here I thought I too should contribute with my own story, hope you all like it.
The story is that of my journey as an entrepreneur. It is full of mistakes and failures which have been my best teachers so far. This story has 4 phases.
Phase 1: Engineering student, thinks he is the smartest guy on the planet, a gift to humanity. Decides to start-up more out of the coolness factor, puffed by the stories he has read about Sergey, Larry, Steve, Bill and the likes. Wins an incubation at India’s first Technology Business Incubator, in a prestigious Engineering College/University, after two months of training, fails to impress the board to receive funding in the final round – decides to start anyways – takes a 5k loan from the assistant head of the Incubator (still to return this money), buys a printer (it was needed to print the reports – the product of the company then). The Business is in the education sector – goes from school to school selling the service – gradually things look up – after a year of running – sells out. Looks for the next challenge.
Phase 2: College is over, thinks he should take up a job. Hungry for more learning. Remembers meeting a very impressive VC in one of the TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) conferences. Decides to apply to his company for a job. Checks out the jobs section of the company website, there are three openings – designer, media buyer and copy writer – since has no idea of the other two, decides to apply for the post of a copy writer. Writes a CV, realizes that the CV is really sad. Makes a PPT instead with a story/sales pitch and as much animation as he could. Submits the CV, is called to Mumbai for an interview (all expenses paid – made to stay in the company guest house in Bandra – today lives in the same house). In the interview, is told about the hundreds of spelling and grammatical errors made in the PPT. Is still hired as a trainee for a salary of Rs. 10,000. At the top of the world. Works really hard. Learns a lot. Qualifies Google’s GAP exam in the second month on the job, awarded best employee quite a few times, made a business head soon. Professional bliss for more than 3 years. Company goes through financial turbulence, fires a few people – which includes a few he considers as his mentors – feels wronged – decides to leave – joins the digital arm of one of the largest advertising groups in the world. Makes awesome friends – decides to leave within 3 months and start-up again.
Phase 3: Start-ups are full of energy – when multiple partners are involved – there is a need to have relevance for each partner. If it isn’t there, people will ultimately break away. I break away too – to another start-up which is into mobile technologies – Starts a movie marketing division, contributes in building it to be one of the biggest digital movie marketers in the country. Had to leave again – decides to take up a job!
Phase 4: During the job – becomes financially stable. The moment life stabilizes – the need to start-up something becomes strong again. This time, has two failures as qualification. Decide to go and meet a much respected advertising guru, who runs a much respected independent main line agency – the deal is – give us space – let us talk to your clients and take a stake in the new company in return. No exchange of money. He agrees! The wheels roll again!
This was last year. We would complete a year on the 9th of August 2012. We today have about 10 clients, 10 employees and a lot of happiness and satisfaction. We are even thinking of starting two more new companies/divisions soon. It sure has been a long and eventful journey. I am still unstable financially – have borrowed from clients to travel back to office. Have borrowed from friends to treat my girlfriend on her b’day, have slept without eating, Have gone to meetings on a bicycle as had no money for rickshaw – but I am really really happy. I am happy because I am living my dream.
Today, I do not allow our employees to stay in office beyond working hours – they get their salaries on time without fail. Each employee is allowed to choose her own designation. We are about to take an accident insurance for everyone . All our delivery partners receive their cheques on time. We do our share of mistakes which are increasingly fewer, but our clients are happy. People in the office fight to play their favorite music and crack jokes.
We would be taking the whole team for a special outing when we complete a full year. We are still mulling over the design of the company T-Shirt though. With all the challenges, and hardships, perusing the clients for payments, ensuring that everyone is high on morale, chasing perfection, dealing with egos – at the end of the day when I lie down to sleep – I sleep really well.
While the dream is still far, and there sure are many more challenges to come, I would like to share a few learnings with you all. These are learnings which have come out of my mistakes and my failures, which still are my only qualifications – Hope it helps.
1.) Whatever be your business – remember, you are either giving someone pleasure or removing someone’s pain – like seriously.
2.) Your most important asset would always be the people, invest wisely – Like seriously.
3.) Your most important commodity would always be time, invest wisely – Like seriously.
4.) You can fight only one battle at a time – choose wisely – Like seriously
5.) You’d always be your most underpaid & overworked employee – Be humble – Like seriously.
6.) Your clients would only give you work if you are likable – like seriously
7.) Always deliver more than what you promise – like seriously
8.) Always value other people’s time – like seriously
9.) Anything is achievable – like seriously
10.) Miracles do happen – like seriously
Here I end my story. Thanks a lot for reading it. Please do share your inputs, thoughts and comments. Thanks Alok for creating this forum – you’re one of my heroes.