Much has been said and written of the flux that life is. So many schools of thought have sprung up based on subtle differences in perception of man's sojourn in this world. One grows up listening to stories of so many great men who lived life in wonderful, ever-so-meaningful ways. These are larger-than-life lives, of course, chronicled by wordsmiths in ways that inspire a whole range of emotions, from awe, to sympathy to love. For the majority of us live forgettable lives, not so much because great things didn't happen to us, as much as because nobody took note. Caught in the rigmarole of a daily struggle to secure our needs and desires, we lose track of time. And when we do wake up to it, it's gone already. Like that!
Well, there's no reversing that trend. The majority of lives will always remain unsung. But, surely, it's possible one walk into sunset with a better sense of having been there and done what. Keeping a diary helps, but that would be beyond most of us. If only someone else kept track of our lives.
Log on to Lifeinlines.com (LiL), an online platform designed to help you capture life's little moments as they happen; little thoughts or experiences that you'd like to express, share with someone or just capture for your own sake.
Or so Ankur Gattani would tell us. LiL is his attempt to touch lives in meaningful ways, through technology. And how?
You can post to LiL via the web, email, gtalk messenger, SMS/MMS or even a phone call to record your voice - a first of its kind system in Indian Web. It offers five levels of privacy for each post, organising your friends depending on how close they are to you. Also, it supports all media formats - images, audios and videos on the same platform.
Ankur is now enabling a simple way to capture "group moments" or "couple moments" that would be a part of more than one life, with due consideration for privacy. Among other things, the portal would also soon have an integrated gifting platform, so in moments you deem appropriate, you can send your friends a personal gift.
Still, this is an unusual line to take for someone with a B.Tech in physics from IIT Bombay and a PGDM from IIM Calcutta, though Ankur has his business plan cut out.
The entreprenur started out this February, all by himself, with a small seed capital. Today, there are five employees in all and the hits have been virtually proliferating, though Ankur would rather not discuss the financials just yet.
His vision for 2010:To actively touch a million plus lives and change the way they stay in touch with themselves and others they care about.
And why did he choose to turn entrepreneur? "The biggest credit would be to my close work with the students' entrepreneurship cell at IIT Bombay and then IIM Calcutta, and the subsequent interaction with several entrepreneurs," he says. "Then perhaps was this whole notion of making the most of the one life that I have, drove me towards experimenting. Mistakes, however big, wouldn't be fatal after all."
Ankur got the first real validation of his faith when Maninder, his senior from IIT quit his job of 5 years with ITC to join him full time.
For now, his key challenges are:
- Putting together a team that shares his vision and complements his skills
- Getting a better hang of the central component of his business -- the technology. Currently, he is not in complete command of the technology as he can't write the code himself, which can be limiting at times
- Managing an outsourcing relationship - communication, expectations and scheduling are a formidable task. It makes sense to build his own team, but that's easier said than done.
- Change and adapt to new ideas and developments. Mental blocks can limit progress and as an entrepreneur, it's important to make sure you're open, says Ankur.
And has he ever felt like going back to a regular job? "I'd be lying if I said no," says Ankur. "Being a first timer, there's a lot of seasoning yet to happen. A lot of things take me by surprise. I tend to get frustrated when I don't get the feeling of being in control of what's happening."
He realises, however, that even those with regular jobs could be nursing a similar feeling - of not being in control of things, or not getting to do all that they would want to. For now, therefore, he has decided against getting back to a regular job.
And what drives him on? "Testimonials from the users who've felt touched by our service, in a way no other product has reached them. Also, the bar continues to be raised, so at any given point in time, there's so much more that needs to be done."
Ankur has drawn inspiration from several people, beginning with his father whose guts he would like to emulate. Then, there was his professor at IIMC who eased him out of a dilemma once by asking him not to over-rate mistakes and make choices sans fear.
Right now, his world revolves around lifeinlines.com, through which he aims to touch a few million lives. Also, he would like to go beyond the traditional modes of web monetisation, pitch innovative ideas and drive the space forward.
And he has a long list of tips for other budding/ aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Little successes give you a kick like nothing else. To find people who love your product is an irreplaceable feeling.
- The freedom is exciting but the lack of structure and definition can be intimidating. Be sure to learn some discipline yourself.
- Know that sometimes, you just have to be an irrational lunatic to be doing what you're doing.
- Take every piece of advice that comes to you. But take it with a pinch of salt. Don't dismiss it altogether and don't take it all too seriously. The business is about your vision and idea, guided by an advisor/mentor. That said, try and find yourself a mentor.
- Be prepared for a long haul. Success may not be a stone's throw away as you'd like to believe. If turns out to be closer for you, nothing like it, but if it doesn't, be prepared to stick it out.
- Be sure you won't get into comparative evaluation of your life vis - a -vis your colleagues and friends who're doing well in the corporate circles. You may not immediately have all the perks they do. Perhaps you should let the future drive you.
- Working with a large company, you have authority, decision power to move funds, vendors approaching and pitching to you. Life's different on the other side of the table.
- There are strenuous times behind the glamorous veil of entrepreneurship. Don't jump in just because it's fashionable to be an entrepreneur.
- Don't let the romance and the vision die. There'll be moments when that's the only thing to keep you going.
- Have one passion or two outside of work. They help you unwind.