WhiteHat Jr’s Karan Bajaj on how taking three sabbatical breaks helped him grow as a person and as an entrepreneur

In this episode of the 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Karan Bajaj, Founder, WhiteHat Jr, talks about taking professional breaks in his career and how it helped him learn and grow as a person.
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Karan Bajaj, Founder, and CEO of WhiteHat Jr donned several hats prior to starting up. He was the CEO at Discovery, an author with Penguin Random House and HarperCollins Publishers.

During this journey, Karan says he took three professional breaks to understand himself better and take leaps ahead

“I had [my experience] in two parts and I spent almost a decade on each in my own way. A part of it was my professional path. So, I went to IIM and later joined Procter and Gamble. After this, I went to Boston Consulting Group and I lived half of it in India and half of it outside India, and worked in consumer-packaged CPG companies before I became the CEO of India Discovery network. Parallelly, the other part of my life was my writing. As a consequence, I wrote three novels and I took a lot of years off to actually focus on my writing,” he says.

Karan founded edtech startup WhiteHat Jr in November 2018 with an aim to help children between 6 to 14 years learn the fundamentals of coding. In August 2020, WhiteHat Jr was sold to BYJU'S in a $300 million all-cash deal.

Apart from his journey as a corporate worker and an entrepreneur, Karan has penned three novels to date, including Keep Off the Grass, Johnny Gone Down, and The Seeker.

Karan Bajaj, Founder, and CEO of WhiteHat Jr [Image Credit: 100X Entrepreneur Podcast]

Learnings from breaks 

Karan reveals that he took his first break in 2008 while working with Procter and Gamble. He explains that the first leap was indeed hard as he was turning 30 that year and society viewed the decision in a negative light.

“I was just turning 30 and there was obviously all the family pressure to get married and settle down, buy a house and stuff. It felt very foolish because I was not settled in any way. I was leaving everything and going, so obviously, the way the public viewed, or the public view of friends, family, etc., was very negative,” he says.

He then left India in January 2008 and traveled to South America and lived there for four months, lived in Eastern Europe for four months, and Mongolia for four months. He wanted to return back to work in December 2008 but had to experience the worst-case scenario as there were no jobs available due to the Lehman Brothers crash in the US. He got a job at BCG after three months but then realised that he already lived out the worst-case scenario and took a big leap of growth. 

“I think that liberated me, so the subsequent leaps became a bit easier,” he adds.

However, from the enriching experience from his travels, Karan began his journey as an author. In 2012, Karan took his second break to learn yoga and meditation and took his third break in 2016. 

“I grew a lot during the first sabbatical by travelling and I grew in the second sabbatical with yoga and meditation. I knew that each of these times, I was taking a major leap for growth and eventually life would reward me, and I think that became a pattern that I have figured out. After I came back from my yoga meditation break, I realised that I was actually moving up in my work very fast. I became a C-level executive very quickly because I changed a lot as a person. So, I felt that if you chose growth each time, I think life eventually will reward you. It doesn’t come in immediately, but it will reward you,” he says.

In this episode of the 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Karan Bajaj talks about taking professional breaks in his career and how it helped him learn and grow as a person.

To know more, listen to the podcast here

Notes: 

01:03 – Early childhood & career prior to WhiteHat Jr

03:49 – Taking breaks in a professional career

04:10 – Becoming consistent with writing – “Natural consequence of living what I thought was a very interesting adventure, an experience that I thought that many people should do.”

07:04 – Major career sabbaticals throughout his journey

14:24 – Impact of 1st Sabbatical: Understanding that the world is very boundary-less

15:06 – Impact of 2nd Sabbatical: Productivity as an individual 

15:41 – Impact of 3rd Sabbatical: “If I pick up something, I just have to keep at it every day.”

17:00 – Growing leaps and bounds in corporate career after 2nd sabbatical 

18:30 – Self-doubts while writing and publishing his books

22:04 – Accepting and realising that growth isn’t linear

28:43 – Ideating and pursuing WhiteHat Jr

34:46 – Initial scale, revenue, and metrics tracked at WhiteHat Jr

38:17 – Top mistakes at WhiteHat Jr while blitzscaling

41:45 – Being mindful as a founder while facing criticism 

43:15 – “The founder in a blitzscaling phase has to let some fires burn.”

45:41 – BYJU’s & WhiteHat Jr deal: Startup economics for Acquirer, Acquired & Investors

51:19 – Enabling 11,000+ women teachers on the platform

52:07 – Karan’s perspective on the Wolf Gupta’s Ad

Edited by Megha Reddy

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