The entrepreneur in me
The rise, fall and other interestingness that made the entrepreneur in mechandra shekar
I guess there's nothing unusual about being born and brought up in Bangalore. After all, I'm not the only one.
But dropping out in the 10th standard and joining a TV mechanic's shop to work-that's not something that everyone does.
The reason was simple- I didn't enjoy the idea of studying, confined within the walls of a classroom. But then, you cannot get away with such ideas easily-not if you're in India where conventions are pretty rigid.
So, one year later, I was back in school and finished my 10th.
Enough to make me reaffirm my idea about hands-on experience beating academic studies!
Working is learning
So I found another job-this time as an electrician admin, a stint that lasted six months as I got an offer with Domino's Pizza in 2007 as a delivery executive.
You can learn a few things as a delivery executive(and not just that traffic can be a monster in the most literal terms!). But the pay was too low for me to sustain and so I switched to ABN Ambro Bank-my duties as a Document Collection Executive helping me interact with CEOs-something which in its own way gave me insights into running a business, something that I'd put to good use in my later life.
Backed by that wonderful experience, it was with confidence that I joined Dominos Pizza as Assistant Manager. Two years with them and I managed to do something that made me super-proud: being the sole manager for six months at one of their most expensive outlets-the one at Kanakpura Road.Meanwhile, I upgraded myself from a "two-language person"(Kannada and Tamil) to someone who can read and write 3 languages and knows 6.
The work with Dominos was going well but the entrepreneurial spirit in me was by this point fully awake.
Which was why after two years with Dominos, I began to think of starting a business in the same sector as my father-printing paper.
Dad gave me Rs.50,000 as a basic investment so that I can start a scrap paper shop(The scarp has to be recycled before it can be converted into printing paper). Unfortunately though,I found that to rent a shop would require a minimum of Rs.1 Lakh. It's not just free lunch that's not around but also free shops for rent!
So there I was, at a tea shop in Shivajinagar, talking to a friend about my disappointment when I heard someone mentioning that he has a website.
So, I thought, "Why not have a website instead of a physical shop?" Of course, at that time I had as much knowledge about the internet as an ant has of Keynesian Economics.
That's how I ended up calling JustDial and said,"I want to buy a website!"
The person on the other end laughed but was nice enough to give me leads to service providers who could build me a website.
After talking with a few developers, I settled on one.(The decision was easy to make, really. I chose the one who quoted the least).
Though the website called kasadathotti.com was launched soon enough, I couldn't find any customer.No, not even a single one. So, I had a few pamphlets printed and distributed in apartments and on streets. The second day of the activity, I got my first booking!The customer sold 10kgs of paper but 'sold' is a misnomer since she didn't take any money, rather contributed the paper on goodwill, encouraging me on my idea. Bless her soul!
Meanwhile, one of the pamphlets ended up with the newspaper, Vijay Karnataka. They got intrigued with the idea of the website and invited me for an interview. One which appeared in the newspaper the very next week.
If I could add any bombastic special effects, I would do that right here!
For my website getting featured in the newspaper resulted in me getting calls from all over Bangalore. I used the 44k bucks left from what my father gave me to buy weighing scales and also uniforms for two employees whom I hired, among other things.
The business grew and it didn't take long for us to hit ten bookings per day.
And aside from growing, the business also attracted attention from yet another media house, this time the Janasree TV. They interviewed me as well as took videos of our operational methods. The piece which was telecast in the Bangalore Metro section of their daily news propelled the business into even greater heights.
By this time, in addition to Bangalore, we were receiving calls from other cities including Mysore and Dharward. Five more TV channels interviewed me which helped grow the business even more. You can say that at the end of it all, I was a minor celebrity!
We were now receiving about 50 bookings per day! However, due to lack of manpower, I had to reschedule many of the orders.
Eventually, it came to a point where all the money was being spent on transportation. Which made me decide to sell off all the scrap and buy some essential utilities-like for instance an additional auto for our pick-up crew.
So, in six months, I had 5 employees working for me and we were making a good profit. In other words, the right time to expand!
The thing is, you can plan all you want but can still be beaten by fate. Which is what happened since I got a sunstroke- caused by all the incessant travelling.
I was bedridden for a month after which I was ready to start running the business again. Only, my parents were thoroughly worried about my health condition-believing that all the worries that I bear about running the business was part of the reason why I got a sunstroke! They asked me to quit business and find a job.
15 days since recovering from the sunstroke and allied ailments, I started looking for a job.
I joined as the fifth employee of Ola Cabs in 2013 Jan. Worked there for over two years, starting as a Quality Assurance Executive and graduating to Assistant Manager-Training. But the entrepreneur in me wouldn't be satisfied with any designations.
So, I quit and started a company-Readytopick, a last mile delivery service.
The very first order for an emergency medicine which we successfully fulfilled gave me an extra shot in the arm. The company grew fast, reaching a point where we gained 50 orders per day-something commendable for a 5 employee operation, if I may say so myself.
However, lack of funding meant I couldn't sustain in the business for long. And even though I received mails from investors expressing their interest in the business, soon as they learned that I wasn't an IIT or IIM alumni, they backed out.Still, I ran the business for three more months before it all went to ground.
Time to find a job again! And this time, it was with another startup-Swiggy, that I landed a job. It was a time when Swiggy just got funded and wanted to onboard a large number of employees in a short span of time-to be precise, 700 delivery boys in a month. As Operational Manager, it was my responsibility to see that it happened.
And what happened?We onboarded 1,200 employees in a month, that's what happened. And another 800 in the second month. Within 2 and a half months, all their employee requirements were fulfilled!
But the very next month, I was on bench since I didn't have any immediate tasks to do. No prizes for guessing what a restless person like myself did next.
The next job was with Zipgo to train their drivers on customer service and use of application. Within two months everyone was trained and trained well!
Another job done, the event coincided with the time I received a call from another startup called Helpr-offering me the position of Offline Marketing Manager.
Now and beyond
I've been working with Helpr since December,2015, doing my bit to make this company more visible in the eyes of the public.
But the entrepreneurial spirit, like old habits, die hard. It's just a matter of time when I start my next venture. And I'm sure the ripe time for a business to grow to its full potential will be decided more by my efforts than anything else.
And you bet I stay ready. All.The.Time!