If I had to make that decision again, I probably would have taken the extra year, and completed the degree - which is what I'd advise anyone who is thinking along the same lines.
Well, I know what are you thinking but I will say don’t think too much because maybe our opinions vary but the story that I am going to tell you, I can bet you, we both will have same opinions once you will finish reading it. I still remember the day when we first met, not face-to-face, but digitally and after that my life changed. At the time I was in my second year of engineering. We met for the first time when I was in fourth year of engineering and today it’s giving me immense pleasure to share his exciting, amazing entrepreneurship insight to all Your Story readers.
Q. What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture after dropping out?
To be an entrepreneur is to have a different way of thinking of what you see and interact with. I didn't choose to startup because I dropped out, but more like I dropped out because I realised I was an entrepreneur. However, If I had to make that decision again, I probably would have taken the extra year, and completed the degree - which is what I'd advise anyone who is thinking along the same lines.
Q. How do you generate new ideas (because The Startup Centre is your fourth startup)?
It helps to see the world in terms of a system which is in equilibrium even if it is not efficient or perfect. Before you meddle with a system you need to understand how it works - how the gears turn, the functionalities of each piece and timing before you can intervene with a proposition. Spot a problem, understand it over time and see if you can frame a solution that would solve it. The Startup Centre solves a problem that we spotted some years back.
Q. How long do you stick with a venture before giving up?
In a way, it is just like any other project. You have major milestones that you want to see happen, and there are some hints that you keep an eye out for to see if you are heading in the right direction. Money in the bank is usually a very good metric and deadline, but the key is to define the smaller milestones. Some ventures take longer - like the accelerator model is almost a 3-5 years process to iterate once. Some models can be validated rather quickly.
Q. What have been some of your failures and what have you learned from them?
Perhaps not having the patience for one extra year and completing my degree is something I think about. But If I had completed it, I probably would have taken up a job and be doing a 9-5 gig somewhere. One never knows. Along the way, with every venture you learn a thing or two - it is only a failure if you refuse to learn from it. Building a team, ensuring cash flows are managed, learning to delegate, learning to build a circle of advisors around you - they are all valuable lessons.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average (Is it the same as when you initially started?)?
If there is work, one has to work. That’s how entrepreneurs function. There are days when things are slow, especially during a weekday and that’s a great day to go watch a movie or get your haircut :) You should pace yourself. It is a long journey.
Q. This is my personal question: Entrepreneurship journey is full of emotions (especially initial phase) how do you manage it?
Don’t get emotional. My mentor once said, you need to sit down with your idea and make a pact. You are going to give it all you got, but there is a 99% chance that it won’t be successful. And mean it. If you are ready to accept that somethings are beyond your control, it becomes a tad bit easier, and you aren’t getting stressed out beyond what is needed. Don’t get emotionally attached to the idea, but obsess about the problem.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
I'd say they've gotten used to it by now.
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR What is your favourite book?)
There isn’t one book or person. But a series of books, people and things you experience over life. Imitating any one book or person makes you an imitation, I think.
Q. You are successful in your life so, how do you define success?
Go to bed happy and satisfied with the work you do, and be excited to wake up. Success.
Q. Indian Silicon Valley (Bangalore) is near to Chennai but still the city's entrepreneurship eco-system is not strong. What’s your take on that?
Different ecosystems have different strengths. Chennai might have produced far more strong startups than Bangalore has. On the other hand, Bangalore has talent and great weather that brings together people. As an entrepreneur, you'd leverage every ecosystem you are in, rather than the other way around. Ecosystems like Chennai, Pune etc are also quite underplayed.
Q. What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The license to think differently.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
1. Is this the only thing you want to be? If entrepreneurship is an option, choose the other alternative.
2. Take the time and effort (and go through the pain if necessary) to gain the necessary experience.
3. Don’t forget to invest in yourself - in terms of skill sets, networks and in terms of evolving your thought process.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Our business is rather unique in a few ways. We look for a select set of entrepreneurs - maybe 10 a year, that we want to work with. Most of the time, we find them through people we already know and trust.
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
They don’t fit any pattern. Create chaos, but also offer solutions.
Stories by Suman Jha