There comes a time in everyone’s professional life when the cubicle/ cabin and the designation seem inadequate. One feels that one possesses a lot more potential and knowledge that the job is not doing justice to. That’s when one’s entrepreneurial dream begins to manifest itself. Irrespective of whether the dream is of launching an industryleading corporate house or a cozy cafeteria, the thought does come to everyone’s mind at some time or the other. However, what makes the difference is that most of the dreamers are not able to muster enough courage to take the entrepreneurial plunge. Even among those who do, most swim back to the shore as soon as the first big wave splashes at them.
For me, that moment came early in 2002, and I decided that I had enough of the safe-at-theshore corporate life. The desire to shape my own destiny became so overpowering that I had to take the plunge sooner rather than later. However, aspirations aside, I had no path-breaking idea, no funds, not even any like-minded partners to support me as sounding boards. A quick glance at the EMIs I was paying for the house and car, and a review of my bank balance proved sufficient to push me down the procrastination lane. The good thing was it took all of nine months before I ultimately went ahead and quit my job. When my decision became known to my friends and family, I received responses ranging from shock to bewilderment. It is not that common for someone to have the good fortune to study at an IIM and then have a highly ‘successful’ career, I was told. How could it all be thrown away? There were some not-so-subtle whispers about my having burnt out and lost my mind. The naysayers couldn’t fathom any reason why someone would leave the safety of the cocoon and jump into the unpredictable waters of entrepreneurship.
The best lesson that I learned back then was to shut out all the voices, barring those from the people who you really bank on for inspiration. The fact is, more than the funds and the partners, what a budding entrepreneur truly needs is a mentor who continues to egg him on irrespective of the circumstances. It was my good fortune to have the ideal mentors at every crucial step of my journey who ensured that I never gave up.
As an entrepreneur, one must learn early on that the most important thing is to conserve cash at any cost. It took me a while to adjust to the switch from the jet-set, 5-star corporate life and get used to traveling by Mumbai locals and autos even as my new Honda City remained parked for over a year. Eating out became a family affair restricted to birthdays only, and that too usually on stringent budgets. It seemed like an eternity before things started turning around and small profits started coming our way, and we carved our space in the industry. By the time I was two years into my entrepreneurial journey, things started looking better and we moved into our first office.
I fondly remember how I sat behind my small desk, which was nowhere close to the plush cabin I had at Asian Paints, and smiled. It was a proud smile of a man who had realised that it was worth all the pain and perseverance.
Over the course of my 16-year-old entrepreneurial journey, I have never seen a single person who had mastered the art of not giving up, fail. Success is always just one sunrise away, if only we had the gumption to weather a stormy night. To all those out there who wish to venture into the sea of entrepreneurship, I wish you fair winds and following seas.