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My journey so far…

May I ask you to take a moment to apply these three questions on yourself:

  • Have you ever looked around at the way things are being done – and get the feeling that you can improve them, change them, influence them so that they’re better? But then you feel that you can’t – because you’re too confined by your responsibilities or your job… or that taking such an action would bring you out of your comfort zone?
  • Do you still “love your job” the way you did when you started? – Or, has it become a monotonous drag that you’re too scared to let go of because of the steady income?
  • Do you find it unacceptable that someone else can decide that your time from 9 AM to 6 PM each day is worth a pay check of X Rupees? Would you rather work for yourself and thereby increase your earning avenues?
If your answer to the above questions is a yes – then you may relate to my story.

The tipping point…

It’s been 2 years since I left a well paying job (~50 lac inr per annum) to start Zindagi Technologies LLP.
Zindagi is an IT consultancy and Professional Services organisation which specialises in Smart City planning, design and implementation of all Data Centre, Command n Control centre, video surveillance and WAN components that go into the making of a successful smart city.
I’m often asked what my tipping point was; that caused me to quit my job and start my own company. Did I have a brilliant brainwave that I felt I could convert into quick cash? Did I get the urge to help a lot of people and “give back” to humanity? The answer all the above questions is.. well.. no. My story has an inception point which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to:

“Yaar, Kuch Apna Karna hai ”

I belong to a middle-class Indian family; I worked many years in a 9-to-6 job; and whenever I had some free time whilst at the tea stall below the office building or while travelling back from the customer site – this feeling of wanting to live on my own terms, to be my own boss – was overwhelming.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

“A Services Company.. Really?”

The first discouragement I got when i started Zindagi out was – “Why a services company? Aren’t there enough of those? You’ll just be a commodity! What value will you add? Make a product instead!”.

All the above points are true and valid in their own right – being a services company is hard work; the competition is steep; the margins aren’t all that great; reputation is everything; it’ll take years to build a reputation of being a quality service provider – and you’re going head first competing with the behemoths of the service industry.

Despite all of that, I went ahead with a services venture anyway. Why? Because I saw the potential to do things better. To convert requirements to scalable, resilient, cost-effective solutions. To choose the right products and, wherever required – to develop bespoke solutions to meet customer requirements.

Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs on challenging status quo:

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world.
Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. 
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

I’m working towards some ambitious goals for my company for the next 2 years. Some of them are:

  • Make Zindagi a company where the team is self-motivated, and where innovation and creativity is encouraged and rewarded.
  • Build a reputation for Zindagi – one that represents Honesty, Competence, Commitment to customer success and the ability to execute consistently.
  • Contribute in making India grow by working on the planning, design and implementation of all ICT components of Smart Cities.
  • Build an easy to use, vendor agnostic, modular, policy driven IT Automation product.

For everything I think I do right each day, I feel there are perhaps a 100 things i feel i could have done better. Each day, I’m learning how I can serve my customers better; how I can build a better team; how my company can contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country…

The intent of this series of blog posts titled “Kuch Apna Karna Hai…” is to share some lessons i learnt along this journey so far; maybe some of you will find them useful when discovering your own path. Good luck!


Lesson: Avoid taking advice about entrepreneurship from family or friends

Starting out, I could see many reasons entrepreneurship wasn’t for me. Some of them include:
  • Mum’s been a teacher all her life. Dad – a doctor. There was no one in the family to advice me on how to run a business.
  • I live in New Delhi. If a group of researchers were to be asked to identify the top 10 cities in the world that nurture technical entrepreneurship – I find it highly unlikely that my Dilli would make that list – perhaps Silicon Valley and Bangalore would be somewhere close to the top.
  • I had no idea where to start – Do I want to become a services company? Do I want to make a product? Should I become an online reseller?
When I asked Dad what he thought of my decision, he, in his own sweet and loving way, expressed his wise opinion to my mom –
“Our son’s an idiot! – He’s gotten a decent job… He recently gotten married; and now he wants to forego his pay check and start paying out salaries instead.”
When I consulted my friends – most suggested:
  • Wait for a few more years
  • Gain some more sales experience
  • Get an MBA first
  • Don’t do it – you’ll most likely fail. You’ve got stability in your life – why take the stress? why break the equilibrium? Why take the risk?
  • You’ll not going to do anything that hasn’t been done before… nothing impactful will come out of your efforts – why bother?
When deciding whether to become an entrepreneur, I suggest you do not take advice from your family or friends. Don’t get me wrong – they’re your well wishers – but that may not be a good thing in this case. Their cumulative life experiences could have taught them differently; and while they may indeed have your best interests in their minds – I believe the only person who can take the final call on whether you will succeed in entrepreneurship is you!
Here’s a clip from “Pursuit of happyness” where the character played by Will Smith starts off telling his son why he’ll be an average at basketball because his father wasn’t good at it.
I tried to comfort my shocked Dad by saying “Pa, what’s the worst that could happen? If i fail, I’ll just join a job once again na”.
But when Aditi asked me what would I do if I failed; I told her the truth – “I don’t intend to go back. I do not know what life has in store for me – but I really don’t want to be an employee anymore. Worst case – I’ll have to ask mom and dad to feed me for a few months while I try to get on my feet – but I won’t join back!”
There wasn’t a camera in the room that day – but here’s a pic from the Big Bang theory – Pennys’ facial expression in the picture below is as close a match as i can find to Aditi’s when i showed her my “12-month Astute Lifestyle expenses plan”.
I wonder if she called her parents that night in shock.

Lesson: Before starting, get your finances in order…

Did you hear of the story of how awesome Compound interest is? It’s about how your money plus interest will keep increasing in value over time. If you start with just a single penny and double it every day for 31 days, you end up with … $21,474,836.48. More than 21 million dollars in a single month! So, the sooner in life you start investing, the richer you’d be close to retirement! How cool is that!?!!
Mohnish Pabrai explains compound interest… the famous chess board example.
Yeah – I heard that story too, back in my teens. Then I forgot about it, and decided never to act upon it. Some crazy stuff that happened in my life that made me develop my own interpretation of ‘Carpe Diem’ and I decided there’s no point saving for a rainy day. So for all my years of hard work as an employee – I didn’t have a decent corpus of wealth. Dad’s probably right – In some ways, I am an idiot. Don’t be like me, guys – start investing early.

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

― Albert Einstein

My suggestions to wannabe entrepreneurs – before starting out:
  • Over and above the planned business budget – Save at least a years’ worth of cash for your family expenses.
    • Learn to live in a “college student budget”.
    • Determine how much you’ll need to spend per month for such a lifestyle.
    • Multiply afore-mentioned amount times 12.
  • Get insurance.
    • Your savings will go out of the window if you’re not covered.
    • PLEASE do not buy ULIP and Endowment plans – go for term insurance!
    • Get health insurance for your parents and yourself. Yeah – your company provided you medical cover as an employee – but now you’ll need to cover for yourself… bummer
    • Get your home and car insured.
  • It’s best to go in without any financial baggage. Before putting in your papers, try not to have any financial burden – no car loan, no home loan, no personal loan, no education loan.


Part 2…

Abhijit Anand

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