akhileshbali

thoughts, opinions & experiences

always be working

If there is someone whose interviews I can never cease to enjoy it is SRK. The guy has immense knowledge, amazing wit & honesty that shines through when he speaks. Now in this particular interview, Shahrukh was a guest in a show hosted by Anupam Kher and was talking about his life, childhood, parents, career etc. when the following conversation takes place :

Anupam : Shahrukh how can you be so successful for 25 years! Whats your secret?

SRK : <without batting an eyelid> I am very hardworking I think.

Anupam : But so many people work so hard. There must be something else ?

SRK : Yes, mauka paane ke liye toh sab mehnat karte hain. Mauka milne ke baad mere jitni mehnat koi nahi kar sakta!

That line. It stuck with me. I kept thinking how powerful this thought is & yet he said it so simply.  There are tons of people who get a chance to write their own destiny & yet they become complacent at the first signs of success.

Very few individuals have this undying hunger within which keeps growing as they see more & more success come their way. So many artists, sportsmen, entrepreneurs shine bright for a while & then settle into a comfort zone.  Somewhere along the way, they lose that hunger which got them started in the first place.

So the only way to keep that hunger growing-  always be working!

mauka paane ke liye hi nahi, mauka paane ke baad bhi!

Here’s the link to the interview :

August 12, 2014 Uncategorized , ,

Whatever it takes!

I keep reminding myself of this.

Whatever it takes to succeed. Whatever it takes to get a step closer to where you want to be. Whatever it takes.

Each time you take a hard call you remind yourself, whatever it takes.

I recently met an entrepreneur. Business shaping up well, profits coming in. And yet, casually he mentioned he mortgaged his house to finance the current growth. I asked him how hard was it. He shrugged and said the exact same thing- it was hard but whatever it takes.

I walked away wondering how its the same for everyone.

 

 

October 26, 2013 Uncategorized

A decade of Independence

Its 15th August today. Lots of Independence Day posts on twitter and facebook. And I sit back in my reflective mood to make sense of this independence.

In a week, I’ll complete a decade of my independence. That is 10 years since I turned 18. As I reflect back, so many things have changed in and around me and yet so many of them are exactly the same. I think thats normal evolution but thats not the reason for this post.

The reason is that I felt like connecting the dots today to trace back how & what has led me to where I am today, so lets recount the major life events of the last decade-

  • Two failed attempts at JEE
  • Two college degrees
  • Two startups
  • Two cities

 

JEE- My failure at cracking JEE ( and twice that is) affected me deeply. And I hated it moreso because as a consequence of that I had to settle for a mediocre college. If I were to recall the toughest days of my life even 50 years from now, I think I’ll still count the JEE failure days as one of the hardest. I eventually joined an engineering college in Bombay and life went on but in the hindsight, I think thats when it all started.

All through my first semester at college, I brooded over the mediocre life I had gotten myself into and why I couldnt practice more problems from P Bahadur or Resnick-Halliday and crack JEE. Slowly the realization came and it has stayed with me ever since. ” You’ll never win a game you’re not good at. Know your strengths and choose the game you can win“. I never had an acads-heavy personality nor am I some prodigy. So I shifted focus to all non-acads things in college. And I started winning again.

 

Education- I have learnt very little in the classroom. Both in undergrad and the mba, my learnings have been outside the class. Both of these degrees havent really shaped me as a person I would like to believe, but the experiences and network I got alongside is what I truly value. And because my interests werent always aligned to the courses I was studying, I ventured onto read about stuff that interested me. And I learnt about a lot of stuff that way. “Never stop educating yourself is what I’ve come to believe.

I think thats one of the most powerful changes in me in the last decade. I started reading a lot more than I ever did in my childhood. And this has really changed my world view of things. There’s this line which Amitabh Bachchan says in a KBC ad- “sirf gyaan hi aapko aapka haq dilata hai”. Total believer in that.

 

Startups- Without a doubt, the single most important event(s) of the last decade for me has been my startup journeys. So much of joy, stress, pride, learnings and rewards compressed into a very short amount of time. Transformed me as a person completely.

I think for most people, the first decade of their adult life is really spent searching. You’re looking for so many things- career, money, love and for some a sense of purpose. That sense of purpose is what I discovered through startups. I really love building businesses. And it excites me like nothing else.

And in the hindsight, doing a startup was the most obvious career choice. I had learnt I suck at conventional route to success and I love learning new things. Both of these came together beautifully when I became an entrepreneur.

 

Two Cities- I’ve spent half of the last decade in Delhi and the other half in Bombay and Hyderabad. 4 years in Bombay was when I cut my teeth in business. That city teaches u so much. If there’s any place in the country which grows on you, I think its bombay. The spirit of doing “dhandha” is what I absolutely love about that city. No one cares where you’re from as long as you mean business.

I think that was a very important lesson I learnt which holds me in good stead now. “Dhandha karo aage bado“. No judgmental shit like Delhi about where do u live and where does your father work.

Delhi on the other hand has taught me something else. You’re as good as your network. People with a strong network have an unfair advantage in business. And the stronger your mafia, farther in life you’ll go.

 

 

August 15, 2013 entrepreneurship ,

Get big slow

I’m on a re-run of all the Paul Graham essays these days and its fascinating how I can appreciate them more now when I can put a context to them from my personal experiences. My last post borrowed from the PG’s idea of growth. This one’s on getting BIG.

Context- I’ve been exposed to two very different ways of building companies. One was when I first started out- MithaiMate : a bootstrapped, do-it-all-by-yourself startup and then Foodpanda : a well-funded, grow big, grow fast startup. Both have been great learning experiences.

But as I was reading the PG essay, I was reflecting on how one of the key differences between my MM and FP experiences was the pace at which we added employees. MM was just the founders for the longest time, we doubled up as delivery guys as well in the beginning! Compared to that, FP grew to 10 employees in the first month and close to 70 within 6 months. We got BIG very fast. Yes we were growing fast too, but probably that growth did not need SO MANY people.

And a higher headcount hit us on three fronts :

a) Higher salary and admin bills. Our “growth-rate” was the same but the cost of growth rose up as we added employees.

b) Diluting culture- Since we grew big really fast, we couldnt take enough measures to conserve the culture. Our first few hires were all “jugaad” guys, but you cant find 70 such people in 3 months, so you hire linear guys instead and end up with a mash-up of processes and jugaad which isnt the best thing for a young startup.

c) Killing innovation- Another fall-out of having a high head count so early on was that we couldnt innovate much. More meetings, more reportings and more bureaucracy seep in and replace the hustle which lean teams have got.

Lessons- Do not succumb to the pressure of hiring quickly. More people DOES NOT equal more growth. Get big slowly.

 

July 4, 2013 entrepreneurship ,

Growth

If there’s one number every founder should always know, it’s the company’s growth rate. That’s the measure of a startup. If you don’t know that number, you don’t even know if you’re doing well or badly.” – Paul Graham.

 

PG’s essays are usually mind blowing but this one more so. Growth is your compass for all decisions. Fix a growth rate and just start running. And then do WHATEVER IT TAKES to hit that number. Week after week after week.

I think it creates a great bias for action and as a founder also shakes you off  any “intellectual paralysis” that you get caught in every now and then.

 

Lesson of the day- Be Nike. JUST DO IT.

June 30, 2013 entrepreneurship ,

Its a lonely road.

Came across this great post on Ben’s blog. And it talks of the demons that you fight in your own head as you go about building a company. Those are the hardest battles to fight. And I couldnt agree more.

I remember encountering those demons last year as I was furiously trying to build foodpanda. Like most passionate startup founders I took all the fuck-ups (and there’re many!) quite personally. And I used to be quite stressed all the time for not being able to clean up the mess.

In the hindsight, as I read this article..probably I was more inward focused and those thoughts weighed me down more. This is where Ben’s advice is useful-

a) Get friends : Who’ve fought these battles like you and can share some perspective from their own tough times.

b) Write down your thoughts : More often than not, it clears out a lot of confusions.

c) Focus on winning : Yes, its more of a mind-game. And you’ve learn to focus the energies on winning thoughts. Fear is just a distraction.

 

 

June 29, 2013 entrepreneurship ,

artists and entrepreneurs!

I’ve often looked at artists and wondered what makes them tick? Is it the admiration and appreciation from their audience ? Or the creative rush they experience when they create wonderful music or a piece of art?

The reason I wonder is cuz I find it very similar to starting a company..what makes the founders tick? The growth, the money, the power, the success? Or at a more primary level, the joy of creating something that people find worthy enough to use and pay for.

It could be both. But what I find fascinating is that at the primary level everyone goes through the exact same emotions..the same rush and the same joy!

Tells me that while others things may change, the happiness you derive from that experience remains the same. Always.

January 27, 2013 entrepreneurship , ,

And its alive!

Amongst a lot of new year resolutions, there was one to get my blog up. And finally after 2 weekends of pushing it to the next one, I sat down today to get myself a domain name and a wordpress site. Two hours and a couple of credit card swipes later, I’m happy to have finally taken the first step.

This gets me onto my next resolution- to stay regular with my posts.

Winning these little personal battles against inertia of the mind brings such joy.

January 20, 2013 Uncategorized ,