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.