It is about 2 months that I started my new journey as “entrepreneur”, which also means that it has been two months since I stopped going to my favorite Company office; My “second ” home for 20 years . Below, I have tried to jot down my experience and explain how my journey has been so far.
1. Why did I leave my comfortable job for an uncertain life at 53?
Inspiration: – Author of “The Goal” Dr. Eli Goldratt said – If you want an easy life, take a hammer and hit yourself on your head real hard! You will be hospitalized and they will even bring food to the table. But people don’t want an easy life, they want a meaningful life.
Result: – I believe my life was becoming easy and I wanted a more meaningful life. In fact a friend asked me why I was leaving my “apartment” / cabin. To which I replied, I am only a tenant here and not the owner!
2. What am I doing now?
Action: – Brands put a lot of money into inventory and marketing, but not enough on providing good customer service. The moment of truth is when the customer is in the store to buy and experiences good customer service. That can come only from committed staff. Current training methods in class room is very challenging especially, when stores are spread all over the country
Response: – Learning from my retailing and training experience, I found another “out of the box” ideas. To deliver learning content right into the hands of the staff, I am now building India’s first mobile app which trains retailers about selling skills, customer service, inventory management skills etc. on their mobile phone on a SaaS model. Pay per use! Advice me on how much will brands pay for it? SMS me!
3. How has the startup experience been?
Blood, sweat and tears?
Ok, no bloodshed yet, but sweat , yes, plenty of it already, in this summer heat even in an air-conditioned car travelling around town meeting people face to face.
They say that you are the boss of the startup business, from Chaprasi to COO! And you can make all the decisions. Yes, I surely have learnt that the buck stops with me. But, I assure you, that is half the fun. I have designed my own visiting card and this is the 3rd version already. Could I have done my own version as an employee? Nah..
4. Product Development
For a non techie, tech product development is one of the biggest challenges. A lot of people will tell you that you need to have a tech co-founder! Forget a co-founder, even to find a vendor to develop the product has been a challenge. All Tech companies want to own the product in their own journey towards product income. They are too dependent on service revenue so far! But, then the answer is simple – One who owns the customer, owns the IP for the product. Luckily, without too much time or money lost, and a false start, I have found a great guy named Ashok, who has a similar wavelength and also wants to leverage my own retailing experience in his retail product development too. We are targeting the Retail Gurukul App on Google Play store on Ugadi Day! A new year and a new app.
5. How has the sales experience been?
Thanks to my 3 decades of experience, I am able to reach out to many people both known and unknown on the internet who will give you an appointment to meet up and hear you out. But it is déjà vu to be carrying a bag, travelling across the town to meet up people. Something I used to do long ago in the beginning of my career in the early 80s!
It is one thing to be talking to someone known to you with a company visiting card, and pushing him to buy more, but to talk to a stranger to believe in a new fangled idea of yours, takes a lot of convincing indeed. I have some distance to go to get my first mobile app order ! Any pioneers want to try it out or know someone who might?
I have found a few people already who believe in my past karma and whose businesses I believe am beginning to improve.
6. How does it feel not going to office?
To rephrase an old ad for Marlboro cigarettes – You can take a man out of Titan, but you cannot take Titan out of the man! I keep thinking about what would I have done if I was working in Titan and faced with the same situation.
I do miss interacting with all my colleagues out there. Thanks to all of you -Bosses, Colleagues, Franchisees, Friends and not forgetting the Customers. Inside and outside of Titan and Tanishq across India and overseas , for all your support. I am grateful to Titan for my learning in my 2 decades there. It has helped and shaped me to be what I am today.
But, I really don’t miss the early morning traffic of having to travel for an hour for a distance of 10 kms. May be cycling would have been faster, but for the safety angle.
7. What else have I been doing?
Expectation: – Well, having jumped into entrepreneurship with both my eyes open, I needed a new education on how startups work.
Experience: – Luckily, I was part of a wonderful 6 months week-end program called StartupLeadership Program and met an awesome bunch of young entrepreneurs. No prizes for guessing, I was the oldest in the group by about 20 years at least.
My God, there is a whole new world of startups right here in Bangalore. There was even a festival called StartupFestival here and guess what! 5000 people turned up. I can say, I have learnt a new language Angels, Pre money, Term sheets, VC and what not. Go and get yourself into one of these programs and there are many of them around and open up a new world outside! Bangalore is surely the startup capital of the country
8. You might want to fire your boss, but honestly don’t, instead get yourself a mentor.
The book “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau has the blurb “Firing your Boss, Do what you love and work better to live more”. It is all very well for books to write that if you don’t like your job, “fire” him or more likely quit your job. Honestly, don’t try all such things.
Reality: – Starting a start-up is not all roses all the way. It is quite difficult to be your own boss, day in and day out and it is quite easy to slacken… So what is the best thing that you can do? Get yourself a mentor. I found one in Ms. Nandini Vaidyanathan (www.Carmaconnect.in ) and we meet about once a week to review plans for the next week. So you need someone who can see the business from an outside in perspective and one who is not part of the daily team.
9. How helpful are your new found friends?
Amazing. In fact the camaraderie that is there in the startup ecosystem is to be experienced to be believed. All of us are in the “startup phase” and hence everyone is looking at the best price value equation. The Internet surely helps. We have even tried a weekly meeting between a few of startup founders for a 10 pm to review meeting of each other’s business.
10. What else is happening in the ecosystem?
There are quite a lot of tech startups in all kinds of products space. But what lacks is perhaps startups in the retail space. If any of you want to startup in retail, there are plenty of opportunities. How can I help you?
11. How are we ensuring monthly house hold expenses?
Decision Day! When the decision was being made to quit (both my wife and me had a competition as to who will quit first), both my wife & me sat down for the first time after almost 25 years of marriage, and actually did a calculation of how much money is required on a monthly basis to live the simple life we even other-wise lived! and found, luckily, all those 3 decades of work both of us had put in had helped in creating a nice little nest egg . So to that extent, there is no worry on how to pay the milk-man every month.
12. Solid Foundation:-
I am fully devoted to my idea and to my entrepreneurial journey. (Too devoted says my wife!) This means that I literally eat, sleep and drink my entrepreneurial idea .Even the company is called 365 24 like my phone no. My family (parents, wife & daughter) completely take care of all matters at home between them which leaves me completely free to pursue my dream. Thank you Family!
Lesson Learnt: – Unlike the US, where Angel Investors will invest even in the idea stage, rarely do you get funding for just an idea. I have seen a few young entrepreneurs struggling with living a frugal life and boot strapping their business. In India, you should have a saving for at least 2 years before you can expect the business to yield returns.
And here is wishing you all a happy new (financial) new year! Hope you all achieve what all you set out to achieve.
How can I help you too and can you help me please? Call, tweet, ping, mail, FB, Skype, chat with me @ Retailgurukul
Please visit www.retailgurukul.com