Apr 26, 2006

A Life Worth Living. Part Un.

Was watching 'Biography' on History Channel today. They were covering the life-so-far of Richard Branson, who I consider one of my 'role models'. Consider this:

Branson quit school early and was actually encouraged by his headmaster to do so! His first business was a students magazine, and he went on to own a record company, an airline and what not. In a recent ad for Samsonite, he says "To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas, and focusing on the essentials"

Sunil Bharti Mittal started with a cycle business at the age of 18, His subsequent ventures included healthcare (capsule manufacture) before he jumped into telecom, and is now getting into retail

Bill Gates is probably the most famous dropout billionaire ever. He is also known to have slept in his jeans overnight in a garage writing code, and has a disheveled appearance to this day. While he has stuck with one business/brand - Microsoft, no one can say its the same business it was 10 years ago (Remember the pre-Windows days - No email, no MS Office, no blogs :) )

Dhirubhai Ambani was born in a poor village that he left at age 16 to 'learn business'. Textile - petrochem - Infocomm - and now Retail. Thats diverse - and thats what one calls a legacy!

Dr Vijay Mallya's story is not quite the same. He inherited a business. But he took it to new heights, and now plays in Airlines and politics!

What is common among these men - apart from the fact that I really admire them - is that they achieved what was considered impossible. All of them, save Mallya, came from modest families, did not have much formal education, yet they built huge diversified businesses and left their mark.

None of these guys went to an IIT or anything similar. At IIM, I've heard almost everyone say (with great clarity of thought and purpose), things like 'I want a career in finance. It befits someone of my intellectual capability'. 'I do not want a career in the FMCG industry. Sabun-tel nahi bechna'. 'IT main paisa aur auqat nahi hai'. I look at what the above greats have done - and a distinct feature is all of em have done more than one thing - manufacturing, selling, services, IT/Telecom. So why cant the capable IIT/IIM grads handle the variety of challenges?

Anyway, I shall now dispense with the commentary and critique and talk about myself and my philosophy in life.

I recently had a cushy job with a great company. Good money, peaceful hours, nice people, people-friendly policies and a secure future. It was great-for someone else!

I can not live with that kind of anonymity. Work, feed your family, do a few things you wanted - which were beyond your means at a point in life, and go to your grave satisfied. And be forgotten soon.

I've given up that job and am planning a short career, with a steep learning curve, some impact on whatever business I work for (preferably work on), and plenty of money which I will save to start my own business some day.

All the guys I mentioned above - entered a services business (air travel, retail, telecom) where they raised the bar on quality and surpassed consumer expectations. I will do the same one day and be admired for it. Its the only thing that would make life seem worthwhile to me. Someone very close to me once wrote about me 'little did I know that one of those people who affect earth-shattering changes had just entered my life'. One of my profs at IIT - the only one I ever grew close to - called me 'the biggest waste of potential I have ever seen'. I cant live with that. I have to live up to the potential I know and people have acknowledged. That is a true statement of purpose - straight from the heart. Ambitious? Definitely. And why not?

There is this question about my determination and ability to 'put fight'. I have fought for things I cared about - my top rank at several schools, my JEE AIR, first-year grades at IIT, a seat at IIM, first-term grades at IIM, Manfest - and I've always got the results I wanted.

If there is a question mark, it would have to be against motivation. Most people can put in continuous efforts to achieve results others expect them to, or admire them for. I can't. I have my own ideas of what is important and what I want to do in life. Had I been in the States or something, I'd have probably dropped out of school to do my thing. But this is India - I come from a middle-class army family, and I probably dont have that much courage.

I will make my place in history - or at least go down fighting. If I go to my grave without doing anything huge - it would not be at the end of a typical IIT-IIM career and a comfortable life. The epitaph would say 'He really, really tried'


  1. Anonymous10:56 AM

    I hope you must have also noticed that Branson was jailed for copyright violations while selling records.... Bill Gates lost many deals before luckily striking deal with IBM for DOS which actually he didn't even had at time of negotiations....
    It is much easy to start business in US as compared to India so if one is scared then it is just a natural reaction... You must also be knowing that only 1 out of 99 business survives first 10 years in US...

    I'm also going on same track as you are... but my aim is a bit different that is to be financially independent, unlike fame element in your goals...

    One tip for business: Don't hire IIT-IIM... They will rarely stay to give you value for money...

    And I have decided to give only anonymous comments... :D

  2. Anonymous5:18 PM

    dude, everybody gets into IITs and IIMs starry-eyed thinking that they wont fall prey to the system, will do something on their own blah blah. but all this crap sounds good on in the IIM interviews.

    pretty soon the person(hes not dumb eh..he has a 99 percentile in CAT) realizes that its better to bust your ass for Lehman brothers rather than doing something on your own cause thats too damn risky!

  3. Dude, thats the whole damn problem and the bane of this country - the risk aversion of the best minds.

    I dont believe most ppl get into IIT/IIM because they want to make a difference. They get in to land secure jobs, where they bust their ass for a Lehmann and earn a more-than-comfortable salary. Our entire system discourages people from thinking independently and taking risk. Which is why our progress is slow.

    People have dedicated their lives to causes and died trying to make a difference. We only pay lip-service now, and live in peaceful-and-happy anonymity.

    And while Im on anonymity - GUYS PLEASE LEAVE UR NAMES WITH UR COMMENTS!

  4. Everyone has one chord-too damn difficult, cannot happen. i got one thing to tell 'em...phhbbttt.
    I agree with Nik, 'cos this is what he meant- at the end it's not just about WHAT you did, but HOW you went about doing it.
    And from someone who has known you fairly well, dude, if you don't get lazy, what you can do scares me!

  5. Lage raho Smoochy...

    We think alike... Me 2 left cushy job in one of the top IT firms and joined a start-up to experience the pain of setting up a business and learn all the aspects of business while working for them...

    The natural and most logical extension for me is to pursue my dream of starting my own venture... And ya it could come up in less than a year...

    Wish you all the best Smoochy... That's the spirit...


  6. best of luck man!!!
    people like you can really make a difference ....in a country like ours!!!

  7. I will make my place in history - or at least go down fighting. If I go to my grave without doing anything huge - it would not be at the end of a typical IIT-IIM career and a comfortable life. The epitaph would say 'He really, really tried' !!!
    (Summary lines explains it all)Best of luck !