Do you have it in you? The Illogical DNA
I realized being a successful leader was more about developing your mental and psychological skills than technical skills
As an Ivy League-educated investment banker in the US, life couldn’t have been better. The high life of working and partying hard, and spending even harder was all too consuming. The bankers call it the life of “Models and Bottles” i.e. building financial models to sell companies and ordering overpriced bottle service at high-end New York lounges.
During 2010-12, I was regularly meeting business owners, mostly first generation entrepreneurs, who had built companies with $100 million to $500 million valuation, to strategies to further maximize their value. I would suggest them either to buy some other company that was strategic to their business growth or in some cases sell themselves. It is then that the hollowness of not building something from scratch was just beginning to surface.
The epiphany happened when I met an Indian business owner in the US, Mr. Shah, during one such transaction. I was enamored by the simplicity of this man, who had not only built a large business from scratch but had a phenomenal team who believed in him. Although he had a net worth of more than $100 million, he was extremely grounded and humble. Upon further enquiry, he told me that it took him many failures, societal doubts and his ability to bounce back to reach where he was. Some of his team members were with him for more than 15 years. I realized being a successful leader was more about developing your mental and psychological skills than technical skills.
I started pondering that did I have in me what the Steve Jobs, Elon Musks or the more relatable Mr. Shah had. What is lacking in me? Maybe skill sets such as digital marketing and technology which I am not aware of or maybe the tricks behind brand building. 2013 was a defining year for me. I decided that I didn’t want to die with a regret of not trying. I had already been through a chain of functions chasing professional happiness, from management consultant as a chartered accountant to the role of an investment banker but it was still not fulfilling. It baffled me that my financial progress was moving in the upward direction but my satisfaction index had taken the opposite road.
Late in 2013, I, along with my ex-colleague, launched our first venture in the e-learning space while I was still in the US. We were selected by the prestigious accelerator program called TechStars in New York, which drilled into me the start-up fundamentals since we were given access to 250+ high profile mentors and investors. We had a strong tech platform and revenue generating clients and eventually did an asset sale of the business. After much deliberation, I permanently relocated to Bengaluru to launch DropKaffe
Beverages around January 2015. From not looking at the right side of the menu in New York, to checking the prices of each and everything in Bengaluru, was a big transition. However, the purpose was so large that nothing could come in the way. A lot of people ask me, how difficult was the transition to move back to India and also to a new city since I was raised in Mumbai. I tell them that I would have gone to Timbuktu to pursue my dreams, in my case, I was lucky to come back to my home country.
In little over two years, DropKaffe is a nationally available bottled beverage brand with marquee FMCG investors backing it. And the beauty of it is that it all started with we as business owners making hot coffee and delivering it ourselves in Koramangala, Bengaluru. The old saying, all you need is ‘a dollar and a dream’ couldn’t have been truer in our case.
I recently exited DropKaffe to launch Edyoo. com, where we are building a school commerce marketplace in which payments, financing, and commerce merge with technology. We are solving the problem of parents of school-going children, to provide them with all the services and merchandise needed for their child’s education on one platform at an affordable price. I am confident that the child-like enthusiasm and curiosity in me will make my venture a success, yet again!
(This article was first published in the October issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)