THE JOURNEY OF AN ENTREPRENEUR – Part 1
Today… Sitting in my office, mentoring budding entrepreneurs and start up companies… reminiscing about the journey…
The beginning was very normal – like in any middle class family – my father was an Engineer working for The Tamil Nadu Housing Board. My Engineering was from a college which was far away from Chennai – the college was also a start-up then… maybe the indication of many start-ups in my life. This was a college wherein the students had the opportunity to be faculty as the college lacked good faculties. This was my first challenge; no, the first opportunity. I gave tuitions and ensured that many of my batch mates cleared their exams easily. Looking back, I realise that I had the hunger to be self sufficient even back then. I made money by selling a sony tape recorder for a profit of Rs.200, and selling duplicate stamps in an innovative way – wherever there was an opportunity, my business instinct took over.
English Electric – the place where my career took off as an employee. This job as a management trainee was not easy to acquire for an engineering graduate from a remote start up college. It took several trips to the house of one of the influential persons who could recommend me to that position. EE hired only engineers from IIT and Guindy Engineering College (Anna University). I had to lure the neighbourhood petty shop vendor’s son to get me an application form to apply in the esteemed organisation. I had to literally cycle 15 km and stand for long hours to melt the heart of the influential person. But I had no option – the goal was clear – I had to start somewhere and a good beginning does not come easy. All this perseverance, patience and persuasion helped, and i got into English Electric as a Management Trainee. Getting into lucrative job using influence is one thing – but surviving there is all together a different story. I was the black sheep and was thrown to a remote department which had nil engineers to prove my mettle. It was the Tools Department and it had workers who were all diploma holders. They were not interested in helping out an engineering who has come in thinking that he knows more than them… and the managers do not want to encourage an engineer who knows nothing but has come in because he knows someone – a real tricky position to be in. I was placed in the Tools Department and looking back, the only reason I survived there was due to my shameless determination to hang on. When in an alien atmosphere, look around for the compassionate or the humanely soul – and they will become your anchors to move ahead. Patience and Perseverance are the virtues of an entrepreneur and these were the qualities that helped me plough ahead. I learnt how to handle machines from the compassionate friend, and also to assemble certain machines.
Time is an enemy and a friend – using idle time effectively is one trait that has helped me early in life. There was plenty of time in hand, and I used the same to chat with the doctor at the First Aid Clinic in that place. The doctor also had plenty of time and he used it wisely to invest in shares and study the share market. He became my first guru in the share trading arena. Later on, I would thank him for the education of the fundamentals of the stock market – as this gave me the foundation to embark on my first business venture.
The knowledge I gained from the Doctor not only helped me make some money, but also helped me gain the trust and confidence of my fellow workers in the plant site. More and more workers became my friends and took advice on financial planning and investments from me. I did weekend courses on trading and share market to enhance the foundation given by the doctor and made regular investments and booked small profits too!
Just as I was settling down in the Tools department, I was transferred to the “dry” Quality Check” department. The Quality Manager was a senior gentleman and getting to see him was by itself a gigantic mission. I could not get to meet him even after a couple of months – each time I went to meet him, he would tell his secretary, “I am busy right now”.
Two things stopped me from quitting my job
1. The words of the gentleman who recommended me, “Please do not spoil my reputation”
2. When I went and told my father I wanted to quit, an old very well respected family friend of his commented, “you are good for nothing if you cannot hold on to one job”.
As a budding entrepreneur, the share trading continued on the side. I also realised that I should not let idle money be idle. It has to multiply. I wanted to desperately own a bike as the commuting was getting difficult. I found out that the waiting time for TVS bike was six months – I used the money for the bike to buy TVS shares. After three months, I sold the shares at a profit and got myself a Kawasaki Bajaj. Information is wealth for an entrepreneur and the input that the waiting time for a TVS bike was six months gave me the confidence to invest and make money out of TVS.
The primary quality of an entrepreneur is to study each and every relationship and find mutually beneficial options – to ensure that each person who comes into our life is benefited from us and also we gain some learning out of them. I always looked into checking if I could help people coming into my life, and this helped me earn so many valuable contacts and made me a very rich man in terms of good friendships.
I was thinking profusely as to how to gain the confidence of my Quality manager. I came to know about his desperation to own a Maruti 800 – and the waiting time for owning a Maruti 800 was more than a year, and if you wanted it early, you had to pay a premium. He wanted the car immediately at no additional cost. The effort it took me to trace out a person who had booked and was willing to give up his booking was immense. My keen focus and attention to minute details helped me trace one such person but he had lost his papers – it took numerous visits to the dealer office, to the lawyer to get duplicate affidavit, and finally I got the paper and the car. I had to pay a premium – I had two options, one to pay it and secure my position; two, to earn it and secure my position. The QM had an old ambassador and was expecting sum X for the same. I sold it at X plus and used that PLUS to pay the premium,
The key skills I gathered in this phase was perseverance, setting my expectations clear, thoughtful execution and shameless follow up – and each and every step is due to hard work and clarity of objectives. When the goal is clear, there is no shame in exploring all possible legitimate venues to reach the same.
Will Continue my Journey in Part 2. ………