As a youth, I found a special joy in flying kites. Not in just getting one up into the air but in seeing how high and far away they could go. On a nice windy day, take a properly built diamond kite to an open area. Lay out the tail in a straight line on the ground. Put your back to the wind and slowly let your kite leave your hand. Watch it majestically rise into the air with no twitching, no bobbing, and no rotation — a stern monarch of the sky. Let all of your string out until it can barely be seen. Get a comfortable place to sit and marvel at what you have done. Somehow, there was a special serenity in staring at the blue sky while a breeze was blowing and doing nothing but watching my kite dancing. This was my first feeling of true freedom, I was in complete control.You can’t help but smile when you’re flying a kite. It’s a happiness that is so pure and so freeing that it spreads.
I graduated in 1992, and joined article ship at C.C.Choksi and Co. (chartered accountants). On hindsight, it was one the biggest blunders of my career. I slogged for 3 years travelling from Ghatkopar to Churchgate, changing trains at Dadar and again taking a bus from church gate station for Back Bay reclamation. Reaching 15 minutes late would ensure that half a day’s salary was deducted from the measly 600 per month received as a stipend. I used to leave at 7 am and come home by 9 pm. As an article, most of the work was in the audit department which involved checking the sales/purchase registers or bank reconciliation. Routine, Monotonous work. It wasn’t to my liking, but since it was mandatory you had to do it. Wearing a tie was compulsory. The moment you saw a senior you had to wish him good morning or good afternoon. Weekly meetings were held in senior partner’s cabin. They could ask you any questions about the work you did, and if you faltered they would insult you and grill you in front of others. I found this whole exercise futile. During heavy rains when the local trains stopped working, and if you are able to reach office they used to pay Rs 100/- as a loyalty bonus. It was a different matter that to return home you had to spend 200 bucks for taxi, that too if you are lucky to find one. The firm also had a weird rule, for 1st attempt in exams you get 60 days leave; 2nd attempt 45 days and 3rd attempt 30 days. I once asked a partner; shouldn’t it be in reverse, like you need to study more if you can’t pass right?? How difficult is it for professionals to understand this? To cut the long story short, I couldn’t clear the exams and as a result quit after 3 years. I really had no idea what I was going to do next. The only thing I knew was I wanted to make enough money to live my dream life.
My parents suggested why don’t you look for a job? Being a Scorpio and having mars in my 10th house, I was not the kind of person who could take orders from others at work. But, buckling under their pressure I started looking for a job. I still remember, Times of India had Job Vacancy listings in their Wednesday edition. I used to religiously apply and was rejected in mostly all interviews. The ones, which didn’t reject me, didn’t bother to reply back at all. I was once rejected from an interview, because I was not carrying a pen (I dropped it in local train en route), In another bizarre interview, the owner asked me, where do you see yourself after 5 years, I replied “On the other side of this table”, he got so pissed off, with a wry smile he said “Naukri karne ki aukaat nahi aur seth banna hai” (You are not fit enough to be hired as an employee and want to be an owner). One of my cousins set up an interview for me in Gujarat Gas. I was selected, but they offered me a posting at Ankleshwar, being used to living in a metro city, this was unacceptable to me. One of my friends sent me to meet Devina Verma (biggest stock market bear, Shankar Sharma’s wife). I wanted to work as a research analyst; she said at best she could offer me a backend job. I refused point blank.
I was wholly dejected and feeling miserable. I wanted a job, but was not ready to succumb by accepting a mediocre one. All my friends had cleared their exams and were now climbing the corporate ladder. I started considering myself as a failure. This was the toughest phase of my life. My best friend Sunil (name changed), who had cleared the exams and was now working in a reputed CA firm, started giving me the cold shoulder. His elder brother, also a CA was a reputed name among tax professionals. I do not recollect the reason, but had gone to Sunil’s house and he had gone out on some errand. His mother offered me tea, and while chatting she asked, “Why did you quit CA? I honestly replied that I couldn’t pass the exams. She said “Why didn’t you take tips from Anil bhai (sunil’s elder bro), he used to correct papers of CA students, he could have easily guided you. This came as a big shocker for me. My best friend’s brother was correcting papers and he never shared that with me, nor gave me any tips. This was a betrayal of the highest order. But at that time, I valued friendship more than anything. When he came back, I confronted him about not revealing about this fact. He just shrugged his shoulders and casually smiled.
My parents were now getting anxious and worried. After a few weeks and still not getting any break, desperately I called up Sunil and said I want to discuss about my job prospects and could he help me find a job and he agreed to meet at our usual adda, a south indian restaurant near his house. I was excited, as I knew his brother was highly influential and could easily get me a decent job in finance. Sunil came a few minutes later then the scheduled time of our meet at the restaurant. Our favorite items were patti samosa and filter kapi. After a few minutes of chit chatting, I came to the point. I asked him whether he could help me find a suitable job. Taking a long sip of the coffee and with a very serious look on his face, he replied, “You are just a graduate, and you do not possess any skills. Finding a job for you is very difficult. I really can’t help you”.
I felt as if somebody had pierced me with a knife. Best friends give each other hope and try to encourage each other. But here was a person who knew all about my caliber and me but yet wrote me off as a loser. This was a trigger for me. Then and there I decided, I will no longer beg for a job from anyone. I will start my own business and succeed on my own terms. I have had no experience in any kind of business so far. The best I had done was operating stalls of seven up/seven down at the winter fun fairs in my building and profiting a few hundred rupees. But when you want something from your heart, entire universe conspires to help you achieve your goals.
During a visit to Ahmadabad to attend a marriage, I met my eldest cousin brother, who was working for a pharmaceutical company. After exchanging pleasantries he asked me, what was I doing now? I confessed that I was fed up of looking for a job and now want to do some business. He connected me to his company’s sales team and I started as a dealer of syringes and IV Fluids. That is how I ended up becoming an entrepreneur.
However the journey was not easy. The ancient Spartans fought the Persian Empire to protect their freedom and 300 Spartans willingly died at the Battle of Thermopylae to preserve it. My journey too was blood sweat and tears. I am no longer dependent on any ones favor. My office staff has the liberty to wear casuals and before MNCs introduced, I have been following Flexi working hours for my team. They need not wish good morning/afternoon whenever they see me. A simple nod or a smile on their face is enough to boost my spirits. They are free to choose their leaves (subject to adjustment of work) and can play music the whole day while working.
By venturing into business, I experienced newfound freedom. What is it that really motivates people like me to go off on their own with no guarantee of success or even income?
It isn’t what most people think. It’s not money, and it’s not status. It’s freedom. It is like flying your own kite. This freedom comes in five different varieties, and when you become conscious of them, it has a tremendously clarifying effect on your thinking:
1. Freedom to Create Your Own Destiny.
Entrepreneurship can be very rewarding. You can create your own hours and make your thoughts a reality. We now employ 200 people and we are still growing. I love looking around the office and seeing how collaborative everyone is. It feels good to know that I have created a working environment that people love.
2.Freedom of Time.
You want to spend your working life doing what you really enjoy doing, and you also want the freedom to spend time not working too, so you can have a full life and pursue your other interests.
3.Freedom of Money.
You don’t want a ceiling on how much money you can make for doing a great job, for coming up with valuable new solutions or an idea. And if your efforts generate money, you don’t want anyone dictating how much of that money you can keep.
4.Freedom of Relationship.
There are certain people you love working with—both inside and outside your business—and you want to spend more and more of your time surrounded just by these people you click with, whom you appreciate and who appreciate you.
5.Freedom of Purpose.
This entrepreneurial company I have created is not just a business or a career; it’s actually a vehicle to all sorts of things that relate to your fundamental values and ideals in life. This allows you to have a tremendous sense of purpose for being on this planet.
When you lose sight of these five freedoms, that’s when you start to hit barriers and encounter complexity. At any time, though, you can bring your focus back to expanding these freedoms and find that your life immediately gets simpler; your decisions, actions, and communication become clearer; and you experience continual growth.
This post will be incomplete without mention of my friend Jigness Patel. It so happened that God once called a conference of married couples. He said, “ I have created such a impressive breed called a husband, but most of you are enslaved to your wives. Kindly make 2 rows, in one row those husbands should stand who follow their wives and in second those husbands who are free to take their own decisions. The first row had a long queue and in the second row there was only one person-Jigness.
God congratulated him and asked, “ What is the secret of your freedom?” Jigness with a surprise look said “ What secret, lord? I don’t know anything, my wife told me to stand here!!!.”