There are times I wish this was an anonymous blog. There is so much I want to share and yet I fear its too early to share. Today happens to be a day when I decide to unfold a little of past. A little of me. My about page speaks less of who I am and though it’s meant to be so, here is a little something that I feel necessary to share.
It’s not a secret that I started working right out of school at the age of 15 and that partly explains my bonding and feeling for young entrepreneurs (heck, actually any one who is starting up). When I started as a school kid selling stuff over Baazee (now eBay), there was a good offline connect to it. I had to source the goods from the local market, market them online, get the orders and then pack and ship it out myself. I can be certain that I have learnt more being a eBay Power Seller than what I learnt in 5 years of college. Interacting with 000s of online shoppers across India, across different states, speaking different accents, I feel I have also been a mini call center marketer myself. While my LinkedIn profile proudly claims that its passion that drives me and the love for gadgets / technology / silicon chips that pushed me to do things right from retail to media, it really didn’t start that way. It developed over time. The single most influential driver for me to startup was Money. Yes Money. I wanted more money to spend than I would have ever got as pocket money and I wanted to buy small luxuries for myself that I couldn’t have afforded without earning it myself. Add to that a little of love for gizmos that excited me. My journey begins…
Walking down the lanes of Manish market and dealing with the most ‘badnam‘ dealers in Mumbai is a tough training for a 16 yr old kid (in 2003). I always thought that I was lucky to get started with a relation in this market, but then I could see the roots of this in my upbringing. I was brought up in a somewhat pampered environment but at the same time with a lot of discipline (don’t mistake that for organized, I am more messy than an average hostel kid at IIT). Honesty was drilled into me, but then when a 15 year old starts business, you know money pulls you the other way? 😀 I see so many people around me start with business today and it at times hurt me to see the kind of manipulation or shortcut they take. I don’t really blame them for that, I have seen hints of these in me, and may be I got lucky with the right people teaching me the right things at the right time. It isn’t hard to stick to values when in business, its just that the other path looks so much easier.
I remember attending a talk by some CXO of Shoppers Stop at Raheja college during my 1st yr of BMS. This is where I picked up a great learning. Something that remains with me still. He spoke about ‘having real feeling for your customer, being there to serve them’. And after that day, perhaps the innocent, little kid in me was clear on what business he wants to do. How he wants to be at business…
Some of my best teachers / friends / inspiration have been people whom I got close to while selling them some thing. I might be a poor business guy when it comes to profit making. Some say I do business to make loss, but when it comes to winning a customer, I rate myself A+. Here my friends I want to highlight the power of true feelings and honesty. At my work I have to deal with a number of dealers, retailers, service providers, institutes and students. I meet all of them with a similar clean approach. This might not always give me a deal that I want, but what it gives me is two very crucial things a) people who value you as an individual b) a silent confidence in your dealings that cannot be challenged.
The path I am encouraging you to walk may not always be easy friends. You got to be unreasonable at times. Last year out of the blue I received a hate mail from someone who had transacted with me back in 2005. According to him I had cheated him back then (he hadn’t received the product he ordered due to loss in courier) and I could see his emails written to me when I was 18 … they were some of the finest abuses someone has every sent me (a mild version of it is attached below). I had chosen to discontinue any dialogue with him back then, but he came back 4 yrs later and this is the best I could do for him. Send him a digital camera to make up for his loss. The response I receive at the end of it, is something that drives priceless energy into me.
I might not yet be a 100%, but I am still hurt to see young ones around me with this ‘quick money’ thinking. I can smell it in young business men very often. It’s not that I want to prove you wrong, it’s not that I hate you, it’s just that I feel you are meant to do big things. Create huge empires and make a real difference and all this maintaining your values. The value of being a human, one to another! How about getting into a business conversation next time with an aim to give a honest 100%? Working to meet the needs of the one you serve before you serve yourself?