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Unhappy at work? Make your start-up dream a reality!

Last updated on: August 1, 2012 13:03 IST

Unhappy at work? Make your start-up dream a reality!


Vijay Nair outlines how two IT graduates broke free from their mundane jobs to carve out a new future and exhorts India's youth to do the same.

Vijay is a writer and Organisation Coach/Consultant based in Bangalore. His best-selling management book The Boss is Not Your Friend was published by Hachette India last year. His new novel Let her Rest now has been released last month and is available in bookstores.

Now that even President Obama has spoken about the Indian economy going nowhere, the prophets of doom will have a field day. All the downgrading by various agencies should fill the hearts of the large Indian IT giants with glee. They can now distribute pink slips at will to protect their bottom line. Maybe even look forward to generating more profits during the downturn to tell the world how well they performed when the times were bad. That the unfortunate casualty of all this is going to be the unsuspecting employee who will be told on a Friday not to come back to work on Monday, is going to be of little concern to the 'visionaries' who have set up these organisations. They don't need to get their hands dirty. The HR guys are there to do the job for them. After all, they have to earn their salary some time.

If you are an employee in one of these large conglomerates and are having sleepless nights about what the future holds, this period of uncertainty may very well be the opportunity you have been looking for. This may be the best time to think of a viable alternative. Like how to start your own organisation. Don't look so sceptical. It's not as difficult as you think.

Let me share the story of two young entrepreneurs I met recently. They had the courage to unshackle themselves from the chains of oppressive employment and follow their dream to start a successful organisation of their own.

Sitash Srivastava and Manik Kinra joined the thousands of software engineers who don't see beyond the big names in the IT sector, once they get their engineering degree. But it didn't take very long for the two of them to figure out that they did not want to spend their youth doing pointless coding. Two years in a boring job was enough to convince them they wanted much more from their lives and careers. With whatever savings they had and with the help of student loans, they enrolled for a MBA. But even while doing something that many engineers gravitate towards after the initial years of working, their 'different' approach to life was evident.

They could have got admissions in the best of management institutes, but they chose a 'start up' institute in Chennai to pursue a year long course. They understood time was running out if they wanted to realise their dream of becoming entrepreneurs. Most of the premier management institutes of the country offer two-year courses and they didn't have the luxury of time. Besides aligning their future with a new institute meant that they could learn from the baby steps of their alma mater apart from contributing to its growth. Not surprisingly, they were instrumental in setting up the placement cell of their institute while they were studying there.

Once they had acquired their management diplomas, they went back to working in large organisations. Coming from solid middle class stock with fathers working in regular 9-5 jobs, it wasn't easy to convince their families that they wanted something different from their lives. Nor did they have the savings to fund their idea in the initial stages.

This is where the enduring bond they had developed as two 'northies' living in the outskirts of Chennai came in handy. The friendship may have blossomed over cribbing sessions about the non availability of paranthas and kaali daal in the neighbourhood eating joints, but transitioned soon enough to more substantive issues around shared entrepreneurial dreams.

Now that the safety net the campus offered was no longer available, something needed to be done to energise the vision the two had shared. Approaching their respective families for financial support was out of the question. They would have never agreed to support their reckless endeavour. And as for funding from VCs, that was out of the question too until they quit their jobs. This roadblock is something that pays put to entrepreneurial ambitions in young middle class Indians, nine times out of ten.

But Sitash and Manik found a way to break that bottleneck.

They decided Sitash would quit his job while Manik continued to work in his organisation and support his friend during the salad days. I personally believe the seed of success of their venture was sown at this juncture. In the unconditional friendship they shared and the support they gave each other that they couldn't demand even from their families.

Once the financial aspect was taken care of, Sitash was free to set up Jade Magnet, India's first crowd sourcing organisation. He moved to Bangalore and started operations. In the meantime, another friend, who was a finance expert pitched in with the drawing of the Business Plan to attract funding. They found an investor to incubate their idea. Interestingly all this was happening in the years 2008 and 2009 when their peers were not able to think beyond saving their jobs during the downturn. A year later, Manik was free to quit his job too and come in as a full time promoter and director of the organisation.

Jade Magnet has been around for less than three years, but has created many milestones.

Leading business journals of the country have ranked the company as one of the top ten start-ups in recent times. They have had a second round of funding and also set up operations in the Middle East. But the biggest contribution of a crowd-sourcing organisation is that it encourages other creative individuals to be entrepreneurs by getting them in touch with clients and helping them to source business.

I leave it to you to decide whether you want to continue to slave for a manager who may just sack you in a few months time to save his own job or if you want to get together with your best friend to float your own organisation and walk out of the drudgery with your head held high.

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Photographs: From left: Sitash Srivastava and Manik Kinra