Set your own rules.

The problem with people, is that they take some people and put them on a pedestal. They fail to realise, that the people who they think are (were) great or have (had) built something great are (were) normal people like them who just persevered hard enough. I personally dislike it when people either compare me to someone or compare Orobind to something else. I hate it, in fact. Hate is a strong word but in this case it conveys my emotion.

As someone who was born in a rich family and watched it all go away when my father’s business was failing, I lived a childhood which was a mix of riches in the beginnings and full of compromises later on. But what it taught me was if you want something take it, go get it. People won’t give it, you have to take it. Snatch it. Claw it from them, be nice but be persistent until you get it. This stayed with me throughout and in fact got really really strong when in ’08-’09 I was struggling and living virtually on 50 rs a day that too which my friends transferred into my account every two days. What it also taught me was that people are the same everywhere. They have similar ambitions, similar insecurities and similar wiring. And since I never had anything to lose, I never got to a point where I had to put someone on a pedestal – that he is so good because he did XYZ or he built ABC or is CEO at some corporation. It is immaterial to me. What matter’s is – either I respect the person or not. If I do he/she is great else a moron and thus not worth the time and needs to be avoided. Anyhow, so this attitude helps in filtering out all the feedback that I get. The kind of feedback which points to some person and asks me to emulate. Or points me to do it because that’s how it has been done before. Or follow guidelines saying – that’s how it is done. Says who? Who made those rules. Those rules were made by people like me and you. Those rules are meant to be broken and we have the opportunity to create new rules, new guidelines for our lives and our enterprises. Yes, that’s risky. Failure is highly possible. But of all outcomes, success is also a possible outcome. And you get to set your own way of doing things. Which by the way, will then be emulated by people like these and used as an example for others. Be original and set your own rules.


The year that went by

2014 was one of the most happening years of my life. Personally and professionally as well. As I look back, I realised that out of all goals that I had set for myself for 2014, I was able to accomplish only one ( to get a six pack). Rest all had become meaningless considering the turns that life had taken. Almost a 180 degrees flip. So as we get into this new year I am not even bothered to think what I should be doing this year or what should I strive to achieve. The broader goal to create impactful product and impactful company is what I am going for and will keep going for, apart from that will just strive to go with the flow. As far as Orobind is concerned, this year is going to be super critical – the goal that I have there (apart from the financials and number targets) is to survive. Survive this year to thrive next year.


Well, culture is a big word for any entrepreneur at any stage of his venture. Having been through the journey of entrepreneurship before more than a couple of times, I understand the true importance of laying the foundation right of the team, vision and the culture. I also consider myself extremely lucky that this time around we have been able to build a really fantastic team which is passionate about the problem that we are trying to solve. What also amazes me is the validation of something that I refer as ‘hail the underdog’ theory. Will write a detailed post on that later but in a nutshell it means that there are people out there who will go out of their way to achieve their dreams, prove their mettle (to themselves more than to anyone else) and do what they truly believe in. If the start up is lucky enough to be able to attract people like these, then it becomes a really formidable force.

But coming back to culture, when we were thinking about starting Orobind, we thought – what kind of company we want to be. What kind of products we want to roll out and what kind of people we truly want to work with. These are questions that most don’t think for a long time and by the time they do, it’s too late. The pond is already populated and the start up doesn’t feel like a place where you can spend majority of your time. Product releases are delayed, mediocrity becomes a norm and people hate each other. Emails after emails are sent – people prefer sending an email to their colleague sitting next to them – ‘cover your ass’ theory creeps in.

While answering these questions we realised one very important trait that we wanted to have in people working with us – aspiration to create an impact while having fun. Fun is such a crucial part in a start up’s journey & yet it keep getting missed. While we know how to judge the impact quotient but judging for fun is something which is difficult and takes a lot of effort. Everyone who has joined our team has gone through at least 4 rounds of gruelling pre screening interviews + 1 presentation + 1 case study + final interview with myself. This I believe is a very important step to ensure that only select few people get to be a part of our team. Also, if we have any doubt about anything (from as important aspect like talent,attitude to as trivial aspect like appearance, personality etc) we say ‘No’. And we say ‘No’ all the time.

A start up is very similar to a Sports team (not exactly a family) – hungry to succeed, talented, watching each other’s back and having fun while practicing. One very crucial thing with a great sports team is – they all are very hard to get into & the team weeds out the under performers to maintain their base line of quality. This is the primary reason for having so many rounds of interview – followed by an induction process so that there is a base level of expectation setting and also some context around what the idea is all about. Through this entire journey of recruitment, we pay close attention to the ‘fun’ quotient.
What is his/her work ethic – is it only play no work or no play and all work (both fail) ? Will he/she be cool to hang out with ? Is he/she a genuine person and will people love having him/her around or will his/her presence lead to those awkward silences?

While there are other really tough things that a start up has to deal with at a very early stage like achieving product market fit, sales, digital marketing and at time plainly surviving; but the aspect of culture should never be ignored. People you bring on board at an early stage decide how the start up will grow up. It’s almost like giving birth to a child – if you have good looking parents chances are they will give birth to good looking children & if you keep a child in good company – child will invariably become a good child. So spend that extra time hiring and identifying great players for your team.

Scrappy underdogs

So, this month we have grown to a 7 member team. We also moved a big ass table in my 150 sq. ft. apartment and converted my bedroom to a conference room. This is also the room where the tech team sits. Some how there is something truly inspiring about bootstrapping your venture. It shows you the importance of cash and also enables you to focus on only the few core things that matter – product, customers & survival.

Till recently, we were taking most of the meetings at Costa Coffee on 12th Main IndiraNagar. Obviously we didn’t order anything but when someone offered us to ‘have’ something we never said no. “Never say no to free food or free coffee” this I believe was the most important lesson I learnt during the days of my struggle in ’08-’09. I still live by it. But one fine day we decided to start shifting meetings to our office only, I was kind of apprehensive as I wasn’t sure how people will react to seeing that the guys who were speaking of all the grand things & plans were actually working from a 150 sq. ft office, which also happened to be home to one of them. But when we started seeing people coming in, we realised how powerful it was. Inadvertently we had opened our doors for our partners (& thus the community) to be part of our start up life. The moment this thought occurred it was highly liberating. Since then we started having all our interviews, partner meetings etc at our office only.

Next month we are growing our team by 2-3 people, so that means the mattresses have to be sold and a rollable cotton stuffed mattresses, bought. Well, I have always been a scrappy underdog, been broke multiple times and slept at all obscure places like local train, train platforms, bus stands while in Mumbai, so all this is still luxury and not beyond me. Hustling my way till now. And the fact that you have great friends as co founders & a fantastic team then it becomes even easier.

So here is how our first office looks like –


photo 2

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Of believers & non believers.

When you are starting up, you don’t need the whole world to stand by the boundary to cheer for you – if that happens consider that you have already missed the bus because now everyone understands the industry and its dynamics. The chances of creating a market and creating maximum impact is thus limited.

On the contrary you need only a handful of people who truly believe in the team and the problem being solved. When you meet such people keep them close, either as customers, investors, cofounders or employees and say no to all others.

We in our brief journey at Orobind, have said ‘no’ so many times to people (potential investors, employees etc) who were non believers. I also take the onus of not being able to sell the vision to them but I am not here to turn a non believer into a believer (not yet, not at this early stage), either you believe in us or you don’t. And if you don’t believe in us, thats just fine because we would just love to prove you wrong.


It was 2004, when I got into IIT Roorkee & I still vividly remember how I felt, when I first walked passed by LBS (our cricket stadium) seeing other students practice in the nets. Having played a little professional cricket at the state level, I immediately felt the urge to play for my institute and win at the Inter IIT level. However, when I showed up at the practice the next day, my hopes were quashed as I was told that our institute had never went passed beyond the first round. Walks in Pandey sir – our cricket coach. He asked me what my speciality was and asked me to pad up. After the knock he told me that I should be regular at the sessions and give my best if I wanted to be a part of the Institute team as he wanted to build a special team & ‘believed’ that we had a good chance at winning the cup if we worked really hard. It got me thinking that he must be really optimistic or a total dreamer, considering the record of the team in the past. 

The practice sessions got tougher and started demanding a lot of time, dedication and commitment. I had to let go of lots of things and spend the evenings on the field. One thing that really inspired me was the dedication of Pandey sir himself. He himself never missed a session, bowled himself to most of the important batsmen of the team and asked bowlers to bowl at him as well. Ran equally hard with the team and did every drill along with the team. This was for the first time I was witnessing the importance of the coach in my life. We no doubt had a very strong line up and a very committed and an inspiring captain. But all the pieces of the story were stitched by Pandey sir from selection of the team to the drills to the after match hang outs. It was his leadership and his coaching which assisted us in winning the cup for the first time. He created such a high calibre team that we repeated the feat next year as well. That’s the importance of a coach, the impact created by the coach that 10 years hence I still believe those matches were one of the best days (and certainly memorable) of my life.

It’s the coach who stands by the side of his team and pushes them to the limit. It’s the coach who helps them resists temptations and do the right thing, makes them accountable. He guides the team in fighting ‘the good fight‘. What Fight? You may ask. Yes, its a fight. Whatever your dreams are, you always have to fight to achieve them. You will always find numerous obstacles – some external but mostly internal. Everything said and done, it boils down to the fight with the person in the mirror. We are our own biggest enemies & we all are fighting our own ‘good fight‘ in our lives. This is where the role of a coach can make all the difference. A coach acts like ‘Krishna’ to the ‘Arjuna’ in the battlefield, showing him the right path always, pushing him to his limits and guiding him to do the right thing. This makes all the difference, when the stakes are high. So here is big thank you to all the coaches out there & to all who are fighting their good fights. 



Orobind : the story of my good fight

What seems completely illogical to most, somehow appears a very simple thing for me to do, always. And this time around also it wasn’t any different. Moving out of Chai Point, just seemed the right thing for me to do though the route to arrive at this decision was anything but simple. It was a journey of self discovery, self realisation and almost of spiritual proportions.

Well, I have always been one of those guys who have questioned things – authority, order, processes, elders, teachers & more than anything else – the purpose of existence. Whenever the questions start overpowering my most convincing answers, I come to know something is missing in life and things need to be changed, the direction of life to be re-looked.

Somewhere towards the end of 2013, one of my colleagues at Chai Point met with an accident and passed away. He was a great guy and an inspiring personality. One of those figures who had the ability to influence people just by their personality and sheer energy. It was a complete shock to me. I didn’t know how to react. How was a leader supposed to react. As a person, it wasn’t for the first time I was going through this, I had seen my brother pass away in an accident 5 years back around the same time of the year. But it was as if a reminder of the finite nature of life. It forced me to re – think my purpose in life. Why did I exist, what I wanted to accomplish and what I had to accomplish before I leave the world. It was as if, during the last 2-3 years I had neglected these questions, ignored them and chose an easy life for myself. A life where I was blinded by making more money, bigger name, buying a big house and a big car. That’s what all my goals had come down to. But this was a jolt, as if something convulsed me out of a deep slumber and put me into a really uncomfortable position. For a few days I was walking in my office as a lost soul. I was a lost soul. Nights were sleepless and full of nightmares. My intensity at the gym increased dramatically partially because I used that as a recourse to tire myself to sleep. Didnt help. So finally I decided to take a weekend off and travel to Pondicherry. Why, because I loved beaches, thought it would be a good break and a friend was there. I wanted to meet her. Also I wanted to think and clearly articulate my purpose in life. I had decided that I wont stop digging deep unless I had successfully articulated my purpose. So I started walking alone around Auroville. Thinking and asking hard questions to myself. Thrashing all assumptions.

I started looking at the life of my heroes, the lives well lived, according to me : Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Sachin Tendulkar, Che, Nelson Mandela, Arnold, Dalai Lama.

A common pattern started emerging : they all had impacted lives of numerous people in their lifetime. They inspired & forced people to achieve the unachievable.

While a life wasted, according to me was the one which never transcends impact beyond 5-10 people in the first degree of connection (essentially family, few friends and few colleagues). Now nothing against or for any of them, its just my personal opinion which stemmed from deep within me.  And without being blindly following or rejecting what they had done, I had to chose my unique purpose in life. Finally after walking for ~ 12 kms, I was ready to articulate my purpose in life :

To build companies/products that impact people’s lives for good, by a factor of 10.

To be very honest – till that moment in my life, my goal in life (like any other middle class Indian man) was to be the richest person of the country. Shallow, I know. I wanted to be the guy who owns the biggest house, travels in swanky cars & is super loaded. This led me into thinking of all kinds of businesses from security systems to energy to airlines to IPL. Yes, dreams. “One day I will get that” type day dreams. Making me live under continuous duress and a race against time.

Anyhow, now, I was much clearer on what things to pursue in my life and what things to let go of & was happier as well. I also happened to visit the Sri Aurobindo ashram by chance. I had no intentions what so ever to visit the ashram, but, the auto driver who brought me to Pondicherry form Auroville prodded me to see the Ashram & when I got in I just entered into a trance. It was as if the trip would have been incomplete without paying a visit to the ashram. Just before leaving for the bus station, I decided to sit on a rock for a bit and enjoy the moonlight night at the beach road, as if to revisit my stay here over the weekend. It was a beautiful scene – a slightly turbulent sea and a full moon. Almost made me imagine myself of as a sailor going through a storm of my own. Storm of questions still unanswered, essentially – What should I be doing when I get back to Bangalore ? While meditating there, it was as if a voice came from inside me which said – “The path lies in front of you”. Now when I look back and connect the dots, I always knew the path, I just never saw it.

I came back to Bangalore, decided to pursue a project very close to my heart – to bring people with disabilities to main stream through jobs, infrastructure and education. But I was still living the same life pretty much. After a while, the unrest returned. The nightmares returned.

I had started reading works by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their teachings started resonating with me. I also started being extra critical of myself, of my surroundings & stripping away all unnecessary desires. Months went by, New Year’s was around. One of my friend’s friend threw a house party. Her’s was a house straight from a Karan Johar set. I had never been to a house like that before & never seen so many cars and dogs under one roof before. This was exactly the mansion I had dreamt of having, but something strange, really really strange happened there. Somewhere between the home theatre, pool tables, Ekta Kapoor’esque staircases & the bar, I grew super uncomfortable. When I imagined myself to be living in a house like that, made me feel really uncomfortable & almost suffocating. And next day I decided that I should always live in a simple home & let go of my obsession with mansions. Life became a little simpler.

The same day, I met a few other friends and was lucky enough (really?) to get a ride in a Merc. This was for the first time I was sitting in a car that I wanted to own, to show people that I had arrived. I was excited at first, but then that feeling of being uncomfortable returned. I started making comparisons with my little Chevy & I again realised that I felt much more happier and comfortable in my Beat than an extravagant car. Nothing against the car, nor the taste. But I wasnt made for it. I decided that I need to stick with a simple car, an SUV at best. Always. Again felt relieved and a tad happier.

Meanwhile, I had already started working towards my non profit venture and had started engaging with Enable India. It was a very humbling experience, my life would have been a complete waste if I died without doing anything for people with disabilities. This clearly had to be a core purpose of my life. Along with my entrepreneurial endeavours to create an impact on people’s lives. But the sad part was, what I was doing at that moment wasn’t in alignment with the above two goals. This, I only realise while connecting the dots, now.

Though everything from outside was going on fine in my life – great work, good life, good money, good physique but from inside I was torn. Time was flying by.

One night, I had a dream which I still believe was almost a divine intervention to shook me out of the slumber, yet again and act. An intervention to remind me that the time was limited. I woke up at 3 am in the night with tears in my eyes, shaking with fear and completely lost. I was alone & I didn’t know who to call and what to do. I called my friend in Mumbai, she didn’t take my call & disconnected. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. What if it was true, that the time was indeed limited.

Next day I walked into the office, still thinking about what had happened last night. Somewhere deep inside me I knew the path, I had to move out and work on my fitness idea, which was with me for the last 1 year, but I just kept talking me out of it and kept cajoling myself to prolong my stay at Chai Point.

I was now reading more extensively about Sri Aurobindo, which helped me make sense of what was going in my life. His philosophy about the journey of the soul and the goal to seek divine through being conscious, living the day to day life & yet being a yogi made complete sense to me. I also picked up Bhagawad Gita by Sri Paramhansa Yogananda. Reading first few pages only, from the great book, filled me with a feeling of blissfulness. One lesson that left a great impression on me was

Everyone fights their fight daily. The fight is between the right and the wrong; the maya and the dharma; the mind and the soul; the desires and self control.

I was confronted with questions again :

  • What was my purpose in life?
  • Why my soul has been sent to this earth?
  • What was its purpose.Was it serving its purpose?
  • How was I creating an impact on people around me, what would happen if I die, what would change?
  • What was maya and what was my dharma?

I was clearly fighting my fight and also clearly losing at it.

After thinking a lot, I realised that the true reason for me not moving out of Chai Point, was a fear of failure. Fear. I always thought I didn’t even know what that meant. I realised I was indeed afraid of letting go of the potential wealth that i might create at Chai Point in pursuit of something still uncertain with my fitness technology idea. I was driven by desire and greed to make money. It was my worst fear – to not to be able to make money and die poor.  There were times in 2009 when I was struggling in Mumbai, I used to question : am I destined to die poor or will I ever get rich(these were times when I constantly had < 100 Rs with me) ? After a lot of introspection I figured out that it was better to die poor : a person who made lots of money but gave all that away for good cause than someone who made a lot of money, lived an unhappy life, scrimped every penny & die a miser with lots of money lying unused in the bank. That would be so regretful at death bed , the realisation of what you could have done with all that money but you never did.

So, I knew that failure for me was not trying at all. If failure was the destiny of my soul, who was my ego to stop it from achieving it. My dharama (or Swadharma) was only to let my soul to be free on a path to achieve what it had to achieve. The path, was simple to build companies which impact people’s lives. The moment I agreed to this, I felt much more powerful. I clearly saw that sticking with Chai Point, was just Maya, my fear of letting go of wealth, my fears, I had to let it go. This lead to another learning : since the onward journey is almost spiritual for me, failure was not an option. Coming not from my ego but from my aspiration. A fierce aspiration which had manifested into my living being.

Next day, I had a conversation with Amuleek, someone whom I had always looked up to like a mentor. Like an elder brother I never had. Our conversations had always been man to man, no mincing of words. This time also, he understood. It was a shock for him, but he understood. We shook hands and it was done. The very next moment- I felt really, really happy & free. A feeling I had almost forgotten. Now the journey lied ahead, a fight to be fought and to be won.

Next day, I boarded the bus for Pondicherry again. I went to the ashram and it almost dawned to me that the venture had to be christened around Sri Aurobindo. Thus I started searching for various names around him and from his works : after failing with various permutations and combinations – I decided to check his wikipedia page – I found the name in the first 4 words. Orobind. I was elated. It was always in front of me (again), I just never saw it (again). Thus Orobind was born.

Since I was getting more influenced by his teachings and that of Bhagawad Gita, I decided that our culture and the brand positioning will be inspired from this great text. We as a company will always play a role of Krishna (the spirit or the coach – allegorically) to the Arjuna ( the user). We will always be there to create an impact and show the right way to the Arjuna aka user, but it is the user who has to fight the good fight. The fight will be between the mind and the body, fight between the fit and the unfit, fight with the person in the mirror.

Now, I know I might have created a lot of ripples in various communities. Some might even be worried with the reigns of the company being in the hands of a Co Founder, CEO who speaks more of spiritual aspects than business in the blogs. While some others might be getting wary on placing their bets on us as a company. To be very frank, I am unfazed, it is my dharma to fight this fight. Orobind is more than a venture for me, its my journey to achieve my purpose of life on this earth, to achieve my destiny.  And I will give it whatever it takes, whatever I have. It started as my good fight, but now I have other warrior also as my co founder in this fight. We both share the same passion and same vision. We will ensure that we are successful in creating tangible (not perceived) impact on the lives of our users.  Now, I oscillate between being a Arjuna most of the times and a Krishna at other times to lot of people.

As I wind this up, I sincerely urge all the readers of this post to identify their good fight & get in their battle field to fight that fight, because our time, indeed is limited.

Thanks !!