#thegoodfight

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. 

Cheers.

 

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 !!

Choices…

It is 6 in the morning, its my birthday and I am unable to sleep. Ok, I will admit that I am a little drunk (nothing new, I know), that gives me a little leeway to be a little bit melodramatic. Ohh, just noticed, too many “little”s already. Anyway, had been dwelling on the drift of life recently, too much Mad Men, Jack Daniels and Cohibas are to be blamed along with my incorrigible nature of always thinking and over analyzing stuff.

“Being practical” has never been my forte and frankly I don’t regret that, frankly I never regret anything. If I have made this far with being impractical, survived for 26 years, had great friends and even greater memories and experiences, I am sure, I can make it through the rest of my life as well. In fact my advise to all you guys (not many girls read my blog, unfortunately..sigh..) trying to be practical out there, DON’T BE. Be foolish and fail, if you have to, just live the life doing what you enjoy the most.

Obviously, that is not a very intelligent piece of advise,considering all the pressures to make it in the ‘real world’,credit card bills, EMIs, mortgages, I know; didn’t I mention I was drunk. But do you really want to be remembered just as a guy who survived in this world, cleared all his bills on time, sent money back home,blah blah, is that what life is all about. If it is then why is it that when you see a colleague of yours starting a rock band, or becoming a comedian, you immediately like his Facebook page and say silently to yourself “sahi hai yar”. And frankly if you don’t, just don’t bother reading ahead. See you later.

I am not advocating to shy away from your responsibilities, all I am trying to say is, if you do what you want to do and would love to do, there are still ways by which you can survive, be happy and enjoy the ride. Trust me, the best memories you will ever have will be from your worst times. I remember only two birthdays in my life, one in 2009, where I was homeless and penniless, spent the night with my luggage in a Mumbai local, before I called my brother to get a shelter in IITB. And the second one, in 2010, when I was working on the rig floor, no longer penniless, but still away from my loved ones, doing what I enjoyed, but not loved to do. Both were equally bad, though I prefer the 2009 one as it sounds more dramatic, classic hindi movie types…arrghh, alcohol!!!

In the end, it all boils down to the choices that you make, or the ones that you don’t. What ever you do, don’t try to fool the guy in the mirror, some how he always knows the difference. As it was said in Kung Fu Panda 2, it’s not what you are, it’s what you choose to be. So quit what you hate, start doing what you love and go after your dreams, before they come after you.

Here’s one more to my 26th and the life ahead.

Are we Independent yet!!

A very Happy Independence Day to everyone on either side of the border. In the 64th year of independence how free are we? I mean, I don’t want to get into the political and literal aspects of freedom and the connotations it spurs in our minds, I am talking of something more deep. I am talking about the relevance of Independence in our lives.

Since 1947 we have fought just 3 wars, the latest being in ’99 at Kargill. So does that mean we have been free ever since? Or let me just take my case in particular, I was born in ’85 so I missed the first two wars, also I read somewhere that almost more than 50% of Indian population is in its 20s so that means they also missed the wars. And most of us during the wartime were not directly related to the war like it used to be in the old days of ‘mutiny’ and ‘Satyagriha’. Now I ponder on the question again ‘ If we are not fighting any war, how relevant is the Independence to us?’

For me in particular, I feel that we are fighting a more severe battle; without any condescension to our martyrs; because in our case the enemy lies within us, there are no boundaries and no guns in this war. The war that most of us wage is between our hearts and our minds. Most of us are born with some talent and most of us have dreams. But as we grow older, ‘reality’ start to dawn on us. We realize along the way that being an astronaut or a cricketer is not possible, being a singer or a painter sounds absurd and it seems more sensible to pursue ‘safer’ options, obviously because we cannot feed our families or satiate the expectations of the society by following the heart. Right?

Practical and sensible makes more sense and seems safer. Thus starts a war which we all wage daily, day in and day out. Some people fight it when they look themselves in the mirror first thing in the morning, some people fight it tossing and turning sleeplessly in their beds and some, when they see some daring warriors win their fights.

For me right now, I fight it day in and day out and console myself by considering it as a prelude to the good fight. Till the day I win my own independence, I will not be able to celebrate and appreciate the happiness independence brings in one’s life. And for you, who is reading this, I wish that you too win your war for independence soon.

Bootstrapping is the way to go!!!

I first came across the concept of “Bootstrapping” reading Guy Kawasaki’s post on his blog and I was in the final year of my college at that time. I also read more about it from Guy’s book The Art of Start, which I feel is a fabulous resource for anyone who is starting a venture from scratch. If you dont have any prior experience then this book is your bible.

After reading the chapters for ‘n’ number of times, I thought that I had understood the concept of bootstrapping, until I was proven wrong. I went for an internship at CommonFloor.com after my graduation. At that time the team was 3 people strong, me and Mitanshu extended it to 5, though for a brief period of time. It was that one month at CommonFloor that I learnt a lot about running a venture. The venture was bootstrapped to the core and under the tutelage of Sumit and Lalit, cofounders, also hailing from IIT Roorkee, that I learnt the traits of bootstrapping and how thinking a liitle creatively an entrepreneur can do away with unnecessary expenses.

No marketing activity was carried out until and unless it had proven its ROI on paper. I dont think that they did any sort of outsourcing and learnt all the traits of the game themselves, which further saved them loads of money and left them enormously well equipped to tackle any situation in the future.

Here is another very interesting and insightful article on Bootstrapping.

You can also download “The Bootstrapper’s Bible” from here. It is Seth Godin’s wonderful ebook on how one can make bootstrapping his way of life.

I now feel that it has to be a part of one’s lifestyle when one is starting up. I still remember how I saved lots of money myself while starting up dietz. As an entrepreneur you cant afford to accept things as they are.

Say for example, why do you need an external agency to run marketing campaigns for you, or an external agency to build the prototype for you. If everything has to be done by external agencies then what’s your role? To manage them, co-ordinate with them, you might say but will you learn anything that way? I guess no, even if you do then the cost of learning would be too high!!!

If you ask Sumit or Lalit anything about their technology, their business or entrepreneurship in general they will tell you so much that you probably will repent asking the question in the first place.

So go ahead, bootstrap your venture, it will be fun and once you have mastered it you will realise how creative and knowledgeable you have become.he

Whats your brand!!

Read a very interesting post by Seth Godin about personal branding.

It discussed how important it is to develop and work on developing a brand in yourself. I cant agree more, I could relate with it, because whenever I want to know anything about anyone I simply google it and judge on the basis of the results shown.

Instantly I googled my name and found these results

mybrand

My blog still doesnt rank in Top 5 results of my name, and most of the results are my comments that I have posted on some popular blogs, but still I guess they give a fair bit of an idea to the seeker, that the guy (thats me) is interested in entrepreneurship and with my professional profile (linkedin) over my casual (facebook) one it also gives a pretty decent start to the search.

What is it that google shows up when you search your name?

Sole Proprietorship or Pvt Ltd. common doubts!!

This is a common doubt that most of fresh entrepreneurs have. I myself was very confused when I was starting dietz, but then I read a lot and finally concluded in favour of a Sole Proprietorship.

Sole Proprietorship (S.P) or Pvt. Ltd. here are some commin doubts along with their solutions :

* What will be the difference in registering as a Proprietorship and as a Private Limited Company?

ANS: You dont need to register a sole proprietorship, just get on with the business, all you need is the licenses, VAT etc (if at all) which are intrinsic to your business and you can do all those legalities by mentioning your company as a S.P. If you want to register a private company, hire the services of a reliable CA and he will help you out with the process, normally a CA will charge around 20-25k for this and around 10 will be charged by Registrar of Companies (if you register the company with minimum paid up capital of 1lac, it is the amount that you need to have in your bank account while going for registering process.) You also need to get the name registered first for starting a Pvt. Ltd company, which has to be approved by the ROC first.

* What is the difference in costs in starting a Proprietorship vs. a Private Ltd.?

Ans: There are no starting cost for a S.P, sparing the license fees and VAT etc. whereas you require a minimum of 1 lac rupees as a paid up capital, which is nothing but the amount of money that you need to have in your account/company account while registering the company. You can withdraw and use the money later on. You will also have to spend on licenses and VAT, etc still.

* Do I need to work with a CA or a lawyer for this issue? My product is in development stage and I don’t want to invest much money at this stage.

Ans: You dont need a CA or a lawyer for a S.P, if you need licenses then you have to get it from nagar nigam, for sales tax etc you might need CAs. If your product is in a development stage then spare yourself the horror of the procedures and develop the product first, atleast get on with the prototype, these formalities should not be your priority as of now.

* If there is a company by the same name that I want to use in a different country and in a different sector, can I use the name of that company?

Ans: You might if the company is not that prominent. but do you actually want to do that, I mean you cannot open Wal Mart technologies, I guess you have got what I am trying to say. But avoid this because one day you might want to take your company global and then you might end up in a legal broil, I know a friend who is facing this problem.
But in India you cannot use a name which is same or similar to already registered names. The ROC will reject the name all together.

If you are running low on funds then it is better that go for a S.P, converting it to a Pvt. Ltd is not that difficult, but the issue is that the name can be taken by any other organization, so simply get the name registered, which stays valid for 6 months, the cost for this is very less as compared to the registeration of company.

Consult a CA and he will guide you, you can talk to them they will elaborate the process further and the website www.mca.gov.in can be used for further legal requirements. Also you can check the name that you have thought on this website as well.

All the facts and figures are as per the Companies Act of 1956, the new bill is yet to be debated, it was scheduled for debate in the winter session but due to 26/11 it got overshadowed, rightly so. Another reason to curse terrorism.