Three Years in Bangalore – The joy, pain and where it leads?

18 Oct 2008, that was the day I landed in this beautiful garden city Bangalore as a 25 year old full with enthusiasm and energy to make it big. Now, three years hence, I can say it is exactly the same state I found myself in. Buzzing with energy, pumping in 14-16 hour days and excited about a lot of ideas sprouting in my head. Now I won’t say that it has been all rosy in these last three years, as there was a brief period of being lost, where I hardly was able to put in 6 hours a day, and I was either angry, frustrated, irritated or just tired all day along. But I am glad that this phase happened, and gladder that it is over now 🙂

SaleRaja – The Joy and Pains of Entrepreneurship

The first year in Bangalore was full of experiencing what entrepreneurship is all about. There were good days, and there were not so good days. Technical discussions, night long marathon coding sessions, sales calls, and a lot of manual and boring repetitive tasks used to fill up my day. The Bangalore weather was the perfect catalyst for all this. Going to events, meeting the founders of other startups, partnering with a lots of people for different tasks and lots of brainstorming sessions made this period one of the most memorable of my life. I started SaleRaja.com as I felt working with InfoEdge that it was not too difficult to earn money ‘for ourselves‘. SaleRaja taught me it was not so easy either 😉 Nothing could be more humbling than that, and the lessons from SaleRaja makes me what I am today. 15 months in Bangalore, and I had to make one of my toughest decisions to let go of SaleRaja, which might also be one of the wisest. For the whole SaleRaja journey, I can say that I started SaleRaja for earning money and getting rich. It didn’t make me any richer (in financial terms) but it ended my hunger for money and pushed me towards a journey for more meaningful things, and that was a big breakthrough.

New city, New games

New city, New games

Exploring New Territories

Once the burden of SaleRaja was no more, I felt really free and light compared to the heavy feeling of burden which I felt earlier. I started meeting a lot of people from the startup ecosystem in Bangalore, also had time to catch with a lot of friends in Bangalore whom I rarely met during the times of SaleRaja. I got interested in looking for new ideas for business, and saw a few very interesting ideas by entrepreneurs. I joined Yahoo during this time, and apart from work, started volunteering to teach school kids as part of a Yahoo! initiative. This step was path breaking as it helped me discover a new side of myself and opened up a lot of new doors. Not to forget are the many long rides I did on my bike which literally meant exploring new territories.

The Joy of Starting New Initiatives

Around the end of 2010, I decided it was time to do something (again). Well, once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. I love starting new initiatives, and this time I decided to do something non-commercial, and something which was not related to internet and coding in any way. I took up a waste management initiative, organized an anti-corruption walk, and later started Pick a Fight. This journey, which still continues, got me in contact with some amazing people from the non-technical world, and it was an eye opening and view expanding experience.

Every city has its own language, customs and festivals

Every city has its own language, customs and festivals

The Future – I can sense some change soon

It has been almost two years since I gave up on SaleRaja, and I am really eager to get back to the game again. Although I am involved in the initiatives mentioned above, I am always excited by new business opportunities. In a way I can feel the winds of change coming towards me soon. I am not sure how long before I start something again, or whether I will start myself or join an already existing startup, or what idea it would be? But I am very sure that I am ready for it again now based on my learnings in the last two years. But this time I will not hurry up into it like last time (not repeating the mistakes) and do proper due diligence before jumping again (making new mistakes).

How letting go of SaleRaja could be one of my best decisions ever?

It was December 2009, and although I was still working on SaleRaja, it was now more as a burden than for interest. I was stumbling in the timelines for feature changes that I had set myself, my enthusiasm was low and I was unsure about what the future had in store for me and SaleRaja. Finally, after managing SaleRaja alone for the whole of 2009, I decided to let it go and focus on my career through a job. That means I was soon looking for a job when at one time I thought that I would not have to find another job ever. My motivation levels were at an all-time low, and I was confused and unsure about what next?

But I decided to take a break from entrepreneurship, focus on my career through a normal job, and come back to entrepreneurship some years later. It was not an easy decision, and it took me around six months of consideration to finally stop running SaleRaja as a business. Looking back now, 16 months after that decision, I can laugh over those uncertain times and say that it might be one of the best decisions I ever took. The first few months were tough, as I was confused, low on confidence and struggling to find a direction in life. But after that, and till now, the going has been wonderful. I have done things in the last one year that I never thought I could, and would do, ever. I am listing below everything for which I am really grateful in this past year.

Started sumit4all.com
I had always been good at writing, but used my writing skills only when writing letters, emails, or when somebody asked my help with it. Hence, in January 2010, I started sumit4all.com as a blog where I would write about different things I feel about, my experiences, my life, etc. I could only do so because I was free and there were no SaleRaja deadlines to follow. It was not easy at first, and I was not able to write more than one post per week. Writing was like a pain in the ass and I had to put in a lot of concentration, patience and effort to research about a topic and write an article. But slowly and steadily, I started enjoying writing and I am writing around 15 articles every month now. Many of my articles have been well received and been shared a lot through social media like facebook, twitter, etc. Now I have plans of writing and getting a book published in 5 years.

Reading Books
I started reading books during the last few months of 2009 when I was struggling with SaleRaja, but I made it regular only after Jan 2010. I started reading two books every month and have been following this practice till now. I have read autobiographies, self help books, and a few business and fiction books too. These books have allowed me to take a peek into the stories of so many men and women, and the perspective of life I got after that have been amazing. I have a small, but good library now and have a lot of books in my to-read list.

A screenshot from SaleRaja.com

A screenshot from SaleRaja.com

Landmark Education
Right after SaleRaja, I was looking for some kind of education to fill in the gaps in my skills which I had found during my stint with SaleRaja. I looked at MBA options, some short time courses done by IIMs and other B-schools, but nothing interested me. I started finding groups online related to business, entrepreneurship and started meeting like minded people in Bangalore, but that also didn’t sustain. Then I enrolled myself in the various programs of Landmark Education since July 2010, and am continuing this education even now. This could not have come at a better time for me. It has helped me get my confidence to a new level and clear a lot of doubts about life. Also, I met a lot of people through Landmark Education who are very successful and leading wonderful lives, providing inspiration and support. I can without doubt say this last seven-eight months of Landmark has been the best education of my life. It is ironical how we keep studying about specific skills / courses but never study anything about life and living in general.

Joined Yahoo
Yahoo, Google and a few more are the dream companies of many people. I was open to both startups and big companies when I started looking for a job again, and found myself in Yahoo in March 2010. Having spent the last one year here, it has given me my first experience of working in a multinational company. Dealing with different people and teams from Singapore, Brazil, Europe and US over the last year has given me much needed exposure about how work happens across continents, cultures and languages. In the future too, I am sure there is a lot I can gain from Yahoo and working here.

Waste Management Activities
In September 2010, I got intrigued by the idea of waste management and thought of a business idea around it. Since starting a new business was out of question, I got involved in waste management related activities in Bangalore to know more about its details. I took an initiative to implement waste management in apartments starting November 2011 and have got a decent response from that. I have met a lot of people who are already working in this area and am totally amazed by their energy levels. They have been a great inspiration about how to to live life responsibly. It also gave me the confidence to take new initiatives in any area, irrespective of my skills and knowledge in that area.

Dandi March 2
In March 2011, I got a chance to organize an anti-corruption walk in Bangalore. In less than three weeks, I put together a team and on 26 March, over 400 people walked over 11km under 4 hours to make this walk a huge success. These three weeks were one of the best of my life, with all my learnings in the past year put to test. I got confidence like never before after this event, and the Anna Hazare magic caught the attention of the whole nation soon after that. It was during this time only that some articles written by me attracted huge traffic from google as people searched for anti-corruption keywords on the internet. The success of this walk is the reason nothing seems impossible now to me.

What Next?
Although I have gained a lot in the last one year, I very clearly see a long journey ahead with lots to learn and do. I am in the most calm and peaceful state of mind that I have ever been, and with confidence that I can take on anything now. It has not been all uphill too in the last year, and I have tasted some setbacks too, but I have surprised myself with how well I have handled myself during these breakdowns. I have taken the lessons from the mistakes I have committed without getting frustrated and upset, and moved on to newer things. For the remaining of 2011, I have atleast two more initiatives lined up in the social space, so watch out in the coming weeks for more updates 🙂

Update – Pick a Fight was born soon after I wrote this post

What was it while walking during Dandi March 2 in Bangalore?

As you know, Dandi March II walk was held in Bangalore on 26 March 2011 in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Over 400 people walked over a distance of 11 km under 4 hours. To my surprise, many people walked the full distance, completely overcoming the physical boundaries. After the march, I asked a few of them to detail how / what it was like while they walked? What did they feel? Anything which they wanted to share. I have got replies from a few of them and I am sharing them below.

Prasann Garg (walked full distance)
At least for me, It was first time experience of participating in any such event. And really felt the best way to start the weekend despite little pain in the legs. Honestly speaking, I was expecting little more younger people there considering the number of people from middle or above aged participated. When I heard about this Dandi March 2, like every other person, I also felt how it is going to help ? And once we finished it, it felt we achieved a lot. One thing is for sure, it was never to blame the government or bring down the government. We are well aware such things can’t happen. But it was a great way to show the awareness. At least we made our political leaders realize the mood and understanding of the common man. This is the best thing we could have ever achieved through this Dandi march.

I don’t remember, how many times I have used this Vande Matram and Bharat Mata ki Jai once I finished my schooling. Probably never. Probably we are loosing all these things. Feels like as if these thing are only for school children. We need to have more and more such events to keep it alive within us.

My favorite four colors, and they make for the best picture when put in this order

My favorite four colors, and they make for the best picture when put in this order

Sandeep Khurana (walked full distance)

I have been to many government offices including police stations. At almost all places I was asked bribe, either directly or indirectly. Corruption is quite deep rooted in our society. The biggest issue is that we as a society have learned to live with it. This should change. We are entitled to corruption free governance. When there was a call to be part of peaceful Dandi March in Bangalore in Saturday 26th march, 2011, I decided to participate. It was quite interesting to see a couple of foreigners there too. It was quite a spiritual experience for myself. While being in that march, I kept asking myself about what I expect to change in India and why and how my being here can help to bring about this change.

People like shop owners, passers by, small vendors etc were quite curious to see such peaceful march against corruption. Since they do suffer because of it, the pamphlets given to them by volunteers were keenly taken and immediately read. When evil thinks that it can go on forever then there comes a time when good has to rise and defeat it. It has been happening since the beginning and it will happen again.

Shashank Teotia (walked full distance)
Do we think one day the sky will open and the clouds will part to drop a messiah who will fix our problems? While we are Facebooking and retweeting, the corrupt cash registers are ringing and people are selling the country to the dogs and if we don’t sit up and do something as a group, there will be a day when some power hungry corrupt official will snuff us out. One by one. Do you think your blood will boil then?

I went to the Dandi March organised in Bangalore and there were at a point maximum 400 people in it. 400? I am not taking anything away from the fact that there were honest people out there in the sun, trying to make themselves heard but seriously.. 400 is not a number which will dent. And a dent is not enough. Do you want to join those 400 and make it 40000 or are you one of those who will just click on the *Like* button or perhaps *Share* and believe that it is contribution enough?

The choice, my dear friends, is ours and frankly, so is the consequence.

Maybe I was also a regular guy who had never participated in a rally before. Trust me, it may feel a little awkward at first, but when I cried Vande Mataram with 400 other Indians, it did something good to me. Just participate for that feeling. You will get addicted for life.

I have also asked other friends who walked to share their experiences with me. I will update this post as soon as I get those. If you want to share your experience, you can mail it me – sumit4all[at]gmail.com

We walk for change!!

It was a sight to see,
And a moment to experience!
Just a walk, nothing fancy,
When people walked out of conscience!!

Flagged off by a freedom fighter,
We took a route embedded in history!
400 awake citizens walked together,
On a day which was hot and sunny!!

The heat was no match to our will,
For we were united against corruption!
We marched for the Jan Lokpal Bill,
And demanded it for the whole nation!!

We walked for change

We walked for change

There were people across cultures,
Students & professionals, young and old!
Seeking punishment for the vultures,
A new age dawns, this is the threshold!!

Four hours and eleven kilometers,
Posters, slogans and the flying tricolor!
The knife of the money launderers,
Will not be allowed to go any deeper!!

Many joined us on the way,
Knowing the end is far, but in range!
Our country you will not betray,
We walk in peace, but for change!!

When spirit overcame the boundaries of physical limitations..

“People from IT profession are normally busy and get up late on Saturdays, weren’t you surprised to see 400 people turn up for the Dandi March 2?”, a journalist asked me yesterday. My reply was “Considering the kind of response we got leading upto the event, I was surprised to see ‘only‘ 400 people turn up”. But there was one thing which surprised me, around 200-250 people walked the full distance of 11 km which took around 4 hours. Considering the weather which was quite hot (despite a light drizzle the previous evening), I watched as many people kept on walking despite having pain and discomfort in their legs. I think the joy and excitement of being a part of something good diminished the physical.

So how did I get these IT professionals to ‘pick their lazy asses’ (as another friend put it) and walk for the country. Frankly speaking, I did nothing but spread the word about what we are doing and why? I think we all feel for the rampant corruption in India today and are frustrated because of it. We (IT professionals) don’t always seem to care because it doesn’t really pinch us directly, and we see no hope from the prevalent situation. That builds on the resignation and cynicism about the current situation in India. Also we don’t see any options to show our frustration and anger in a collective way. So I think this walk against corruption caught the fancy of people and they were motivated enough to get up at 6 and reach the venue at 8 in the morning. After all, people are not lazy, it is the situations which call people into action, and Dandi March 2 was one such opportunity to show they care for their country.

The queue of people walking stretched to around 1 km at its longest

The queue of people walking stretched to around 1 km at its longest

But what surprised me more than the 400 people turning up was the number of people who walked the full distance. I walk a lot, so I know it is not easy to walk more than 5-6 kms in one stretch if one is not exercising regularly. That too under the hot blazing sun in temperatures around 35 degree celcius. I had many of my friends and colleagues walk during the march, and I was totally surprised with almost all of them walking the full distance. What’s ironical is they disregarded my advice of leaving after a few kms and continued to march despite many of them having pain, cramps and discomfort in their legs. After all, it is the spirit which matters. And like my friend Tripti, who was on painkillers for the last two days put it, “I will not regret it at all, if something fruitful comes out of this”. It is about hope, hope for change, for a better tomorrow which propelled people to walk together to show they care.

This is what Kishan, a fellow Yahoo has to say
“I decided to act and became the part of the Dandi March II held on 26 March 2011. I reached the staring point at 08:00 AM and realized the enthusiasm of each and every person there. The feeling was very special and i was remembering each and every freedom fighter of India. I was realizing how it actually feels when you decide to lead from front or be the part of it. We started the march and we finished it without having any sort of pain. It was all enthusiasm which was driving us to make it happen successfully. That was the time when I realized one fact that ‘Don’t wait for the change, instead be the change'”.

The future is bright without doubt

The future is bright without doubt

Seeing such participation and commitment from people towards the cause of a corruption free India, I have no doubt we have a great future ahead of us. We might be plagued by many problems right now, and there might seem to be no end to the tunnel, but this Saturday we saw and witnessed the light at the end of it. It might take some time getting to the end of the tunnel, but considering the enthusiasm in the youth of today, I am sure it will turn into a collective movement with people from all walks of life joining.