Let us start with your background sir. Education, hobbies and past...
Thanks for talking to me Kartik. A quick rundown of my background would: Born in 1970 and brought up in the Mumbai area. Engineering undergrad from Univ of Mumbai and MBA from the McCombs School at the University of Texas at Austin. Lifelong entrepreneur. Exited two businesses that I founded. Presently trying to give back to society by mentoring startups at StartUpGang.com
Why did you leave your own business afterall you are a lifelong entrepreneur!!
In my opinion, an entrepreneur is defined by her / his entrepreneurship, and not by any one specific organization that she / he founds. It was part of the design to grow my organizations to a point where it can assume a life of its own. In a limited sense it is like being a parent. The idea is to keep helping the child grow and turn into an independent entity.
You are an angel investor from past 15 years approximately. Why being an angel!? What clicked you to have this concept?
As an entrepreneur, I wished that there was such an “angel” who could help me, guide me, handhold me. When I traveled my entrepreneurial journey, I feel like offering this opportunity to other entrepreneurs who are just starting out. That is my motivation in being an angel investor.
But why did you come back to India. You could have got a larger platform in Texas…
That is a good question. Today many people who go to the US end up returning. But back in 1993, hardly anyone wanted to come back. I could give you a feel-good answer about home and homeland, but the fact is that I was more concerned about being able to create an enterprise the way I wanted to. I was sure that this was more likely in India — so much work needs to be done here, and there is so much opportunity. Also, I went to the US from India. So it is natural that I would come back. I think that people who don’t return should be asked why not?
Your opinions in StartUpGang are quite enthralling. To-the-point, precise and trendy!! But i do believe in a fact that if you want to place your foot firmly in a business you dont have to start ASAP. You do need to have some experience in any organisation, market demand knowledge and having a bunch of clients. However, you say that there is no need to wait for right “opportunity”…..
See, I agree that a 1-year old cannot start a business — at least the boundaries of my creativity prevent me from seeing how that is possible. So there is a rational case for being ready. My problem is that being ready has two dimensions: one is being ready with the skill sets, and the other is being ready emotionally. While I do not doubt the former, I find that most entrepreneurship-aspirants use it as an excuse to disguise their insecurity. That is why I recommend to jump right in.
But sir who will mentor them! If you say to start right now and dont keep your ideas deep into the hatches, they are likely to fail…
Of course that is a possibility. But I am not convinced that passage of time reduces that possibility significantly. What passage of time does is make you increasingly unsure, and hence unlikely to ever break free. Who will mentor / advise / guide is a valid question. Many of us are trying to help out in whichever way we can. Setting up StartUpGang.com was one way of providing entrepreneurs access to the top gurus out there.
Indeed that is an awesome hub for youngsters. Tons of knowledge :)
So what criterions do you take into account before you invest in the startup?
My main issue is finding out whether the person is truly an entrepreneur at heart and committed to making the business a success. I think that more than 90% of the business plans fail at this stage itself. Then there are many more criteria I use, including evaluating if I can add value to the business.
Your articles on advantages and disadvantages of Ecommerce are highly appreciated by people. What do you think, who weighs heavier in a pivot?
Without any doubt today’s consumer has accepted that the advantages of ecommerce far outweigh the disadvantages. That is why ecommerce is increasing so rapidly. But the fact that there are disadvantages also means that there are tremendous opportunities for startups to come and rock the boat with innovative solutions.
Is there anything you do other than providing capital for companies?
Actually investing in businesses is something that I do only a few times a year. My main role is that of a mentor to startups that have some traction. After the startup has taken off from the ground, it often runs into huge obstacles in scaling it. That is where they often appoint me as an advisor / mentor to the company. My role is to counsel the founders and help them scale up at extreme speed. In exchange of this, they pay me a tiny fee and also give me a small stake in the company.
thats great!! mentor for entrepreneurs, husband, dad, angel, author, teacher, SEO, blogger…..not people have so many star :)
what if i ask you to choose any 3?
Dad, husband, teacher.
But I hope that I do not have to choose only 3.
I was giving you a hypothetical question…”what if” :D
Are you going to continue as an angel and mentor or planning to start a business “again” someday?
Actually, this bit about “starting a business” is a little misunderstood. As a mentor / angel investor, I do pretty much the same things as I did as an investor. It’s true that I am one step removed from all the action, but the motivations, thought processes, and approaches are identical. Having said that, the accurate answer to your question is, “Who knows!” :)