4 Years Since the Deal

Today is 4 years since I sold IndiaWorld [1 2] to Sify. I don’t contemplate much about it, because I’d rather look ahead. But anniversaries are such things – they do make one think a little.

So, how have been the past 4 years? They can be divided into 3 phases: the first 18 months or so which I spent with Sify, the next year was spent thinking on what to do even as I managed Netcore, and the past 18 months or so have been spent trying to work towards realising the vision of making affordable computing solutions for the next billion users (with a specific focus on SMEs in emerging markets). To this, there is a second goal which I have added: how can we transform rural India.

It has been a struggle for the past year or so, as I have realised (slowly) that the transformations that we bring will need a much greater effort. For example, with SMEs, it is not good enough to just create low-cost software based on Linux. One has to think in terms of an affordable computing ecosystem, and co-ordinate the efforts of many to bring about the change. Rural India too is very similar. So, the paths that I have embarked upon are going to be long and challenging – with “mountains beyond mountains” (as Tracy Kidder puts in, in his book of the same name).

When I meet people, they still remember the deal and how it changed mindsets towards entrepreneurship in India. For me, it was perhaps the hardest decision of my life – to sell the company I had created. Sometimes, I imagine how life would have been had I decided not to sell. The Internet revolution in India has been slow and incremental, which has been disappointing. Hopefully, the computing revolution that I want to bring about can be faster.

I like to work on one or two things at a time – which are large and complex enough so that they occupy all my time. Entrepreneurship (as I have often written about in these columns) calls for total involvement. There are things I could have done a lot better in the past 18 months, but one learns. That is perhaps the best part of life – being able to reflect on one’s actions and course-correct. I am working with a compass, not a map.

If there is one change that has happened in the past four years, it is that I have learnt to accept success and failures as two sides of the same coin. So, both don’t sway me dramatically either way. I accept uncertainty as part of a day’s work, rather than becoming rattled. I have realised that to bring about change (the two problems I want to solve) will require long-term multi-year efforts. It will mean doing things I have never done before – building a bigger team, for example (IndiaWorld had all of 20 people, we are already double that size now).

The blog has perhaps been the best thing for me personally in the past four years – it has given me an outlet for my thoughts, and introduced me to some wonderful people. As I look ahead, I will continue to document my experiences in these columns. The journey has just begun.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.