I recently met a friend I have known for a long time. We have known each other enough for me to discuss about his work and career. While the work he was doing continues to be interesting, I sensed a restlessness. There was a feeling that perhaps he should look at alternatives. Perhaps, a career at another company. I suggested that he should look at doing something on his own being an entrepreneur. He had obviously thought about it, but something was holding him back. Having spent over a decade working for large companies, that path was easy to follow. It was a predictable future. Thinking about a start-up either joining one or creating one was a path that was different and unknown. Perhaps, the security of a job outweighed the risks of entrepreneurship.
I have been just the opposite in my career. Even when I started working at NYNEX (now part of Verizon) in the US in 1989 after my Masters from Columbia University, I was clear that in the very near future, I would start my own company in India. That was the advice given by my father when I left India for further studies in the US. If he could come back to India in the mid-1960s, I had better do so now! Because of family compulsions, his entrepreneurial career began a little later after he returned from the US. I need not wait.
And so, after just over 2 years of working, I left NYNEX, returned to India, and launched out as an entrepreneur. So, this is now my thirteenth year. It has been a mixed scorecard. But I could not think of living life any other way. Give me the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey with its mountains beyond mountains than the security of employment.
Yet, I understand that not every one of us can become an entrepreneur. But there are many who think about it. Just like those abroad who consider returning to India, contemplating entrepreneurship is also like the N+1 syndrome. It keeps getting postponed to the next year and that next year rarely comes. As time goes on, it keeps getting harder, too.
As I talked to my friend, I realised that it wasn’t an easy decision at all. The transition from an employee to entrepreneur is one of the toughest decisions anyone will face. What should I do? How will I start? Where will I raise the capital? What if things don’t work? What will be the impact on my family? Is this the right time? A million questions keep popping up. While the answer for each question requires personal introspection and probing deep inside oneself, there are some common facets of this transition which can be abstracted out.
Just like driving down route 1 along the California coast, the entrepreneurial journey has its mix of tricky turns and magical moments. The road to entrepreneurship has more thorns than roses, but it is an expedition well worth taking at least once in a lifetime. This is what I told my friend and this is what I’d like to share with you in this week’s column.
Tomorrow: A Roadmap