TECH TALK: When Things Go Wrong: My Failures

In my thirteen years as an entrepreneur, I have failed many times. I never set out to fail, and yet, failure happened. Each time I found it hard to accept that I had failed. It took many months to finally accept the inevitable. And even then, Id look at the positive side. Maintaining the status quo was much easier even though doing the same thing and hoping for different results is, as a friend put, the height of insanity. But then, didnt I say that we entrepreneurs are optimistic to the point of being, at times, unrealistic.

There are two failures Id like to talk about and analyse one from the distant past, and one from the present. The first one may have happened a decade ago, but it is still something quite fresh in my memory. It is not something I like to think about, though. The first failure happened in 1994. It was a business set-up after my return from the US. Even as my business partner and I had plenty of ideas on what to do, we could not make ends meet. We tried many things software products, services, consulting. But each action just mired us deeper into the red.

It took some time perhaps as long as a year for me to accept that the path that we were on was headed nowhere. I could not accept that a smart and intelligent person like me could fail. After all, until then, all that I had lost was one election in school! I hoped against hope that some miracle would happen. But this was the real world. As time went on, an analysis paralysis gripped me. I went into a loop of thinking and each day became a daze. I withdrew into a shell and into a world away from reality.

As time passed, it became clear that I had to accept the fact that I had failed and the current business I was in was no longer sustainable. This was hard. I could see two years of work evaporating. Sometimes, the status quo is easier to swallow than the unknown. In fact, it is the fear of the unknown that makes us on the trajectory we are on even though we realise that things have to change. For many of us, change is the hardest thing to do. Because we feel we were right in the first place. Changing track means accepting that we were wrong to begin with and thats a tough call to make.

I finally had to make the call after many months of agonising. The current business had to die. I would have to start afresh. It was one of the toughest moments in my life. Unlike a surgical operation which starts and ends quickly, business surgery is never easy. There is a legacy which needs to be managed customers, employees, commitments and relationships. And yet, a break needs to be made. Change needs to happen. And in difficult times, strange as it may sound, the decision to change can be the hardest. So it was for me. Because I like most entrepreneurs still believed in miracles.

Tomorrow: My Failures (continued)

TECH TALK When Things Go Wrong+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.