Bidding adieu to Mumbai

Bombay. Mumbai. The city that never sleeps. Provider to millions. Fulfiller of dreams. And so on.

A lot has been said about Mumbai and a lot will be said in the future. Why you might ask? I think its probably because it totally deserves it. I’ve been here only for the past two years and I already feel as if I’ve always belonged here. As a friend of mine rightly put it - I’ve been ‘Bombayed’. Many people who ask me about Bombay and why I am so enamoured by it probably don’t understand this sentiment. But, once you look past the problems of this city, it truly is a beautiful city to live in. 

Today, as I leave Mumbai for good and move to Bangalore, it feels like the right time to jot down the things I will miss the most about Mumbai:

1. Vada Pao - The food of the masses. The countless vada-paos I’ve had at this shop outside the Goregaon station actually has this playing in the shop on repeat: "Surabhi ka jumbo vada-pao. Jo khaye wo bole - main khaun, main khaun". 

2. Rains - You can love them, you can hate them but you can’t ignore them. 

3. Toto’s, Mondegar, Leopold, Score,….. -  There are good pubs in most major cities, but you feel that some of these places in Mumbai have a personality. I owe some of the most amazing conversations and memories to these places.

4. Marine Drive - Those late nights spent there thinking, introspecting, looking at the skyline and just being there gives you so much calm and peace of mind. 

5. Coffee Shops - Its not about the coffee, its about the whole setting. And if you  keep your ears open, you are sure to hear one or two film/tv scripts being narrated on a regular basis.

6. Bandra - The perfect blend of old world charm with very urban setting -works best for me. 

7. People - When they say that there is something about Mumbai which keeps pulling people into this city, I am sure they mean its people. Such warmth is hard to find.

There is so much more which needs to be said but lack of time forbids me. So, will have to wrap this fairly non-descriptive post up. 

Adios Mumbai. You’ve been awesome.

What separates great music from genius

Good music is just good enough. You won’t write a blog post about it. You might not post it on your wall. You might not even recommend it to a friend. So, lets not talk about it.

Great music is something which you find yourself listening to every time you start your music listening session. Something which more often than not you recommend to a friend of yours or post it on your wall. Again, not something I want to discuss here.

Genius music. This is what interests me. This is the kind that keeps you awake at night. Makes you lose sleep because you don’t want to stop listening to it. For some us, even makes us hold our pee.  But, its not the kind you post on your facebook wall. It is just too precious for that. You hold it close, listen to it over an over again, get high and probably write a blog post on it.

Why I quit my job at JPMorgan Chase

First things first: This is not a rant. Neither is this a description of what I am doing now. This is an unbiased factual description of what happened and what prompted me to quit my first and only job. And this is certainly not as sensational as Greg Smith’s experience with Goldman Sachs. 

Background:

As a freshly minted Engineer(technically atleast!), I headed to Mumbai to work in one of the big four - JP Morgan Chase & Co. Honestly, I had no idea what exactly am I going to do at my job(sounds familiar?) except that I wanted to put in long hours, kick ass and have fun - basically work hard and party harder. 

Beginning (6 months): 

Awesome would be an understatement. As anyone would tell you, first 3 months in your first job is your honeymoon period. Little work, more ‘team building activities’, new friends and a new city.

Middle (12 months): 

Honeymoon over. But it stays a happy period. Got a chance to start doing some real work. JP Morgan is a great place to work at and actually has some really fine leaders. The place gave me fame and fortune. I was a happy employee. But there was a problem.

End (6 months):

I was restless and itching to do something more. You see, the problem is that I am a product of our much vaunted IIT system. It gives you high ambitions and even higher expectations from people around you. I would be lying if I said that the latter didn’t affect me. And I am sure, some of you feel the same (especially during the time when CAT results come out :P )

I’ve grown up reading about entrepreneurs and artists. They inspired me to create something that is used and consumed by loads of people. But, this can’t happen in a big organisation - sure you could tighten few screws here but there is no real sense of ownership. And that is exactly what I wanted. 

Parting notes:

Let me be honest here, the journey for the past one and a half months since I quit my job hasn’t been smooth. It is by far the toughest thing I have ever done even surpassing that IIT-JEE exam some of us took. Those who have had to bear me all this while know what a painful friend I have been. Apologies to all of you and thanks for sticking it out with me. But, its been totally worth it for all the reasons that are well understood - meeting new people, new perspectives and so much more that can be just felt and not put in words.

Here’s hoping that what I am doing turns out to be as exciting to all of you as it looks to me.

Cheers!

Lessons from Leaders

Recently, I bid farewell to the company where I spent the first two years of my professional life. As anyone would tell you, your first job – much like first love - is the one which is hard to forget and leaves you with many fond memories.

I learnt a lot from my stay there and from the leaders in the organisation. As I set out to step foot in a very uncertain domain, I thought it would make sense to seek advice from these leaders. They are all experienced fellows running huge offices and managing a lot of happy (I was) people. So, I requested some of them if I could steal 20 minutes of their time to soak in any advice they had. And, all of them (well, almost) happily agreed. So, in pointers, this is what they had to say to me:

  1. Change your communication strategy based on kind of people you meet
  2. Listen
  3. Be empathetic
  4. Focus
  5. Persist, stay the course
  6. Be approachable
  7. Be honest even if you don’t like it
  8. Acknowledge if someone does something good
  9. Grow together 

Most of this is not rocket science, but it always helps to hear someone say it to you. And, it also serves as a reminder lest we forget these small yet important things.

Uncertainty

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty." - Eric Ries

Most of us would agree with this Eric Ries on this one. The point I would like to stress on here is ‘conditions of extreme uncertainty’. 

Uncertainty is one thing you can definitely be certain on in your startup. I realised this the hard way and wish I and my team members didn’t have to find it out like we did. And this is one of the reasons I haven’t been able to honor my promise.

I’ll be honest with you - we were running behind on our product development schedule. Not because we were confused as to what to do. Nor was it poor planning nor was it lack of motivation. It was factors which were just out of our control and all of them happened at the same freaking time

  • Two of us had our family members who were sick and we had to go to attend them. Days Lost per person - 15.
  • One of us had to leave country for what was an unavoidable trip with the parent. Days Lost per person - 15
  • Two of us went about looking for new place to rent. Then stuff gets packed and moved. Then stuff gets opened and settled. Then a man takes a beer and relaxes. Days lost per person - 5

There were more but I’d refrain from listing them all down. There were a few bright lights in between but mostly it was pretty bad. These events were unavoidable and were emotionally sapping. You just can’t plan for such things. And its not a startup specific thing but can happen to anybody - though its just that its effect is felt the most in a startup because we are all building what we think is going to be next big thing and running on really tight schedule to make it happen.

Lessons Learnt: Shit happens. You will run into things that you have no control over. You will feel its a conspiracy against you. But, more often than not its just sheer bad luck. Things eventually do turn around for the better. We came out stronger from that phase, touch wood. We are working harder than ever before on our product. The team has responded admirably to all this and I feel proud of us all. So, thanks team! Keep the faith and keep building. 

Suggested Reading: This too shall pass

When in doubt - TALK!

In any startup, you ARE going to have arguments, misunderstandings and even fights with your co-founders.

You have a co-founder with you whom you know him from your school/college days. So, you can shout at him when you want to and he probably would understand. But, what in case you had met someone new and who became your co-founder over a period of time, what to do then? Do you shout ? He might get offended. Do you sugarcoat your words? It might lose its effect.

We have the same situation - 3 co-founders, 2 of them who know each other from college days and the third one is someone whom we didn’t know for a long time. The best way to deal with the situation is to TALK it out. Start with the belief that all human beings are inherently nice people, and you know what, you’ll find that it is true. So, just relax, take a  deep breath and speak your heart out the way you would to a friend. And see the the effect. This obviously comes from personal experience as declared earlier.