Friday, February 22, 2019

There’s No Free Lunch

There’s No Free Lunch

Recently I found myself in an entrepreneur’s meet and quite accidentally too at that. I had come to meet a longtime friend who had shifted to the gulf countries years ago and was working for an angel investing firm. He had come over to India to meet a few prospective clients and as he was busy with his business meeting’s over on the other end of the city, the tech hubs on the east coast roads being a couple of hours at least away from the city and in back braking traffic snarls, the only time I could meet him in comfort was when he headed over to my side of town for this entrepreneurs club meet or something. As I had previously declined his advice to turn entrepreneur or to accept his offer to fund me in building a chain of clinics, I was very reluctant to meet him there as I was sure he would probably be busy somewhere in the milling crowds pressing hands and networking or doing whatever entrepreneurs do when they all get together.

Having reached the hotel lobby, I discreetly parked myself in a corner and tried to message /call my friend by phone but the cellular reception being so poor I just couldn’t reach him to let him know I was there and waiting.  Once I felt that I had waited in the lobby for the decent amount of time, I only had two options either to leave without meeting my friend or to surprise him inside the convention hall. So, I decided to brazen it out past security and gate crash the meet to see what really do these entrepreneurs talk about when no one else is looking.

During the course of my evenings hobnobbing with them I can emphatically say, as an independent observer with no axe to grind, entrepreneurs as a class belong to either the criminally sociopaths or the outright psychopaths (my friend exempted). I have of course heard / read of the robber barons of the pre-depression era USA but this was the first time I realized that a whole community of people not only idolized them but also modeled themselves on them in trying to make a fast buck and exiting immediately, no matter the consequences to other people, the economy or even society as a whole. It was eye opening to realize that the very basic edifice of Silicon Valley which all these entrepreneurs in India were aping to emulate was built on the very same concept of looting money by selling dreams of a big day pay and then throwing in the towel saying the idea was just unworkable.

Fail, fail and fail till you at last hit the big venture capital or angel investment buy off success was a mantra being repeated around the room. Well hello, can your failure be restricted to yourself or at the most your immediate family? No. A failure, any failure, especially of a business or a tech company is going to hit multiple persons around, from customers to vendor to the employees working there. You can’t just plan to serially fail and not be responsible for the consequences of beggaring a lot of people around you in a quixotic quest to be the next tech titan.

The people I listened to in that room where without a doubt one of the vilest, social conscience-less people in the city without a doubt. They were absolutely uncaring for the consequences of how their reckless risk mongering or failure would impact on others’ lives. And these were the people who were moaning about the government not helping them with more loans without interest and tax breaks and tax write offs, because they are bringing investors into the economy – the very same investors they were plotting to rip off by running their companies into the ground and going bankrupt because they had abruptly lost interest in their current business idea and wanted to pursue the next unicorn on the hill.

I don’t claim to be more moral than the next person but god forbid I should turn so callous as to turn a blind eye to consequences to others lives in my quest to be the next tech billionaire.  I would rather live a simple life and walk or ride a bus to work rather than buy a BMW by beggaring a hundred employees working under me because my current idea doesn’t seem to have an immediate pay off date and I would rather be off hard selling my next idea to venture capitalists to pick up my stake and allow me to exit to an island in the Caribbean.

Money, I now realize, can make people commit the most humongous financial crimes without batting an eyelid and then coolly walk away saying they were just being entrepreneurial. Thank god that I don’t have such ambitions. At least my conscience is clean and I can sleep well at nights. To conclude I remember a song from a prabhu deva film where he goes “unn panam panam yen panam, yen panam unn panam” translated as “your money is my money and also my money is my money”. that seems to be the limit of the ambition of Indian entrepreneur’s and not to build the next amazon or uber or facebook, something which will last years if not decades. All this hogwash about following your passion is code speak for money, preferably others money. It’s all about the money baby.

And I hope the government takes a strict look again at these wannabe business men instead of running after manufacturers and industrialists working in the brick and mortar industries for decades. Finally, if an entrepreneur fails, he or she must be made responsible for the failure and taught that in the real-world failure has consequences and no one can dodge them, be it their first business idea or their hundredth. The playing field should be level for everyone to do business in and not be tilted towards certain fields regardless of how attractive and modern they sound.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Review- The Girl In Room 105 by Chetan Bhagat

The Girl In Room 105

Writing a review for a chetan bhagat novel seems so superfluous. Reviews be damned, the man sells books and you can’t argue with success like that. Even if he is not India’s best-selling author, which he claimed once and rightly belongs to Jeffrey archer, he still sells enough books to come in the top 3 of best-selling authors in india. So the advent of any new book by chetan baghat becomes a must read event as everyone else in all the social media channels- books related- seem to be discussing it and nothing else for weeks on end. So in an act of supreme self-flagellation I downloaded his latest novel the girl in room 105 and started to read it with my usual trepidation when it’s a chetan bhagat book.
The story is nothing new. If you are looking for clichés- it’s all here, chetan bhagat doesn’t disappoint. A hindu man from a rss family falling in love with a muslim girl from Kashmir with separatist tendencies? Check. Both hero and heroine from IIT delhi? One an ex-iit’ian and the other a current iit’ian? Check. Entrance preparation for iit coaching centre where loser hero works? Check.  A north Indian hero who is quite romantic but not successful financially in contrast to a south Indian villain who has no romantic streak in him but plenty of money? Check. A sidekick who seems less than bright when compared to the hero but has a heart of gold? Circuit check. Failed romance, alcohol binge, abusing exes? Check. If you have read the newspapers on all the burning issues in recent times, rest assured bhagat has touched all of them in one way or the other in this book, so much so that it seems a compilation of the headlines of the past six months or so written in an easy to read form
For those familiar with him, Chetan bhagat doesn’t tax himself by writing new storylines. He simply rewrites the same story with newly named characters and in a way it’s comforting for you never have the anxiety of worrying about what the characters are going to do or how the story is going to end as you have read it all before and can predict at the start of the book how it’s going to turn out in the end. And to be frank the only way to summarize this book is – its everything you imagined it to be, no surprises here. If you are going to buy it, whatever I say is not going to change your mind is it? And if you are not going to buy it- please don’t.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Show Me the Money

Show Me the Money
There is a famous Tamil movie song of yesteryear's where the heroine makes fun of the hero by asking him to have a bath, at least once a year on Diwali day. That song resonates with me when I start writing a blog-post again after such a long gap. After procrastinating for ages on putting pen to paper (figuratively) I have finally put my ass to the grass to write the mandatory birthday post which is a ritual I have followed religiously for the past ten years on my blog. I usually sound upbeat on such birthday blog posts reflecting on how far I have come and what I had achieved reaching that point in my life. For a change let me control my enthusiasm for saying “all is well, all is well” in a faux cheerful tone and give my dear readers a faithful summary of what the past year has brought in my life.

The one thing life has taught me over the past year is that according to all official statistics on the average life expectancy of the average Indian male, I am nearly there at the end, according to the government. I have no great hope of beating the stats and being an outlier who outlives the rest of my peer group till I am a senile fool whose death is celebrated with road-rokos and bandhs. For survival in itself is not an achievement, there are many men who have lived the lives you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy somehow clinging to life. That’s not for me. If it’s my time to go, I am ready and that’s the spirit of this post and my life over the past year.

Somehow, I have become convinced that I am going to die soon, well within the statistic determined by the government and that impending demise has freed my mind from a lot of self-inflicted misery. Let me take just one example, I have completely stopped exercising or running after fitness because if my time, my leftover time on this earth is limited would I prefer to use the time doing things I love or would I use it running on a treadmill staring at a blank wall opposite? Doesn’t justify the use of my limited time if I have to gain fitness or the admiration of my peers on how fit or handsome I look. Handsome or ugly I am going to die and as long as I don’t weigh so much that the pallbearers suggest a crane to lift me, I should hope I don’t waste any more time on earth in exercising. That’s one thing my impending death has freed me from- the pressure to look good.

The second is my acquaintance circle. During the past one year or so, I have started weeding out my circle of acquaintances and friends to those who would turn up for my funeral on hearing the news. If I believe that so and so will not take the time to attend my funeral I gently disengage with the person and ghost him or her by disappearing from their contacts list.  My standard question for friend requests nowadays is “hi will you attend my funeral? Rsvp first for me to accept your friend request”. Now this has led to certain interesting conversations like the following. New friend request no.1 “hello, thanks for accepting my friend request. I would definitely like to attend your event. When is it scheduled for?” And that gave me pause and so I take my time in replying “thank you for the prompt acceptance. I would soon be creating a Facebook events page with the date, time and link for booking tickets to the event and will send you timely reminders for the event. Please make sure that you book tickets at the earliest as we are running some special offers for the early bird bookings” and I closed his chat window.

And there was the new friend request no.2 who texted me back to the standard query of “hi will you attend my funeral? RSVP first for me to accept your friend request” with the following intelligent reply “hi I heard you are organizing an event. I am an event manager and mc with wide experience in such events, would you like me to send you a quote for the event?” and I texted her back “madam, the event is still in the conceptual stage. Once we confirm the dates and the venue I will inform you. I also need samples of your previous work in organizing such events. And as your Facebook friend I hope you can offer me some discount over your usual quote considering its going to be the last event I attend”.

Now all these queries about the undoubted commercial potential of my upcoming funeral has kindled the entrepreneurial instincts buried deep inside me that I have decided to make it a pay-per-view event for those of my enemies who are prepared to spend money to make sure that I am indeed dead and also plan to ink a deal with Netflix for live streaming the entire episode to reach my worldwide audience of ill-wishers. I also have plans to set up kiosks with my autographed photos and certified death certificate copies available outside the venue if anyone’s interested. A few merchandizing stalls are still available and you can contact me directly for the best positioned ones from where you can sell t-shirts and hats with my pictures on them. And if you advance book for the premium this-week-only tickets, I can guarantee you premium casket-side tickets where you can be just cursing distance away from me on the important day. RSVP me if you are interested in more such awesome once-in-my-lifetime deals.