Trust

A friend pointed out some days back that I trust people too quickly. I agreed and however many times I may have felt cheated, I still continue to do that. Why?

My logic behind this trust is, if I start any new relationship without trusting the other person, the relationship will surely fail. Here’s how.

If i don’t trust the person, the other person will never have full confidence in me. And thus, will keep doubting my intentions. We will both be second guessing each others’ statements and hence will never be fully committed to me. This will eventually lead to low motivations and the objective for which we joined hands, will never be met. Ultimately, there will be a failed commitment and a sour relationship.
In the end, I will just say, “see, I told you this person isn’t trustworthy” and prove myself right.

On the contrary, if I had shown full faith and trusted the person, the results would have been different. Clear intentions, high motivations, great results! And then also I would have proven myself right, “see i knew the relationship would work out”. Both ways, I will prove myself right. But its the latter, that will take me ahead in life and give me satisfaction, no?

I want to thank everyone who has shown faith in me and trusted me with their goals.

Discipline

Back in May 2012, Niswey used to work from a shared office space in Connaught Place, Delhi. I used to wake up everyday at 6.30 and reach office by 8.30. Nobody used to reach by then I used to keep a set of keys with me, open the office and start working. We were just 2 people then at Niswey. And had 2 customers. So we would work the entire day and left everyday by 8PM. The building had some security issues and had to be shut down by 8. So if we would be still working, the security guards would come over and ask us to shut down the office. Initially i used to get irritated with them but slowly I gave in. Looking back, this was a blessing in disguise as it put pressure on us to wind up the day’s work before 8. Some days I used to even reach before 8.30, to squeeze in another few minutes of extra work.

The office was 1 hour away from my place. So by the time I would reach home, I would just have dinner, walk a bit and then fall asleep while reading a book. I made it a point not to open the laptop at home, unless someone was dying!

Since we were just 2 people, it wasn’t necessary for us to go office everyday. We could work from home, unless we needed face time. But we chose to come to office, everyday. It brought a great level of discipline in me. Which, thankfully, is still there. Another, brilliant, thing that happened in me was that it increased my ‘focus’! Since I knew everyday I had a limited 12 hours, I just concentrated on getting. things. done. Period.

Friends & family didn’t matter for me. Not that I broke relationships with everyone but I cut down my time with them. Especially where I didn’t feel it was important. A lot of times I used to get invites for gathering at a friends’ place, but I used to politely deny. Just because everyone is going, didn’t mean I had to join. Similarly, just because the entire family was meeting, didn’t mean I had to go.

For a long time I carried on like that. Those who understood why I didn’t join them, had no complaints, those who didn’t, anyways were not important for me.

The best thing is, this focus and discipline has stayed with me since then. Niswey survived through tough times and is 10 people strong. To this day, I start work at 9 everyday, whether from home of from office, and make sure that I am in office everyday. Plus, I do ensure that I don’t work once I reach home. And I don’t have to spend 12 hours in office everyday either. Productivity levels are much higher!

Want to thank my well wishers and stars as I could learn such important life lessons early in my life 🙂

Business Plan Template: Free Download

I often speak to entrepreneurs, mostly budding or who’ve just started. Every now and then I get this question, how do I figure out how much money do I need or how do I find out how much capital/funding should I raise?

A few weeks back, I found myself answering the same question when I started another company, Irayo. When I ran this sheet through a set of investors, they seemed to be pretty happy with the amount homework done.

Then, in the last 2 weeks, another 3 entrepreneurs asked me this question again. Since now I had a sheet ready, I happily shared with them. When i did it the 3rd time, I realized there maybe a lot more people who might find this useful and I immediately decided to open source it.

In my understanding, this business plan template is useful for startups, small businesses, wannabe entrepreneurs, people pitching to investors – who will ask for your 3 (or maybe) 5 year plans, generating revenue model plans for SaaS (subscription based revenue models) or e-commerce businesses. If you think or in fact have used it in some other case, please do share, I’ll be happy to know.

I had created it for 3 years, so that’s what the template has, you can easily extrapolate it to more years if you want. Remember, there are formulae throughout the sheet, so be careful about them.

If you find it useful, please do remember to Tweet Business Plan Template / Share on Share on Facebook, Share on LinkedIn, Share on Google+ with your friends/followers.

The link to download the Business Plan Template

To download: In the menu options, Click “File-> Download As” and download in whatever format you are comfortable.

Thanks to Rahul Dewan for the base work on this sheet (done almost 2-3 years back).

Dear Student, If You’ve Got an Idea, then Just Do It!

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at an event where the objective was to spread awareness about Entrepreneurship among students. First of all, kudos to IIT Kharagpur students for starting an event with such an objective. All I can say is that I wish there were such events when I was in college 🙂

After I shared my journey, during the Q&A round I found a pattern of questions. Honestly speaking, I could not relate to the problem initially, but when students kept asking the same thing in one manner or the other, I realized it’s got to do with a basic human problem, Fear.

Students in 2nd, 3rd year of engineering wondering whether they should build their idea/product or not? My feeling was, why not? What’s there to lose? I just couldn’t get it! You’re not leaving a high paying job, you don’t have family responsibilities, you don’t have to quit college to start something, then why are you not doing it? All you might lose is a little bit of sleep and maybe some pocket money.

  1. One group said, “parents are not allowing it”,
  2. Another said, “they were not sure whether they will get funding”,
  3. A third said, “they were not sure if their idea will work”

And some other similar excuses is what I heard. Yes, I call them excuses because those are not real reasons which can stop you from doing anything.

To those questions, my questions were:

  1. Why do you need to tell your parents right now?
  2. If you’re building something only to get funded, then probably you shouldn’t be doing it at all!
  3. Unless you try it out, how will you know whether your idea will work?

Probably, there’s just one answer to all of them, just work on your idea and build something, and (in simple code):

if it works, then {

  1. your parents will be happy to know about it
  2. investors will trace you down and fund you
  3. you will know that it can work!
    }

If it doesn’t {

  1. you don’t need to tell anything to your parents
  2. anyways you don’t need funding
  3. either you will know that it won’t work or you will find out more ways to make it work
    }

Bottom line is what Nike says, Just Do It!

Remember, you’ve got nothing to lose!

How much should this service cost?

Friend: That sounds expensive
Me: Why?
Friend: I don’t know but this definitely sounds expensive
Me: Okay, how much should it cost?
Friend: I don’t know, but given the time it takes to be done, it shouldn’t be that expensive
Me: The cost of a service is not defined by the effort made by the service guy but by the “value” it generates for the consumer of the service.

Keep Looking, Don’t Settle!

October 2005. I was in 2nd year of my B.Tech. and had a school friend visit me. I don’t remember how the conversation started but what I do remember is that I told him I’ll be an entrepreneur.

He replied: which branch (in engineering) are you in?
Me: Computer Science (He was doing the same course in some other college and was 1 year ahead)
He: So you think you will get a million dollar product idea and start a software company?
Me: Maybe, some day

6 years later, I founded Niswey – a digital marketing services company. In those 6 years I got an engineering degree – which was of no use, quit 3 jobs, failed one startup and gathered enough confidence (and contacts) to start another company. Today, having run Niswey for 4 years (3 years 11 months to be exact), and having worked with a number of clients, I figured a problem. So I carved a solution, implemented and tested for one client, saw success and thus figured a business model around the solution, which forms the basis of my next company – Irayo! [More about Irayo in another blog post].

Had I not thought about starting a business then (in 2005), I would had not failed my first company, Zapylacz (in 2009), maybe not even started Niswey (in 2011) and hence would have never got the idea for this product company, Irayo.

It’s not an idea that occurred one night all of a sudden while drinking beer in a pub! (You’re lucky if you can do that) In most (human) cases, business ideas are the result of a long process, which includes, vision, hard work, discipline, lots of well-wishers and most importantly, consistent grind!

It’s actually what Steve Jobs once famously said, Keep Looking, Don’t Settle!

And by the way, in the midst of all this (from starting Niswey to starting Irayo), I cofounded a product company, Moneno, was among Nasscom’s ‘Top 10 Upcoming Products from India’ in 2011, which got covered in the media, almost secured funding and then failed!

Obviously I don’t know whether this will succeed or not, but, what’s more important here is, I am giving it a shot. Unless I try,  I will never know, after all, it’s good to fail 🙂

Inspiration behind the headline:

The year round up post! #2014

I know I am late on this, but I thought it’s better than not posting at all. So here we go!

A hell lot of stuff planned, lots accomplished, some pending, little dropped off the list, a few postponed, yet, the most eventful year of my life. It started with travel and ended with that, well, almost. TL;DR, three important talking pointers that sum the year up for me:

  1. I had decided to travel the previous year and I succeeded in traveling 3 new places (not for work reasons) this year, including my first ever trip abroad
  2. Started the year with my status as “single”, ended with “happily married”
  3. Started the year as a loss making company, ended in profits

In a nutshell, a f-a-n-tastic year!

It all started with my solo trip to Dalhousie. Actually I left on 30 Dec 2013 itself and the travel continued till 2nd Jan. So the year started with travel and with snow. Wrote about the experience of traveling alone and about getting out of my comfort zone. I do these solo trips once in a while to get my mojo back. It allows me to be with my being and reenergize the body for the battles ahead!

The inspiration behind the post was Bootstrappers 2014 – A Year in Review section on a Startup blog. Being a bootstrapped entrepreneur, I felt I should pen down my experience too, however, small they may be. While I was still contemplating writing this, Suma (my partner) wrote the 2014 round up post for Niswey. It got me thinking, yes, we shared what we did as a company but what about us as individuals? And hence, I thought to recollect everything. Went through all my notes, for the first nine months which were on OhLife! and since it shutdown, the remaining were on Little Memory. {Thanks to Ivan for putting up an OhLife import feature overnight.}

Recollecting, here are some notable things that happened this year.

Professional First:
Going Flat. I had been contemplating on this idea since sometime but it was during my Dalhousie break that I took a call, this HAS to be the way forward. That is what would allow us to grow, both as individuals and as a company. I came back from the trip, met Suma on a Saturday and explained everything. It all made sense to her and we thought to roll this out ASAP. Obviously we couldn’t do this the next very day but in a month’s time we were good to go. We organized a discussion for all of us, which ran for about half a day. Initially, there was a lot of mental resistance but as we discussed the concept more and more and as more questions got answered, it started making sense to everyone. Thus, it was put into action immediately. That’s the beauty of a startup, you can get things moving so quickly that you’ll love it!

This is a kickass session on flat #organization @niswey Got to love this place!

A photo posted by Anubhav Tiwari (@tiwarianubhav22) on

We also started a new practice of discussing individual Goals. What do all of us want to do and achieve. Small things as visiting 10 new places within the city to larger goals like building a community portal, it had all. Since it was a successful initiative, we continued the activity this year too! In April, we had another discussion where we discussed professional objectives for the organization. It had 2 major things:

  1. 5X growth (in terms of revenue)
  2. A Product (to be in alpha phase)

Where are we on that, well, that we will figure out in April. But I can share already that we are in good shape. No, we are not about to be 5X but surely will be about 2.5X, which, is a good number in itself and I am glad about it. Somewhere during the year we’d lost track of that but thanks to our people, we could bounce back! For this, I’ll always be grateful. We haven’t moved much on the product side. Somewhere in September it looked all set to take off but it never happened actually. Thankfully, we, finally are restarting this very soon. This time for sure 🙂 I also started working on a couple of more things in parallel. One is an idea that’s floating since mid-2013. It’s called “Good 2 Fail“. I managed to get an interesting domain, do a small launch and reached out to a few entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, none of them was willing to share their learnings/experiences. Some said they did not have time, some just declined and a few never bothered to respond, even after multiple attempts. If you are one of those whom I approached, you need not be guilty, you can still respond 🙂 Another initiative on which I started working was in the education sector. This is a long term project (might take a lifetime) and I started doing my homework for this. During one of interactions with someone in the industry, I realized it is too early for me to get into this and has to be pushed back. Which is fine with me, at least I now know that I need to be older, wiser and more resourceful (in terms of time and money) to get into this and the occasional guilt of not working towards that is gone now. Believe me, taking it off your head is equally important. Let’s move to some personal stuff now The most important event on the personal front was my getting married. After a blockbuster post about how flat, family and marriage are the reasons why youngsters don’t turn entrepreneurs, I myself gave in 😛 While I am still an entrepreneur, let’s see if both of them survive 😉 

 

The second most important thing was my promise to myself. It was mid-2013 when I realized I hadn’t taken an off since 18 months (apart from falling ill that is) and had then decided two things. 1. Take frequent breaks and 2. Travel. I am happy that this year I could keep up both promises. And importantly, will continue to do so.

Apart from keeping up those promises, the most bizarre thing was the way in which one of those trips got arranged. Since this post is already long, I will leave that to another post. It’s the Bali trip I am talking about where I went with Matt and the team from Under30Experiences. If you are under 30 (or maybe just a little over but can coolly hang out with other under 30’s), I suggest you must go with them!

Towards the end of the year, in December, I went to another awesome place, Sikkim. Going there just reinstated my thought of traveling more of East India. Need to plan. In between getting married and travel, there are a few other things notable things:

  • A three day NLP Workshop – Made me realize the power of visualization
  • An acquisition offer – Not that were looking for buyers but the offer just does some ego boost, if nothing else
  • Book writing attempt – Participated in a book writing competition by FT & McK. Didn’t win but gave me an inroad towards my dream of writing a book
  • Turned 30 – And spent the birthday in an exquisite and relaxing location like Bali
  • Developed a new habit – Reading books. I read a lot, almost 3-4 articles (not news) a day but wasn’t into reading books much. Read 5 books last year, nothing compared to the global average of 17 but at least got into the habit! This year, my target is the global average. BTW, I am already on my 5th and it’s just the beginning of March 🙂

While we’ve had the first round of goals discussion this year, I am still finalizing my goals. A little delayed but with so much happening at Niswey in the last 2 months, I am not worried about the delay. Will share what I plan and at the end of the year, how did I fare.

In the end, I am grateful to friends, family, customers, well wishers (like you) and the universe, for making 2014 a successful year!

Your turn. Do you plan/create goals? How was 2014 for you?

Looking for intrapreneurs and ex-entrepreneurs

The question was, “that’s a pretty high growth rate and would be phenomenal if you can do that. But how will you do it?

By having great people around me

That’s what I answered when a few years ago I was asked this question by a seasoned entrepreneur. It’s for that very reason that I am writing this post. I am looking or rather ‘hunting’ for those ‘great’ people. In our quest to build an awesome workplace, it’s time to expand our ‘A Team’. So who am I looking for? Intrapreneurs and/or ex-entrepreneurs.

Intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship

As Wikipedia says: “Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so.” Hence, the intrapreneur focuses on innovation and creativity, and transforms an idea into a profitable venture, while operating within the organizational environment. Thus, intrapreneurs are Inside entrepreneurs who follow the goal of the organization. Intrapreneurship is an example of motivation through job design, either formally or informally. 

Or in simple terms, people who:

  • Love to be on their own and not being questioned by anyone BUT at the same time are responsible enough to deliver their tasks
  • Take pride in their work, even if it’s cleaning a toilet
  • Take ownership for their stuff, work and personal, both. Thus, know how to do get stuff done AND at the same time can do it her/himself, if needed
  • Thinks “business”
  • Are not ready to take the entrepreneurship plunge yet but want to do it someday. If you are in this zone, believe me, this will be the perfect learning experience
  • Have already got hands dirty once and are looking to do it again, just for the sheer joy of it. Whether your company was successful or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is you tried!
  • Love what they do. Period.
  • Keep “learning” as one of the success parameters in whatever they do
  • Are willing to “mentally” invest in the company
  • Are fearless and have a risk taking appetite

What skill set?

I believe a skill set can be built, what matters is the intent.

What role?
Well, everything that a business owner has to do. Sales, marketing, client engagement, manage,  think (and not procrastinate), organize and most importantly, write.

Having said that, I must mention a few roles here

  • Web Analytics
  • Digital Marketing
  • Visual Designer
  • Copyeditor
  • Content Writer / Marketer (Enterprise writing)

All those roles are detailed out on Niswey’s careers page, so you may want to have a look and say:

  • You are good at one and are while willing to learn others
  • You are really good at one and are willing to build a practice (and team) for just that
  • Know bits and pieces of a few and are willing to be good at all or at least most of them
  • Don’t know any of that but can do something else really great AND want to learn them too

Although I have tried to elaborate who will fit this role, but still I would like you to go through some more pointers written on our careers page. If you still have questions, please feel free to write to me at abhinav [at] niswey [dot] com. I’ll be happy to talk/explain about things, in detail.

About Niswey: we’re into solving business problems using the digital medium. We work in a flat structure and our culture is pretty open, read more about Niswey’s Culture.

If you’ve read so far and think that not you but a friend might be interested in such a role, please go ahead and share this with her/him right away, I’d really appreciate it, thanks!

Stop being ‘Politically Correct’

A few days ago I gave an interview. While I said whatever I felt honestly, I got feedback that while I may still feel the same thing, I shouldn’t say it publicly. Criticizing people (from the industry in this case) might not be the best thing to do openly. Although I listened patiently to the feedback and for sometime felt it may be the right thing, after a lot of thought, I realized, if I do that I may not remain honest with myself. And that, being honest to myself remains the most important thing to me.

I am not afraid to call a spade, a spade. For this very reason, often people don’t like me or my words. But still, I never understand why should I give politically correct statements? In fact this ‘politically correct’ statement is the root cause of a lot of problems.

I’ve seen subordinates not telling honestly when they see a problem – eventually resulting in business losses. Why? They might lose points during appraisals.

Similarly, another case is, agencies not saying the right thing because they want to be politically correct in front of their customers. Why? they might lose business if they tell the truth.

Sales folks, well, there’s a reason why that term has earned ‘that’ reputation.

And most commonly, politicians. Lets not go there. Those are the people who have given rise to this term after all.

Imagine if our teachers (and parents) stopped pointing out our mistakes or never scolded and agreed to what we wrote/did? Looking back, you *might* agree, the most hated teachers are the ones from whom the learnt the most, provided you had the right intentions and you accepted feedback positively.

Stop being nice and being ‘politically correct’. It helps no one. Not even you. BTW, there’s a difference between being honest and being rude, don’t confuse them!

Like I wrote in an earlier blogpost (stupidity vs integrity), there are no right or wrong answers and you may have your own perspective, as for me, I’d be happy being hated for something that I am rather being loved for something that I am not!

Stop blaming. Take control of your life!

If my parent’s hadn’t pushed me to do engineering, I would have never done it!

I hate doing this stupid IT job but my family wants me to do it

I don’t want to get married but I have no choice

Almost every week I hear these lines. Sometimes multiple times in a week. Most of the times I would just do a “hmmm” and move on while on a few occasions I would try to give some advice. The advice would normally be around how to solve the situation instead of running away from it. My ratio of advising vs “hmmm” is not better than 1 out of 10. A few years ago this ratio was much better. 9 out of 10 if not 10/10. Over a period of time I realized that people don’t want to solve their problems, they just want to blame others. These include parents, society, spouse, kids, managers, government, roads, rains and what not. In short, the universe is to be blamed for all their problems. And this is why I stopped advising anymore.

If you can’t do anything about your problem then you are to be blamed not anyone else. Not your friends, not your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, not your parents, not God, no one. Period.

Also, please stop blaming your parents. If your parents asked you to study something then that’s because they thought that’s best for you. If you had something better in mind then you should have told them and maybe pursued them to allow you to study that course. If you didn’t pursue then probably you did not want to really study that. It was just because you didn’t want to do what they said even though you did not know what would be the best choice. In which case, isn’t it fair to just accept what they are saying? Later on if you find something better, go study that. To share, even I didn’t want to be an engineer. After 12th, I announced that I don’t want to be engineer. The entire family (parents, uncles etc) gave me a good scolding and told me I was behaving stupid. Honestly, I didn’t know what course should I go for if not engineering. Now I can tell I would have loved studying Mass Communication but I hadn’t even heard of such a course back then. Nor had anyone in the family. So? They made the best choice as per their (and my) understanding. And I am grateful for that.

Similarly, if you hate your IT job, why not find out what you like? And then make an effort towards it? Yeah, I know you want to start a restaurant and be your own boss but ask yourself what have you done for that? (BTW, somebody already answered that why you can’t/won’t be able to do that. Read: Tumse Na ho Paega)

Just like any other engineer in this country, I also joined one of those labour (IT) companies with swanky buildings, nice coffee vending machines, well dressed folks (at least some of them) who were bitching about their jobs and managers all the time. BTW, that’s the norm these days. Anyways, just because I joined one such company didn’t mean I had to stick forever in that job. At least not when I don’t like it. Yeah, again, I didn’t know what to do, but this time I made an effort. I went to a career counsellor. Yeah, some of you might term it “stupid”. Another few would have already termed me a loser by now and might not read any further but then obviously this post is not for you. Let me tell you, going to the counsellor was the best thing that happened. Even though the counsellor could not figure out what should I be doing in life, but still it changed my life. The story there is a blog post in itself so I’ll write that some other day.

The point I am making here is that I made an effort to actually figure out what I want to do in life. And then the universe conspired to make things happen! I could have easily blamed parents, family, society, girlfriend and everyone around to say they did not want me to leave my job. Yes, I did not tell any of them before I quit but how does it matter? A few days/months of hiccups and then everything was fine. Looking back, those months are nothing as compared to the life since that day.

Please remember, our loved ones care about our happiness, nothing else. For that they may keep suggesting/advising you stuff that *they* think is right. If you don’t agree with them, figure out what you *think* is right. If don’t have an answer, better accept their advise and move on. Stop blaming them! Meanwhile as Steve Jobs would say, “keep looking, don’t settle”.

At the end of the day, the universe will conspire to help you achieve what you *really* want. Mind you, what you really want.

And for whatever you are and whichever state you are in, just be grateful to your well wishers and loved ones! Thank them!