I spent good time reflecting about what should I write in this email. Thought it might be useful for others too – so sharing it.
Today is one of the toughest days in my life. It is my last day to be with you all at Mettl. You all have been incredibly important for me in helping me realise my dream of being an entrepreneur and in making me a better person. This is my last opportunity to express how grateful I am to have shared this amazing journey with you all. Words are not enough to convey the deep sense of gratitude I feel.
Last 9 eventful years here have exposed me to numerous situations at work. These moments required me to take calls/ decisions often based on gut. Over time, I had the luxury to see the outcome of these decisions in success and failures. To be more efficient and right in my decisions, I have used this unique experience to make my own guiding principles to manoeuvre personal and professional situations. In this last email, I thought I should share some of these principles uncovering some of my life’s dark events known to very few. You may find some of these principles useful as you navigate your life.
1. Failures are opportunities (How I became an entrepreneur):
I was on a high when I graduated from IIMB (a top Indian B-school). I landed with one of the top jobs from campus at BCG* in Brussels. I believed that I was a prized catch for any organisation. I had great friends, my marriage got fixed, my health was in good shape – I couldn’t have asked for more. Then within 4 months of joining, I was asked to leave BCG. I was told that my performance was so bad that they are fast tracking my exit from 18 months to 4 months. I came back to India looking for another job. The job market here was very tough in 2009. Even after months of trying, I couldn’t get even one interview call. My friends started avoiding me. My planned marriage got annulled. I broke my ankle that took ~12 months to recover. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I felt that BCG management was unfair to me, friends betrayed me, my fiancee was super selfish etc. etc. I was really depressed, as nothing worked out. I started doing a lot of self reflection. That’s when I realised that I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was passionate about building something of value from scratch. All this while, the razzmatazz of a trophy job, and other things that I was chasing was not what I wanted in life. They were just attractive distractions. Perhaps when you are at the lowest point in your life and nothing seems to be working, is the time to build thought clarity. My biggest failures brought about the biggest success in my life. I therefore believe that failures present great learning opportunities in front of us.
2. Ships are safe in a harbour but that’s not what ships are made for (Listen to your heart):
Imagine yourself to be 55 years of age, a top celebrated CEO, with amazing 8 figure salary (or more). You are fiddling with your Rolex watch, and brand new Mercedes’ keys. You are waiting for a colleague to send a deck for the board meeting tomorrow. It is 8PM, you are tired, you want to call it a day but you can’t. Suddenly you gaze outside the window, see a nearby park where a bunch of people are playing badminton. They seem to be very engaged and enjoying the game. It reminds you that you were once very fond of playing badminton too. You had a chance of getting into the district team. But you chose to attend competitive exam coaching instead. Although you have done super well for yourself, you will wonder if you have made the right decision. While you are rich and famous but you still eat basic food. While you own a Merc – you couldn’t care less. Your bank balance is sizeable but you can’t pursue your interests. You are wondering if it was all worth it.
For most of my life, I have chased societal goals; set by my family, relatives, friends in what they believed successful people should do. I pursued engineering because it seemed like a safe, promising career; did an MBA; chased trophy jobs, top salaries, name, fame etc. I was afraid of being left behind; fear of failure was very high. And I was completely wrong. This quote gave me the courage of chasing my own dreams instead of living someone else’s ambitions. I questioned what is the use of my education from IIT and IIM, and all my experience and skills. Is it to chase a value function set by my social system. Or is the best use of my capabilities is to help me realise my own dreams. Through this quote I gathered the courage to do what I wanted to do in life – embark my entrepreneurial journey. As I part, I really hope and wish you all to chase and realise your own dreams. It is a short life and before we know it will fly past.
3. Be fair and genuine with people (manage your personal brand):
Recently, I met one of our first investors at Mettl. We were discussing rationale of early stage investing. In the conversation he said that while he was contemplating investing in Mettl he was approached by another of our common friends for funding in his venture. He said that to him the other friend’s plan seemed better but he chose to invest in Mettl because he trusted me more than the other guy.
I think personal brand matters a lot as we progress in our life. People who we are studying/ working with today could be our future investors, colleagues, recruiters, bosses, guides and coaches – you never know. As time passes by the perceived brand becomes even more important. I get referral check calls for several people who I have worked with even 10+ years back and I am sure you get these calls as well. If we are cutting corners at work, doing a shoddy job, not maintaining relationships properly – remember people are watching you.
4. There are no right/ wrong decisions, what you do after taking a decision makes it right or wrong (being decisive in life):
Life keeps bringing us to critical decision making forks. Often there is not enough data available to understand what decision will lead to what outcome. But the situation still requires us to make a decision and move on into uncertainty.
I have had several such decision forks in my life – Mettl’s business plan, starting new product ideas, shelving others that are not working, hiring for important roles, decision to sell Mettl etc. Early this year, I was again at an important crossroad of my life. Whether to continue at Mettl or to move on. I have reared Mettl like my own child. I have seen it grow from scratch to a 350+ colleagues and growing. I have given it whatever I could and gained so much back – super smart colleagues, close friends, productive work etc. Personally it is the best environment for me to be a part of. But I want to start another startup journey someday. The high seas are calling me again and this time I would like to be more prepared, rested and rejuvenated when I start that journey. It is a tough decision but I believe what I do from now on will determine whether it was the right one or not.
I will miss you all terribly. Thank you.
PS: Sorry, I am not listing names of people who have done a lot for me. It is a long list and words don’t do justice
* Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is not to try to prove who is right/ wrong and settle score. It is not to settle scores with BCG etc. I think BCG is an iconic company. Some of the brightest and smartest people work there and build stellar careers. I have extreme high regards for BCG.This post is only to share my learnings and the backdrop of all I experienced was important to make the point.