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If you live in a particular part of town, it will obviously impact the kind of school your kids go to. Frankly, these were the choices, the implications of which I did not consider. Thankfully, things have turned out well; the children also, the family also.
Did they always know this is what they wanted from life or did an opportunity come up and light the way? He founded a company while still in college and started another one right after graduating from IIM Ahmedabad. The thing about Shantanu that strikes you is how much at ease he is as he relates the story. It's not like he made it big overnight, it's actually taken close to two decades.
Your reality is what you make of it. If you see life with an 'all is wonderful in this world' pair of lenses, that's how it is.
This is against conventional wisdom. The middle class ethic of being careful and completely realistic about the big, bad world around you. But all I can say is the formula seems to have worked for Shantanu.
But like I said, it's the attitude with which it's been built which is more interesting than the building itself. Dad in SAIL, mom a school teacher, an upbringing no different from thousands of steel town kids in the s. In fact, I don't remember getting any presents except books. I used to read voraciously. And probably that unlocked something in the mind. Big thinking, big horizon and so on.
So somewhere at the back of my mind I thought that if I need to make money, then working in a job is probably not going to do it for me.
The business was organising rock music concerts. Not that he had any particular fascination for rock music but it was a good opportunity. We made a lot of money. Rs lakhs - truly a lot of money 20 years ago! And then the stock market bug bit me. So I used to be on the floor of Delhi Stock Exchange, every single day for almost two years. Till I lost all the money! And I thought it was really cool you know - we were not going to college, doing things which were more 'adult'.
It was just a completely different rush. Someone from our event management company flew down to deposit the form in Ahmedabad, because it was too late to post it. So it was all a last minute kind of a thing. A contract had been signed with Thums Up to do a series of concerts all over India. A concert in Bombay was yet to be staged. It was a great hit. Honestly, I didn't take it very seriously in the first year. Then in the second year, I said okay, let's see the curriculum, what it's all about.
I always had this bindaas outlook. Why are these kids studying so hard, what is there to take so seriously here, you know! That sort of a thing. Shantanu recalls that 17 of his batchmates joined Citibank at salaries of Rs , a month in Not surprisingly, Shantanu did not go for placements at all.
With his friend and partner from the event management business he launched a company focused on education. The idea was to set up computer labs for schools. The business model was innovative - the schools did not invest. They only paid a monthly fee for every student who used the lab and signed a multi-year contract. So there was this whole mystery around IT. When we went and spoke to school principals, they welcomed us with open arms saying these guys know more about how to retrofit a computer lab in the school than we do.
So we actually got off to a great start. Lots of schools. The turnover was Rs crores. Again, huge for But, there were ideological differences among the partners.
But we were great friends, we are still very thick. If you have capital, great. If you don't, it doesn't mean you can't start. The partner kept the company and pretty much all the money, while he made a fresh start. Educomp started very small. And with a different focus. Instead of hardware, Educomp went into software.
On paper it seemed like a phenomenal market to automate schools - there is a real pain that you are trying to address. But it wasn't a very successful product. After getting the product into 10 schools Shantanu realised that every school wants customisation. And they don't want to pay for the customisation. But while on campus you appreciate none of it because you haven't gone through the grind.
Not understanding what running a business means, you later relearn all those lessons the hard way. I had two employees in the very beginning. Even before it was fully developed, we started going to the market and selling the product. And I think I am quite a good salesperson.
So I managed to convince a number of schools to buy it and business started growing. Today if you look at the product portfolio, the company has footprints in almost every space from KG to class And I think it's more a mindset issue than anything else.
But I didn't seem to mind at all at that point in time. I was so completely obsessed with what I was doing and what I was building. So every single year of my life when I look back, I thought, that was the coolest year of my life. That I was doing the most significant things that I could ever hope to do.
So one way to describe myself would be, you know, an eternal optimist. When you are an optimist some of the external environment stuff doesn't really bother you. It never bothered me. Very slow initially. Then the company started growing.
In the year , the topline was around Rs 12 crores. Because a lot of people start a business but most of them are never able to work that scale-up magic. Shantanu believes there are two questions which need to be asked: a Is the business inherently scalable? With an IIM Ahmedabad degree, the risk is not much. You can always go and start something. If it doesn't work out, somebody will give you a job Secondly, the universe of opportunity in India is phenomenal.
There are million kids going to school. There are one million schools, five million teachers, all of that stuff. And Educomp can keep growing per cent over the next 10 years. Without reaching a saturation point. As far as we were concerned, we were passionate about it and believed this was the way to improve the quality of education.
To grow, you need people. Good people. Of course all companies start with just a few, with the founder managing all the strategic functions.
The question every entrepreneur grapples with then is, how can I get more people as good, or better than me? But the problem was, the high quality smart people didn't want to work with me… So it was a lot of struggle.
It means not just a big fat salary cheque, but things like stock options, feeling of partnership, being part of a start-up organisation, fast growth, all of that. There are 4, employees at Educomp but the attrition rate is amazingly low, at less than three per cent. Aisa kyun? And the company is growing per cent a year, we are now five times larger than our nearest competitor in India in this space And the heat of growth is fuelled by a timely dose of venture capital.
It wasn't much of a struggle given the IT and dotcom boom at the time. The funding was wrapped up in two months. Did life change after the funding? The canvas was always large. With more money you can just buy more paint and do a better painting. We are very happy we took the company public rather than take private equity money. But 20 years into the business, isn't a sense of fatigue setting in? Educomp is valued at about one and a half billion dollars as of May I think we can be a ten billion dollar company in the next three years.
So I am certainly there, in charge, driving growth for the company. For example, Educomp is now building schools. The company will invest Rs. The company is planning to get into higher education as well as making acquisitions outside of India. But I felt the same way in ! The desire to see your company doing better and better and better. And there is always a 'next milestone'.
I never had the dilemma: Am I doing the right thing? Should I just shut this down and go take up a job? But I think for me personally, understanding how value is created is a very fascinating subject.
Studying consumer behaviour, getting new products out into the market, working with really smart people, it's a rush. But have there been any sacrifices on the family front? So let him do whatever he wants… When I got married, certainly I was an entrepreneur at that time, my wife was understanding. But business every year has become more and more demanding of my personal time.
And that is a much more expensive sacrifice than money. Even this interview is scheduled on a Sunday afternoon, right after lunch. Yes, had I been working in a job, I would have been very conscious of leisure time, very conscious of how much I am working. Here I am working for myself. I had decided a long time ago that the next 10 years of my life I am completely going to devote to building up my company.
Maybe I am not intelligent enough to balance or do this right, I am not proud of the fact. I think the ideal situation is to be successful professionally and take out enough time for your family and for other vocations, hobbies. That's something that I guess I will have to learn. There is no way that you will be economically rewarded lesser for being an entrepreneur than by taking up a job. Recently, Educomp invested in an online tutoring company. Chandan Aggarwal, Riju and Mohit.
There is no way you can do that if you are doing a job. Two years you may struggle. If the average salary is Rs. After tax, you make some 50 lakhs. In 5 years, I can guarantee you, any business you do, will earn you that. Assuming that you are at least a little bit intelligent, within a year, the valuation of your business itself will exceed fifty lakhs.
No matter what you do. So if a 24 year old entrepreneur came to me, I would say choose anything that you want, that interests you, the internal passion you have.
How to choose what to do? Miss a particular turning and you have to go several kilometers in the wrong direction, until you find your way back. Kind of like what happens in life. You make a plan, even a roadmap. But there could be a vehicle coming at you at full speed from right around the bend. Vinayak Chatterjee has faced these bends with courage and recovered from accidents of fate. Feedback Ventures had a near death experience. Not once, but three times. Each time Vinayak managed to save it from extinction and hang in there, eventually taking the company to new heights.
Vinayak's story tells you that ability matters, determin- ation matters, but ultimately so does destiny. When life deals you a rough hand, it's not about how smart you are but how many people out there believe in you. It's the relationships you've built and the trust you've deposited in the Goodwill Bank which you will draw on. To get that second lease of life. His father was a production supervisor in a jute factory.
My mother was a lecturer in Calcutta University, she taught economics and political science. So a reasonably middle class life, very small town upbringing, only child. After schooling in Calcutta, Vinayak decided to go to Delhi for higher studies.
I am talking about the mid '70s. In any case, because I lived far away, I had to stay in a hostel. I had some seniors, cousins from whom I had heard of St Stephen's.
I applied and got in. Instead of being diffident about it, Vinayak meshed in extremely well there, forged some deep friendships and became extremely confident. Certainly a valuable three years! The prevailing value system in a middle class Bengali family for a child who does economics is to emulate Amartya Sen. Vinayak would have been happy enough to complete graduation and then go on to the Delhi School of Economics. But if you don't go take admission to IIMA, you are closing the gate.
Take a look! Not for the grades and all that but for the quality of what I thought were puerile courses. He enjoyed courses such as business policy and marketing which had a wider perspective.
But Vinayak still didn't know what he wanted to do in life. It was a high profile job and Vinayak took the pre-placement offer that came his way. Two weeks after getting the confirmation letter, Vinayak told his boss he wanted to resign. I can't put a finger on it even now. But I just didn't feel my job had any content.
It meant nothing. I looked at myself in the mirror and said that if these products don't mean anything to me, I am probably being untrue both to myself as well as to my employers to hang around in the job. But Vinayak was clear about what he didn't want. Which is a start. I am an only child. They said, we told you to go to D School and do economics. Why did you go to IIMA and chase this The truth is, it all just happened.
In hindsight, you can call it strategy. But it was important to do something. Something respectable. Vinayak had always enjoyed writing. So he thought why not combine the business degree with journalism? And an offer from Ashok Advani, to become the Bombay correspondent for the recently set up Business India.
So there is no hurry to take up a job. I chose the business policy area and started library work. Professor VL Mote called Vinayak to his house. And there he met Raunaq Singh, chairman of the Apollo group. Vinayak hadn't heard of him back then.
Prof Mote introduced Raunaq, saying he has a company called Apollo Tyres which is badly in debt because the government had nationalised it. There is a long history to this - the company was given back to the family after a Supreme Court judgement in But essentially, the chairman wanted an MBA to turn around the company.