My 2013 : Good, Bad & Ugly

  • The year started with ‘investors’ trust and money in bank 🙂
  • Continued to live in Pune office building in a tiny room
  • Re-uniting with family was far from over (away from family for last 2 years)
  • Heavy travel across India, mostly NCR, working with team there.
  • Got into Microsoft Accelerator, the product & marketing team shifted from Pune to live and work under one-roof in Bangalore
  • Excellent time to live, eat, drink and work with team!
  • Finally after 2 years of waiting to change Ayojak name, we changed it to Explara.com!
  • Delighted everybody around with a mind-blowing design (humble to say world class but it is!)
  • Finally after 2+ years, got my family to join me in Bangalore
  • Back to Bangalore fully! Thanks to my team agreeing to relocate to Bangalore. We decentralized the team, one team in Bangalore, another team in Pune
  • We got featured in Economic Times, CNBC
  • My son joined in school (for years, my family was worried that I am stuck for not able to get son to start schooling)
  • My younger sister had a terrible time with her family life
  • Struggled a lot to ensure her life is balanced while I was struggling to keep the Explara growing massively
  • Explara grew 632% for number of events (where user came on their own to publish events)
  • As I had no salary for several years as of now, the family (specially parents) continued to struggle for basic wishes.
  • Hugely appreciated by many people for the effort in entrepreneurship, at the same time got puzzled too
  • The year ends with a high note : from INR 2.5 cr sales revenue in 2012 to $ 2.5 million sales revenue run rate in 2013
  • Explara also started operation in Mumbai, that was long wish to operate from there
  • However, being an Indian entrepreneur focusing only in India with little fund – Fight continues
  • Welcome 2014 !!!!!

Wish You a Delightful New Year 2014

Get Connected, Stay Connected, Be Connector

Way back in 1997, when I had just landed in Bangalore and was studying post-grad in CDAC Bangalore to transform myself from an Industrial & Production Engineer to Computing; I & my friend Venki met Pradeep of previous batch in CDAC. We got connected instantly, Pradeep extended his support to guide us on fast-forward learning in CDAC and introduced us to Java. Pradeep was so influential on me in getting the basics right that I suddenly felt powerful in computing! Pradeep continued  helping through 97-98 to give us the 1st set of Java SDK from IBM by slicing some 20+ floppy disk that I & Venki carried from IBM to home and installed in computer.

Getting connected with Pradeep was one of the best thing to happen to me in 1st few years of professional life in Bangalore.

While fighting to get a job in 98, I got connected to this gentlemen of my engineering batch ‘Bhabatosh’ (had hardly spoken to him in engg college) & Bhabatosh was instrumental in sending my CV to Sonata HR. Sonata gave the flying start to my career.

Moral of the story: getting connected with people is a crucial element of ‘shaping your destiny and giving it a kickstart’.

However, getting connected is not that powerful if you don’t become the connector. As they say ‘pass on the tradition of supporting & getting supported’ : give & take. Getting connected may give you flying start but unless you are the connector, you will soon loose the charm and find that not many getting connected with you! There may be a thought ‘why should I connect this person, what’s my gain’. If you can overcome this dilema, you will be the gem of a person around whom the dots will get connected. Let me share one more.

I was looking for a freelancer web dev company in 2006 to develop one of my idea and that’s when I got connected to Sagar, he was running a top class digital web dev agency in Mumbai. I got my small piece of work developed through him. We kept in touch. Fast forward to 2010 : Sagar called me from India (I was living in UK that time) to ask if we will be interested in  IPL ticketing. I said, you must be kidding. Sagar connected me to some key member in an IPL team, we tried our best. Sagar as a connector went on connecting lots of dots.

Moral of the story,  be connector and see the beauty of your destiny.

Staying connected is hard, but that is the beautiful part of being social! Priorities change, life changes and most of us struggle to stay connected. The moment we loose the charm of staying connected, you loose the power of ‘getting connected and being a connector’.

Moral of the story : The ‘connected’ cycle must continue.

Startups, Fire the Middleman When They Can’t Lead

This was my guest post published on http://www.nextbigwhat.com/

After 35th hiring and 5+ years of working in Startup to hire best people to work with, I have came to realise a small puzzle which makes hiring work! Let me share few of hiring failures and success with you.

During 2008, while interview for first few engineers, one gentleman walked in to the interview room. He have had already 1.5 yrs  of working experience  using JAVA technology (you know how software engineers love Java as it feels high end and gives lot of bucks :).We had few lines of conversation, we didn’t even have proper chairs in office that time, it was just the 1st week of start.

I asked him, why would you want to work with us?

a. We are not using Java, we use PHP!

b. There are no senior people to work with (as I myself won’t be coding), so you can’t learn much from me.

c. We don’t know where the world will head, as we are going to try one after another

But he was determined to join as he had heard from his friends whom I had trained (for my 2nd startup) remotely being in London on how to code “the best ways”, make module approach and keep things clean, few other such bits. Plus the openness I operate with.

He stayed with us for 3 yrs and was instrumental in building up the ground work in Explara. He is the person whom I can trust and I dint have to check what time he is coming to office & going. He would get things done. (All this while team was operating in Pune and I was living in London)

During 2010-2012, we hired few sales guy, one or two of them have had huge connections in event industry, sharp mind and if they want they could network and get you any customer you want! When they joined, we assumed that this is a perfect match, let’s go ahead. We did our own assessment and found ok to fit.

Result : Several of them failed for  simple reason : They were operating by taking a middleman i.e. you tell me what to do, let me ask customer what (s)he wants, if it matches, job is done. Soon, we realised that this middleman posing is the big flaw in our hiring.

We let such middleman go.

But some middleman grow to become frontman!

During 2008-2009, another gentleman  walked-in to our office one day to ask for donation for a charity he was working! My then partner  spoke to him, liked his personality and called me over Skype to London to say ‘He’ is interesting, has done his computer engg but due to adverse market condition he is doing marketing job. I instantly told ‘lets hire him’. I haven’t even spoken to this fund-raiser..

He started as marketing executive, did so wonderful work that even traditional marketers will struggle. But one fine day, he buzzed me on Skype saying ‘hey Santosh, I want to do coding’. I was like ‘oh my God!!!!; now I have to really think’ 🙂 But as usual, I don’t hesitate to give a chance, so I said ok let’s start. He moved from marketing team to engineering team and he single handedly coded/maintained/built a culture of engineering. When we had a big tragedy of people leaving us in mid 2010 thinking we are going to go down, he was one who took a stand to work with us.

As of today, he is the frontman of Explara.

Moral of the story : As a startup, we have limited resources, less time for micromanagement, therefore the individuals can’t sit down on the middle thinking others are responsible for their fate! If you allow that to happen, you are building one-man company. Let individuals drive equally as team member & build you team. Let other middleman go!