“By the time Yebhi closed, I was 40 years old and couldn’t gather enough courage to start up again,“ said Jain, who joined fashion e-retailer Myntra as senior vice president of supply chain three months later.“We did too many things too fast and ended up in a situation where even our investors stopped supporting us.“
Jain’s story is one among many in which founders shut or quit their ventures and opted for the safer haven of the `nine-to-five’.Although a glamorised career choice these days, entrepreneurship is not everyone’s bread and butter. Besides being muddled with sacrifices around personal and social life and money, there’s the added pressure of quickly scaling a business, ensuring steady cash flow to pay salaries, and sharing managerial space with key external professionals.
“The number one cause is an unwillingness to go all the way and have that grit to finish the race, which in this case can be seven to eight years. Entrepreneurship needs adjusting for an elongated period a lifestyle which will be lower than what you were leading earlier,“ said Shailesh Vikram Singh, an angel investor and executive director at Seedfund. “Most people are not willing to give that up, especially when there’s always a nice and breezy window of a job offer available from corporates.“
Or the assumption that entrepreneurship is all about hitting $1 billion in sales in five years. “That may hold for a country like Israel. For a diverse economy like India’s, setting up a good metal working shop by a former head of manufacturing is an example of quality entrepreneurship too,“ said G Sabarinathan, chairperson of IIM-Bangalore’s entrepreneurship cell, NSRCEL. Of the more than 50 ventures incubated at the centre, about a dozen have “possibly disappeared,“ said Sabarinathan.“Three of those were because the founders fell into disagreement, while nearly in all of them the entrepreneurs have dropped out.I would imagine 10-15 of them did get back to corporate roles (in some instances more than one founder per enterprise),“ he said.
So why is the other side compelling for some? Intra-preneurship, in which people in corporate roles take ownership and responsibility for a business, is one factor.
Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur, and a few former founders have found themselves working with a similar philosophy ideate, build, co-create, but by leveraging existing networks and resources while fuelling the system with an `entrepreneurial culture’.
A case in point is Amarinder Dhaliwal, who cofounded DoneByNone, an online private label fashion brand. He quit his venture in October to join YU, Micromax’s online-only smartphone brand, as its chief operating officer. “I had put in enough effort from my end but the business wasn’t getting the capital it needed,“ he said.
Dhaliwal didn’t want to start a new venture immediately but preferred to be associated with a new online business.“An area I was exploring was a well-funded company, but in the same space of Internet or mobile where scale could be achieved or was there,“ Dhaliwal said.
Companies see value in `have-been’ entrepreneurs. Paritosh Sharma, former cofounder of networking site for startups HashTaag, and Gurjodhpal Singh, former cofounder of gifting portal GiftCart.com, joined payments company PayUMoney (part of Naspers Group) in plum roles.
“A lot of incredible companies like PayU today are hiring failed entrepreneurs. The fire, grit, determination, courage and the `I won’t be out till I die’ attitude is what entrepreneurs have, which makes them different,“ said Sharma, who joined PayU India as head of small and medium enterprises and partner-business growth after his venture wrapped up because it wasn’t able to make or raise money. Singh is vice president at the company. Success, therefore, becomes a relative term, say such entrepreneurs, because skill sets and insights acquired in the bargain are irreplaceable, as starting up teaches one to be a `jack of all trades.’ “My entrepreneurial journey made me a patient person. I don’t lose my cool at the drop of a hat. For me, it’s all about solving a problem and problem-solving needs a calm mind to think rationally. Every challenge excites me and one will never find me saying, `It’s not my job,’“ said Amit Goel, who founded Patterbuzz, a digital content startup that shut in three years due to low funds. Goel, now vice president and head of product at cloud telephony company Knowlarity Communications, said he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in anything be it hiring, sales, marketing, technology, or customer support. “I love every part of it. Anything which makes my product successful is my job.“
Ironically, failure has a silver lining. “I’ve gained enough confidence now that I can jump into any place and hold the fort simply because as an entrepreneur you are used to wearing different hats,“ said Chandra Shekar M, who has run three ventures, of which one was successful. He’s now an architect at Knowlarity.
“It’s hard to judge the tenacity or horsepower and whether a person has a thick skin,“ said Rahul Khanna, partner at venture debt firm Trifecta Capital Partners.“If investors back the right entrepreneurs, it will help India create companies such as Flipkart and Snapdeal which can create tens of thousands of jobs.“