BACKBEAT: HOW THE DOTS KEEP CONNECTING
It was in the early days of starting my first company, Letsintern.com that I came across Steve Job’s speech at Stanford about ‘connecting the dots’. The beautiful message behind what he said had clicked instantly; it was something I too had always internally echoed. Perhaps, all we need is someone else telling us that it’s okay to not know everything, and it’s absolutely okay to follow instinct.
Now that I look back, it has fortunately been a series of good gut calls. I now run India’s leading influencer marketing company, Chtrbox. Ironically enough, everything we do now is about helping brands make more data-driven decisions on their influencer marketing, and not back gut-calls alone. More about Chtrbox on another day, but allow me to take you back to the start:
CHAPTER 1: WHEN JUMPING CITIES WAS A HOBBY: I grew up in Jabalpur, Nagpur, Baroda, Calcutta, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai - and also Lagos! I’m not an army kid, but we did move a lot. Adapting to a new city, culture, school, making new friends each time and letting go of old ones, learning about group dynamics, and getting out of your comfort zone weren’t things I loved, but each move led me to the other. I was lucky to move from a good school to better one. I became better at moving ahead each time. I do believe these moves fundamentally, and positively, shape our personality to adapt and flourish in a new environment, better than others would. I don’t think the kid in me knew that, but looking back now, the dots had started to connect.
CHAPTER 2: BUNKING COLLEGE TO STARTING YOUNG: I was 16 and in Junior College at Symbiosis in Pune. I had been fairly good in studies, but loved everything outside the classroom more. Most colleges in India didn’t offer much in the classrooms nor outside, and I was more than happy to skip redundant classes and instead do things that most parents wouldn’t want their kids doing. I started working. I volunteered with non-profits, organized and promoted parties, marketed brands at college events, joined AIESEC where I took up several leadership roles and traveled across India and Europe. I did everything I wanted to, I had fun and created my own learning environment.
CHAPTER 3: ECONOMIC CRISIS AND JOB HUNT: 2008-2009 was a tough time for many, and it was difficult for a young graduate looking to step into advertising. Me! It worked out rather well though; I eventually landed a role to lead communications and social media for NASSCOM Foundation, an arm of NASSCOM, India’s IT-BPM trade association. One of the biggest boons was exposure to the role of technology, and how it potentially single-handedly has the power to shape the world. The startup bug had also struck.
CHAPTER 4: LET’S START UP: In 2010, I got together with two friends to start Letsintern.com. Chapter 2 and 3 had connected. A believer in learning by doing; having facilitated and participated in international internships; and having seen first-hand how technology could solve problems at scale, I believed in the problem we would be solving with Letsintern. Students in India struggled to get-going after graduation, were forced into masters without hands-on industry know-how, and we saw this as an exciting real problem to dedicate our next five years too. Letsintern grew to become India’s leading platform for college students to find internships, and was acquired by a global assessment company in 2016.
CHAPTER 5: CHTRBOX: Dabbling with Student Influencer Programs had set off another chain reaction. I had grown bullish about the power of digital chatter. My passion for Advertising and Technology had connected and found form in Chtrbox (read as Chatterbox) - one of the finest solutions for Influencer Marketing.
When asked about how or why I decided to become an entrepreneur, this has always been my answer: I just decided to back myself, and commit to solving problems that I see as interesting. The main idea is that we need to have faith in our abilities and intent. We need to be able to look at all challenges and hardships as almost necessary for our learning. Ultimately, as long as we stay true and consistent, the dots will connect as they do - in business and in life.
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