Strategic Time Out

In Jan 2013, I quit a well paying credible profile at a Big 4 to venture out into the sea of entrepreneurs. I was all of 23 then, with hormones raging high and ofcourse it was a cool thing to do back then not realising the pitfall it brought along. The Flipkarts, Ola, Redbus, Zomato and housing of the world.

So in partnership with an acquantaince and a few more people, we started a beautiful journey of Theek Kar Do. But alas, I had to exit it within a year due to grave difference of opinions (End of a Chapter).

Then I took up a professional assignment that came my way just to keep myself occupied and figure out what next before my bank balance reduces to zero. But life had other plans and I started enjoying my work that I kept myself engaged with the same and growing by leaps and bounds. It was a rather relaxed profile which included a lot of travel and I was having fun. But just like my past, after 3 good years, I was done with and I called it quits. Immediately after my last working day, I flew to Ladakh for a 15 day trip with simply no plans of what to do next. I was not going to be that typical secured job person.

I took almost 6 months off meeting people and exploring options. While at it, I also engaged myself with various additional activities like working out, eating better, toastmasters, travelling, stock market, etc And then when I realised I had been on the sidelines for really long, came an offer to set up a service line in partnership with a electronic chain store (something very similar to what we did at Theek Kar Do). I was skeptical at first, one because I had started preparing for my GMAT (doing an MBA abroad has been on my list for quite some time now) and secondly because did I want to go down the same route again. But not being the most practical over thinker, over night I accepted the offer and that is simply how Service Saathi was born.

The firm was registered in December 2016 and operations commenced in Jan 2017. Its been some amazing 27 months of building the dream. There were a lot of leanings from last time – the first one being, do not brag about it till you have made it big. And over last 2 years the team at Service Saathi has done an amazing job. We cover all the regions of the Mumbai Metropolitan – South Mumbai, Western Suburbs, Northern and Central Suburbs, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar. We have even started limited operations in Pune.

Till date we have served close to 30000+ customers, more than 30 service partners work with us in sync with 150+ technicians and an office staff of 15 odd people. We now operate out of two offices, one in Mumbai and one in Navi Mumbai. We work directly with major brands like Carrier and TCL and indirectly with brands like LG, Hitachi, etc.

The focus of the venture has been on 3 simple parameters : a) Quality b) Price c) Time. The service industry values and performs well only when you have all these 3 under control. We take customer feedback extremely seriously and have derostered several technicians for non compliance. Documents of every technicians is uploaded on our system. I am not saying we are the best at all of these parameters but we have made a lot of positive progress in the last 2 odd years and getting better everyday. Taking care of small things like sms updates, uniform, ID card, GPS tracker, standard rate chart has made the operations really smooth and also gone on to build a solid customer network.

We have made mistakes, there have been months that we have lost a lot of money, made a few wrong hiring choices, let go of some good candidates, not able to crack some deals, new customer acquisitions costs shot up, operations going for a toss, almost losing a contract. There were days when we had no idea where we were going and how to breakthrough the lull period. The team motivation was lowering, focus was moving away from the task at hand and the on field staff was working way below optimum capacity.

But at the end of it, year on year we grew at almost a 30% and been cash flow positive. When I look back today, I am happy with how we have maneuvered ourselves through the storm with total support of my business partners. Ofcourse aspirations are higher, and we fell short of the target but the learning from last 2 years has definitely made me a better business man and manager. I understand where to intervene and where not and where the growth is going to come from and where not to focus at all. We do not learn this at a business school. A good amount of credit goes to the office staff and the on field team who help keep the Service Saathi standards high.

While doing all of this, we also wanted to ensure that we build a better working environment for the on field technicians – by not only giving them regular work but also ensuring that they are trained well. We have invested a lot on soft skills training, technical training and other non monetary benefits which they miss out on being called the blue collar job people or labourers who are generally looked down upon. We are happy that with Service Saathi we are impacting 150+ families every month and I am sure the numbers would double in the next 1 odd year. They are our real service partners and we exist and do a wonderful job because they do an amazing work at customers residence. They are the one’s who keep customers happy and help us retain our customer base. They are our real brand ambassadors and we’ll be using them for marketing campaigns in the days to come.

Over the last 3 years, I have intentionally abstained from talking about my work life and that has left a lot of question marks. The answers to what are you doing and what are you not doing have been numerous but I chose to take Strategic Time Out to build something wonderful before showcasing it to the world and I felt this was just the right time. Last time when I had overdone the promotions, it was a little difficult to go underground. Now, life is a lot more sorted.

But after 2 years of running a profitable business, what next? There are a few players in the same space and doing pretty well for themselves. How do we stand out and will we just be another service aggregation startup? Is there any room for innovation which we can work out.

After a lot of brain storming and delays, we have been proud to launch Service Saathi Z+. It is the first of its kind monthly subscription plan for all household where for plans starting for as low as Rs 199 per month, we cover 6 home appliances being AC, Refrigerator, TV, Washing Machine, LED and Microwave Oven. It is an unlimited service/ visit plan for a household. All you pay for are the spares. You can choose to activate/ deactivate at will, basically paying only for the month you use the service. We are building Service Saathi to ensure that repairs and maintenance of electronic products should neither be painful nor expensive. Download the Service Saathi app here to activate the plan.

We just wanted to have a no frills plan for the customer, where simple 2 clicks could book a service request and it doesn’t drain the customers wallet either. This Z+ plan is what we are betting big on in the days to come. It is a novel business concept and an experiment indeed, but the guy in me believes – this will change the entire service industry norms in the next few years to come. We are all moving from on demand to subscription based services – so that we can live a peaceful life while all these unproductive work is taken care of by experts from the comfort of the sofa of our living room while binge watching on Netflix and hogging on to Swiggy delivered chinese food.

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Made in Heaven

Disclaimer: This is nothing to do with the web series per se

In the last 5-7 years, I have attended more weddings than all my blog readers combined, (and to add more detail) – to such an extent that I now kind of have a wedding fund, not literally though but I just wish it was subject to being counted as a deductible expenditure in my income tax return.

Well, back to the point, recently two of my really close friends got hitched (and by recent I mean two months ago but I have been a little lazy to put my thoughts on my blog, so here it is, making good use of a HOLIday). And inspite of all the expenses I have to incur in attending weddings (you realise I have friends all over the country now and some rich spoilt brats like doing a destination wedding as well), I totally love marriages (two distinct words not to be confused with love marriage vs arranged marriage) – as long as it is not me getting married. For those of you who attend weddings once in a while, would relate to where I am coming from in a short while from now.

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When was the last time you met all your relatives, cousins together? When was the last time none of your friends from the group bailed out at the last minute? When was the last time you literally took a break from work (ofcourse there are people like me who carry laptop even to weddings, just in case – but that is not the point). When was it you did not bother having that additional 30ml at 4 am?

Sleep deprived but you will still make a last minute VIP entry into the wedding functions. With the number of weddings I have attended, I kind of now know the flow as well of each function and estimated delay in kick starting every ritual (to hell with mahurat), but that over enthusiastic groom/ bride would just not agree with me. Only to come around a few hours later.

Though personally I find the great Indian weddings (maid in heaven style) to be sheer waste of money, but then I don’t debate on this with people – you get married only once and the only child and ofcourse for whom else have I saved all this money. So, I enjoy and savour all of them like a royalty (return on investment you see :p).

But hidden with all this grandier are the emotions which I have come to fall in love with. Be it a marwari or a gujarati or a sindhi wedding (been to all and many more), every ritual, every function, ever wedding is indeed a coming together of two extended families and friends. Its kind of a festival spread over a few days – with all the unending smiles and happiness around, the lightings and the diyas, the rangoli, the haldi or the mehndi. Every function signifies so much of our Indian traditions that I would not want to let go off (and lets ignore the disgruntled relative who did not get their favourite room). Being a very observant person, I see the emotions change in people, that over protective brother of the bride or the over enthusiastic sister of the groom, the spoilt groom squad, the over zealous panditji, the constant running around of the cousins, the planning by the sisters for stealing the grooms footwear – all these emotions are not captured in those candid photos or hovering drones – you feel them with your presence. And the most important aspect, the sangeet face off – like the worst performers are supposed to set the stage on fire and entertain the audience – the clapping and hooting just never stops. Ofcourse, the first night preparations and the shenanigans of the people around.

Did I mention, the extended wardrobe and suddenly the need to look and feel better. Trust me, for weddings I have tried a hundred outfits, all that additional grooming products, hair cuts and shave, having a shower atleast twice a day, just to remain fresh and to look and smell nice – and it’s so worth it. And then indulging on those 100 varieties off food over the days, you just don’t want to go back to the boring daily schedule.

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In between all of this, is the groom, who is nervous as hell and all his excited friends and cousins are busy partying or getting ready – and he is asking himself whether this is the right step for me. The bride wondering if the new family will love her just like her current one and will the new 4 walls turn into home or will she remain a name on the wall. The father of the bride trying to hide his emotions by pretending to be busy in the wedding preparations. The mother of the groom going down memory lane when she got married and worried if her son will take good care of the bride just like her husband held out to her everytime. Marriages are not just rituals and functions laid down by tradition – marriages are meant to be emotions and feelings coming together.

I have always come back from weddings happier than before (only to still be in a different mood for a few days till reality sets in and you are back from the bollywood extravaganza). You get treated like family and trust me for a person living away from home, it is indeed special. Weddings are like therapeutic for me (but it is taxing and stressful for the couple and immediate family), and that little contribution (non monetary ofcourse) you make by lending a helping hand to them makes me feel welcome and gives me a sense of belonging.

I have skipped a few weddings when it was getting a little over bearing on me, but then I have come around. It is indeed a very special day for atleast the two of them. I have grown to be very fond of the better halves of my friends, and I believe they reciprocate the same. Your absence may not be felt at the moment and no, you cannot blame them for your attention seeking stunt, but years later – miles away when they look at the old photos of their wedding, when they show it to their grand children, you sure as hell want to be a part of that story.

The election jynx…

Counting the recent loss in the ICAI – WIRC elections, my losing streak with elections has now reached 4. And this makes me strongly believe that elections are not meant for me. Will I stop contesting, very unlikely. But at the moment, I am NOT thinking of 2021 ICAI WIRC elections and honestly, my chances of recontesting are minimal.

I am writing a blog after a real long time because this is the best way to feel better about it; though it comes second to talking over a pint of beer.

The last 4 odd months have been hell of a ride. Though I was contemplating running for the council since Jan 2018, it was only on 15 Aug 2018 that I convinced myself to contest and announced the same. And my main two reasons to contest were plain and simple a) I was not really happy with the way ICAI has been functioning b) I was not really happy with some candidates in the fray. And I believed that even people believed in the above 2 parameters. I don’t practice as a Chartered Accountant nor doing a full time job where I utilize my degree skills. Yet, the love for the profession made me take the leap of faith. Servant leadership is what I have been taught at Toastmasters.

It wasn’t an easy start. I had been off the professional field since years now. I wasn’t active in the Institute activities over the last 3 years, I wasn’t a convenor of any study circle, I wasn’t a professor or any GMCS faculty. Fellow candidates had been contributing to the professional cause over the years – I had not even made a start. Yet, I believed that I had a decently good candidature and strong support from certain members across the spectrum which would convert into actual votes. I knew I wanted to still give this a shot, a chance at alternative cleaner politics because I had a belief that our profession worked and elected candidates professionally. It made be believe that if done right, 3 months of efforts would be good enough. But buoy I was proved wrong and how.

I was polled 320 first preference votes (this was 50% lower than my worst estimates). And trust me it felt like crap. I had no reaction for hours at stretch because something was wrong and I had no clue what. But I prolonged writing this blog to ensure they it is not an impulsive post but more like something I actually felt about the entire process. Two major factors for the number are a) People did not go out and vote (verified) b) People did not give their first preference (unverified).

The biggest mistake I made was ignoring the first advice that I received ‘ Do not trust any commitments made to you by any person’. This is where I went totally wrong.  Not that these people do not give it their best (they have reached out to more people than I did), but it doesn’t necessarily lead to conversion.

When I started my campaign a lot of people kept joining into the campaign – some volunteered, others I reached out to. I knew winning the elections with 3 months of efforts is going to be a herculean task but we still kept going. This is a big thank you for all of you who spent a good amount of time for the campaign though there was nothing in return at a personal level for any of us. They all did it out of sheer love for the profession and belief that together we could change the system. And that is again where we went wrong.

We believed that the system is corrupt & not transparent and that people would vote for change. With the way media has been bashing our profession and the disrepute pouring in with the PM slamming at our own function, and the reducing enrollments of students; we had a right to believe that something was seriously wrong with the way we are running ICAI. But with the election results already poured in and all sitting council members being reelected to the regional council, it makes me wonder if the entire story on which the campaign was built was even true in the first place.

We were very clear from Day 1 of the campaign to usher in an era of clean and change politics. We had 4 strong pillars – Respect | Integrity | Service | Excellence. We ensured not to spam people’s sms inboxes, not to random call them, no unwarranted email notifications, not to play the caste/ community card, not to throw election parties/ matches – but again, this is exactly what seems to have worked. One of the biggest learning for us was, be it national electoral or professional elections like ours, polarization works – either in the name of caste/ community or flexing money muscle or having a godfather. Would I change my campaign to include any of this – a big NO.

I remember, one acquaintance calling up a friend to arrange cab from Worli to Churcghate as there were 10 confirmed voters. My friend refused. This is not what we stood for and will not change that even for 10 votes. We did not stand outside polling booths annoying every voter to vote for candidate number 39.

The results definitely call for a detailed introspection and that is where the team has spent a good part of the last week. I am not sad that the transition from a member to a council member did not happen (somewhere I was prepared for the same); I am disheartened with how the votes finally polled. The next generation not coming out and polling was a major setback. We were 6 candidates in the age bracket of 30 who contested and together we polled 3300 votes as against more than 25000 CA’s in this age bracket i.e. less than 15%. Maybe it is not yet time for next gen to take up the leadership mantle. (I even did a vlookup of members who did not vote and the numbers were roughly the same so it is possible that the younger generation may have voted for others but this is just a rough estimate)

Did I give my 100%? Yes, I did. Did I give it my everything – probably not. Would I want to change something about how I ran the campaign – just one thing, the result. Jokes apart, if there was something I would want to go back and redo would be touching base with more people than I did on a personal level. That matters a lot. Social media and whatsapp forwards creates a noise – doesn’t lead to conversion.

This blog is not only about venting out my frustration and anger, it is more about channelizing the same to the members at large – especially those fence sitters who are contemplating contesting next elections and those who believed that my 1 vote doesn’t matter. The entire campaign was mainly asking people to go and vote and provide myself as an alternative candidate. There wasn’t a single pitch made to give me the first preference – it was eventually the members’ discretion. And I would be happy if my campaign could inspire even 5 people to take up service leadership at ICAI. Start working on it from now. To win elections, you need to make a few compromises – but that can be another conversation over beer or coffee.

Not being a pessimist, I strongly believe in what happens, happens for good. It was an amazing journey being the youngest candidate and just among 46 out of 97000 registered members in the western region to contest (It is a worrying sign, we are short of leaders). I am really thankful to having been given a chance and many of you considered it worth investing your time and effort on my campaign. Sorry, if we offended any of you in the process and a big thanks to my non CA friends who managed to survive with all the flurry of updates on my social media channels.

I wish the 22 elected regional council candidates the very best and the pledge that I would be available at all points to help them fulfill their responsibility towards the profession. Remember that 45000 people who voted for you either directly or indirectly & are going to hold you accountable at all points in time for the next 3 years. And to all the people I met over the course of last 4 months – I am still a call or message away as promised and one more promise to all of you is that I shall play the role of a constructive opposition to the elected council.

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Who are you Mumbai?

Being a top tier ranker through school, the obvious expectation of everyone around me was that I would take Science post 10th. Opting against the generalization (not for the sake of being a rebel), I took up Commerce primarily because I wasn’t too inclined to what was taught in Science at school. Two years later when it was time to take another important decision that would eventually change the course of the last 10 years of my life, I chose Mumbai as the city of graduation against the wishes of my Mom. She had given me an option to go anywhere in the world but Mumbai, but here I am, defying all such restrictions and I have no clue why.

27 May 2007 is when I boarded the flight to Mumbai leaving behind almost 18 years of my life. Today, ten years later, these 10 years define me more than those 18 years could ever had. I am not really sure if any other city would have molded me the way Mumbai has done.

Back home, I was an introvert (probably I still am) and inspite of having several friends, there were limited open and frank conversations I may have had with any of them. Today, I am still friends with my school buddies, but I believe we are more like former school mates and not more than that. No, I don’t have a friend who knows me since junior KG nor do I have a childhood sweetheart. Just when I started to believe that all these are just bollywood created stories, I met these friends at a wedding – reality struck – they’re still best friends, I am the only odd one out. But then I am the only one who refused to go back home, while everyone is back there.

People may call Mumbai an emotion and some may call it a magnet. But honestly, I don’t even know if it deserves a name – it is like that bond which is more than friendship but less than a relationship – let’s make it simpler, let’s call it flirtationship for starters. Maybe just like my life evolved over the last decade, by the end of this post I would be able to identify what is that between the two of us.

Pursuing CA

When I first landed in this city, I was lost. Lost on how different, unorganised and chaotic the city is. Obviously like every other 18 year old, I had no clue what I was doing, why was I doing it and where do I see myself a few years down the line. Not that much has changed over the last 10 years, but now the realization has dawned that this is exactly how life is always going to be and you come to accepting this as the way of life. Who knew that years later I would fall in love with this mess and be a vitcim of reverse brain drain.

I came to Mumbai to pursue Chartered Accountancy as a qualification, now that is just a qualification for me and not what I pursue professionally.

The initial set of friends

The only saviour one has in a new city is how quickly one makes friends. I joined HR College for my graduation (though NM was my first choice, but I couldn’t get in) and JK Shah classes for CA entrance exams. Unfortunately due to the rigorous schedule of classes and articleship a CA student goes through, I did not make a lot of friends in college but made a lot of them at classes and my workplace.

My friends at classes eventually became my extended family with whom we have celebrated birthdays to bachelors to baby showers. These became my extended lifeline and still continue to be my best friends 10 years later.

Joining EY

Working with a Big 4 was a dream job, as I joined EY post my inter CA and spent the most amazing 2.5 years of my life. The learning experience I got from my workplace is unmatched. It taught me to be patient and diligent in my dealings. In my pre Mumbai days, I was super impatient and impulsive by nature. But I had to leave that at the door when I joined one of the largest accounting and consulting firms of the world.

And more importantly, I made some super amazing friends who helped me survive the grueling working hours. People who taught me about office politics and bitching about your seniors, the late night dinners and weekend excursions. For those years at EY, I believe I completely broke off with the external world. My world revolved around EY. I still remember I was at a training session at EY when my CA Final results were announced.

One of the most memorable memories of EY was the star tax program where we had a 10 day training session at Goa, my first trip outside Mumbai, missing the flight, meeting someone special and eventually losing her years later.

Immediately post qualifying, I had my GMCS training for 15 days with 40 new friends on board. Those 15 days were a welcome break from the rigorous routine of a CA students life and undoubtedly the best experience of being a student. I found some of my best friends here.

Professional Academy

Like every aspiring CA Final student, I joined Professional Academy for coaching. That one year was one of the most interesting journeys when I made a lot of friends from different walks of life. I was still working with EY when I qualified as a CA in 2011. My friends from classes had written me off from qualifying in the first attempt given my long working hours and regular absentism from classes. But in my defence the lectures were at 7am and I have never been a morning person. However, qualifying int he first attempt with a rank, shut them all up for good 😛

Btw, I was a back bencher and a late comer as well. The class would halt for a brief 30 seconds as everyone would turn back to check who just entered. But who new it back then that I would eventually go on to work with the Academy a few years later.

Theek Kar Do

Somewhere the entrepreneurial bug hit me and we started a venture which eventually turned out to be the biggest failure of my life; yet the best turning point when I look back today. Back on 2013, it was my biggest regret but now my favourite mistake (for lack of a better word).

There have been times when I have grown tired of this city and wanted to run away. I wanted to do it when my first business failed. I had quit a high flying – well paying job to run that business. Back then I questioned that decision of mine. Was it too big a gamble I had taken with my life? Was it all worth it. I was lost. And in Mumbai, it is really easy to be passed by unnoticed. The city which is apparently always on the move. People will not have a second glance at you. But then, when my two wheeler skid and I was on the road seeking help with wide eyes; all the cars and pedestrians stopped, the time stopped, the movement stopped – I bought a part of Mumbai to a halt. Everyone rushed to pick me up and offer water. The city stopped for those 10 seconds. And as soon as I gulped the first sip of water and people ensured that I had no scratches or broken bones; the roads and pedestrians were again on the move; while I watched the quick transitions in front of my eyes in those few seconds – life was back to normal. That is Mumbai for you, the city that cares.

But thanks to Theek Kar Do, I got to be on several news pieces from CNBC Awaaz to Hindustan Times to Outlook Business. Also, got to be a part of Startup Leadership Program, Rodinhoods, Google Business Group, and other such communities.

Jagriti Yatra

One of the take backs from Theek Kar Do was Jagriti Yatra – a journey of 8000kms spanning 15 cities over 15 days with 500 odd Yatri’s on board. The trip changed a lot about me then and helped me look at the positive aspects of life and the real struggle and achievement of people. If anyone had told me earlier to ‘live’ on a train for 15 days, I would have laughed it off till the Yatra happened. The seats were our beds and the coaches our home for those days.

But more importantly it gave me another lifeline of friends across all cities in India available at a phone call. It gave me such amazing friends for life whom we lived with and bonded on the train. The trip did play a major role in making me a more open and positive person in life.

Travel

I did my first solo trip in 2015 to Germany. As my parents packed their bags and flew back home from Switzerland, I extended my trip by a week to be on my own. And the trip did start really well. Where I covered a 4 hour distance in 14 hours, reaching Munich well past mid night with no roof over my head. I was on the verge of tears, in a different city with no idea what I was doing and regretted the decision to do a solo trip without any bookings. But then the next 7 days turned out to be one of the best ever where I met people from different parts of the world just backpacking around. It made me realise that I could be happy being myself and did not need a validation from anyone else.

And then my travel diaries just began. Sometime later, I went to Hrishikesh for the mandatory Bunjee jump. Excited, I was the only one in the group who wanted to go for it, so I paid and waited for my turn. But when my turn came, I looked down and walked back. Somehow I mustered some courage and walked up again and jumped. It was a magical experience but I learnt that it is okay to take two steps back to leap frog ahead in life.

Mumbai – being the chain throughout

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How much has the city changed over the last 10 years. Completely and nothing at the same time. Vada Pav is still the staple diet and getting into the train at Dadar is not less than qualifying for the Olympics, it still takes hours to cover a short distance by road and people living in SoBo don’t know where MaKaBo is and going to the airport is the only time they travel outside their geographical limits.

But what has changed is that that vada pao now costs Rs 15 and not Rs 5, the city has got its metro line and mono rail, traffic cameras have been up throughout the city – the Big Boss is watching you and we have got a swanky new airport which is one of the best in the world.

Mumbai lets out different shades of you. The transitions you make from living alone in this city where you become a maid one day and on another you’re fighting that creepy lizard in your room; where you bunk classes to catch up on a movie and where you work weekends to show your professionalism; where you stalk that crush of yours through social media and abuse that pervert in the local train; where you’re the favourite of your friends parents but still not the best for your own. Where you got everything and yet nothing.

During these years I have experimented with a lot of things from my profession to my hairstyle to the friends I keep to the person I think I would want to be. There have been roadblocks but then there have been times when I have been clear that this is exactly what I want to do. I have tried and failed but looking back I don’t regret any of those decisions. All these experiments have played a major role in shaping me.

For several people I have been a snob. It takes people a while to get to know me better and people have chosen to hate me in the first interaction. But that’s who I am and it has helped me filter out a lot of people. I may have a lot of friends today from various walks of life thanks to my extra curricular activities but like every other person I have a small circle of confidants. There are some friends whom I made in the first year of being in the city and have grown like family over the years and some I met just a few months ago. Many people we lost touch on the way but have played an important character at some chapter of my book – to them, we have lost touch but not forgotten.

Living on your own, setting up your house, walking into the empty 4 walls every night after work and eating that cold food, working that extra hour in office, saving that extra penny gradually made me realise life was so much easier back as a child with the only pressure being the school grades.

What stopped me from going back? My dreams and aspirations which I felt would be chained by society and circumstances in that foreign land. Not that I have not fought enough here. I know the struggles my Mom goes through every week trying to convince me to come back. But she forgets that I am her son, as stubborn as she is. She hasn’t stopped trying for once in 10 years, I have not relented yet.

Marriage is still not on the cards and I have not like had some amazing love life to talk about so it makes no presence in this post. Yes, some girls have played an instrumental role but lets stay out of it for privacy reasons. There was someone I thought I would settle with and chased for 2 longs years eventually to accept the fact that she is getting married to someone else. Maybe it’s for my own good. I am not really sure if she knows about it yet, so to not change our equations, shall let the status quo remain.

One person who has influenced me a lot over the last few years is Virat Kohli. My post would have been incomplete without a mention of him. Raw, young, angry, defiant Indian is how I also look at myself and he is nothing less than an inspiration for our generation. Giving more than your 100% and surviving all odds in a sport which is considered a religion in India demands a lot of your blood and sweat which he has already given.

Mumbai has been around when I was drenched in the rain trying to find a roof to protect my cell phone, when I missed that flight because it took me 60 minutes to cover those 5 kms, when my crush got married to someone else, when I got my first salary, when I stayed up all night to see the sun rise at Marine Drive, when I held hands and walked by Juhu beach as the sun set in the background, when I became a Chartered Accountant.

It’s been around when I felt lonely amongst 1.2 billion people, when India lifted that 2011 World Cup, when I got an all India rank, when my future plans were ruined, when I wanted someone to pull me back up, when I wanted everything and nothing at the same time.

There are some chapters which ended on a happy note and some had to be left unfinished. That’s what life is all about, those small moments in between all the milestones.

It clinged on to me when I had made up my mind to leave the city for good.

Who are you Mumbai?

Convert that headstart

If you are reading this, you’re probably the limited few who have access to electricity and internet. Probably we are so used to being engrossed in the surrounding that we do not realize how privileged we are for being where we are.

I recently joined ToastMasters International wherein one of the speakers shared his story from living on the footpath across the street to the ToastMasters stage. His story just gave me goosebumps. I feel so lucky to have all the comfort of my life and the ease with which I have access to all such platforms and then there is this person who had nothing to reach where he is today. And what have I achieved inspite of never having to struggle for my bread and butter and have always had a roof over my head.

At a place where I work, I met a 24 year old who lost his Mom at a very young age and his father last month. He has been working since last 7 odd years. He has not been able to pursue his studies because he had to take care of the basic necessities of himself and his younger brother and grand parents. He had to give up on his personal dreams and aspirations to take care of his basic necessities. In all these years, I have had a smooth sailing and have never had to look into my pockets before following my dreams and aspirations.

But have I made it far ahead? Have I made it large enough? Have I been able to convert that headstart to accomplish and achieve something?

Is it not similar to a Test Match where every team looks to have a first innings lead and convert it into a victory. But the true fighter is the other team which fights back from losing out on the first inning and converting that into a win. They are desperate to come back from behind and take a leap to prove themselves.

Or probably the Formula 1 race, where all drivers wish to qualify in the practice tests with the fastest times so that they start the main race with a lead with a headstart. Though the true winners are the one who come from behind to a podium finish, is it not a black mark on the front riders who do not convert their headstart into a win?

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It doesn’t matter who you are and where you are from. Whatever lead you have got, in whichever field you wish to excel, the passion that you wish to follow – remember you have that huge headstart over millions of people, access to those resource which majority of the people do not have – convert that headstart & convert that dream and aspirations to reality because if you fail, remember even the tortoise can race ahead of the rabbit. Let us rewrite History and not be that rabbit.

 

#BirthdayMonth

I know I have received a lot of love, hate, excitement, anxiousness, stares, criticism, WTF expressions, flak, temporary block dhamki’s during the last 31 odd days. What started as a fun hashtag on the 1st of December continued to become a crazy schedule for the rest of the 30 days. There was no reason behind it. Just like we had the #100HappyDays hashtag, this was just for the fun of it. The #BirthdayMonth was like any another month but just to up the stupidity quotient a bit at the end of the year and not to live the whole year in the same manner, I thought kuch toofaani karte hai. The Birthday was just another day. After all even new year is just another day, all we need is a reason to get together and party and have some extra fun. The birthday and new year are just another reason to splurge or catch up with a long lost friend. Because in our crazy life schedules, it is only occasions that physically bind us together, rest all is virtual.

But there are some good things that happened as well. I am ignoring the part which people claimed to have been annoyed with (common, it was just one post a day and I know many of you secretly looked forward to ab aaj kya daalega ye). I did not have my birthdate posted on FB for last 2-3 years which I changed this year. A lot of old and new friends pinged/ called me to check if everything was fine with me and we got talking, caught up on life and how things have been at our end. People pinged to enquire when my birthday is hoping that it will stop then 😛

But then birthdays also bring in a few other realisations, how times have changed over the last 27 years. Ye ye, I am 27 and single. With the flurry of wedding/ engagement/ honeymoon posts on my FB feed (atleast one a week) gets me thinking on what am I doing with my life and ofcourse your family, relatives and committed friends just add fuel to the fire (and let’s not forget the new born parents) – and then reality strikes, you’re on the right track Hardik. You do not need to hitch up just because everyone around is or because society thinks its your age to apparently settle down (I still don’t understand why is marriage equivalent to settling down, it more or less unsettles you from your current comfort zone). I would ‘settle down’ when I feel I need someone special to talk to about everything in my life, take a long walk at the beach and play kabaddi with the waves, a long drive just to see the sun rise and fighting for the music to be played, to watch a movie with and cuddle in the corner seat of the theater, cook together in the kitchen and experiment my tasteless food on someone. And that time is just NOT now. I love my own company.

I would rather like someone to ask me, what do you want to do or achieve in the next year, where are you travelling to, what new you plan to do, going back to job or starting of a venture, any social service – and NOT when are you getting married [I am okay with the idea of dating though ;)]

I feel I am more committed to myself this end of 2016. The hashtag post was also about the fact that I would forget it for the first few days to post and then later part of December, I would be excited on what should I post next. It was something I used to look forward to and of course the reactions of the people on my timeline. This year there are several such small changes I tried to bring about in my life. Resolutions on New Year do not help, such small changes daily in my life do. As a friend rightly pointed out, it is more about a bucket list rather than about resolutions. Like I had a bad reputation for never being on time (for no valid reason), so i decided to change that and ensure that I reach before time come what may and have been able to do it and even be vocal about the fact. Brush my teeth twice a day. Eat healthier and more often – I used to always skip breakfast, not even milk and step out empty stomach – now that has changed, a light breakfast is a must. Spend time on myself with a small but daily exercise schedule, joining clubs for communication and leadership skills, etc Be more in touch with people, try and be a little less sarcastic (ok, fine, that is something I do not want to work on), make new friends to hang out with (you do not want to be the kabab mein haddi always)

After spending the whole of 2015 debating whether I should continue with my job or not, I finally called it quits in 2016. I have not had a proper day time paid job in the last 6 odd months, but I am not complaining. It’s given me time again to explore what I want to do and where do I see myself a year down the line (I don’t plan for 5 years). And things have been looking good as I will step into 2017 with several projects on a speed rocket mode. It’s been a great year as it helped me tick off a lot of things from my bucket list, no matter how small they were. The Leh-ladakh trip (immediately after my last working day), bunjee jumping, river rafting at the zanskar valley and at hrishikesh, the solo trip to Golden Temple, the road trip to Coorg, bringing in the new year at Rann of Kutch, watching a movie first day first show. I managed to travel atleast once a month. Life has always been about this small moments of happiness.

There are things I tried to do but failed this year as well. Like wanted to learn a new language, one international trip, writing my personal diary, watch more movies, spend time with friends etc but somehow things did not go as planned so be it. Looking to work on them this year. And not being able to strike up a conversation with complete random strangers.

Heartbreaks? None this year. Phew.

And now, when the hashtag stops with effect from tomorrow, I will miss some of those comments from people, but detachment is part and parcel of life. Isn’t it? We loose touch or interest with several people/ things during the year and somethings do not make it to the next chapter of our lives. People will move in and out of our lives, that’s a reality we need to live with – so let’s deal with it.

I made several new friends over this year, but more importantly I got back in touch with and met so many of my school friends and reliving those childhood days was priceless. Listening to stories on how much things have changed made me realise that we have come such a long way in the last 10 years, Yes it’s been 10 years that we passed out of high school and struggling with the film called Life. And it made me also realise all the stupidity we used to do during school days. Those grades were just a farce and created a divide among people, because there is not a single person I know who has a fucked up life today. Everyone is doing good in what they want to do.

Happy New Year 2017.

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Looking forward to more commitments (non matrimonial of course), more adventures, more gossip and catching up more often and healthier, wealthier, fun filled roller coaster ride ahead. It is not about where you are, but in which direction are we headed to.

Signing off the #BirthdayMonth

P.S: Happy to introduce the next hashtag from tomorrow #TheMonthAfterTheBirthdayMonth. Just Kidding.

Who does your time belong to?

When was the last time you told someone – ‘Cannot make it for dinner tonight. I am stuck with work’?

Sounds like yesterday right?

Who decides how you allocate your time? There are several articles that float online which say that you cannot have it all. Work, Personal Life, Family Life, Travel and Fitness. The articles and even interviews of famous people go on to state that you can choose 2 of these 5 or maybe at the most 3.

And why is that so. In the quest to become the King/ Queen of a segment we forget that it is ok to be the jack of the rest? Or globalisation and specialisation has gobbled up us upto such an extent that we cannot afford to be the second best.

Why it is not okay to leave office on time regularly? That extra hour because the client demanded so or because your senior forced you to or because you are simply a workaholic or maybe you are eyeing that big promotion later this year post which you plan to slow down; maybe, just maybe. And you actually think that you would be able to bring a change in your life and not get trapped further down in the maze.

And it is not just about work. You can extend the analogy to almost everything. Like the life of most of our parents is limited to and revolves around their kids. They work and save that extra penny so that the kids can study better, go on that annual vacation with them, buy them that birthday gift – what are they doing for themselves. Some liberals may argue that doing so makes them happy but that’s how the society has accustomed them to become.

We at times are not able to allocate equal time to say the least to our parents, the friends with whom we grew up with and even our respective better halves while trying to manage our career aspirations. I have not even touched upon the ‘ME’ space or the fitness goals or our hobbies which lie in some corner of the house in the slam book gathering dust.

When was the last time you just took the car keys and drove down the highway with your friends blasting loud music, when you planned that impromptu dinner with your family, when you cleaned the dust from the guitar or the fungus gathering on your sports shoes.

When was the last time you did something unplanned? Or maybe took that extra effort to plan something from scratch to end to bring that genuine smile on someone’s face. And that sense of satisfaction for your own self.

It is perfectly fine to be ambitious and have career aspirations and being a workaholic and want to climb up the corporate ladder. But just like we have the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, our lives cannot revolve around just one thing come what may.

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Image Source: Google

We may have an excess of something at a point in time and in deficit in another. And who decides this? Not the circumstances or the situations. That is always the easier way out.

It is you who decide the priorities of your life, you allocate a part of your time to them. Maybe not literally, but subconsciously you do. When you decide to skip the dinner  with your school buddies because you have that extra assignment to complete; you preferred that assignment over your friends – yes, you did not mean to do so and had all the intentions to go but in ‘Life’ intentions do not always count – actions do. You skipped that weekend cricket tournament because you had to attend a distance relatives wedding, you allotted your time to the family function over your personal interests.

Some choices are difficult and some you generally make in a fraction of a second. You do not regret them in a long while to come. You may not even realise that till someone does a reality check and walks out on you giving up on all hopes and expectations. By then probably it is just a tad too late but as the cliche goes, better late than never.

Choose right and remember you live only once. Do the things that make you happy and feel contended and satisfied. Work that extra hour if that is what you crave for but remember that comes at a cost. A year later, your school friends may not be around or maybe that relationship did not see the light of the day because a year back they were not your priority and today you are not theirs.

We always talk about the time value of money, but have you ever measured the money value of time? You can earn the money back, but can you get back the lost time? Somethings do not come with a reset button, and that is Life itself.