Home Of Pirouettes, Pivots and 25 U-turns

Of Pirouettes, Pivots and 25 U-turns

by Ramesh Natarajan
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1989.The newspapers were all abuzz with the June Fourth incident in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. And they were all strewn around me.

It was a long day at the office in Nariman Point. The noisy fan and the smell of newspapers were killing me. All that I had been doing was collating stories on college games, proof-reading score-sheets and schedules.

Only three days into what would have been my first job –well, 3 too many. Suddenly it was all too obvious. Sports is only my hobby even if it was my passion and love. Rewind a week, I had stormed into the Sports Editor Rajan Bala’s office and convinced him that I wanted to join Indian Express as an intern journalist, much to his amazement and amusement. It was good old days that you could walk into an editorial office and get a job. Or maybe not when I read the stories of placement offers in campus these days.

Was not the best decision of my life, but I am sure if I had not done it then, I would have regretted not trying. I rushed towards it but walked away, just in time. I wonder when they noticed. A week later I was on a train to Calcutta to take up my first real job.

It was only 12 weeks earlier that I had enrolled for cricket umpire exams. Probably topped the exams only to realise that it was going to take me years and many seasons under the hot sun to get anywhere close to test cricket. And that is where that story had ended.

But what had just begun was my life of lovely twists and turns – always moving forward yet abruptly stopping and changing course often. I thought I emerged from IIT confused, yet something magical had happened that I did not notice. More recently I am able to connect the dots looking backward and some of it is beginning to make sense.

Curiosity. Optimism. Enthusiasm. Passion. Hunger. Aggression. Competitiveness. Confidence. I think I acquired them all in fair measure when I turned from being a boy to a man. I can scarcely say with honesty it was all from the hallowed portals of IIT.

From designing & building a CNC flame cutting machine to become a welding electrode specialist.  From a consumer electronics marketer to selling contact lenses, from leading an advertising agency to setting up a road express transportation service from Singapore to China. It has been a fascinating journey of life, of many changes through more than 2 dozen hats.

And here I was at one more of the crossroads about 18 months back that I decided now or never to be an entrepreneur, to uproot myself from the good life of a global corporate executive. It had not been difficult to quit, even a reasonably fetching corporate career at that. Confess between four walls, I was simply too bored after a decade in the same business and needed some new excitement.

To be called entrepreneurial in the comfortable confines of a large enterprise is like playing under arm tennis ball cricket in the nets. It is a whole new ball game when you give up your old calling card to one of your own. “A startup’s default state is failure. As a founder, you have to work to unfail it”. Borrowed words, but this has been my painful yet pleasurable discovery as I cut through the grind of being an entrepreneur.

It was 29 years ago, but I will never forget the first day at IIT Bombay. About 150 people in the classroom and I could hardly see the professor at the end of the room. And our first computer class was in the convocation hall, if my memory serves me right. I think it was all an elaborate ploy to teach us that if you want to learn, it is all up to you. No one else can teach you. One learns oneself. So much like life itself. It is all up to us and our own devices. It took me 4 years and plenty of poor grades to understand this. I had doubted my love for learning. Maybe not Kreyzsig or Timshenko but I loved learning all the same.

There was something exceptional about the campus, my friends and the academic system that did not demand that I attend lectures. Except that I did not realise it then. But the learning has helped me be on the curiosity road for life. Simply enjoy the joy of learning every day.

I am on a new start now. Now it’s all about mobile apps, social media, education technology – a curious babe in the woods, plenty to learn as I move forward. It has been 18 months now. I acquired a small tech company and setup a couple of businesses. Thought I will make an impact on the world of voice of customer and learning methodologies in 3 years. I don’t think either Pearson or Survey Monkey have noticed us yet. Give it some more time – else sell, close or pivot again.

Curiosity. Optimism. Enthusiasm. Passion. Hunger. Aggression. Competitiveness. Confidence. I think I acquired them all in fair measure when I turned from being a boy to a man. I can scarcely say with honesty it was all from the hallowed portals of IIT. Although staring at the notice board with everyone’s marks and grades listed was a lesson in character-building. Like being given out unfairly by the umpire in a cricket match and having to walk back with grace. So much wisdom that the overall environment had given me. More accurately, all sitting in and around Hostel 2.

Proud as I now walk into every room as if I belong. With the confidence of knowledge that I learnt just hanging around there. As they say, there is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. Rest of my journey begins now. But the theme remains the same.

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