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What it takes to choose your own path?

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Last year, around this time I was desperately looking for a job in the waste management sector.

I had received a campus placement offer in Ola in December 2015 and was set to join on 4th July along with over 15 students from my Institute.  My parents and friends were super-excited about it as it was a high paying job and was a great start for my professional career.

I reached home in Chennai from Banaras on 1st of June 2016 thinking that I was set to join my first job in a months time.  Over the next two weeks, as I was inching closer to the joining date, I started wondering about what I really wanted to do with my career (apart from earning money of course).

Over 5 years in college, I had developed an interest for waste management but had always had doubts in my mind if I should explore a career in this field of interest or should I look for a high paying job for financial stability first. I remember reading the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016 in March 2016 and thinking that it had great business potential. I was very clear in my head that I wanted to make a sustainable business case to solve this ever growing problem. But had no clue how.

As I started thinking about beginning my professional career in more detail, I realized the following

  • There is no good time to take the leap of faith as we are never really prepared for it
  • As a Marwadi Jain, there are family pressures to get married early.
  • My interest in the sector was not strong enough for me to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted to do.
  • I was not confident that I would be able to come out of my comfort zone of high paying jobs to explore this interest in the future
  • There were not many waste management companies in India.
  • My salary was going to be significantly lower than what I would earn at Ola

So many other thoughts came to my head, but I just asked myself a simple question – What is the worst that could happen if I took up a job in the waste management sector instead of Ola?
Well I would not have liked the job or the pay would have been unsustainable and I would have realized that this particular interest was not my passion. I would have then looked for a job in the corporate sector again and I had confidence in myself that no matter what I would find a decent paying job and then build my career from there.

So with this confidence, without discussing with my parents or friends, without a back up plan, without another job in hand, on June 17th I wrote an email to Ola saying that I did not want to join as I had other plans.

I took this rather rash decision because I knew this was the only way. The offer of the high paying comfortable job was too tempting compared to the pain of looking for a job in the waste management sector. I would have been easily convinced by my parents and friends to work for a year in Ola and then decide to explore as I would have something to show on my resume if things went south!

As the days went by, I did not know how to break the news to my parents. I had started actively looking for waste management start ups in India. I hoped to get a job before July 4th (joining date of Ola) so that I would have something to show to my parents.

But well things did not go as per plan so by 1st or 2nd of July I told my parents I’m not joining Ola. They thought I was just kidding! It gave them a real shock when they actually realized what I had done. As expected I had a difficult time convincing them about my decision and as expected they eventually convinced me to try to join Ola again. So with much reluctance I wrote to Ola asking them to accept me again that I made a rash decision in the heat of the moment.

This was such a difficult period. Ola representatives said they would be able to decide after two weeks but there was not much hope of accepting me again. So now I started applying not only to waste management companies but to any company I could possibly find online. This was the withdrawal mode where I started questioning myself if I had made the right decision!

There were so many thoughts about how I did not HAVE to pursue a career of interest, how I was willing to accept a normal mediocre life without having to take risks in life.

Fortunately or unfortunately Ola did not accept me again and I was not able to find a job in any other sector. A couple of waste management start ups offered me jobs but somehow the idea of working in those companies did not create a good picture in my head. They were not working towards solving the root cause of the actual problem.

The entire month of July was so stressful sitting at home while most of my friends had already joined their jobs in different cities. I was starting to feel I had made a HUGE mistake that I would regret all my life.

But ultimately, on July 25th I decided to join Saahas Zero Waste in Bangalore as an intern as I could not sit at home any longer and also I would get an exposure into the sector.

In less than a week, I knew that this is EXACTLY what I wanted to do. Looking back I think this was one of the best decision I had taken in my life. It seems so obvious now that this was the only right way for me. My parents have also gradually come to accept my decision.

I feel perfectly at home at Saahas Zero Waste. The work, the core ideology exactly matches with my philosophy and the team that feels like family. There not much more I could have asked for.

Over  the last year of working I have learnt more about the sector and about myself but I feel there is a long way to go. There is tremendous scope for business interventions while creating environmental and social impact at various levels in this sector.

As I wrote over two years ago in my blog post My Inner Journey ,my story has finally begun. Yes there are challenges I still face (about which I will write some other time) but I am excited to go to work everyday.

I sometimes wonder how life would have been had I joined Ola instead of exploring my interest. But that is something I will never be able to know for sure.

This is a path I chose for myself. I don’t know where the destination is but I’m enjoying the journey and that is what matters to me!

 

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Saahas Zero Waste Business Model gets CII recognition

The tag Emerging Entrepreneur has a nice tone to it and I am thankful to CII, Southern Region for recognizing me as one of the Emerging Entrepreneurs in 2016. The start- up world today is filled with young, energetic entrepreneurs. At the age of 50+, it feels good to be included in this club. The […]

via Saahas Zero Waste Business Model Gets CII Recognition — Saahas Zero Waste


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Do you lose anything by complaining?

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At every phase of our lives, on every day we complain. About the weather, about corruption and politics, about how our friends are travelling across the world and we are siting in the office and working. “I wish I was travelling around the world like him for work; I don’t like my job; If only I could also be as attractive as her; ”

We are experts in complaining. Even when everything could be going perfectly, we will find a hundred things to complain about. And then we get advice from people that “Complain karne se kuch nahi hota” “You gain nothing by complaining”. Well this statement is only partially correct. It does not tell you that ” Complain karne se bahut nuksaan hota hai ” or “You lose a lot when you complain”

A simple yet extremely powerful experiment was conducted by Prof. Dan Ariely to understand the effect of the kinds of words and themes we are exposed to and its impact on our lives. Each person had to give a test for 30 mins. One set of people had questions around the theme of love, happiness, cheerful, young, smiles etc and the other set had questions around the theme of old, dull, weak, crying etc. The real experiment was not the actual performance during the test, but the time taken by each of them to walk out of the long corridor to the exit gate.

What do you expect? I’m sure you already know the answer of which group of people walked out faster than the other. We are intuitively good at guessing these things.

Yes the people who gave the first set of questions based around love and happiness walked out faster and the other group walked out slower than they normally would have. This experiment has been tested for enough sample size with different age groups, gender etc to make it statistically relevant.

I think this is a VERY powerful experiment.If an exposure of 30 minutes to a particular theme can have such an impact on us, think about our  entire life. Whenever we complain about anything (even casually) it is affecting the way our brains function. So while it is right that we gain nothing by complaining, what is more important to understand is that

Imagine the energy and enthusiasm you would have in your life if you could eliminate all the negativity and focus only on the positivity. When we choose to surround ourselves with positive people, read positive things, STOP complaining about anything and everything, life becomes to much more fun to live.

Try this experiment with yourself. Notice how often you complain about  anything during an entire day for a week. It could be petty issues or huge issues that are totally out of your hands. And then try to stop complaining completely for a week (try for a month for significant results)about anything and everything. Read positive stories of all the good that is happening in the world, distance yourself from negative people.

Let us discuss the results of the experiment once you have done it! 🙂


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What can you learn from a Thelawaala?

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What can one learn from this thelawaala in BTM Layout in Bangalore? 

You would be surprised to know, there’s quite a lot of ingredients of running a successful company that can be learnt by carefully observing this thelawaala.

  1. Build a great product that people love
    This thela-waala makes the best ‘Vada Pav’ I have ever had. It’s a simple item to prepare yet he has his own varieties of chutney’s to make it irresistibly delicious. He realizes that the only way to run a successful business is to make something people truly love.
    He has a limited set of products – Bajji (a few varieties), Bread Pakoda, Bonda and Vada Pav. Too many options may lead to a paradox of choice for the customer. He uses good quality oil (replaces it every day as well), fresh vegetables and branded packets of bread so you know that there is no compromise in quality.
    I would highly recommend you to try his Vada Pav ^!!
  2. Don’t stress over Name/Logo
    This shop doesn’t have a name, a fancy logo, yet runs very successfully with hundreds of ‘repeat customers’ like me with a high CLV (Customer Lifetime Value). All you need is a great product with quick service. So FOCUS on that! Your customers would become your marketing team, publicizing through the strongest medium – Word of Mouth. (See ^)
  3. Location and Ease of use matters
    His thela is just before a traffic signal, in front of a car parking lot where there is space for parking my bike as well. I drop my friend (in Pic) near the signal usually and get hooked up to eat at his thela even if I wasn’t intending to do so initially.
    When you set up your organization, know who your target customer is and set up shop close to them. Also be wary of all the other factors that might hinder the customer behavior like obstacles of parking (in the offline world but applies to the online world as well)
  4. Ask for genuine feedback
    He regularly asks us for genuine feedback if we liked the Vada Pav or if there is any scope of improvement. You can see that he is not just ‘hearing’ but actually ‘listening’ to what you have to say.
    Once you have built the product, customers will tell you either directly or indirectly through their behavior/expressions. You have to listen and iterate to keep improving (a philosophy called ‘Kaizen’) your product and service. Its a cycle that never stops.
  5. Have a lean and inspired team that connects to the vision
    He has just one team member, but who is equally passionate in his work and greets you with a wide smile. A lean organization with all employees having high engagement and connection to the mission and vision of the company is the real crux behind a company that can weather any storm and come out victorious in the long run. Keep this in mind while hiring.

Next time you are around, let’s go have Vada Pav at this thela!!

PS: I visit him every day only to observe and learn about running a business :p