Not All the Conversations with Friends at College are Bull Sh**T. Here is one casual conversation which helped me to win a Business Idea Contest in a Magazine!!
I studied in an engineering college, where rules, food & placements are their key selling point. I never heard the word “Entrepreneurship” in my 04years of Engineering. Like most of the engineering colleges in our country, my college is also located almost 35kms away from the city. No one is allowed to bring their food inside the college because they serve the most delicious food. No day scholar was allowed to come by own vehicle for safety reasons. Mobiles were not allowed ( Nokia 1100), all we had was an hr internet session daily and books/newspapers to read.
The first year was such a fun meeting new friends in the hostel & hanging around with them.
I am a guy who always looks for freedom, wants few things on my terms, I felt the hostel was not the right place for me with so many insensible rules even after coming to college. So I decided to become a day scholar, pitched in some of my department friends, 03 guys agreed to join as my roommates, but post-holidays all the guys decided to go back to the hostel (like any other friends, who will back up at last minute). When the college reopened, I was left all alone in the city without any place to stay, wondering what to do. I was disappointed waiting at the bus stand, but I didn’t want to go back to the hostel, because I was determined to come out of my cacoon & explore the new world around me. There were no relatives or even family friends in Chennai.
For a day I stayed at my friend’s house & finally found one more college friend, who was also looking for a roommate. We both met, found a house, and stayed together at Anna Nagar (Chennai). Anna Nagar is one of the best places in the city which is close to my heart even today, my entire college life moved around the streets of Annanagar.
***Tried hard to be a Tech Guy but became a Marketer***
In mid-2000’s read an article, that a college guy in the U.S created a blog and made half a million revenue. I got inspired reading that article & decided to start a blog on my own & make some revenue.
But being an ECE guy I tried hard to clear C language Paper during my first year itself, that’s my relationship with Programing languages. None of my friends had a clue on the website and blogging. With an enthusiasm, I went to the landmark book store in Spencer Plaza (The only Mall in Chennai at that time ) bought a book “How to build a HTML website”, I tried learning but failed miserably. Even today I don’t know to code, though I run a Technology-Marketing Company.
In my search, I found google’s blog spot & created a blog. Later connected with Ad-sense ( Google Ad Sense was a new tool in the market). I started generating content and shared that with my friends on Orkut & waited for 02 months, not even a single penny I got from google though they had used my blog ad space.
I was concerned & later found, that google will pay me the ad revenue only if I have the blog on my domain name for which I needed a credit card, which no one in my known circle had. So I dropped that plan, & maintained the Google Blogspot just for my satisfaction.
Personally, I believe in experimental learning. Till day most of the skills which I acquired were only through my experimental learnings. I am a quick learner & know to extract things from my learnings/observations and implement them in my work very effectively.
Though I wasn’t great at blogging, the process of setting it up helped me to explore new technology tools & pushed myself to write my contents. Even today am not that good at my English writing skill, but starting that blog pushed me to write something in my life.
In my college days, I used to sit close to 02hrs/day at the internet center. Daily I paid 10 Rs/hr for the internet, after a month I felt am paying a quarter of my monthly budget to the internet center. So I decided to crack a deal with the internet guy.
Next day, went to the Internet Cafe,
“Anna, you know I’m a college student. I have very less money for my living as a bachelor, So Kindly consider this offer — I will pay you upfront for 25 hrs ( I will come only during non-Peak hours ) — reduce the hourly rate to 6 Rs/hr for me, he thought for a while & smiled at me and agreed for the deal. Later because of the competition he had adapted my deal and created a package and sold to other regular customers for 7 Rs/hr”
This incident helped me to realize that I might be good at marketing & programming is not my cup of tea.
***The Wiki-ish guy***
I can say I am an information junk. Even though 6 of us shared a flat with only one system still I had an option to google with the slowest Internet. I read a lot of stuff related to business, the founder’s stories, about markets, brands, irrespective of industries & of course politics. This process enabled my interest in Research and Analysis which molded my mind to think rationally & be good at strategy.
Over a point of time, I became a Wiki-ish guy, reading a lot of information in Wikipedia/blogs, my knowledge towards business basics expanded drastically, which built a confidence in me & added fuel to my entrepreneurial dream.
At that time, I know very well that I will become an entrepreneur one day without knowing the word called Entrepreneur!
We had a lot of fun in our daily college bus travel ( Out travel is close to 1.25hrs, just one way ). Our daily activities were teasing one another, celebrity fan war, Sports war, politics war, gossips, etc.
One day in my final year, after my model exam, I walked towards my bus route & noticed one of my good friend Syed Azharudin who was reading a magazine.
I peeped at him and asked “Machi what are you reading & what is this magazine da”
He said, “ It’s a business magazine called ‘Dare’ published by exchage4media & it’s really good “. For some time we were discussing about the magazine.
After a while I asked him, “ Machi give me for a couple of days, I will read and give”. He gave it to me happily.
On that day, soon after I returned to my flats, I read the whole 60-page magazine at a stretch. The beauty of the dare magazine was that it was in simple English & easy to understand.
Dare Magazine introduced me to the following words & concepts in my life:
Right meaning for Entrepreneurship, Startups, Angel Investors, Venture Capitalist, Seed Funding, Series Funds, Business exits, Pitching, Elevator Pitch, How to find your co-founder, Head start network, Startup stories, How to be a part of startup ecosystem & much more. .
I read that magazine until they stopped the edition. I can say, as a first-generation entrepreneur Dare magazine acted as my mentor in my early entrepreneurial journey where I didn’t know anyone in the startup ecosystem.
At the end of last semester, I decided to launch my own startup after my graduation.
The idea was to start an Experiential Mobile Showroom ( After a couple of years only Universal Mobiles launched the concept ) & I lived in that dream for almost 04 months. I named the business as “GetSetGo” created a hand sketch of multiple logos. Started penning down how to give the best In-store customer experience.
Initially, I had plans to open the store in the Tier-II cities & small towns to reduce the overheads and investments, I planned for 4L investment & did not calculate the running cost properly. I thought of crowdsourcing the investments from my parents, uncles & some loan from friends.
Then I started doing the market research. With a series of questions in my mind, I walked in into an Essar’s Mobile Store at Anna Nagar & met the store manager
“Sir, I am a college student — I’m doing a project on ‘How frequently customers are changing their mobiles?’ “, so kindly help me with some answers if you are free Sir. He smiled at me & asked about my college details. Initially, he was casual in answering, but over the conversation, he felt so responsible to give me the right answers for all my questions. I had an hour’s conversation with him and got most of the business information including the store financials”
Over the conversation he said, “Thambi to start and run a mobile outlet, you need at least 20–25 Lakhs Investment but the margins are less”, it shocked me, I was bit disappointed. Later I gave a thought & decided to put my idea on hold because I had no source & my family was not wealthy enough to afford that amount of investment.
So that night, I decided to work for at least three years in a corporate set up just to learn how the corporate business was structured, earn, and save some money for my future business investment. Later I got my offer at the US Based IT Company & started working over there.
***The Big Leap***
Reading the Dare Magazine became my ritual, I added few more magazines in my list like- The Entrepreneur, Fobes & Money Control.
By the end of 2009, In one of the Dare Magazine edition, they called for a Business Idea Contest.
It’s one of the interesting contests. They will give an image, just by seeing the image we need to create a potential Business Idea & mail it to them along with our details. I sat for a couple of days, thought & submitted an idea and was eagerly waiting for the next edition just to know the results.
After 25 days, on a Sunday evening, I & my brother Suganesh walked into a book store at Anna Nagar, bought the magazine.
My heart started pounding to the core & started sweating while I was turning the pages.
The moment I spotted my idea printed in the business magazine, I shouted & jumped out of happiness for the first time in public. Got happy tears in my eyes, even my brother got emotional.
We celebrated by having full Grill Chicken in the nearby restaurant. I called my mom & uncles, conveyed the message, all were happy as I am the first guy in our family to have my name in a magazine.
I sent my business idea for a couple of editions, they recognized my idea & printed in the magazine. Even I got a fancy travel Trolley as a Prize from Dare Magazine which was worth 5k!!
This might not look like a big deal for me or even you today, but that win made a huge impact on my entrepreneurial journey. It gave me a lot of confidence to quit my good paying job & start something on my own.
Even Dare Magazine helped me to find the Headstart Network - India’s largest entrepreneurship ecosystem. I volunteered myself & became an integral part of the organizing committee for the Chennai Chapter & organized multiple entrepreneurship event at IIT Madras. Headstart Network showed a new way in my entrepreneurial journey where I met the most important people who are my close business friends today.
Maybe back then, If I never had that conversation with Azar, things would have been different or I might have started late. I always cherish the conversation & I like to thank him for introducing Dare Magazine to me, which changed my life completely.
So guys not all the conversation with your friends are Bull Sh**t. Few are life-changing, it depends on the kind of conversation you have with the people.
Let us also have some meaningful conversations!! Do post your thoughts in the comments.
More Foxx Stories on my way.!!!