One dream at a time, CEO and co-founder, AHA Taxis, Amit Grover’s life has been an exciting journey for an entrepreneur to follow. From his days in the corporate to the times, where a successful entrepreneur starts helping fellow wannapreneurs, Amit Grover has ticked all the right boxes. In his words, “A middle-class boy, who became an entrepreneur and started taking on challenges to solve them with a team in the journey.”
Idols, Inspirations and Spark
Amit completed his graduation from IIT Delhi. He says that a lot of personality for a person gets shaped during college days. Even till the end of graduation, he had no idea, he’ll be investing the working phase of his life in entrepreneurship. Though, it did not happen right off the college. His first corporate experience started with Infosys, where he marked a lucky milestone for the company itself, “I was the 10,000th employee of Infosys. That is the first time I saw mine and everyone’s entrepreneur idol, Shri Narayana Murthi. We have all heard stories of early days of Infosys and how Mr Murthy along with co-founders built this highly esteemed organisation. In India, inspirations were drawn from the likes of Shahrukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and someone like Narayana Murthi. You wanted to do something; you were attracted to these heroes. It is true that for me, somewhere, a spark must have lit at that time for doing something of my own.” Amit shares.
Actually, the question should be, how do you handle a yes? That is not really expected. Virat Kohli hitting a hundred is expected, for the rest, no. So, we should know what we are expecting. Talk to any investor, any seasoned entrepreneur and they say as a matter of fact that they meet a hundred people to say ‘yes’ to one. Thing is, as an entrepreneur, you don’t want a hundred either. You just want that one affirmative.
The Question Of MBA
At IIM Indore, Amit clocked a hundred percent participation in everything he was involved in, “From studies to participating in activities, I decided to be in everything in the 24 hours to go and be at my best,” Amit adds. Amit’s academic trail involves premier institutes like IIM and IIT. He explains how academia can be helpful but not necessarily pivotal, “During MBAs there is scope for learning from your fellow mates and not just faculties. People from all walks of life are there. Though, a lot of what you do with an MBA depends on the individual. As per what MBA can offer, it is driven towards ‘being an employee’, people who can take ownership kind of, of being an employee or being a good manager. The whole principle behind MBA college or institute is to have better managers or employees for different organisations. Starting from scratch is not for everyone. It is not even a large consideration among MBA candidates. Though, in my batch almost 15-20% ended up being an entrepreneur, which is a high number to be fair. I would say, MBA definitely helps in developing the kind of mindset you would need in business.”
Amit further explains how the investment of time in a management school can be helpful for an entrepreneur, “It’s about how MBA can help you in being aware of the basics of business. In the form of condensed classes. This is the same knowledge I would have spent time somewhere outside to receive it.” Would Amit recommend it? “If you are able to learn from the best of the best, I would say yes.”
Networking is often taught as one of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship. Amit breaks it down and downplays its importance, from how it’s commonly touted, “As far as networking is concerned, I would say it is part of the job but not at all everything. If you are an introvert and do not open up with many people, it doesn’t really mean that you are going to miss out on anything. It won’t act like a limitation. However, for B2B types of business, it is always going to be useful. You can get vendors, suppliers, customers quicker. Nonetheless, a good network is not a guarantee for success. There are many businesses, in fact even B2B, which are built on customer value and service without much direct networking. So many examples are available where you might not even know the name of the founder or have access to a number where you can talk to a representative but they are doing very well.”
Different Gates Of Opportunity
Amit’s extensive experience greatly helped him when he ventured into entrepreneurship. “The experience at Asian Paints was about meeting different traders, meeting different people, travelling to small towns of Maharashtra almost every day. It was a good thing; you learn a lot in sales by meeting people,” he shares. The real challenge for Amit came at Onida where he held the managerial position at top level. He had a top-down look at all the functions whether it was R&D, production, supply chain, sales, planning, awards and recognition. “I was privy to all that went to the chairman at Onida. I learnt to handle it all,” Amit adds.
Sometimes, opportunities from the corporate world could give you a chance to make the jump in entrepreneurship. That opportunity comes as a blessing and must be seen as a gateway towards owning and operating something of your own. For Amit, his Chairman’s success as an angel investor and his vision for Amit, whom he wanted to invest in new-age entrepreneurs became that opportunity. “I remember the first deal I cut with Myntra, Mukesh Bansal of Myntra presented his business plan, I did all the legwork in this deal on behalf of my chairman. That is how spending time with entrepreneurs, understanding their thought process, gave me an opportunity to understand entrepreneurship, up-close,” Amit shares. He spent the next three years of his life, from 2007 to 2009, meeting entrepreneurs and helping their ventures in the capacity of a member of Mumbai Angels, an angel investment network.
Life Of An Entrepreneur
Transition to entrepreneurship is not an easy choice. It is daring to opt for but if done in a tallied manner, the risks can subside. Amit smartly tested his waters before the big switch!
After meeting almost a thousand entrepreneurs in three years, the entrepreneur in Amit Grover got the rubbing like Alladin’s lamp. Here, he fills in with a better analogy of his own, “You do bat practice on a practice pitch for three years. Then you realise, you’ve gotten the confidence to get onto the real match. That’s when I actually quit my job. I gave myself 100 days to come up with a new idea and path for myself. 1st of January, 2010, with my first company, Nurture Talent Academy, I walked into the world of entrepreneurship completely.”
Can you be prepared for life as an entrepreneur, I ask him, to which Amit replies, “I don’t think you can be prepared until you live that life. At least from the family’s side, the financial side of matters should be worked in confidence. Because it is going to get challenging. You’ll be giving less time to your family; you’ll be providing less money to your family. You’ll be meeting your partners more than your wife. From an emotional perspective, to take near and dear ones in confidence is also important. Start-up and entrepreneurship is full of failures. There are going to be times where you might not succeed. You might go through a phase where you are trying to get that financial independence as losses and hiccups are bound to happen.” Amit further puts across his views on the possible mitigation that an individual can try when bracing the life as an entrepreneur, “There should be around six months savings in your bank account. Or some way to generate saving as you go along, initially. At least this level of savings for expenses is useful. So, the mind is free of those pressures.”
In a small setup, like a new start-up fresh out of the brain, every decision could be highly significant. As per Amit, one has to be mentally prepared for what it means to become an entrepreneur. “Like all of a sudden not having a business card, a personal secretary, no introduction to give on the phone. From somebody, to you go nobody and then you want to be somebody again,” he warns.
As an individual, identifying weaknesses is crucial for making proper timely corrections in business life. When asked how he identifies weaknesses, Amit quirks, “There is no need for one to identify weaknesses. There are so many people outside to tell you again and again!” He continues by sharing where he lacks, “I’m more of an idea person. Somebody who can think of problems and solutions. I am not really an execution person. Sometimes a lot of time goes in thinking about things. Or maybe you are banking on others to execute your ideas. Am I working on this? Well, one good thing is maybe that I accepted it (smiles).”
Start-up and entrepreneurship is full of failures. There are going to be times where you might not succeed. You might go through a phase where you are trying to get that financial independence as losses and hiccups are bound to happen. From somebody, to you go nobody and then you want to be somebody again.
Are We Ready For That ‘Yes’?
Finding investors and building over their trust is instrumental to any start-up’s success. Per Amit, the only way out in this case is to start proving your ask of investment by delivering. “There is no other way around. You need to start delivering before expecting any yes from anyone. For AHA, despite not being a known name at the start, drivers were coming to us and so were investors, looking at that. It wasn’t easy. It won’t be for any entrepreneur. We went to a hundred investors before getting a yes from one,” explains Amit. Investment deals are always a tough nut to crack. They do not go well for most in the initial attempts, it takes perseverance to wait for the one that is going to value your idea. Amit remarks on this, “Most of the entrepreneurs or start-ups usually give up around their fifth or sixth attempt. It doesn’t work like that.” How do you handle rejections, I ask him back, to which he says, “You take it as a normal thing? That is a pretty much expected outcome. Actually, the question should be, how do you handle a yes? That is not really expected. Virat Kohli hitting a hundred is expected, for the rest, no. So, we should know what we are expecting. Talk to any investor, any seasoned entrepreneur and they say as a matter of fact that they meet a hundred people to say ‘yes’ to one. Thing is, as an entrepreneur, you don’t want a hundred either. You just want that one affirmative. Your journey along the way, as far as investment is concerned, is more important. You can keep noting, what did the investors expect, what did we not deliver, was our story getting sold in the meeting or not. So that you can work on that ‘no’.”
Amit calls on young entrepreneurs to remain a learner for life. He reminds all that advice is so easily available nowadays, be it on internet or from mentors. Keeping himself to his modest best, he also says, “What worked for me, might not work for you. Always walk your own journey. Learn from my journey and that of hundred others but do your own thing.”
To close our meeting, I ask him if there are any regrets with life, to which he quickly declares with ‘absolutely not’. “Everything was perfect and everything is perfect, today. No complaints,” he concludes.
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