Since June 2017, Bengaluru-based Saswati Suchipadma has led a hectic life. She is a full-time technology consultant in a multinational company and runs a handmade jewellery start-up. “I have meetings with clients in the US, and deadlines both at office and with my personal business clients," says the 26-year-old. “All my free time during weekdays and weekends goes into designing jewellery and marketing my brand over Facebook and WhatsApp." It’s like keeping two jobs together, says Suchipadma. However she doesn’t want to quit either. “My technology job is what I studied for and the start-up is my passion, what my mother taught me," she says, “and now I’ve learnt to manage both together efficiently." Her manager at work has also accepted the start-up since her work hasn’t suffered. In addition, Suchipadma feels being in a job is actually good for the start-up as she gets more clients for her jewellery designs.

Riding in two boats

A whopping 90% of Indian start-ups fail within the first five years, according to a study titled Entrepreneurial India by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics in mid-2016. The most common reason for failure, according to the study, is lack of a unique business model and new technology. Gurugram-based Aparajita Roy, a 28-year-old photographer and corporate trainer, is happy managing a start-up and a job while she learns more. “I am from a middle-class background and want financial stability in my venture before I quit my job," she says. Since five years, Roy has been working as a corporate trainer in a UK-based financial firm. Her start-up, an event planning and photography venture, began a little more than a year ago. The going has been good with 15 clients in one year, but not good enough for Roy to quit her job. “A full-time job guarantees regular pay and being in a corporate environment exposes me to a lot of business and networking tactics," says Roy.

Running your own business, in India, is complex, and your job, especially if you’re working in a corporate, can teach you new things and offer a useful network for your business. Samir Sahu, a product manager in a German company and currently based in Darmstadt, Germany, takes lessons from his job which he then applies to his start-up. “My job helps me learn the process and get live knowledge while facing challenges as well as free business lessons from my boss who is the CEO," says the 29-year-old. The start-up idea itself came to Sahu thanks to the job, which he has been in since May 2016. “I realized that I have a passion for building a software from an idea, something that I do in both my job and my start-up," he says. Sahu doesn’t believe there is conflict of interest in the two roles.

The challenges

The biggest challenge that people who run both a job and a start-up simultaneously is time management. Roy’s typical day begins by 10am when she reaches her office. Between breaks, in the evening and during weekends, she brainstorms with her co-founders on how to manage competition, coordinates with vendors and does marketing online. Sahu’s weekends, early mornings and late nights are taken by his start-up since April earlier this year. Life has been hectic with 16-17 working hours per day of work and fast-food in between. Though his spouse and family have been supportive so far, Sahu knows he needs to choose between the two. Sticking to the financial security of the job, he aims to get a few more clients and also explore the option of transferring what he does at his job to his start-up, before quitting formally. “Though it sounds difficult, I’m passionate about this and want to do it," he says.

Sahu might be on the right path. A study published by CB Insights in 2018, titled Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail, lists “no market need", “ran out of cash" and “not the right team" as the three top reasons for start-ups failing. All three reasons imply a lack of leadership and business maturity in the founder, feels Bengaluru-based Abhishek Parik.

Parik worked for a few years in a full-time job at a car rental company before launching JiffyCars, a self-drive cars aggregator start-up, earlier last year. “My job taught me operations, business development and other business related activity including legal and accounting," says the 36-year-old, adding that it also helped him save so he could brave the start-up world and survive for at least a year without regular salary before his venture made some money.

Like Parik, Samir Kar, a 42-year old e-commerce specialist, was inspired by his current job in an e-commerce MNC he works for, to start his own business. In early 2017, he launched his e-commerce platform for listing creative professionals. He doesn’t want to quit his job as he loves what he does and can manage both. “Quitting my job is not an option because both my start-up and my job are interrelated and aid each other," he says, adding that his job teaches him how to meet targets, build the right business modules, discipline and manage a team—all of which will help his start-up as he builds it. “All entrepreneurs should learn basics from a job in a corporate, see what the challenges are, how to manage a team and make a business model to compete with competition, before you chart out on your own," he suggests.

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