A job can be a great place to polish skills for your next start-up
What happens when the entrepreneur who has called the shots at his start-up, has to come back to a nine-to-five job
An entrepreneur’s job is full of ups and downs—from finding the right kind of investor to enjoying the sudden success of a business. But what happens when the entrepreneur who has called the shots at his start-up, has to come back to a nine-to-five job ?
“There are challenges. But then every time I have worked in an office, it has been with the goal to learn. And I am doing that now. Challenges in the start-up are different from the challenges in a corporate career, but in both places you end up learning,” says Nikhil Agarwal, director of products for the logistics shipping business at Delhivery, a third- party logistics company.
Agarwal should know. After graduating from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, in 2008 and getting an MBA from Europe in 2009, Agarwal started his career by founding Envisage Media in 2009. He ran this tech start-up for about three years and then sold it to an investor for a profit. Joining Delhivery as an associate vice president was a turning point for him in 2012. He was in a “job” for the first time.
“Delhivery wanted to start a new division called e-commerce fulfilment. I wanted to learn about operations and logistics. It made sense, because without any shred of doubt, I knew I was here to learn and pick up skills which I could use for my next start-up,” says Agarwal. By 2015, he had picked up the skills he wanted and started his next venture—Rusticity—an e-commerce firm for Indian handicrafts.
Rusticity, meanwhile, did well and Agarwal ran it for two years. While the business was stable, growth had stagnated and Agarwal already knew by then that he wanted to pick up more skills. So, at the beginning of this year, he decided to head back to Delhivery as director of products for its logistics shipping business. Rusticity, meanwhile, continues to run on an almost autopilot mode, with its own small team and Agarwal chips in on weekends.
The tough parts
According to Agarwal, he has been lucky. The management has given him a free hand as long as he delivers on the objectives and expectations of the company. As it is also a five-day work week, Agarwal has at least eight days a month where he can work on his own venture.
“I was also given a lot of freedom along with the responsibility. I was answerable to somebody but there was no micro-management, in terms of how I had to deliver. On top of that I was learning heaps, making the process extremely enjoyable,” he says.
The bigger challenge for Agarwal was the one in his head: “The perception that jobs are ‘boring’ is a tough barrier to overcome post founding a start-up,” he says. There was another challenge with taking up a job, which is finding the boundaries. He explains that in his own venture, there were risks and challenges, but there were no boundaries. “I could take my venture in whichever direction I wanted, spend the money where I wanted, and take decisions. This lets one earn disproportionate amounts of money and experience. In a job on the other hand, you can only do so much at the end of the day—be it earning or learning,” adds Agarwal.
Agarwal had a few formal and informal mentors at Delhivery who helped him learn the tricks of the trade. Along with that, a lot of learning on the job is what made the company a good option for him to come back to.
“One thing that I have learnt in a start-up is to do whatever is necessary for a job to get done. Whether we like it or not, it is an important element to be successful in a job situation as well,” says Agarwal. That said, he does agree that setting up a start-up is always accompanied by a feeling of uncertainty—be it the future of the venture, or handling the family’s expectations or even your own time. A job is more stable—and allows one to enjoy a better lifestyle. In his first start-up, Agarwal had to make elaborate business plans and reach out to investors. This exercise now came in handy at Delhivery, where after setting up the business unit he had to find customers for it. “I had to go through the same process. And I could do that successfully because of my past experience,” adds Agarwal.
Back to a Job looks at start-up founders who went back to being an employee.
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