Forget the job, I want your idea

Forget the job, I want your idea

We know you love our annual Cool Jobs issue. Our first issue in May 2007 was titled “I want your job" because that’s how people usually responded when they heard what the people we spoke to did for a living. Among those featured were a man who designed toys; another who played the hottest computer and console games before they hit the market; a woman who travelled the world getting pampered at the best spas; and a man who read and bought books for a living.

In the summer of 2008, we followed up that list with some more jobs in the issue titled “I still want your job", where we convinced you again that a great job is not always about a fat salary package. We found a chief fun officer, a comic book maker, a coffee taster, a film curator and many more people with cool jobs.

But when 2009 came along, cool jobs wasn’t a topic that seemed appropriate at all. On the other hand, we reasoned, there is never a bad time for a good idea.

The “R" word, recession, might have given us collective depression last year, but there were people who managed to break through the clouds and launch some extremely interesting businesses. From the theatrical generation of happiness to creating gardens in balconies to painting advertisements on the sides of cars, these entrepreneurs have hit upon some super cool ideas. We trawled through the ridiculous and the sublime to come up with some of the original ideas for new businesses.

The ideas are in various stages of implementation. While the gardening enterprise, My Sunny Balcony, has become a runaway success within a few months of operation, word about others like the angling business, Monster Fishing, is just spreading across enthusiasts. While all of these are not profitable businesses yet, they are businesses born out of extraordinary imagination.

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Dairy product | Finding a new dessert niche

Past Life

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur," says G.S. Bhalla, 37. After graduating from Delhi University, Bhalla opted to forego studying at a business school and set up his own business venture in 1994. He started institutional business-to-business sales for promotional material for organizations such as Tata Donnelley, CRY and WWF, and had some success with a corporate gifting company. In 2000, he saw the success of BPO companies and decided to look for “the wide space" in the market where no one else was doing business. He found his spot with knowledge process outsourcing (KPO), providing back-end service to healthcare companies in the US.

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Safety pin | Colourful, child friendly syringes

Past Life

Samarth Mungali, 26, a graduate from the Delhi College of Engineering, worked with IBM as a software engineer for two years before applying to the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, for a course in strategic design management. There he met Bhavna Bahri, 25, a commerce graduate who had worked as an accounts assistant with a Dubai-based firm and moved to graphic and Web designing before enrolling herself at NID. Bahri had initially chosen the graphic design course, but switched to the strategic design management course, with the aim of starting an entrepreneurial venture after graduating. The duo thought his engineering skills and her background in graphic design would make them a strong team, so they decided to start a venture, No Formulae, together.

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Casino royale | The lords of probabilities and predictions

Past Life

Hariharan Krishnamoorthy, 29, did his schooling in Thiruvananthapuram and then completed a degree in mechanical engineering at Regional Engineering College, Surathkal—now National Institute of Technology, Karnataka—before joining IBM straight from campus. While in engineering college, he ran into Ashutosh Upadhyay, 28, his eventual partner at LordsOfOdds.com. Upadhyay’s own route to the college was a little more circuitous. “I desperately wanted to get into St Stephen’s (New Delhi) but couldn’t, so (I) decided to opt for engineering as the second option. I got into a state engineering college very near home. But I didn’t find it exciting at all, so (I) decided to travel down south, much against the wishes of my parents," Upadhyay recounts. The young men joined college a year apart but were members of the same clubs and became good friends on campus. But while Krishnamoorthy went to IBM, Upadhyay joined TVS, where he worked on “our desi 100cc and 125cc bikes".

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Road trip | Sharing a cab and freeing our roads

Past Life

Deepesh Agarwal, 30, was working with Motorola India as an engineering manager, where he was instrumental in designing some unorthodox but useful applications of mobile technology. But then the entrepreneurship bug bit and he left his job to join the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. He graduated this year, majoring in entrepreneurship.

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Sunny and green | Gardens that fit any size and any budget

Past Life

My Sunny Balcony is a venture started earlier this year by four gardening enthusiasts—Athreya Chidambi, 31, Shailesh Deshpande, 40, Reena Chengappa, 31, and Sriram Aravamudan, 33. Chidambi works as a Web designer and continues to do so while helping the company with its website. Deshpande works in an environmental consultancy BPO; Chengappa has just quit her full-time job in an IT company to devote all her time to the gardening venture; and Aravamudan is a freelance writer and full-time garden consultant. They have been friends for several years. “I had quit my job a year ago and was doing some freelance writing. Reena’s frustrations at her corporate job peaked at the same time as the idea of My Sunny Balcony took off, so we both work full-time in the venture," says Aravamudan.

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Streaming cricket | Live cricket on your Internet

Past Life

For the last nine years, till June, Jay Motwani was working for Microsoft India. He was looking after sales and marketing for the enterprise business and was given the telecom, media and entertainment verticals to handle. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was one of his clients and together they were hoping to provide the next generation of technological infrastructure for cricket in India.

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Theatrical release | The fun and happiness factory

Past Life

Sunil Vishnu, 32, and Karthik Kumar, 31, met as classmates at the Mudra Institute of Communication and Advertising (MICA) in Ahmedabad in 1999. Though they were studying branding, marketing and communication, what they were interested in was theatre. So they started Sankalp, MICA’s theatre group. After staging four shows over the two years that they were at the institute, they realized that they wanted to build their careers around theatre. “The writing on the wall was there, though, that no one has ever made money from theatre and the market said it was not possible to do it. But we were 23, and we didn’t care what the market was saying," says Vishnu.

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Deals on wheels | Get paid to drive your car

Past Life

Raghu Khanna’s story is one of several false starts culminating in unexpected success. The 24-year-old reckons he was the first student from his Shimla school to get into one of the IITs. That engagement didn’t last very long. After a few weeks, an unenthused Khanna packed his bags and came home. The next year, he took the IIT Joint Entrance Examination again and went back to IIT Guwahati, but this time for the civil engineering programme. Khanna “slogged" his way through first year and earned a seat in the electronics and communication major class. Admission offers from the London School of Economics and Georgetown University, US, came through, but Khanna decided he didn’t want to go abroad: “After seeing people struggling to get US visas, it occurred to me that I should be staying here, near my family, instead of so far away." Still confused about “what to do in life", Khanna got his answer one day when he was stuck in a traffic jam.

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Ocean’s eight | Casting a line in the Andamans

Past Lives

The eight of them were friends, progeny of old Bangalore families, seven of them from the same school (St Joseph’s), going back 30 years. Each of them followed their own career path. Sudhir Makhija spent two decades in advertising and then launched his own company. Suhail Rahaman went into real estate and construction, while Ashwin Ajila set up his own animation and gaming business. Ranga Moola operates cinema theatres, Nakul Shetty runs a unit manufacturing car components, Rumi Minocher owns a travel agency, Jawad Ayaz is the gang’s “serial entrepreneur", while Dev Gupta retired from rally driving to dabble in the property business.

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Floor plan | Meet your neighbours, online!

Past Life

Sumit Jain and Lalit Mangal, both 25, joined Oracle Pvt. Ltd in Bangalore right after graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, in 2006. By July 2007, the two, along with Mangal’s childhood friend Vikas Malpani, also 25 (then an engineer with SAP Labs, Bangalore), had a simple mission: Create a product that would make the lives of millions of people easier. The three engineers quit their day jobs in May 2007 and tried their hand at several ideas (including a service to block telemarketing calls/messages on mobile phones), and six months later launched CommonFloor.com

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Affordable lighting | Light improves the quality of life

Past Life

The founder-CEO of D.light Design, Sam Goldman, 30, grew up in different countries, spending four years in the 1990s in New Delhi. There was also a four-year stint with the Peace Corps in Benin in east Africa, where Goldman lived and worked with farmers in a village that had no electricity, running water, phones or roads. At the time he saw himself as an environmentalist who hated capitalism and globalization. While helping the village set up an agricultural training centre and introducing a Moringa plant-based nutritional supplement for expecting mothers and malnourished children, he saw the benefits economic liberalization was bringing to Benin, just as he had seen it earlier in India. “Businesses came in to the nearest town and its effects were fast— roads, Internet, infrastructure," he says. “Much more than financial aid had ever achieved."

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Bargain boutique | Cool deals on designer wear

Past Life

Radhika Dhawan, 26, has always been a fashion follower. “Not necessarily donning it, but being up to date with what’s going on," she says. She went to the UK for a postgraduate course in retail management. “All my projects were skewed towards fashion," she says. After returning to India, she joined the Italian fashion brand GAS as a buyer and merchandiser. Dhawan loved her job but wanted to do something on her own.

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