Success Quotient is a weekly feature on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
Sanjay Pande, 51, director and fund manager, YourNest Angel Fund, a VC firm, has made several career choices. He is a mentor to enterpreneurs at YourNest. Rookie entrepreneurs need a mentor who can guide them. Pande revels in his role as he knows what it is to take a leap of faith.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Q: Tell us about your background
I come from a very small place, Nainital. At least it was a small place back when I was growing up there. I studied in a school that were taught by Irish brothers and led a very structured life as a student – waking up at 6.30. I lived a life of a boarder because my mother insisted on it. My father is a graduate from IIT-Roorkee and my mother a postgraduate in geography. The importance of studies was dinned into me and my younger brother very early on. My parents were insistent that we had to be among the top five in class and participated in games, too. But it was not an issue with me as I loved taking up challenges.
Q: So you were the intelligent and smart kid who tops his class?
Not really. I never studied hard enough to come first in the class. I was very happy to be in the sixth or eighth position. However, my parents insisted that we do our studies daily and free time was to be reserved for revision. My mother’s insistence on this pattern of study made securing good grades quite easy. I put extra effort into sports and not to get top grades.
Q: You have had several career changes.
I did not set out to join hotel management. I had my heart set on the Indian Air Force and become a fighter pilot, but I had injured my eye and so could not qualify. That was a moment of heartbreak for me. As I was still pondering over a career option, my father would ask me over many months this question: Why don’t you want to be an engineer? One day I told him: I don’t want to because you don’t have the time to spend with the family. I will also end up doing the same thing. My father was in a transferable job in the UP irrigation project and was posted in sites where constructions go on. But to his credit, he did not push me into anything. Though I was good in football, he said I could not make that a career choice. So he helped me identify hotel management as a career and suggested that I set up a motel later.
Q: How was it working in hospitality?
It was a good experience. I worked for six months in the hotel industry and did a variety of tasks like serving food at banquets. I cleaned several toilets and bathrooms. My family was embarrassed to come to hotels where I was working. Hotel management remains a rewarding part of my life. I was very shy in spite of being a sportsman and hotel management gave me a sense of confidence and exposure to life. Very few colleges could have done this. I went on to pursue MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and got into ITC which I left three and a half years as I am into fitness and being in the cigarette industry was contradictory. I changed a number of jobs so much so that my parents were worried who would marry me with no stable career!
Q: How did YourNest come about?
I met my wife while doing my MBA. We started an entity in social entrepreneurship called Disha, direction to kids. During the course of mentoring children, I also became a counsellor and faculty at several universities to make ends meet. In this period of time 2002, I got exposed to outbound training programme. I met Sunil Goyal of Airtel who was our client. I took up a certification from IFC and validated what I was doing. We co-founded YourNest. After a year we roped in Girish Shivani. When we were setting up YourNest, I was still teaching on the side. We explored a year of entrepreneruship and decided to take one more person in the team. We are a VC fund. We only come into the picture after the concept of the startup has got an approval. We only support first generation entrepreneurs. We have invested in 16 companies so far.
Q: What ails entrepreneurship in India?
What many startups lack and why they fail is because they do not have a global approach. Many of the startups do not have awareness what is happening globally in their sectors. Silicon Valley and China have a far more developed ecosystem than we have in India.
Q: What is the trait in you that has helped you?
That I don’t winded up easily. I only do things that make me happy. So I haven’t worked in that sense for a single day. I am unconcerned about money. It is a very important element in everyone’s life but it is not the be-all and end-all of my life.
Q: What is your dream?
A thing that excites me the most is adventure. I would like to promote that with the youth. A spirit of adventure is fundamental for any civilization and entrepreneurship is an indicator of how adventurous a society can be.