#Not a political Post
It was the year 2014 when we were travelling from Nagpur to Mumbai by III Tier AC train after selling our Swift Car as we could no longer afford the EMI. We met a gentleman sitting across to us, who was very interested to know that we young kids (as he called us) were entrepreneurs. We had left our high paying MNC jobs to start our own company. We were naïve back then. We had big dreams and were overconfident of our capabilities. We thought we could pave way for new technologies that too from scratch, one 100% shudh Indian, for Indians. Boy! Were we crazy of what?
The market we were trying to enter was heavily crowded with international companies and giants who had their monopoly in that sector. Not only were they dominating the market, the customers themselves believed in them. Anything else, was sub-par or as Mrs. Sarabhai would quote, “down-market”.
We were way ahead of our time, and the people were stubborn and not ready to accept anything Indian.
With no investment, no projects, no jugaad, we were in too deep.
It took us ten plus years, personal sacrifices, and tonnes of struggle to be where we are today. In this journey, we have lost friends, been the laughing stock for relatives, gained some true friends who are true gems and also been the source of lot of backtalks. We have been through so many lows and there have been a fair share of ups as well. Else, how do you survive?
Just like in the movie “Life of Pi”, Pi Patel gets to a floating Island, so he could make through the rest of his journey to the shore, we have had our share of islands, many too often.
Cut to the train ride, this gentleman tells us the story of his Brother-in-Law, here in termed as “BIL”, who had started his own business. While everyone around him was enjoying the benefits of being in a secure job, the BIL, was struggling to keep afloat. He lost his house to debt, almost, twice. Everyone made fun of him and his wife was ill-treated wherever they went. Everyone said he was foolish but the day he struck gold, he outnumbered everyone he knew.
We shared with him how policies in India were not conducive for Indian Companies to grow and nurture. For example, SEZs zones have wide arrayed benefits to MNCs and the criteria to get into an SEZ was that you should have minimum 75% exports. This means, you should receive maximum funds in Forex not Indian Rupee. So, if you are serving Global Market, you get premium benefits from the government and if you serve Indians, you get zero benefits.
Banks don’t give loans, neither do you get any relief or rebate from the government. No wonder most of today’s startups succumb to Venture Capitalists and sell away equity far too quickly.
But we were stubborn, even more than our fellow Indians and we had a thick resolve.
The gentleman heard about our share of struggles and although he had no idea how deep in shit we were, gave us his blessings. He asked my husband for his visiting card and as the ride was about to end, he said, “I’ll save this card for the day I see your company’s name on paper, I will know that you have made it.”
That one sentence really brought a broad smile on our faces and it surely was one of those floating islands that helped us to move ahead and survive.
Many years later, after a steep growth in our turnover, things are definitely better for us, at least they were, before the Global Pandemic.
No one pays us salary to work from home. No relaxation in TDS or GST filings whatsoever. We have to pay our share of Rent, Maintenance, electricity for our offices no matter what and have to again strive for survival. Because if we don’t, its Game Over for us which we cannot afford to do as we have put 10 years of our life into this. All the while also paying salaries, while living the life with joy and being thankful for each day.
Life cannot be taken for granted, no matter what!
Now amidst all this, remember, many such companies like us are struggling to pay salaries, provide services and pay taxes and dues without worrying how the pandemic will have a long term effect on all of this. Remember these businesses are not Multi National Conglomerates and they do not have reserves or thousand workers on their payroll. They are still out their doing their job.
My local supermarket vendor drove himself to deliver a packet of sanitary napkins when I needed it urgently. This is what business today is doing to survive. Trying to get mangoes to your home, or trying to make sure you get internet at your house for that matter.
These are the same people who were sent back from banks because they are not salaried. They cannot take a vacation like salaried people. They cannot leave work outside when they step in their homes.
So today, when the Government announces funds for MSME, feel a little pride that people like us see a ray of hope. Do not crib on Social Media as to how disappointing it is for common man. Don’t tweet like Chetan Bhagat saying Indian Products are of Low Quality.
Start believing in Indians who have stepped out of their comfort zone to make India proud, and capable and Self Reliant. Don’t write them off just yet.
Just like you love your Hollywood Avengers and Joker and McDonalds and Google Products, appreciate a local movie that can be as good, say Tumbbad or your local burger joint or an Indian Product or an Indian App. These are the small-time dreamers who make just as good products and can beat these giants if you give them a chance.
Take pride in what your country makes. Remember that today, we are all we have.
If anything, this pandemic should teach us the importance of “Local” companies.
Swades might have taught you how to not be proud of India but don’t wait for another movie to be an eye opener.
Be wiser. Go Local. Be Indian. Dil Se!