Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I believe - in myself

After all the hype about placements and salaries, here's an interesting story. About a guy who's walked away from it all to pursue his own dream.

22 year old Abhishek Thakore, a second year student from IIM Bangalore could very well have joined any company of his choice. With an enviable 3.5 CGPA (placing him in the top 20 of the batch) and a summer job with Deutsche Bank in Singapore, Abhishek appeared all set to become the quintessential yuppie managing risk funds.

But Abhishek has taken the radical decision of dropping out of placement. The risk he's managing is a million times more. It involves laying the most difficult bet of all - on himself.

Taking the Big Leap
"On the one side was the corporate world filled with certainty of a job, a steady income and great prospects of growth," says Abhishek. "On the other, was complete uncertainty". However, over the four months that he spent on an exchange programme in Germany, he got time to take a retrospective look at his life.

With people like Deepak Chopra and Anthony Robbins being his inspiration, he consolidated his dreams and decided to take the leap - which he says was the closest he's ever come to bungee jumping. "I realised that the first person I need to sell the idea is myself. Once that would happen everything else would fall in place, I was sure."

So what exactly is Abhishek's 'Big idea'? His dream is to set up a company that imparts "life skills training" to students. "The mission of my life is to help people discover their true dreams and equip them to achieve them," he says. "We are going to be a human technology distribution company."

The first tentative step in this direction is a series of camps for school and college students branded "Ways of Winners" which will cover everything from effective studies to negotiating with parents.

In the March 21 issue of Businessworld magazine I'd done a small feature on Abhishek titled "Giving placements a miss". (registration required to access)

The Big Idea
"We are here to offer what traditional schooling misses out on."

The contention is simple: As students, we all mug up facts, figures and dates. But knowing where in India railway coaches are manufactured is of absolutely no use to you once regurgitated in the exam. The challenges young people face on a day to day basis - from handling relationships, to managing time and earning pocket money - are what 'Thakore Learning Centre' will be addressing.

Personally, I think there is definitely a need for this kind of a program. Parents are often wrapped up in their own problems, teachers generally unapproachable. Underneath their gung-ho exterior, a lot of young people are terribly anxious and insecure. And carrying these insecurities into your adult life is a sure shot recipe for personal and professional mediocrity.

Dreaming a little dream
MBAs turning entrepreneurs is not exactly a new story. But here again there are those driven by conventional opportunities - IT, consulting, CAT coaching classes. Quitting a secure job to start a business is always dicey - but success or failure is mainly dependent on the soundness of your execution. A market per se exists.

The likes of Abhishek howeever, are driven by impossible sounding dreams. The dreamers believe they can create a market. That they have something unique to offer to the world. Something the world needs - but doesn't yet know.

12 years ago I too had a similar, impossible sounding dream - to start a youth magazine. And I too opted out of placement to pursue it.

The logic was simple: once you step on the corporate treadmill, it's hard to get off. So I joined a large media company - an out-of-placement job at a really miserable salary. But, I knew it wasn't my ultimate destination. Just a pit stop where I could learn the ropes of the business.

Yet, a certain sense of complacency began to set in. One fine day realisation dawned - I had to 'just do it'. The magazine had already been published in my head and yet, unless I took the leap into the unknown - it would never see the light of day.

Thus was 'JAM' born into the world - kicking and screaming. Almost ten years to the day I made the decision, I can only say that today, it would have been that much tougher.

A menu of your choice
When I graduated - in 1993 - the jobs on offer were nowhere near the kind offered today.There were no foreign postings or dollar salaries. Average rupee salaries were also far more modest.

Now, the goodies on the placement table are far, far more tempting. It's like walking away from a lavish 5 star buffet - because you'd rather have simple food in your own kitchen.

Like most 5 star buffets, the so-called 'hot jobs' often turn out to be rather bland. But over a period of time you get addicted to the ambience and your tastebuds adjust to the situation.

Abhishek on the other hand may occasionally tire of 'ghar ka khaana' and wonder whether he made the right choice after all. But that's only human. If the dream is strong and vibrant, the doubts will come and go. But eventually fade away.

Should all MBAs be entrepreneurs? Not for a moment would I suggest that every IIM graduate should follow in Abhishek's footsteps. Or mine.

But I do think we need to devise a more 'thinking' approach towards campus placements. And what it is we really want from our lives.


  1. in a way MBA education is supposed to make men out of minnows and it is nice to see the examples shining out from the program finally.

    what is importnat about the dreams like love.. it is better to have loved and lost then not to have loved at all..

  2. I don't know if you would remember, couple of eyars back, Vardan Kabra, an IIM A alumnus didn't really opt for highly-paid placements but set out to start a chain of schools called Fountainhead all over India. Great initiative!

  3. A B-School is not expected to produce entrepreneurs, only to produce managers. However, even if a handful out of all their alums turn entrepreneurs, prosper, create wealth for themselves and their stakeholders, touch society at largel; it adds quite a few stars before the school's name.

    You and Abhishek have been such people, and I wish you the very best !

  4. "The mission of my life is to help people discover their true dreams and equip them to achieve them," he says.

    The only problem with this statement is people do not dream enough. You can help achieve dreams only if people have them. I am glad the guy found his.

    Much respect to you for taking the road less travelled.

  5. Rashmi,
    I came across your blog recently and your recent writings on rediff.com also. Then i noticed a thing that you have questioning tendency and helping young people open up their mind.
    Your efforts in this direction are commendable.
    People like you are our role models that give us strength to follow our dreams. It is not that we never dream but when we dream we never think of materializing our dreams because of our tendency not to do something out of league.
    SO examples set by people like you are source of inspiration for us.

  6. It takes more than gumption and guts to make such a decision and hats off to Abhishek and you for going the way. Somehow, and I do feel a little crumby admitting it, but I thought, after reading countless JAMs, that Abhishek would get sucked into the corporate deluge. Hehe nice to know I am wrong. Hurrah for JAM, it changed my life around - those were the 3 best years of my life!!

  7. Anonymous5:46 PM

    All things said and done, i suppose entrepreneurship is labelled as different. There is no point in minitiarising the MBAs (employees) by entrepreneurs who feel that they are better coz they are different.

    The fact of the matter is that both the lines are equally brilliant. I appeal to entrepreneurs not to upgrade themselves by degrading the conventional MBA guys who land up with a job (and there are many who like that).

    Also certain entrepreneurs cannot work under people hence they take up an independent line.

    Due respects to Rashmi Bansal, but JAMMAG is nothing but gossip that can only be destructive, not constructive. It would have been better had she been a knowledge sharer rather than a gossip one.

  8. I hope Thakore's enterprise doesnt get pushed into the self-help gimmick bracket, but becomes a well recognised educational insti.

    Takes guts/youthful headstrong minds to throw away guaranteed comfort.

    Very interesting. Nice blog.

  9. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Afterall, MBA stands for "Master of Business Administration" and not "Slave of Business Administration"!


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