Welcome to this episode of Bootstrapping Your Dreams. I’m Manuj Aggarwal and I will be dialoguing with Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Siddhartha is an entrepreneur passionate about building scalable ventures. He loves experimenting and measuring the results of experiments that he has made. He says that “being an entrepreneur provides him with the opportunity to experiment and build something, which can add value to lives to others.” Siddhartha is a co-founder of Sheroes after the acquisition of Babygogo in 2017 and is also the host of the podcast “100x Entrepreneur.”
We’re excited to learn about your journey. So tell us about how you got started as an entrepreneur, and what kind of early experiences did you have.
So being an entrepreneur, I believe, you know, runs in my family, my father has been an entrepreneur, and he’s no more. He expired last year. But he has always inspired me. So I remember being a very tiny toddler too, you know, until being 18 years of age, my father did three to four ventures. And these are not startup either traditional venture. He once had an automobile agency, and there was some government regulation, which crashed, then he had a liquor shop, which also, you know, government regulations happened sometime in India. And in between, he did many things as a businessman. And I found that you know, we were almost, you know, during that time from right from three years of age to my 18-year-old or 21 years, we had many times when we had no food on the table. And I thought that you know, what entrepreneurship could do worst, you know, it couldn’t kill me. So that was my first experience of witnessing my father. Yeah. And he was always extremely courageous in the face of adversity. So, while I was in college, I started preparing B plans. And healthcare was of interest to me. And I thought, let’s build something in healthcare and my co-founder, and I at that point of time was sitting in IM Ahmedabad, and doing the internship. We were 22 years old. One of the IM students asked us to help us in his venture. And he was what he was doing is he was building TVs at railway stations in India. And he asked us to build technology for it. We thought why can’t you know, we also build a similar kind of technology, have our TV in the doctor’s clinic, which could relay important information? And then we started risking doctor clinics in India and we realized our doctors in India didn’t want that, but they asked us, you know, “I have a computer sitting idle at my reception and our receptionist was untrained in it. Can you help build something, you know, so that my patient data could be captured.” And that’s how my first idea came. You know, four people in college who started building on the idea of then graduation hit and we were all from middle-class families, have to support our families and family expectations were like once we graduate, all of us will have good jobs. Nine months down the line, you know, I was dissatisfied. And I thought, you know, I have to do something about that idea for my uncle in the US. He was interested, he was an army veteran in India, and he relocated to us back in the early 2000s. He said that he will support my venture if I start to go full time in it. I see. So, so at that point in time, you know, I, he and I partnered together. And that was my first experience with a large failure. Also, I say, so. So we built a hospital management system, not from starting, you know, okay. And within one and a half years, we were while we were building the technology, my uncle lost his job and he was the one supporting the venture. So we had to shut that down. But you know, I am you can call it out good or bad quality? I was overly optimistic. I don’t I cannot give up. You know, actually, my father said what was could happen. Well, I will give it a try. For sure. So, I thought instead of a hospital management system, let’s go back to the original idea of a clinic management system in India, because, in India, Dr. Clinics are not well equipped with technology, because of the huge patient who Dr. Nation is Dr. Theatre on 50-100 patients per day. And then I went to Bangalore, though I have done my technical education in my bachelors and masters and I did my B.Tech and M.tech from Indian Institute of Information Technology in Gwalior. I thought this get on the technology side, founders were better than me, they have a better product. And I went to Bangalore, after a few months of research. And there I found, you know, at an Android conference, Satyajit Karnati. So he was an IITian and alumni of IIT Guwahati, working at Oracle. And he also had a startup bug. And we And my answer to the discuss a few things, you know, during the conference, Android conference, and after the conference, and almost we dated together, like dated each other for two months, discussing ideas, that’s how two founders met, and he agreed to come on board and also Satyajit’s best friend Saurabh who Satyajit hacked together in IIT Guwahati who used to code at night and call it labs and do some hacking and programming stuff. So he also came on board as a co-founder. That’s how, and that’s how we built our first little management solution, which was deployed in almost 100 clinics in India. In that scale, we were charging a doctor $200 to $300 a year. During this time, we had acquisition offers from two of the large Indian companies, healthcare, Proctor and 1mg. We were foolish enough to ignore those offers and said that you know, somebody is validating us that means we are doing something good. This is the first validation, except the customer’s appreciation that we have got, so let’s keep building it. And we were lame enough to quote some very high numbers. The companies said not to make these scripts alone.
Well, that’s, that’s an amazing story. And there’s a lot of lessons packed into that short journey that you shared with us. So one is, you know, obviously, I come from an entrepreneurial family as well. And I think, you know, just living through that journey, your parent’s journey or your, or your relative’s journey, you get to experience what entrepreneurship is all about. So I think that’s a good advantage. But even if you don’t come from an entrepreneurial family, I think there’s a lot of information available out there, there are a lot of people willing to help give you that experience and sort of encourage you and, and make you aware of all the ups and downs that will come in this journey. So you know, that’s something that everybody should understand. And get ready for, I guess, and, then you sort of went on to build ventures and experienced all those hardships and never gave up. So congratulations on that. So, you know, once again. The important lesson is in this field, you just have to keep going even in the face of extreme opposition or hardships.
Absolutely. And both my co-founders I would like to say, though, I had a business family background, they are from traditional families, south Indian families, which are very conservative. Satyajit’s father was a teacher and Saurabh’s father was in the bank, State Bank of India, again, a government bank. So they were highly opposed to the idea of you know, jumping along with a crazy guy, full time into entrepreneurship. So they almost worked for one year, when I was full-time, they work part-time in Microsoft and Saurabh was in Microsoft in India and Satyajit in Oracle. And at one after one year, they just quit, they said we cannot handle it. Well, you know, having daytime and being a nighttime entrepreneur. We need to be full time.
Sure, sure. All right. That’s great. So talking about your co-founders, I read in one of your posts that one of your angel investors, Mr. Santosh Panda, he advocated that you find a co-founder first. And he emphasized that if you cannot even find a co-founder, then there’s no point in moving forward. So tell us about that story.
So as I said, when I quit from my uncle’s venture when we were together, I went to Bangalore, because I found that in Delhi area in India where they are, they are more business people, but a lack of tech people and we are talking back in 2013. I see. And I first went to attend a conference called picon. And I found that in Bangalore, they’re extremely supportive tech people who are ready to share. So I thought to relocate to Bangalore, for a couple of months. So I stayed at my friend’s house there. Okay. And then I started going to different conferences. I see. And that’s how I met my first I, Mr. Santosh Panda, I found him on LinkedIn. He was very popular. So I thought to write to him. Santosh replied to me. And after persistence, he said, finally, that he would meet me for coffee. ‘You know, you have been very persistent, I think. And once Santosh agreed to meet, you know, you were in a coffee house. I showed him all the mockups. But I didn’t have the prototype, I had mock-ups of my software called Addodoc. He said ‘this is the beautiful software. But you know, you need to have co-founders. Who will you go to build it with? I said ‘I have nobody, you know, what I’m looking for? He said ‘if you can’t find co-founders for your venture. Just give it up. That’s the first advice. And that advice struck me and only very sharp. Some somebody challenged me on my face that, you know, to give it up. And I thought in my DNA, giving up is not an option.
Sure, sure. Yeah. So that again, you know, interesting lessons there. So you can find in angel investors, even on LinkedIn, as long as you know what you’re doing, and you’re persistent. And regarding cofounders, so, you know, I have a slightly different viewpoint on this. So, you know, I’ve seen a lot of partnerships dissolve over time, you know, even between close relatives, you know, real brothers and whatnot. So, um, do you think that new entrepreneurs should absolutely consider finding co-founders? Or how do you make it work? How do you make this partnership work? You know, because obviously, you will have, you know, ups and downs as in any relationship. So how do you maintain that you know, that relationship and not let it go sour?
There were few moments in our partnership, you know, between Me, Satyajit, and Saurabh that made us really stuck together. The first is, you know before they came in full time, they worked part-time with me while I was full time. So that was almost one to one and a half year where we both tested each other. I want everything to be done quickly. And they used to tame me like ‘you need to go slow.’ Because I was on the same side and doctors were asking for more and more in the future. And so, we both adjusted, it’s not just me or they. So there shouldn’t be any period in a partnership where you know, you don’t establish a company and give it out equity to everybody. But before you’re building a product, just work together for a period of six months to 12 months, if you can survive that period. Happily, I think you have a good basis for a partnership.
Awesome. That’s, that’s great advice. All right. So you have an interesting daily schedule. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And how do you start your day?
I’m an avid reader. So I have been reading Tim Ferris’s book, ‘Tribe of mentors, and ‘tools of Titans’, I found some advice regarding how to schedule your days. so I accumulated from that books, and few other ones, that you know, few things, you know, which for my personality are suited, are like, you know, for doing meditation daily, having an exercise routine for some time, reading and writing something daily, you know, for these four or five activities. And if possible visualize, you know, what success is going to be for you. I tried to fit in these four to five things in my schedule. Not always, there are no shitty days and should be a period of time are there. Yeah But my schedule, you know, starts with, you know, when I wake up in the morning, do some exercise, do some meditation, read one, two pages, or 5-10 pages whatever time low and then go to work, and come back in the evening, because, along with work, I’m a regular podcaster also. Then in the evening reserved for editing my podcast publishing. And get time for my family.
Sounds good. All right. And how have you seen any effect? Like, you know, you’ve been doing this for a year, as you said, have you seen any positive effects on your personal life or professional life?
So I’ll tell you, you know, for meditation and reading, I started back in the when I was 23-24. Because at that point in time, I quit my job after nine to ten months, and many people including me, at that point of time, thought it, it may be an irrational decision. So why not try to get something you know, which can make me grounded. At that point in time, I discovered I was exploring meditation courses because I heard many, but I couldn’t sit with quite with myself or even a minute. Yeah. On a meditation course, which was in the Himalayas in McLeod Ganj in India called Tushita Meditation Course. I went there for the 10-day retreat, which was a Silent Retreat. Yeah. And then I’ve been practicing meditation, you know, doing the reading, because my state, you know, after Addodoc, I build Babygogo, and my routine was pathetic back then from 8 in the morning to 10, in the night. And I gained around 15-16 Kgs. but I thought there’s a bad lifestyle to have. You shouldn’t kill yourselves being an entrepreneur.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So that’s, that’s, again, you know, pretty good advice. You know, as entrepreneurs, we are always sort of running after the next thing, and, you know, always going in circles in our head and making these big plans. It’s, it’s good to take some time and, and meditate and, you know, get to know yourself and focus on your physical health as well. So, so those are really good points. Thank you so much for sharing that.
So I would just like to add, as even it was with me. We think that you know, we have to do it right, or the moment will pass. But entrepreneurship is always a 10 years journey. Yeah. If we can think that we have to build it over the next 10 years, we will take everything into account: a family, or relationship, or health or mental peace.
Yeah. For sure. Yeah. I mean, I agree with you, but what I have experienced in my own journey as well, when you start off, you’re very enthusiastic, and you want to, as you put it, you know, you want to get things done very quickly. But slowly, you realize you’re not, you’re not sprinting, you’re running a marathon. So, you know, it comes over time, that you start to realize that rushing things is not going to help at all. Right, even though, there is some sort of urgency, you know, obviously, you want to, you want to get to market as quickly as possible. But there’s no point in rushing because you tend to make more mistakes, and you tend to lose more time if you rush things, right.
Yeah. And especially during the early stages, where you will be the one person who’s coding or doing the marketing or sales yourself. Work will never end in a job day ends at five, six or seven. Yeah, and entrepreneurship the day never ends. Yeah, you’ll have to choose, you know, when? When do you take a pause? Yeah,
Yeah, for sure. So, obviously, you know, handling professional life handling a podcast, you know, meditating. It all takes a lot of discipline. So how do you maintain that discipline? And do you think, being an entrepreneur, having this kind of discipline regime is important for an entrepreneur?
So I believe entrepreneurship is a disciplined marathon. It’s not like you can run 100 meters in 10 seconds. And then for the next hundred meters, you take one hour. You have to have a consistent pace. That’s what I realized. Yeah. So I would share you know, during my early periods of entrepreneurs, even though like, there were days when I feel completely lost, and, and, and that point of time, I forget my discipline and just, you know, to escape, I watch movies throughout the day, after work, but I realized, you know, the next day, having consistency is the best thing. So I would like to quote Charlie Munger, here with a partner of Warren Buffett. Yeah. And Berkshire Hathaway. He says that to stop compounding is the foolish thing. You should not stop the compounding. It is money or its habits. Yeah, well, that’s it, I think discipline is the only thing which can keep your compound, you know, whatever you do if you are a podcaster. Or if you are a writer. Or a reader. Read on a daily basis. Rather than you reading a book in one day and for the next six days, you are doing nothing. Divide it into a period of seven days. Compounding has this magnificent and tremendous effects on your life.
That’s great advice. Thank you for that. That actionable piece of advice that people can implement in their lives. Now, you said that earlier on you were handling sales and marketing, is that correct? For your startup?
Okay. So tell us a little bit about how you acquired your first client, you know, even though you didn’t have any, any background or established brand. So how did you go and talk to these people and convince them to give it a shot to your product?
So, it is not the process which we have to refine over a period of time. For an example of my first product, which was a clinic management system for doctors, I purchased a doctor’s directory, which had all the doctor’s numbers and addresses from the nearest bookstore. And I started calling up doctors, and I told them, I have built a solution, which could save time for you and increase your patient count, which will make you more efficient. Because I was not a professional at that point. I was an engineer by education. And by work. Eight out of 10 rejected me, but to give me a chance to present to them. I see now went ahead before building a solution. I went ahead and you know, showed them mockups that you know, ‘this is what I’m building right now, would you be interested to give it a try?’ And while we were building it, some of them, you know, let’s say I approached 50 of them. Again, a game of persistence, you have to show up daily, there’s no option, you know, as a salesman, or a marketing person of your own startup, your job is to every day just show up, there’s no excuse for that. You have to take the phone, make calls, have meetings, and be ready to be rejected first few hundred meetings, I would say don’t feel embarrassed about getting rejected. Everybody gets that. And as you know, after having 50-100 doctors who had seen our solution. Few have them agreed that they were willing to pay for it. I told them that we are the startup of three people. And I was very honest with them. But we are going to put our hearts out and we are going to charge you for that. We’re not going to give it to you for free. Okay. Okay, so some of them agreed to a one month trial. And what we did was, we gave them our own tablets to their assistant and to the doctor, that you try on our tablets, the solution for one month, and if you are happy with it. Purchase with the solution that we have built and the tablets yourself.
That’s great. So now, obviously, the startup ecosystem has been growing in India, and there’s a lot of growth happening, a lot of venture capital flowing. Can you tell us a little bit about how’s the ecosystem different than in us in Europe? Well, how do things working out in India?
So, the Indian venture capital ecosystem, I would say just got built in early 2000. Like 2005, 2006. All of us neither of VCs(Venture Capitalists) of US, Chico, our metrics, actual partners came to India and established there before there was no VC ecosystem in India, the best way to get the return on your money was to invest in land and sell it off after 10 years for 10x. So it’s completely different from the US and Europe, in India. The first thing is, they are less number of venture capital firms in India as compared to the US. Bangalore has been starting to show like early signs of being the Silicon Valley of India. It’s called right now. But it’s not compared as much to you know, so the fact that being you know, you have to be a great storyteller to convince VCs too, for example, in San Francisco, or California, for a VC n a week would get around 50 pitches, in India an average they get 400 to 500 pitcher. Yeah. And the total capital deployed in a year in Indian startup ecosystems would be between 10 to $12 billion in a year. In the US it will go up to $80 $90 billion in a year.
Yeah. Well, actually, yeah, obviously, there are some says, just by the sheer number of people in India, you know, I think that’s proportionate to the number of pitches as you put it.
Yeah. India has what, maybe one 1.2 billion population now?
So us at 330 million. So you know, it’s like, one, fourth. So, all right, great. So tell us about your podcast, 100 x entrepreneur.
So, I have been an entrepreneur from 2012, you know, till today. And it’s been seven years of a journey, I decided to raise funds for my venture called Addodoc. We will fortunate that after one year of rejections, pitching 200 VCs, we could convince one. And I thought, you know, now we have access to VCs because you know, what I have built. But it’s very tough for first-time entrepreneurs who don’t have an MBA from an Ivy League college or engineers from IITs in India to get even the attention of VCs. And they never get to know the mind of these things. Right? They only hear from them in newspapers, events which is the best place where they are mispresented. Sure. So I was sitting with my investor, Dr. Aniruddh Maalpani back in September, October last year,
He’s pretty. He’s pretty active on LinkedIn, I think.
He is. Yes. He is.
He has been an investor in my company, Babygogo, Addadoc, and he wanted a decent return when it got acquired. He was happy with it. And we were sitting and chatting. And I thought I told him, ‘Sir I’ll record our conversation, and maybe publish it on LinkedIn, and see where it goes.’ So I recorded our conversation around startups, around his investment thesis, around what can entrepreneur improve, and his own self-awareness on where he lacks as an investor or where he is good at. For his mind in a one-hour conversation, you know, never heard of before. And that I posted on LinkedIn and Google Drive. And the similarly retweeted this on other sets of contacts with investors four to five times. It got a very good response from young entrepreneurs, aspiring ones also. But the first time you know, we get into here, the mind of an investor. And my thesis was how I can help other entrepreneurs become 100x. So getting, you know, other accomplished venture capitalists, other accomplished entrepreneurs, onto this podcast, sharing their habits and mindset, and how they think, how their journey has been, and their advice for entrepreneurs. That’s how I tried to encapsulate in this podcast and that’s how the name 100x entrepreneur came up.
That’s amazing. It seems like there’s a good amount of overlap between what we are trying to do here, and what you’re doing with your podcast. So that’s, I mean,
Absolutely, I think the ecosystem wants more. More people like us who have that journey, and who have access to the people who are made in the ecosystem, who know their mindset. At least it will help them and, you know, tomorrow if anybody wants to write to me that, hey, I listened to you on this podcast, and how you think, can you help me in this very deal be very specific in his request for help, other than, you know, cold emailing me in a BCC that, hey, I want this.
Yeah, for sure. And, and to your point, you know, this journey is, it takes a mental toll. So more than any strategy, any tactical advice, I think entrepreneurs need to get them into the right. Mindset. My, you know, and, and their mental state needs to be very strong. So I think, you know, listening to these, investors and successful entrepreneurs, they should really focus on picking up those, those mental aspects and strengthening their mindset, I think, and that is not taught anywhere in any business school or anything.
Absolutely. Business Schools show a very rosy picture of entrepreneurship and showcase studies. Yeah. And the real world is very different. And new entrepreneurs need to know that there is no get rich, quick scheme or there is no, you know, making millions in a couple of year’s scheme. Yeah, it’s, it’s like, you know, you have to be prepared. If least I would say, you know, for failures for the first three to five years. Yeah. And hopefully, you will succeed.
Yeah, for sure. All right. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom and sharing your journey with us. I’m sure everybody in the audience got a lot of value out of it. Now, before I let you go, can you tell us where people can find you? How can they reach out?
So I am available on my personal Gmail ID and on LinkedIn so my personal Gmail ID is Siddhartha.firstname.lastname@example.org. Or entrepreneurs can reach out to me on the same name on my similarly LinkedIn, Siddhartha Ahluwalia, they can find me on LinkedIn and reach out.
Awesome. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your knowledge. Thank you.
It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.