As part of our ‘This is how I did it’ series for StartUps, we invite entrepreneurs to share their story of trials and tribulations, of successes and failures, of learnings and un-learnings, of grit and tenacity with our readers, who nurture a dream of making it big in the world of entrepreneurship.
We kick off this series with Maheshwer Peri, Chairman & Founder – CAREERS360, (www.carreers360.com).
Q1. The spark: When the idea of doing something on your own struck you?
Maheshwer Peri: Pretty early, I must say. As an investment banker, I saw entrepreneurs with their stories of struggle, survival and success. The adrenaline rush is something I wanted to experience, at some time in my life. Can't die regretting this, right?
Q2. Taking the plunge: What convinced you to take the dip and get it rolling?
Maheshwer Peri: From a Chartered Accountant to an investment banker to a media man, the changes were dramatic. However, it was as publisher of Outlook I realised that I can pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur while also making a difference. The main stream media was completely ignorant of education and used to look at it only from advertising perspective. The views were largely dictated from institutions. The coverage was sparse, hollow, shallow and many times paid for. And for most Indians, education and career is the biggest need. I realised that if we don't hand hold our educated youth, the demographic dividend can become a nightmare. I saw a gap, a market, a business proposition and of course impact.
Q3. Fears: What were you major fears before starting up and how did you overcome them?
Maheshwer Peri: Ha. This is interesting. When I moved from Outlook, my only prayer was to ensure that I must be busy enough to be engaged for at least 4 hours a day with outside meetings. No one wants to meet unless it is of use and I wanted my product to at least get me 2 meetings a day. Now, I don't have time to even meet what is being demanded of me.
Q4. Your Aha Moment! When did you realize you are on the right path?
Maheshwer Peri: When we started carrying stories exposing some institutions, some threatened to sue us and some actually sued us. If we can make them fearful of our reportage, we know we are on the right track.
However, the biggest Aha moment was when we went digital in 2012 and became the No.1 digital platform within 6 months. We were up against large, well-funded, deep pocketed players and still got there. We realised that we not just have credibility but also have reach of 9 million students visiting us each month to decide the best career option for them. Those numbers were stunning. It reaffirmed my faith that reach is digital and our credibility will ensure that students seek us all the time.
Q5. Motivation: What keeps you moving?
Maheshwer Peri: The average age of the team minus me is about 25. You meet each of these people who work passionately, you know that you cannot stop. I no longer drive them. It is they who drive us.
Q6. The Differentiator: What separates dreamers from doers?Maheshwer Peri: bit of pragmatism. It is not about plans and excel sheets. You need to achieve at least the first part of the plan in terms of revenues - getting the first 25 clients trusting their monies with you.
Q7. One Advise: That you’d offer to a budding entrepreneur?
Maheshwer Peri: If you don't have revenues, and can't prove retention, your business isn't worth the plan. And every plan, by the time your discussions are done with over 6-12 months get caught on its false premise. Be practical, be real while still dreaming to creating the largest impact.
Q8. Final Word: To Startups who nurture a dream to make it big?
Maheshwer Peri: If you can't convince 10 people around you to invest in your business, if you can't invest your own money and time in creating the business, you are climbing a wall.
And a business that creates an impact will always be valued. So, don’t pursue valuations. Pursue audiences, markets and impact.
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