“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius
From 2001 to 2004, my wife Bhavana and I underwent multiple IVF cycles so we could have a baby. Each cycle raised our hopes only to be dashed later. It was a time of emotional ups and downs, as I have written here. While the story had a happy ending with the birth of Abhishek in April 2005, the few years that we went through the IVF treatment was one of the most challenging I have lived through, and it was even more so for Bhavana. But we saw that period through. For Bhavana, it was her faith in God. For me, it was my belief that the outcome was not entirely in my control, and I had to stay strong through the saddest moments.
Perhaps, it was my early failures as an entrepreneur that had steeled me. IndiaWorld’s success came after many failed ventures and flopped fund-raising efforts. Even till the end, it was not clear that I would have a happy outcome. In 1999 (as is happening now), everyone with a .com was raising capital – except me! But I had something which others did not – profits. For a brief period of time, profits had no value; all that everyone wanted was eyeballs. In the end, my faith in doing business the right way got me an exit I had not even dreamt off – a sale for $115 million.
In the “growth-at-all-costs” mindset that prevails today, I am once again being told that no one cares about profitability and I have made a big mistake through the past few years sacrificing growth for profits. I have thought about this often – because I also have the responsibility for Netcore’s staff, many of whom have stock options. The only way I know to run a business is to fund growth through profits, and not just through investor money. I grant that SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses have different dynamics and land grab matters, but at the same time, I also know that once we get in the habit of spending more than we are generating, it is not easy to turn the tap off. Seeing competitors raise and spend capital, seeing some star employees leave because we declined to double their salary in the face of competition which doesn’t worry about profits, seeing my own colleagues question my growth-and-profits approach – it hasn’t been easy. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know what my core beliefs are and I stand by those. Like during IndiaWorld, I have this faith that everything happens for good, and there is a good reason for even some not-so-good events.
In some ways, this attitude has been formed by many of the early failures I experienced as an entrepreneur. They brought me down to earth and taught me that just as bad times don’t last, neither do the good times. A venture can fail, but that does not make me a failure. While I didn’t know it then, many of the Stoic principles have seen me through some of my toughest times.