Silver linings: Lighting up a revolution (with a pair of binoculars)

I am continuing on the same thread upon which I wrote last week, i.e., Finding Silver Linings in this lockdown.

Yesterday we completed 40 days of working from home. Amongst several pivotal moments that define the turning points for Artha, sparking off a blogging revolution is definitely the most satisfying one.

For a very long time, I tried to convince my team to start blogging. I tried several approaches, showed them how my own blogs helped me express myself creatively and develop a robust network & following. However, the fear of getting criticized publicly made the team members shy away from expressing themselves – whether I offered them a carrot or the stick in return.

I could have got their blogs ghostwritten, but I wanted our blog to be genuine expressions that resonate. After several frustrating failed attempts, I threw in the towel. I stopped pushing the team to write because even when they wrote blogs due to the fear of disappointing me, they were half baked as the attempt to writing them was.

Then the lockdown took place. With commute times dropping to a few seconds from the hours endured earlier, a few members decided to utilize the extra time to creatively express themselves.

As the editor to our blog pages on Medium, any team member that completed a blog for publishing would assign a task to me. I had to review, make final edits, and approve their blog to publish from our Medium publications. Most of the time, it would be weeks, and even months before I would see assigned tasks in my editorial bucket. But things changed quickly.

Within the first week of working from home, I got notifications that I was assigned 2 blogs for publishing! This is interesting, I thought.

The first blog was published on Artha Venture Fund’s blog page. Farhan wrote a playbook for anyone that wants a VC job, i.e., Breaking into VC.  He frankly shared his personal journey of hounding my inboxes until he got me into meeting him face to face. He impressed me enough with his enthusiasm to secure an internship at Artha. With a foot in the door, Farhan converted the opportunity into a full-time role.  Farhan offered his playbook as a model for others to emulate. His post received a fantastic response with 300+ views in 3 days on our otherwise dormant blog page.

Unbeknownst to me, Deepanshu wrote and published a fantastic blog while sitting on his la-z-boy chair at his home in Delhi. Deepanshu’s take on the new work paradigm aptly called Corona: Ghar se Kaam KaroNa, We did it, did you? got published at the appropriate time and it lit up the Artha India Ventures blog page on the same day that the AVF blog saw a massive spike in its activity.

Farhan & Deepanshu’s unrelated but perfectly timed efforts sparked off a content creation race in Artha. They (thankfully) weren’t shy about the attention that their blogging debuts brought to their LinkedIn inboxes. It made others jealous and smashed the glass ceiling that kept the team from expressing themselves. All of a sudden, every person at Artha was lining up to write whether it was partners, principals, legal associates, junior analysts, even our interns!

There was so much content to review & publish that our internal PR team had to put everyone on a publishing calendar. Every team member got assigned 1 day a week to post their efforts on the company blog. I blocked out an hour a day to review the final drafts before publishing. But when I look at the list of blogs waiting for my review, even a couple of hours a day will not do justice.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson. The thrill of competition drives a person harder than the fear of retribution. I tried igniting a creative explosion within Artha with the right intentions but the wrong strategy. Eventually, the age-old tactic of replacing my stick with a pair of binocular to keep up with the joneses got me to my long-held goal of creating a thriving blogging culture at Artha. That is a silver lining for me to cherish!

Here is the list of the 25 blogs we have published on our blog pages in the last 33 days

Date Blog Name Author
24-03-2020 Breaking into venture capital: A brief playbook Farhan Merchant
24-03-2020 Corona: Ghar se Kaam KaroNa, We did it, did you? Deepanshu Sidhanti
27-03-2020 From Polo to Venture Capital Dhruv Thadani
31-03-2020 21 Point Action Plan to Corona-Proof Your Startup Dream Anirudh A Damani
01-04-2020 Book Review: ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek Gauri Kuchhal
02-04-2020 Humanity First: Hyderabad Man Distributes Free Food Outside Hospital Sandesha Jaitapkar
04-04-2020 3 Takeaways After Evaluating 200 Startups Farhan Merchant
07-04-2020 Book Review: ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ by Dale Carnegie Gauri Kuchhal
07-04-2020 Week #14: What are our investee companies doing this week? AIV Team
10-04-2020 Silver lining in the dark cloud — Looking up after 22 days of home arrest Shweta Tripathi
10-04-2020 From selling my startup dreams to buying into the startup dreams of many more like me Deepanshu Sidhanti
13-04-2020 MERC Listens — Part 1: Impact on Industrial & Commercial consumers Animesh Damani
15-04-2020 5 things I have learned after 365 days in Venture Capital Dhruv Thadani
17-04-2020 Gordon Ramsay Would’ve Been a Top Tier VC Farhan Merchant
17-04-2020 Flashback Friday: My first startup investment — United Mobile Apps AIV Team
18-04-2020 Week #16 Investment Update: The coming of age for Farm to Fork startups? AIV Team
20-04-2020 Finding silver linings Anirudh A Damani
21-04-2020 My experience of lockdown & work from home Piyali Das
22-04-2020 Book Review — ‘The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership’ by John Maxwell Gauri Kuchhal
21-04-2020 Drawing parallels. Similarities between parenting and investing in early-stage startups Deepanshu Sidhanti
23-04-2020 Impact of the lockdown on the power sector Animesh Damani
24-04-2020 Work from Home — Boon or Curse? Aakash Javeri
24-04-2020 Flashback Friday: CarveNiche Technologies Anirudh Damani
25-04-2020 Week #17: AIV expands funding to SEA AIV Team
27-04-2020 10 things I learned from my 5-year startup journey — Executive Assistant to COO Sandesha Jaitapkar

Your 'Growth' is Hurting Your Job Interviews

Currently, I am in the middle of interviews to fill several positions at Artha and one of the first questions I ask candidates is why they are changing jobs? The common answer I receive is that they are looking for growth.  Most of these people have been at their current jobs for less than 24 months, so it makes me wonder whether the growth they seek is truly in terms of experience or in the size of their pay-check. Usually, it is the latter and their feeble attempt at answering this truly important question hurts their prospects with us as it does with most employers. Allow me to explain.

I have been a part of the workforce since I was 16 years old and the first job I got paid for was in my first year of college at the age of 18. In the next 4 years of college, I went through 4 jobs and ran 2 businesses from my room. One of those jobs was selling retail jewellery which I did throughout my 4 years. In that, I found my calling i.e. sales. My next job was door to door sales, a position I held for 5 years before becoming an entrepreneur within the same organisation. When I came back to India, I went through 3-4 jobs in a (relatively) short span of time before deciding to dive full-time into setting up Artha.

Having cycled through almost 10 jobs I am in no way advocating that a person should not change jobs or look for better salary packages. In a free marketing and capitalist economy this is exactly the type of behaviour that is expected and encouraged. However, I could, as I expect anyone should be able to decide whether they love a company/opportunity/job within the first 6-12 months. Therefore, if I was investing any time beyond that in the company, it meant that I was certain I would make a future for myself there.

It’s not that I didn’t feel like quitting my jobs several, several times. For example, there were times when I felt that I was going to be stuck in my position for ever or that I was getting looked over for promotions or that I was getting jaded, but I stuck it through those times. Then seemingly out of nowhere a new opportunity, office or position would open up and due to the fact that I was there at the right time, as the right person, just like that the juggernaut was rolling again.

So I feel that if temporary situations would have affected my decision to stay with the company, then that should have happened in the first 6-12 months, because in my opinion, that is usually the timeframe when a person should have decided whether they like the job role, the boss and can live with the hygiene factors at their workplace. However, if it takes over 24 months for someone to decide whether their current job will excite them or not, that doesn’t build my confidence in your assessment abilities or more likely questions them.

There could be several situations that could have forced you to change your job (location change, family obligation, bankruptcy) and these might give you a good story to tell that is both convincing and genuine. However, if you are changing jobs for “growth” related issues but it took you more than 24 months to realise it, then you need to have a bloody good story for me to believe you (and my standards are high).

30/2019

PSA: On the lookout for Consumer Brands

The Indian wallet is growing larger. A recent estimate predicts that the per capita income for India will rise to $4,000 by 2030 from the current figure – $1,650. The consumption habits, as well as the points of consumption, will undergo significant transformation due to 3 major factors i.e. better supply chain infrastructure, ease of doing business under GST and penetration of the internet.  
Internet penetration will hit a significant milestone in the next 12-18 months when over 50% of Indians will be connected to the internet, primarily through a mobile device. These mobile internet connections are quickly transforming into consumption nodes through which the Indian wallet gets access to new consumer brands that provide alternatives to the brick and mortar brands that are available offline in Tier 2, 3, 4 towns.  
Although the demand for alternative brands has existed for a long time, poor infrastructure and complex inter-state trading laws prevented entrepreneurs from pursuing such ventures. As an early stage investor, I too avoided investing in such ventures as these companies required significant capital expenditure to create the framework to supply goods across the country. Secondly, founders had to generate a ton of illicit funds to pay-off tax & bureaucratic terrorists that always found fault in operations.  
GST broke down these barriers and made it easy for start-ups to set up a warehouse in one state and supply their products across India. In addition, the improvement in supply chain infrastructure & connectivity, help in paying off rich dividends for ventures. Therefore, our fund team is actively looking out for consumer brands to invest in, from mattresses to packaged food. 
52/2018