Episode 111 / April 4, 2021
Inside the mind of Harpreet Singh Grover, Co-Founder, CoCubes, & Author, Let’s Build a Company
Harpreet Singh Grover founded CoCubes.com, an online platform for assessments and hiring along with his batchmate Vibhore Goyal in 2007 after completing his graduation at IIT, Delhi. CoCubes was acquired by Aon Hewitt in an all-cash deal in 2016.
Harpreet has also authored a book titled Let’s Build a Company along with Vibhore Goyal. This book is a tale of persistence & grit and about a company built in India by two Indian founders. It is written in the hope that entrepreneurs can avoid the mistakes Harpreet and Vibhore made and learn from what they did right.
Harpreet is also an active angel investor, with his deals including Chaayos, ShopKirana, and Avail Finance.
When it comes to entrepreneurship most people only talk about immersing themselves in the company they’ve been building while ignoring everything else. To contrast with this, during the podcast, Harpreet shares the emotional and personal aspects while making the tough decisions and the importance of spending time with family in an entrepreneur’s life.
Join this heart to heart conversation with Harpreet to know how entrepreneurs, while building their dream startup, compromise on their emotional and personal aspects, and how Harpreet’s journey can add value to anyone who is doing a startup and experiencing the ups and downs while building a company in India
02:47 – Harpreet’s journey: Lowest point as an entrepreneur
08:42 – “My best investments were done when I had less money.”
15:12 – “At any point in your journey, if you’ve been in a tough spot, talk to someone who has been in that tough spot.”
21:30 – “Companies are not sold, they are bought.”
22:16 – Life after the acquisition
29:12 – Importance of having family time in an entrepreneur’s life
35:19 – What choices he would have changed in life, 10-12 years back?
39:42 – Being an Entrepreneur: Solving for simple problems
Read the full transcript here:
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:00
Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur podcast. today,I have with me Harpreet Singh Grover co-founder of Cocubes. CoCubes is an online platform for assessments and hiring which was acquired by Aon Hewitt in an all-cash deal in 2016. Harpreet has authored the book on his journey from starting Cocubes till acquisition. The book is called Let’s build a company. He authored it along with his co-founder in Cocubes Vibhor Goyal. This is a tale of persistence and grit by two founders and about a company built in India by the two Indian founders is written in the hope that entrepreneurs can avoid the mistakes which they made and learn from what they did right. Harpreet is also an active angel investor with his investments include Chaayos, ShopKirana and Avail Finance. Welcome, Harpreet to the podcast.
Harpreet Singh Grover 01:00
Hi Siddhartha! morning thank you for having me here and hello to anybody who’s listening
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:05
Harpreet would love to start you know by the mindset of an entrepreneur, I’ll just jump to some of the phases you know I hope the leader the listeners read the book jump from phases which you know even when not captured in the book and we were discussing before the podcast. When entrepreneur as it is at the lowest in the journey it’s very easy to get quit it’s easy to not think in a closed box right. what observations you have from your own experience and if you can share your own experiences that were your lowest in your journey?
Harpreet Singh Grover 01:47
yeah, so yeah
Harpreet Singh Grover 01:49
I think you bring up a good point now and maybe this is the point that every entrepreneur has gone through i am of certain belief that there is no billion dollar company out there which has been made without this point you know having occurred and you know also there are like 1000s of companies out there which have given up at this point right but I’m saying I remember the point in Cocubes this was the point when you know we had a term sheet for raising $5 million in 2011 or 12 and at the end moment it didn’t pan through . We were a team of about 120-130 people. we had a fancy office and we had to let go of 70-80 folks. 66% 70% of our team if we had to make through and you know we had already taken on debt because this money was coming so people whose money was not supposed to be at risk had given us money because 2 mahine me waapis aa jaayega you know and at this moment everything fell apart and you’ve already been slogging for five years you know to get to this point i remember sitting on the on the staircase on the fire exit staircase and talking to a friend who was in the corporate and you know i remember his voice saying kabhi kabhi nhi chalta yaar, chorh dena chaiye, you know you you’re young you know you are what 28 right now 29 you know and tu waapis start karlena yaar, isme kya hai and you know and it seemed like fine advice you know you wanted to if you could close the shop and you could just go home and you know just let it be its sound when sounded very alluring you know 1 dum se khatam ho sakta hai kya, can i be free but no i think entrepreneurs, i will also tell the reason also why we didn’t do it. we didn’t do it because we had that debt. Khaali venture capital liya hota na maybe would have taken the easy call maybe would have said bahut mushkil ho rha hai, let’s not do it but we had debt from about two and a half crores from people whose money was not supposed to be addressed, this was their life savings and you know we couldn’t let. my parents you know my parents Vibhor’s parents but you know Raghu who was on our board, he was a vc but you know he had given us one crore by taking out his FD just because he believed in the company you know and then a couple of other folks Amanjeet Saluja also had put in money. This was not supposed to be at risk and this was unacceptable to Vibhor and me, so you know but if you look at the mindset which is the question you asked i think the mind there is like closed room jha ki hawa ander na stail ho gyi hai because of overthinking and it keeps going round and round round and round and you’re tired of that thought you know you’re you know nothing new comes in and at that point I think you know the thing that entrepreneur doesn’t want to do is talk to somebody about it because you’re feeling so low that I don’t want to talk to somebody about but thing you have to do and this is true for personal situations professional situation is that you need to open up a window in that room you need to talk to somebody who has been in that situation who has seen that situation and who can tell you what lies ahead. Right. And I think for us, you know, that was talking to TV Tvg Krishnamurthy, who was also our, you know, Coach till that time, you know, we had taken his advice half seriously. But at this point, you know, talking to him was helpful. Actually, he opened that window, and he said, Look, you are smart guys. Yeah. The Smart folks, I know you for three years, you are smart folks, you have, I’m sure you’ve built some assets, which are useful. Don’t think about aagey kya karoge, yeh hoga woh hoga. Just work on protecting what you’ve built. You know, and that has changed perspective, you know, you are in the same mujhe banana hai, banana, mujhe paisa chaiye, I need money to build, build, build, build, build, and suddenly we’re saying, okay, I have built, you know, it is not, I can’t get more money, but can I protect what I have? Right, and we spend, and I just changed the entire perspective, you know, the window opened, fresh breeze came in, and we told the company, look, we have these relationships with colleges, we have a relationship with corporate, let’s protect them, you know, we have been doing it for free in the hope of building a much larger company. We can’t let go ask for money, we are providing value, toh ab paisa maangte hai. And that changed everything for us. It wasn’t, you know, like it, I think the change the mindset, the actual change took two years of slog, right. And I remember being so focused and doing it that my, my, like, I had to type out a message to my parents saying to don’t worry, I’m not depressed or not committing suicide you were flaunting, don’t worry about any of that. I am saying, I’m just very focused on because I now have a way to ensure this goes right. So, I’m very focused on just doing it.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:43
And that focused, you know, kept you in that journey, they most value, which you brought to colleges and
Harpreet Singh Grover 06:52
students, and the corporates, and now you can charge for that value. And I believe it was not easy to take to get give out something for free, and then start charging, you know, the next day. But you guys kept at it, how was that journey, right, the next two years? Yeah, I would look, I’m saying we kept it because there was no option. You know, and that is a great way No, actually, because we were talking about angel investing. Also, the more I’ve invested about 38 companies, I can tell you, and this is from experiences of friends who are super angels in India, and this is from experience of, you know, because I wanted to read more about it, I read, the folk said, my best angel investments were done when I had less money, because I genuinely had to, you know, deploy it carefully. Right, so spray and pray wasn’t the alternative. So, the reason I mentioned this is, you know, when you have only one option, you know, when you have only one way to go, all your focus, you know, goes there, now karna hai marna hai woh nhi chala toh tum waise hi marne wale ho. so we were very, very focused on saying we have to get money. And this involves doing a lot of things, you know, this would involve moving to a small office, this involved telling, you know, not having insurance for laptops, telling everybody please take care of a laptop, because, you know, we can’t buy insurance tod vod mat dena, you know, is involved. Having, you know, we I remember, you know, we used to talk about ergonomic chairs and all of that earlier, but I’m saying this involves being in an office, jha pe, you couldn’t keep your elbows on the desk, because the desk had to be shorter, because there to fit another row to for the people who could come in. But I also remember the, you know, the day this, actually, you know, I remember the day changed, and the way it changed was when he cracked a Microsoft as a client, you know, and everybody was participating in that deal. You know, and I think I consider it one of, you know, the thing, you know, I’m a half sales guy. So, in this in the sales process, I consider this one of the, one of the things that I’ve done in life, you know, cracking the deal, and everybody else in India was participating. And this was the deal where we, you know, the mindset of the company changed. Where, after this deal, before this deal, we believed ke agar yeh karenge toh yaha pahuchenge, you know, we will survive after this deal, everybody started to believe. You know, like, we were talking to that earlier, if you want to get a job in a VC, you know, if you’re gone to an IIT and gone to Harvard and you know, done something else easy to get a job, you know, so most people look for external proofs, because they don’t want to apply their own mind. So, Microsoft became the external proof for our company, you know, to believe that okay, Harpreet Vibhor bol rhe the theek hai acha hai par ab Microsoft bhi aa gya hai, you know, now we will do well, but, you know, because you asked what went through, I can tell you that, you know, before, earlier we had this big fancy office, you know, we were working towards the vision now, you know, you had to go into the office and you had to gather courage. You know, you have to look positive, you know, for folks who are there working, and you know, I remember packing the car, I So that was like it.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:16
I remember a similar instance of my journey, I started two companies AddoDoc which after raising money pivoted to Babygogo. And during babygogo ride the first half really rosy where we had investors’ money, and we were chasing down retention, daily active users, monthly active users, how much of the user attention, and we thought that these are the metrics, because these are validated by series ABCs, because they were validating us on measuring from these metrics, even the top performing company, we were going to like icy calls. And then, after a few icy calls, they told us the market is not large. And we told you know, WTF? till now know, you said everything was good, we had the best metrics for any company in this area, which was parenting community building, and now you’re saying that this is the market is not large for display. And suddenly, you know, we but we kept on right. we kept getting revenue from advertisement from the likes of Johnson’s Himalaya. And but the Indian advertisement, you know, we couldn’t realize at that point in time, changed a lot of things in the company, because the company was built in such a way that the revenue source. We tried ecommerce. You know, because entrepreneurs have to try to find new sources, ecommerce didn’t work out. And But suddenly, we reached the point where the money was dried up. And at that point in 2017, beginning enough funding of the, which we raise of 2 CR was drying up. And we were open transparent with the team that, you know, you might have to take salary cuts and did take a salary cut grateful to the team for sticking by us. Somehow, we were able to convince external folks that you know, the matrix is still going up right, even if the money we are using, they’re not spending on advertisements to get more users in for our app, the DAU/MAU, are going about organic word of mouth and you will find it close 1 CR of funds to a bridge round. But after that round, you know, still the company was depleting. At that point of time, there was a similar box, you know, for me, where we had a few acquisitions offers before which were larger, and now the acquisition offer which we had was much smaller. And at that point of time, when we just have a second round of funding, 35 lakhs left in the bank for a team of 20 which was not even a one and a half to two months of salary. At that point, you know, my co-founder said Siddhartha, like, you build this company from 2012 to 2017. pivoted from initial b2b model to b2c model, survive persisted, raise funding, got acquisition offers from the some of the, you know, best companies soon to be unicorns at that point in time. And now we have the small acquisition offer. Let’s take revealed news, something together, again, but for now, for the sake of the team, let’s take it. they have also taken salary cuts? And I said, Yes, but I realize, you know, not every situation is like where ones get a window of that every situation is might not always be for entrepreneurs where they can keep on continuing. So, it’s very subjective, I think, but what you shared is, but if somebody gets a chance to think they own and continue in that way, and you add that depth, right. For us, it was that, from this acquisition, chalo investors ka paisa toh waapis ho jaayega, team will get to 2x for the current year, they’ll be happy.
Harpreet Singh Grover 14:03
Saying I think that the important point is if you are in a tough spot, right, at any point in your journey, yeah, talk to somebody who has been in a tough spot. Right? That is important. Now, what happened after you talk, you know, we don’t know where to go, but you need to open a window, you need to let in fresh air in your mind.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 14:23
And Harpreet you also share that in during that phase of acquisition in your book, when it took 9 to 12 months, or more than that for the entire acquisition to take place. And it was many phases where it could have felt fell apart. I have seen this follow historically, you know, their acquisitions fell apart. The company just dies. How What was that? In Cocubes that you kept growing in? Thank you. Oh, yeah,
Harpreet Singh Grover 14:55
I think you know, what we realized was, I think our entire actually the entire acquisition. The thing there is that, you know, what we had realized from earlier was that it is not done till it is done. Okay. month on month, year on year and think, annually, we were growing at about 60%. And we were an all of it was actually going to the bottom line, because we are keeping our costs low. And, you know, it was B2B almost no marketing spent. And the company became more and more profitable. So actually, if you ask me, if we actually sold a company for far higher than what we would have sold earlier, it’s actually at the start of the acquisition, somebody had given us $1-2 million dollars cash offer, we would have taken it, kisi ne de diya hota aapka paisa waapis ho jaayega, And Vibhor actually is much stronger in this. He is not on the podcast. But you know, is if you need to be in any deal, you need to be had the ability to say no, if you are always worried whether the deal will fall apart or not. If I do this, then you will always end up with shitty dumps, that is a given. Right? That doesn’t mean you’ll be cocky, or you’ll be stupid, right? But you need to know what you want from the deal. And you need to know that, you know that this is what I need to get there, toh woh bht important hai. And you need to be able to say no, if you’re not getting what you want, otherwise you will do the deal. And you will not be happy. You know it will be a lose-lose the deal has to be a win-win. Sometimes I think genuinely yaar, you build a startup without any revenue, it gets bought by another unicorn. That is like the best thing man like that. Both companies don’t have profit, there’s nothing to look at. Right? You know, because, you know, in our case, we’ve been run the company seven, eight years, eight years of income tax filing there was profit, there were clients were giving us money, you could you know, dissect and set k larger clients kitne hai small clients kitne hai average ticket size kitna hai. Oh man, it is a lot of work. You know, I really, you know, the best thing that can happen to you is that you build a company, which has no revenue gets acquired by another company, which has no revenue, and I’m saying everybody’s feeling great about it.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 18:02
But and we have seen those cases happen, where the larger unicorn acquires a smaller company with no revenue, and both don’t have any and the deal fell apart. and there I was saying, you know, usually the smaller company dies, because there is no plan B.
Harpreet Singh Grover 18:18
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 18:23
If you can share some numbers, you know, that what was the revenue when you start when the acquisitions started, like the talk started? And what was the actual revenue of the company when it got acquired?
Harpreet Singh Grover 18:34
Oh, yeah, when the discussion started. So, I think I’ll actually go back to the start. When we started the company in 2007. From there, we had gone to about a million dollars in actually one and a half million dollars in annual run rate by 2011. Yeah, then all of it fell apart. We by 2013. We were down to zero. Yeah. Okay. Then we again had to build revenue, because essentially, we’re building it from the corporate earlier, we’re building it from the colleges, right, we again, had to build revenue. And by the time the first discussion of acquisition started, we were back to about a million dollars or so. Right? By the time the acquisition happened, which is two years later, we were at $3 million.
Harpreet Singh Grover 19:19
Right? In terms of the deal.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:47
You shared in the book the first time they would have offering a 3x multiple on the deal, say and then when the company revenue grew, you say right, the 3x is far surpassed. We could talk got it and the first thing you know when you VC a term sheet fell apart right you didn’t have a second choice you would have taken any money I believe just to see if that round because
Harpreet Singh Grover 20:11
absolutely when you want to take anything that you can get you get nothing here
Harpreet Singh Grover 20:17
at that point I remember by there is an interesting point that you mentioned and the key to thing is that companies are not you know sold they are bought that is a i think that is super critical to remember because at that point we wanted to activate to all the folks all the large companies saying humari fatti hui hai you know you’ll be want to buy and you know we got one or two offers but the offers were bad you know they were not worth accepting so you know companies you know the companies are not sold there bought you know this is critical to remember.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 20:56
companies can only be bought when the company getting acquired can easily walk away and you share it right that the entrepreneur interpretation
Harpreet Singh Grover 21:06
that is any way that it will get the right deal yeah
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:11
and how big of what has been your life like after acquisition till now?
Harpreet Singh Grover 21:17
life has been good yeah before acquisition was also good after acquisition it’s also have been good you know when the talks were happening in 2015 my daughter Dia was born you know once the acquisition happened actually asked my wife Bhakti kya karna hai batao you know now you’ve been stuck with me for the last 7-8-9 years you know and you’re she’s in Bombay you’ve been in Gurgaon what do you want to do because now we can go anywhere we you know we all know the big company if I ask them to move to New York maybe they will move into London they will tumhe kya karna hai batao, actually want to come to Bombay you know and so we came to Bombay so that was one and you know because i had time on my hands you know over the last 3-4-5 years I have spent a lot of time with my daughter you know because I’ll tell you because a lot of folks that were 10 years ahead of me 20 years ahead of me when I ask them you know what would they change and they say you know I wish we could go back and spend we would have spent more time with our children bade ho gaye pta hi nhi chala we know and I said okay and I have time you know let’s do this so you know there are numerous trips that I’ve done with her and you know continue to do so that has been something that has been very fulfilling actually after the acquisition of the golden handshake period to spend couple of years you know within Aon once that was done you know before and I spent about six months on the book penguin said you know why don’t you write a book so we ended up doing it thankfully book has done really well you know which has been great after that I spent six months with Ola as an advisor you know I’ve known Bhavesh you know before actually OLA was conceptualized and I think that was great learning you know from for me definitely and I hope I was able to add value to the company as well so for six months i was flying to Bangalore every week for a couple of days and coming back we I could have you know three days there and then four days back in Bombay that has been there now after that COVID stuck and so you know couldn’t move much in the last three four or five months you know we have started traveling again I’m a mountain person so the other two or three interests that I have one I am incredibly interested in how to create the right environment for a child right and this has been of a lot of interest over the last few years because I think you know i think parenting is the responsible position right yeah and I want to spend more time around this how can we create the right environment for a child and the other thing which has been interesting which was the reason we started CoCubes was how can let me put it this way how can you help somebody pursue their interests and abilities right and I think in this world it is lost we are so conditioned by what the world has told us and how to behave and what to do that it is not until much later in life that you really realize mai karna kch aur chahta hu aur kar kya rha hu right so how can we how can that happen for young adults it’s something that is of a lot of interest to me so you know spending time around interests and abilities creating the environment for the child you know parenting and then moving into young adults and how can people choose the right careers to do something having spent time spending time reading on talking about talking to people about when one thing you’re doing is you know we’re looking to open up a small school in a place called Palampur in Himachal you know I ended up going there during the lockdown i think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in the entire world, it’s like a mini Europe in India, it’s a closest is that it comes to me in my head. And I want to spend more time in that location. My friends, Rajat and Madhumita stay there and they are saying, can we start with making Open Learning Center for kids? You know where the village kids can, you know, come through the year after school and maybe we can do something for our classmates or batchmates to summer camps for kids? Can you build a world class Open Learning Center? This has been taking some time. It’s easy to be busy. Yeah. And then these things are, I think inspiring your next company, if possible, under interest now, which you have? until Hopefully, it will lead to something.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 25:45
Harpreet Singh Grover 25:46
You know, I think one of the thoughts that has really influenced me in the last few years, and it becomes a deeper every time that I read it is karam karo fal ki chinta mat karo. You know, the other way? If you ask me, this is a summary of the book, which is the book made by James Clear, yeah. Atomic habits, what do they say make good habits right not goals? What is that? That means karam karo fal ki chinta mat karo? Right? What does it mean? It means be in the movement, right, do what you’re supposed to do in the moment, the rest will follow. So, we’ll see, you know, fully a company will happen. Hopefully, it won’t happen. We don’t know it. But you know, the point is to be wake up every day and have a great day.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:33
Amazing, and what has changed in your life as a as a schedule, as you said, right? Before like, before the acquisition, right, you had a company to run, you are completely focused on it. After acquisition, you could think on various things you could think about family, you could think about spending time with family, you could think about your interest. Right? So, so but entrepreneurs don’t have this, this, you know, I think most entrepreneurs don’t reach such a point of privilege, right? So, can this life be designed?
Harpreet Singh Grover 27:11
I don’t think it’s a question of can, it’s a question of, you have to, you know, because if you don’t, I think there is a high chance you will have a regret when you’re 40 or 50, you will look back and say, Oh, I, I didn’t spend enough time with my child, you will look back and say, you know, my, you know, I could have spent more time with my partner, you know, why should I you know, if, you know, our parents are getting old, you know, you will, you will look back and say, I wish I had spent more time with them. So, I think these are the common things I heard when I spoke to people who are 2030 years ahead of me, and I said, yaar yeh nhi bolna chaiye, you know, you can build a company when you’re 60, again, but, you know, can you have your parents back and can you have your child back, I don’t think so. So, I am not advocating you drop what you’re doing, and you start spending all your time with a child, by the way, I did that, and I realized, bacho ke saath aap 2-3 ghante hi bita sakte ho, you know, after that, you’re done. Because after that, they are also done with you. So, and you know, and that is not great parenting, if you want to spend all your time with a child that is here to create the right environment for them to prosper. And in that environment, your place, maybe two hours a day. But taking out an hour or two in the day, to be with your family to be with the folks you love, I think is critical. I think that is a magical time. If you can be in the moment, if you can come home and say I will have dinner with my wife keeping the phone aside. And for this one hour, I will actually be with my wife, I will not think about the VC deal that is going to close tomorrow. I will not think about text baj rhe hai client delay ho rha hai oh yat fat gya or server down I for that one or the world is not going to change, but your world will definitely change. I am 100% sure of that. Right. So yeh karna bahut zaroori hai and then you spend the next 23 hours the way you want that is okay.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:12
And, you know there is tag a friend society places on us know you have been an entrepreneur, you will again be an entrepreneur. People ask me that you been entrepreneur tum corporate me kya kar rahe ho, maine kaha maza aa rha hai mujhe corporate me, right? I am learning, right? I don’t need to go to back to being an entrepreneur and the things which I do, I will do it entrepreneurially, the podcast which I do, right. Growing up, I co-founded with my wife. she takes care of it full time of the investments which I do right so I think now it’s become a more of a mindset for me, right? Rather than just doing the sake of company. For being the tag of an entrepreneur. It also is very difficult to dissociate with it.
Harpreet Singh Grover 30:03
Absolutely jo karo man se karo, right usme toh koi doubt hi nhi hai and I think the best things are done with full involvement. You know, you can’t treat entrepreneurship like a nine to five job it is it is a it is a nature. So, you know, now that I want to read about parenting, I’m thinking i have I’ve read 10-20 books, you know, I know what different curriculums are. I know what Montessori is. I know what world of education is, you know, I have visited Palampur, I’m thinking of doing an open learning center there. So, all of you know, it is a way of working, right? It’s a way of life. It doesn’t mean I have to start a company. Right? But it means that whatever you do, you know, you do it with full heart, which is what actually entrepreneurship symbolizes for me. You know, and, you know, some, I’ll tell you, I’m saying my father runs a, one of the things I did in the last half year was my father runs, a father at the age of 54, had been working in a bank for the last 30 years Punjab National Bank. And back at the age of 54, he left and started a company to help young adults get a government job. So, he trains young adults for, you know, government jobs. And in the COVID, everything got locked down the business went to zero. And, you know, I could have chosen to do many things. Because I was absolutely free. And there were many offers on the table, including starting a company to saying yeh 5-million-dollar lelo, kch bhi start kardo, right. But I said, agar apni company banali doosro ko help kardiya, ghar ki company nhi chali, If Dad ke saath kaam nhi kiya toh point kya hai, actually, after COVID hit six months, I spent bringing that organization online, right, that ran in a certain way, he was doing it at your own pace. You know, to his credit, he was teaching 2000 kids a year, starting at the age of 54, is now 64 and he has done this for the last 10 years. And I said let’s bring it online. So now, you know, in terms of monetary reward, this is not great outcome. But today, the company is derive 50% of its revenue from online. And, you know, I think this is the best time that I could have spent. Because, you know, if I look back, and I’m thinking I because I thought five years ahead five years ahead, I thought here if I make a lot more money, if I do a lot, lot more for myself, but my dad’s business doesn’t do well, I wouldn’t be able to look back in those five years with happiness. So, you know, that’s how I spend time now that is entrepreneurship in my own mind and making a choice, you know, which works for you.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 32:37
And what we discussed, I think, was really important because entrepreneurs, you know, I mistake myself also, you know, in the initial years that we fully forget about those who are around us, supporting us, and we take the company, let the company consumes us, it’s not that it consumes us, we let in our mind, the company consume us. And you know what, what you taught is beautiful about life design that, you know, you don’t need to be obsessive about that. Only one thing, by the time the one thing gives you the outcome that you want, everything else is lost.
Harpreet Singh Grover 33:17
yaar maybe mai keh rha hu it okay to be obsessive, but can you be in the moment? You know, being in the moment means Can you take take out that I’m again, going back to same example. Okay. Bilkul obsessive ho jaao, oh, you know, no problem at all. But, you know, can you take out at one hour for your family every day? Can you keep your phone aside for one hour? You know, if you have decided to give a few years to your company, can you take out at one hour for your family? Because, you know main, because I’m sure obsessiveness se, outcome niklega. Usme bhi zyada doubt nhi hai, because that is the outcome most people want, you know, people, most people want their name in the newspaper. They want to raise large amounts of funding, and they want to build a large company. And they want to grow fast, fast, fast, fast, fast, right. So, if you want this outcome, you will need to be obsessive. The thing to remember is this outcome is in your head, because you read too much newspaper, see too much social media, you’re too much on Twitter, you just need to go 20 years ahead and ensure this is the outcome that you want. You know, so one life hack for me is to talk to folks who are 20 years ahead of me and you know, hear what they’re saying. And then come back to my life and see how I can incorporate that.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 34:33
And I believe today you are 36-37
Harpreet Singh Grover 34:36
yaar kyu sawaal pooch rahe ho aise, I look 20 man, what are fuck are you talking about? But yeah, I’m 37 years. Yeah. Getting some white hair. Then people will start making me seriously.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 34:52
Amazing! Yeah. And you know, if you have to go back and you know, change something Between the period of let’s say 2007 to 2016 in your life now, because you are already talking to people 20 years ahead now i am talking to you, right? What do you what do you have to change between 2007 to 2016? What are the few things in your life, you would have changed? I’m not talking about outcome outcomes; I’m talking about inputs.
Harpreet Singh Grover 35:20
That’s a good question from 2007 to 2016. You know, what would have changed it, I think I would have listened more I would have spoken; I would have listened more. You know, you’re very headstrong as an entrepreneur sometime that blocks your listening ability, right? This is both good and bad. Because you are headstrong as why you are building what you are building, there is no other way. But you know, for everything that two sides of the coin. You know what I’m saying when we started the company, the good part was we loved the idea is why we did it. The bad part is we did not realize the idea of was in EdTech, in HR tech, and B2B. If you’re doing all these three, you’re dead in India. But we didn’t realize this, it happened, by flow, not by conscious choice. And I would have changed it sooner. What that means is I would have made the choice of going, I would have realized what the market conditions were where and moved to B2C sooner, you know, made all those changes sooner, rather than saying, humne yeh chalaya hai hum yehi karenge. right. The other thing, which was starting at the start of the podcast is you know, I would have, I think the way to look at it is I would have opened a window into my mind and let in fresh air, you know, much earlier on multiple occasions, and then see where that fresher air leads us. That is the one big change that I would have made, which hopefully I make more of now. But if you honestly ask me, you know, there were bad times in 2006 to 2017. There were good times, and lots and lots of good times. So, you know, if I could look back, I would want the same life all over again, I wouldn’t want to change much at all. Maybe spend some more time with my wife. But apart from you know, at that between 2007 to 2014. But you know, apart from that, actually everything else is has been great. You know, I wouldn’t change it for anything. There’s so many actually, you will learn from when you fall down. That is when you learn. And I think I’ve learned so much from the few episodes that will happen during the courts of building Cocubes that it’s been amazing. The Oh, one thing I would like to say here I’m saying at some point in Cocubes, Vibhor and I started it and in a very good friend of mine joined the company and year later, we didn’t get along in the professional setup. And he left any left on a bad note. You know, we stopped talking. We were good friends. My wife and his wife were best friends. He and I were best friend. Vibhor and he knew each other well. But you know, when it got over, we were no longer talking to each other. And I mentioned this in the book as well, you know, when I took up running and you know, when airtel marathon was finishing, I ran into him. And you know, he looked at me and he, you know, turned around and he started walking away and I went to him I kept my hand on his back. And I you know I said I’m sorry. And he turned around and he said yaar, itna time lag gya teko bolne me, pehle hi bol diya hota. You know, so if you ask me, you know, there’s a beautiful line that I love. It says, you know kch is tarah se humne zindagi ko aasan kar liya, kisi se maafi maang li kisi ko maaf kar diya. So, this is something that I learned with age. And if I could go back in 2007 and a half the same wisdom, I would like to have it.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 39:19
And you mentioned also one thing in the book, right? You learn that you have to solve simple problems. as entrepreneurs, we are thinking, you know, might be I was earlier thinking that we need to solve complex problems. But there is a para way. You mentioned you learnt the hard way that it’s the simple problem that they need to solve repeatedly.
Harpreet Singh Grover 39:46
absolutely. No, I’m saying I’m saying let me contradict myself also. I’m saying Elon Musk is solving for going to Mars. I think that complex problem. Yeah. At the same time, if you look at multiple companies that have done well, all of them solve very simple problems and find an elegant way to solve it, which can be repeated over and over again. Like science rather than art. The one thing the takeaway for any entrepreneur listening to this is, you know, a frequent deck that we get is jisme 1 cycle bana hota hai, you know you have the cycle, yeh hoga, yeh hoga, yeh hoga, yeh hoga and they’re like eight steps to that cycle. Right. And that cycle doesn’t work, because it has eight steps, it is never going to work, all eight are not going to work. Yeah, you need to find a shorter cycle of growth, a shorter cycle, shorter, fulfilling cycle. And maybe you need to find multiple of these to make your company work. But your cycle needs to be, you know, the flywheel needs to move faster, once it is shorter, not like tuck tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck tuck bahut saari cheeezein nhi honi chaiye and the example that I, the reason I felt this was, you know, I was in this company called Inductis. And they used to do this complex project. And you know, our ego burst came out to be saying, who was working on the most complex project. And that company had a great outcome. But Along came a company called Mu Sigma, you know, and this company, you know, did shitty project, this company did projects, which are a major, I mean, I shouldn’t call shitty should be I should the simpler project right it said yeh karna hai isse business aa rha hai, yeh 10 saal tak aata rahega Because these problems will always keep coming, and they will always keep outsourcing it. Whereas Inductis was looking at solving complex problems. And you know, companies don’t have complex problems all the time they give it to you one and then they are done, then you are hunting again for a new project, a new complex problem to solve. So, if you want to build a business and you know, you know, you say that you know it well, if you’re starting a fund in the SAAS space, you need to be able to solve a problem, simple problem repeatedly. That is how you get annual recurring revenue. This is the only way to do it. And I think so if you can find a problem like that. I think that is great.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 42:18
Thank you so much Harpreet. I wish you know; I had more time to dive more into your mind and explore more gems for the listeners from your experience. But you’re definitely encourage everyone to read the book. Let’s build a company, written by Harpreet, Grover, and Vibhor Goyal. Thanks again, for coming on the podcast. It’s been a pleasure.
Harpreet Singh Grover 42:41
Thank you, Siddhartha. And thank you everyone for listening. You know, all the best in whatever you do.