220 / August 4, 2023

Mental Health, Tier-3 City Founders & Spirituality | STAGE Founder

65 minutes

220 / August 4, 2023

Mental Health, Tier-3 City Founders & Spirituality | STAGE Founder

65 minutes
Listen on

About the Episode

This week’s episode speaks about spirituality & mental health and features one of the most resilient founders we’ve ever met. We welcome Vinay Singhal, co-founder of STAGE, to the Neon Show!

In this week’s episode, we learn about the tough tenacity of small-town entrepreneurs and the extreme strength they have to pick themselves up after failures.

Many may know our guest from his emotional segment on Shark Tank but how many of you know his heartbreaking story about WittyFeed, his first company, which got shutdown by Facebook overnight?

Why is depression & poor mental health such a silent killer in the Indian startup ecosystem? How did Vinay tackle his own battle with it?

Want to know more about how Vinay and his co-founders created India’s very own NETFLIX?

Well to find out all this and much more, join us on this rollercoaster ride of a conversation! Trust us when we say this is the most emotional conversation we’ve had yet!

Watch all other episodes on The Neon Podcast – Neon

Or view it on our YouTube Channel at The Neon Show – YouTube

3 Lessons Learnt From Vinay Singhal | A Newbie’s Perspective


1. Having a therapist is key for entrepreneurs

Vinay mentions that the business of entrepreneurship can be quite difficult and a lonely journey. Hence, they should be able to reach out to someone who can listen to them & help ease all their stress. He believes this is the key to striking up a good work-life balance.

2. Always give yourself a 2nd chance

No matter how many times you get knocked down in life, allow yourself some leniency and go out there again to conquer. Additionally, it is important that we try and find things to work towards or live for because life without purpose is a life only worth surviving & not fully living.

3. Vinay Singhal is one of the most resilient people we have come across.

First thing I noticed when hearing Vinay speak and carry himself is that this is someone who has seen everything in life. The highs, the lows & everything else in between. Furthermore, he is very clear that the successes shouldn’t get to his head so much that he allows the failures to penetrate his psyche as well. This is very important for entrepreneurs as they navigate through the extreme volatility of the business they are in!

Vinay Singhal 00:00

(SPEAKING HINDI) There was no end to the WittyFeed story. I think the day that episode was shot was the end of the WittyFeed story. I wasn’t a traitor. I wasn’t wrong. I didn’t do any fraud. I was not a fluke and WittyFeed was not a fluke either. We put in a lot of effort. We lost it for no mistake of ours and you fail and it should be okay right but it is not. [Emotional] Sorry. Therapy very specifically helped me through this. The therapist really enforced it in me that ‘You are not just a founder but so much more.’ If things go according to plan then that is good, but even if they don’t then that’s better. Even if it does not happen according to how you want things to go that’s okay because God has a better plan for you then you think.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:36

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia and welcome to the Neon Show. For the first time in over 200 episodes of recording, I cried while taping an episode. You may know today’s guest from his memorable appearance on Shark Tank but no one knows what he went through when Facebook shut down his previous company WittyFeed overnight. He speaks about that painful experience and how he then started STAGE. It’s a story of toughness. It’s a story of Vinay Singhal. I would like to thank our sponsors Prime Venture Partners for sponsoring the Neon Show. Hope you enjoy it!


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:11

Hi everyone, this is Siddhartha Ahluwali and welcome to the Neon Show. Today I have with me Vinay Singhal, founder of STAGE, India’s largest original dialect OTT platform.


Vinay Singhal 01:23

Thank you Siddhartha! Good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:26

So Vinay we have many common connection right? I come from Meerut a tier-two/tier-three town. You come from a tier-three village near Bhiwani


Vinay Singhal 01:36

[chuckles] (SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah. Tier-three village. It’s not a tier-three town… it’s a village, a very small one. Yes, I come from – you rightly said – we have this common connection. I come from a very small village in Haryana, the village is in Bhiwani district. It’s I think 100-150 odd houses in the village—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:54

That’s it, just 100 families?


Vinay Singhal 01:56

That’s it. That’s it right. I grew there. I was born there. I was brought up there. (SPEAKS HINDI) My schooling also started in that village in a hindi medium school until 8th-9th grade then I switched to a… I shifted to a town for education, etc. But I grew up there and I think I find myself very lucky and fortunate that I I grew up there. I think you know today when I look back, I wouldn’t take it any other way and I would… I think this has helped me so much in being the person that I am today because of the place where I was born and the way I was brought up.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 02:32

(SPEAKS HINDI) The tenacity in tier-two/tier-three entrepreneurs is commendable from what I’ve noticed. I can tell you a bit about my own story as well. In 2011, I did my five year dual degree course. Did my post graduate and left from IIT Gwalior. In 2012, I left my job at Amdocs after doing it for one year because the salary itself wasn’t very good as it was 28,000 rupees per month [chuckles]. I shifted houses in Meerut and I started a garage startup type situation at my parents’ place. I came to Bangalore one day and thought, I’m also someone from tech but I still need people who can create a better product than me and do tech better than I do. I’ll get them as co-founders. It took nearly one year to find a good co-founder. I used to go to Bangalore on a single ticket by train and I remember it was a 34-48 hour journey depending on whether you will get —


Vinay Singhal 03:27

(SPEAKS HINDI) This is where that tenacity comes from right! [chuckles] I think struggle is a part of our life and feel like we were born into it. There is basically what you are saying is right and I’m sorry if I’m interrupting you. Basically, there is nothing in our life that has been spoonfed to us, right? We’re not born with a silver spoon, right? We have to earn everything on our own—


Vinay Singhal 03:57

We’ve seen ou parents earning everything and they didn’t get anything easy—


Vinay Singhal 03:59

(SPEAKING HINDI) Our parents are also very innocent as their background is so simple and so it’s not like we can use their names to gain advantages, etc. We have to earn everything on our own, right? Our life’s journey happens on a train, right, or the suffering happens in a government bus? So it’s not like we get a car to go to college, right?


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 04:19

So I met my co-founders in Bangalore too and I had to propose to them so that they would get convinced [laughs]. I asked them to shift from Meerut to Bangalore. I told them this is our base and it’s relatively cheap. By then I had started consumer discovery because we were making a SaaS for doctors. So when they came to Delhi and then from Delhi to Meerut, they came from a roadways bus and there is still Bangali Baba stickers on the bus so they are still amazed by right… the environment in a roadways bus from Delhi to Meerut—


Vinay Singhal 04:53

(SPEAKS HINDI) You wouldn’t believe… We used that as a marketing technique today for STAGE. We grew up with the Bangali Baba stickers so we know the context of those, right? So we still remember it even to this day, right? So for STAGE’s marketing, one of the most effective tools that we have used is that we would brand the roadways bus stickers.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 04:55

(SPEAKS HINDI) Branding the whole outside of the bus?


Vinay Singhal 05:08

Yeah. Of course through official channels, etc as it is a government asset—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 05:12

(SPEAKS HINDI) But it’s not putting a sticker like the Bangali Baba type—


Vinay Singhal 05:19

(SPEAKS HINDI) Yeah not that because we’re a company right, so we can’t do all of that so we would do it in a more official manner so we would put stickers on all sides of the bus through official channels and it is one of the most effective channels that we have used as a marketing technique. Just now we had a web series released called Mewat and we did it for that. So Mewat is an area that goes through Gurgaon so some of the buses come from Gurgaon itself and so many of my entrepreneur friends and VC friends who spotted it and took a picture and sent it to me so it has been such a huge ROI tool basically that way. Another technique we use similar to this is putting our branding on autos in Bhiwani, Hisar, Rohtak, Sonipat and places like these. Again, it’s a reference like Bangali Baba type only. It is such a high value play that someone walking around on the roads will definitely see it, right? And all of a sudden you’ll feel a certain amount of FOMO as well that I can see it everywhere around me. If I can see it everywhere around me then the person walking around will feel, ‘Oh I can see STAGE being advertised everywhere basically.’ So yeah, Bangali Baba reference [laughing].


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:34

(SPEAKS HINDI) So that journey was in Meerut and then in Meerut when we captured enough number of doctors for our SaaS company, we felt that the market was starting to exhaust because in Meerut there was only 400-500 doctors so we moved to Delhi. It’s not like we moved to Delhi completely but rather we moved to Ghaziabad because it felt like the most cheapest area [chuckles]. So I think this kind of thought process I have only seen like people who come from the roots of India.


Vinay Singhal 07:03

(SPEAKS HINDI) Like I said we have to earn eevrything on our own and that’s what we have seen while growing up. I think that we have in our DNA and I’m sure you also believe that we are fortunate to be born in environments like that. We are fortunate to have grown up like that that working hard does not scare us, right? No matter how much life pulls us down, we have the courage to get back up every single time, right? And as an entrepreneur, there is no superpower bigger than tenacity, bigger then perseverance, right?

Vinay Singhal 07:44

I always tell everyone that… When you record podcasts like this, everyone will ask at the end if there’s one message you would like to relay to entrepreneurs. I give that message right at the start [chuckling] I tell everyone as an entrepreneur… basically treat it like this that you just have stand tall and stick to it because the age of the storm will always be shorter than yours, right? The storm will pass because it has a finite life and if you stand through it, you will come out as a winner. That’s all. Every other struggle in your life is just a storm and it will pass. It has to pass. That’s the nature of it. If you stand tall then you will win. You only have to show strength, just do that. The biggest superpower of entrepreneurs is the tenacity and perseverance, this never give up attitude of ours. I think that’s the only thing that makes us win. That’s I think the only thing that that separates the winners from everybody else.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 08:44

For sure. This is a pretty long-term game right. You can’t think that you will succeed in exactly 10 years, right? So there is no time limit for this if someone is playing this game for success, right? It’s kind of an infinite game. It could take 20 years also or even 25 years. Yesterday we recorded a podcast with Sanjeev Bikhchandani sir and he says, ‘Siddhartha it’s been 35 years for me as an entrepreneur and for the first seven years, I drifted.’ This was a new concept to me but he said that ‘In ’90 I opened Info Edge and in ’97 I launched In those seven years to run the house, I was a journalist. I worked with a newspaper. I did everything. I was a lecturer at an MBA college.’ So these things right if you just persevere


Vinay Singhal 09:40

Yeah for sure. Now see 33 years, you know, it takes… We are ’90s folks and the generation after us, the Gen Z can’t even fathom 33 years. You’re understanding what I’m saying right? Even reels on Tik Tok are only for 30 seconds not even 33 seconds so 33 years is an extremely long time to be able to commit yourself to something for 33 years, and, to have the energy and you know courage to still continue at it every day. I know we were talking about this podcast just before this one you were telling me, ‘Wow what energy he has even at this point.’—

Vinay Singhal 10:20

(SPEAKS HINDI) After doing 33 years of, you know, this, that even we do now. And, there are times when we feel tired, but you know, still to be able to come back and say that let’s do this is a perspective I think that I’ve built in the last few years. The entire experience of losing a company, losing WittyFeed and then rebuilding STAGE. I think I’ve become a bit spiritual and philosophical now. I think when you go through such intense experiences, you get a little spiritual, you get little philosophy so what I realized, and it’s very cliche, but I think I’ve been able to internalize it over time is that… While this life advice but even entrepreneurs without it won’t be able to work successfully that there is no goalpost. There is no destination just a journey. If you cannot enjoy the journey, there is no destination anyways so your life so your life will just drift by. So it’s better you enjoy the journey you. It’s better you love it, while you’re at it, without waiting for that goalpost, that milestone because there isn’t any, and too many of us realize this too late. And we keep chasing something that we are never because there’s nothing to attain in reality, right? Its just that we have to love what we do every day and we have to do it for the love of doing it, right? And I think that’s the only way you can console yourself as an entrepreneur and you can be at it with the same energy for the rest of your life—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:23

Very raw energy.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 12:05

(SPEAKS HINDI) This can only be the thought process or your purpose that as an entrepreneur, you are giving your best every day.


Vinay Singhal 12:11

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah, and the only way to give best is to enjoy it. There is no other way, right? If you don’t love it, you will come very tired in the morning and you’ll feel like oh god I have to do this again, right? The only way to feel like ah let’s do this again, right, and you might have gone to sleep feeling very depressed but in the morning you say no issues let’s do this again. The only way to say this is if you love it every day, or at some point you’ll feel like enough is enough and you can’t do it anymore. For me, if I look back at my journey, also, you know, it was so easy to give up when we lost WittyFeed. It was such an easier option, right?


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 12:57

Just to shut down?


Vinay Singhal 12:58

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah I mean we just had to say that boss this isn’t happening and there was an easy… humans need justifications, right? I had an easy justification that it wasn’t even my fault this happened. It just happened and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s fine it has happened so now I’ll just do some job or do something else. But then yeah, I think like I said, because when you do it for the love of doing it, you get an enjoyment just out of doing it that let’s do it again not an issue. Facebook has only taken WittyFeed—

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 13:31

Not taken your life right—


Vinay Singhal 13:32

They can’t take what I have already within me. They can’t take Vinay or Shashank or even Parveen. WittyFeed was made by us so we’ll make something else again.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 13:33

So I think the journey you say about WittyFeed. You had a 300 crore acquisition offer two months ago and exactly 4 years later you are now valued at 300 crores—


Vinay Singhal 13:50

(SPEAKS HINDI) Yeah this is an irony that yes we rejected an all cash offer of 300 crores back in the day and now we are literally at 300 crores right now. Our last round, we were valued at 300 crores. I think life has come a full circle in this time. When we went on Shark tank and said all of these things so when we said 300 crores once again, Aman had said ‘Why are you crying n ow… You’ve made a 300-crores company today!’ I think that was the closer moment in the story that yeah the film has concluded now. The old story got a conclusion in life so now STAGE is free from old baggage and can live its own journey without WittyFeed’s baggage.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 14:41

(SPEAKS HINDI) Even in Shark Tank, all three of you got teary-eyed but after going back home those tears must have stopped because now you guys could feel and say that—


Vinay Singhal 14:52

(SPEAKS HINDI) The Shark Tank day? So I remember so clearly. I think one of the most most beautiful days, I think of my life. I recently had a son and I think I can compare that day in a similar manner because WiityFeed was also like our own child, right what we did that day… So in Shark Tank what happens is that once your shoot is done it’s not necessary that your episode will get aired. We didn’t care about all that, right? We did not come for getting aid and all of that stuff, right? We got to tell our story in front of some really amazing people and we just wanted our own validation. Basically, what happened was that when WittyFeed had gone down, whenever this happens everybody gives their own narrative in the market that this happened or that happened. People are very, very quick to write you off right? So for 8-10 months everybody thought it was a fluke, and we were telling you previously anyways and during that time even if we said anything, who would believe us, right because when you’re down nobody cares about your story.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 16:05

People want to write their own narrative.


Vinay Singhal 16:07

(SPEAKS HINDI) Yeah and nobody cares about what is your narrative! Nobody wants to listen to that because we had zero value at that point, right? So in our minds obviously there was a lot going on and we were quite said and we had to bury that and you’re hearing everything that is being said around you, right? So we had to prove a point to ourselves. After a point even self doubt starts to creep in as all of us as an entrepreneurs live with imposter syndrome on a regular basis. We are always living in self doubt and thinking whether we are good enough to deserve any of this and when something like this happens where people are speaking ill of you all around then at one point even we ask ourselves whether this was a fluke or not. We will be able to make it again right? And then you know, I think God has been kind and you know, being able to having the privilege of being able to build STAGE and the way we have built it and then being able to tell the story on that stage. I think we got the validation that we needed for ourselves. We went back to the hotel and for an hour or hour and a half we just sat down and crying. None of us said anything to each other and we just sat there crying. We’re hugging each other in any form of combination where sometimes all of us are hugging each other or just two of us at a time and we’re just sitting and we’re smiling and we’re crying. On our faces you could see happiness and there was no sadness. The face that a human makes when being happy and crying. I think I can speak for them also but for me individually I was just feeling so calm inside and it was just a feeling of I’m so happy that I got to live this life and I’m so happy that I get to live this day. At 4 am in the morning, we went from Juhu where we were staying and went to Marine Beach. [Smiling] Over there, that feeling of entrepreneurs looking at the sea and getting a different type of philosophy in life. I think we stayed there for a long time just sitting and lying down over there. I don’t think we did talk a lot that day. Only talk we had was that we called our parents. We put everyone in a group call and I remember Parveen said it and I think we all three felt it. He said that ‘Papa we finally won!’ And I think that’s how we felt that day that we won. We were not a fluke. We have done something in life and we have achieved something and we are back. We’re back to the same place where life left us four years ago, right, and we’re back to that place. And I think that closure. I can go on and on and speak about it probably for the entire—

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:30

(SPEAKS HINDI) That closure must have been very liberating because from the inside you must have felt that you didn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore.


Vinay Singhal 19:35

(SPEAKS HINDI) Oh, yes! Oh, yes. Like I said, STAGE for the last four years has been built with a baggage of WittyFeed. It was always a pivot. It was always a continuation of the WittyFeed story, right? Because it did not have an end so there was no end to the WittyFeed story. I think the day that that episode was shot was the end of the WittyFeed story and STAGE got liberated from all the baggage of the past and I think a big weight got lifted off our shoulders and I think we’re able to build with much more lightheartedness, then we were building before.


Vinay Singhal 19:39

(SPEAKS HINDI) Have you seen Chak De India?


Vinay Singhal 19:43

[laughing] Yes!


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:46

(SPEAKS HINDI) So there is a moment in Chak De India in the beginning when Shah Rukh Khan loses the match and on his wall they right ‘traitor’ and he takes his mom out with the scooter. Then when he comes back as a coach, then people remove the traitor word and he smiles feeling like he got some closure.


Vinay Singhal 20:25

(SPEAKING HINDI) I think that analogy does apply here too. Yeah that feeling was similar to Chak De India’s Shah Rukh Khan that we did it and we were not traitors and we are not frauds. We also did not have a fluke. We lost WittyFeed due to no mistake of ours but we’ve done it again on our capability basically. Yeah, that’s how we felt. Exactly that’s how we felt. At the end, in taj at Marina, we sat down and had tea and that was a celebration we did for ourselves [chuckles].

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:21

(SPEAKS HINDI) That night you must have slept peacefully?

Vinay Singhal 21:23

(SPEAKS HINDI) Oh yes, of course. That day we slept really peacefully and well!


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:26

(SPEAKS HINDI) And when you guys came back from there? You met the team and you met your family members. How was that?


Vinay Singhal 21:34

Yeah the same feeling and then the day it was aired, on the terrace we hosted a small screening just for our team and our family…—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:38

(SPEAKING HINDI) Everyone must have teared up, right?


Vinay Singhal 21:39

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yes, yes. The whole team… They were seeing themselves in us. We were representative of all of those people who stayed with us during WittyFeed. The story that we narrated of 54 people staying with us and saying that no, no, we will not let you die. We will stick by you. We will not take salaries. But we will you know we will win. And I think we were… On the screen probably there’s three of us but it was all of us. We were representing all of us. And thanks to Shark Tank team as they showed our team pictures and everybody was like ‘Oh I came ons creen once or someone else said I came on TV twice!’ I think TV is TV at the end of the day. You know as as much as I’m building an OTT channel, TV’s value is still high especially for our parents’ generation. Our parents had to endure a lot and hear a lot when all this happened. You know our Indian society right? With parents, people say ‘See—

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 22:49

(SPEAKING HINDI) I remember you had said that when you were switching from medical side to engineering, your dad had said ‘Listen son do whatever you’d like but just don’t ruin our family name.’


Vinay Singhal 22:59

[chuckles] (SPEAKS HINDI) Yeah… My father, I have a very special relationship with him. You know, all he has ever wanted from me… He’s never had any demands and he’s been extremely supportive. He’s not very educated, educated in terms of you know, school education, college education. But he’s been… I’m very lucky to have him again, right and when I was making such a big decision after spending so much of his money, all he said was that ‘Listen I don’t want anything from you. I don’t know if you’ll make our family name proud or not but just ensure that because of you I won’t have to ever lower my head in shame.’ That’s all he wanted from me, right? And I think he had to lower it in the middle for some time. We went through a very tough time. I haven’t spoken so much about it. In the stubbornness to keep WittyFeed alive, we took a few bank loans, etc. We were able to repay half of it but then not the rest. A man who never borrowed money in his entire life… my father has always helped people out financially not borrowed from others. To the man who had to hide his son inside the house when some recovery agent was at the door and he’s having to lie to them saying that I’m not at home, right? You know all these recovery agents of NBFCs and all of those people who have stuck a notice on the front of our door. All of that I think they went through a lot and most importantly for no fault of theirs. It was not the fault of my parents and my wife. Their only mistake was that my wife is married to me, and I’m their son and they were just going through all of it with me because I made some choices in life. You know, I could have made a choice of some other career choice and I could have given them very comfortable life. Anyways they didn’t need more than necessary because they had a frugal mindset being from a village. So they were going through all of it just because they were my parents. She was my wife etc. So I felt more sadness for them thinking how it was their fault in all this. At least I can tell myself that by choice I have chosen this path in life but these guys are suffering for no reason, right? And then I think when that Shark Tank episode when it comes on TV, especially again, like I said, our parents’ generation has a very different value to be featured on TV, right? I think the pride of my dad came back. I think he got it back on that day. [Sniffles] Sorry. I think he was able to, you know, lift his head and say this again, ‘See my son had not done anything wrong.’


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 23:01

(SPEAKING HINDI) He had set out to become an entrepreneur and there’s nothing wrong in being an entrepreneur.


Vinay Singhal 23:24

Exactly right. And you fail and and it should be okay, right? But it is not. [Sniffles] Sorry.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 23:49

(SPEAKING HINDI) So when that episode had aired on TV, what did your father say to you?


Vinay Singhal 24:04

(SPEAKING HINDI) As luck would have it my dad was not here on that day. He was traveling to the village for some work and I think it was a good thing because he was able to watch it with the whole family in the village.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 25:02

(SPEAKING HINDI) I assume he was able to watch it with the whole family.


Vinay Singhal 25:03

(SPEAKING HINDI) With everybody he watched it. The promo had come a few days earlier so he forwarded it to everybody and told everybody that the episode is coming out soon. I think lots of people tuned in so he watched it with everybody. And then I spoke to him on phone—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:25

Was he crying?


Vinay Singhal 26:33

(SPEAKING HINDI) Oh yes. See my dad is a very emotional person. Very,very much. I think I get this from him. He has a very soft heart. He’s the type to get scared very easily and he’ll start crying easily. So like I said, that day he got back that feeling of ‘What was so bad about what my son was doing? He set out to do something good and then he failed at it. And then after he failed what did he do? He tried again, right so why were all of you talking and taunting so much? See he’s shown all of you.’

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:39

(SPEAKING HINDI) So did you say all this to those people?


Vinay Singhal 27:42

I think you don’t say that in so many words. But frankly, I think on that day, you don’t have to say it anymore— I think you don’t have to say this anymore. That’s the beauty of it. I think that was the beauty of it is you won’t have to tell anybody about it. That day all your relatives suddenly remember you. I think you know, as a society, in India, we are a very unforgiving society to failures. Over here we look at it a very in a very negative way. If you fail in exams then it is a big problem so failing in any capacity is bad. Many people who will give you a piece of their mind, and we are very unforgiving basically right? So when that happened, the entire society around us, ecosystem of entrepreneurs to larger ecosystem even if that is business side of things or personal side… Basically people write you off. People say things. People make their own narratives that they knew nothing was going to happen with this person or that. And then a small matter becomes much bigger. So my influence and my positioning in my family, larger family is also a little bit that they listen to me a bit. The fact that I’m the first graduate in the family, he was doing alright and then things went a bit wrong. I think I have a certain character where I don’t take taunts unnecessarily from anyone so they wouldn’t say much to me but then who would they tell? Parents, right because everyone tells parents only. Then like we were just discussing my marriage was also… It happened in a certain way so all of that comes out then that ‘See he was always spoilt, etc.’. I think my parents got a bit of peace that all this torture in life will now finally stop—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:42

(SPEAKING HINDI) Those four years must have been an ordeal for them also.


Vinay Singhal 28:29

(SPEAKING HINDI) I mean that was an ordeal for sure. On one hand you’re dealing with all this, the other side you’re dealing with paying off loans, then thirdly the kids aren’t anything. In our case, both their sons decided to do the same thing so the income became zero and the total house income became zero also. My wife also used to work with us. So the third person who could make money was also with us right, so at one point paying rent was becoming a problem. Shashank also was going through a very similar experience you know. He also comes from a very similar background by the way. His parents… his dad was a government veterinarian so he would get a government income. So a government employee’s son wanting to do entrepreneurship is hard to stomach for them because they have that strict mindset, right? So for Shashank, people would say to his dad ‘See we told you doc sir, he’s not doing any work currently and if he had gone into a decent job he would be much better off now.’ All of that. So we were… I think all of us and our parents for us… The Shark Tank episode usually works well for marketing purposes which did happen to us too and happened in a big way but what was beyond it for us it was it was so much more. There’s no way we can quantify it and for us it was all about that closure. It was all about you know giving our parents, I think no matter how much we spent we wouldn’t be able to bring back that peace for our parents. In their heads and hearts, their belief that their kids were on the same path is amazing. They were with us unconditionally. They were still trusting us. They were still supporting us.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 31:27

(SPEAKING HINDI) I’m assuming that when the loan officer had come to collect the loans, your dad had not said anything to you?


Vinay Singhal 31:36

(SPEAKING HINDI) He didn’t say a single thing. Instead he said that whatever inheritance he has, he offered it to me. He said ‘We can sell this. You take this. Using this we can pay it off.’ He was only of the mindset that I should not stress too much. He probably felt like ‘If I feel like this even if it is not my loan then what must he be going through?’ So he was offered to sell our plots, etc to pay it off.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 31:49

(SPEAKING HINDI) Do you remember how much the loans exactly were?


Vinay Singhal 31:55

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah, yeah. I think we took a little north of three crores in total and basically because our balance sheet was so good that 20-30 lakhs loans were pre approved in the balance sheet so we took that so we took it from 10-12 banks and so it was not just one person handling it. I think—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 32:20

It came back in one day right as soon — (inaudible)


Vinay Singhal 32:23

(SPEAKING HINDI) It became zero all of it. So we did pay back about 60% of it etc. The last 30-40% is remaining which we are trying to pay off in some ways now, etc. The thing is they didn’t know how to handle it as well so we didn’t realize that they try and scare you more rather than actually doing anything. At the start you don’t realize all that so how od you explain it to your father that this is a company loan not a personal loan. They can keep troubling you but they can’t actually cause any harm to you since it was the company that took the loan and failed not us personally. The company tried paying off its loans as long as it could, right? How do I explain all these things to him? So all these things, he would be worried about quietfully.


Vinay Singhal 33:06

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah the thought something bad might happen or that the police might take us scared him. In life, this is a man who hasn’t even gone to the bank so for him to think and talk about the police station… so he was very scared. He was supporting us and he was with us but Shark Tank gave him that faith that the children are doing well and that they will be okay so ‘I don’t have to take any tension.’ I think that gave them some peace of mind and there is no money that we could have bought it for in the world.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 33:07

(SPEAKS HINDI) He might have been worried for his childrens’ safety as both kids are in the same line of work—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 33:09

(SPEAKING HINDI) To see the sparkle in our parents’ eyes in India is something every child will want to do anything for—

Vinay Singhal 33:15

(SPEAKING HINDI) What do we live for? What is all this if not for them?I think we live our lives in two phases: First we live for our parents and then we live for our children… That’s all I think right? So I recently just became a father so before all that it was all for parents. Otherwise what are you living for? To see happiness in their eyes everything can be sacrificed, you know. That’s the only reason why we do what we do.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 33:55

(SPEAKING HINDI) The idea that you can once again raise your father’s head in pride—


Vinay Singhal 34:01

(SPEAKS HINDI) Yeah for sure. I mean that man who has only supported you throughout your life, the man who has never asked you for anything in life other you do well and don’t do anything that will make me feel embarrassed. That’s all he asked for and here and sadly, he had to feel that way at some point and be looked down upon.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 34:32

(SPEAKING HINDI) You’re saying that government loan officers came to the house and there’s only 100 families in the village then a crowd will form since people have nothing better to do—


Vinay Singhal 34:45

(SPEAKING HINDI) Thankfully, the village incident didn’t take place. I got saved from it but Shashank had to go through. They even reached Shashank’s house in Barnagar because probably my house was in a remote village so they wouldn’t come that far so they would come to Indore. We did receive some notices to my home address… my village address but otherwise they would come to Indore. However, for Shashank they went to uncle’s house in Barnagar and we were thinking what is this?

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 35:13

(SPEAKING HINDI) So what I’ve seen, because my in-laws are from a village, your respect is the biggest thing, right?


Vinay Singhal 35:27

(SPEAKING HINDI) See it’s a very closely knit community, right Siddhartha, so you’re always getting up and spending time with the same 50-100 people. They are your childhood friends and helping you out in all activities of life. Basically, it is their own small little world and they don’t care about anything outside of that. So if their status gets disturbed in that small world then their whole world and identity gets thrown upside down.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:01

(SPEAKING HINDI) These same 50-100 people who you spend all your time with suddenly start to see you differently in the space of one day—


Vinay Singhal 36:13

(SPEAKING HINDI) See let me give you an example for both of us. If something happened about us in the village, it would not affect us but because we both are entrepreneurs, if something were to happen in the startup ecosystem we would automatically think of this as worst possible outcome because we spend all of our time amongst these startup founders, right, and it was the same for mama and papa because that is their life and the people they spend all their time with everyday.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:32

(SPEAKING HINDI) And that doesn’t change right? We could probably still relocate—


Vinay Singhal 36:34

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah we could probably change our city or country in which we are living in city. One of the reasons I shifted from Indore to Noida was to change the city and change the environment because I wanted to get out of there for a bit. Two years ago when we moved from Indore to here we had that same logic that we couldn’t stay there anymore.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:48

There’s too much history—


Vinay Singhal 36:49

Yeah… Everything reminded of things, people talking about it all the time. We needed to get out of that place. And one of the reasons, not the only reason of course, but it was definitely one of the reasons why I basically ran away from there.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:01

(SPEAKING HINDI) For an entrepreneur, especially in India where failure is not accepted, you’re living a life in a pressure cooker because of your own choices…


Vinay Singhal 37:11

[laughs] (SPEAKS HINDI) You’re absolutely right about this. You have your own choice so you’re in a pressure cooker as a result.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:19

(SPEAKS HINDI) In our society, since the family is so close knit, you’ve put your wife and parents in a pressure cooker as well and they’re suffering because of no reason, because of the choices that you made.


Vinay Singhal 37:35

Absolutely. Absolutely and the mental health toll… it’s just too much I think. It hits very hard and it takes a lot to go through it and I’m very privileged very lucky that I had access to therapy. I had access to you know, tools like that. I was able to make shift a city. All of these things I think when I look back I only feel privileged and lucky that I was so fortunate. And I actually feel fortunate for the entire experience also. Frankly speaking zero regrets you know. When I sit back today and I look at WittyFeed I only feel that this was the right thing to happen—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 38:17

(SPEAKING HINDI) Those experiences have made you much stronger yeah?


Vinay Singhal 38:20

I am who I am because what happened to me. Now if I had a chance to go through all of this all over again, I would just not change anything at all. I would want to go through it exactly the same way. I think I’m a much better person. And once things settle down, you start to accept that this has already happened so acceptance came then from acceptance—

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 38:44

(SPEAKING HINDI) You must have seen your revenue number hit everyday during that time, right?


Vinay Singhal 38:45

(SPEAKING HINDI) It became 0 in one day. One million dollar went into that and then the next month it became 0. It was a flatline. It was literally dead, right? And every month the payroll is 2 crores as we had a team of 150 people and we had our office in New York where we hired a lot of non-Indians as well. So once the revenue became zero, then it becomes easy then everything gets over. And then came the identity crisis that I was only 18-19 years when I started this company. Shashank, same age. Parveen was 16-17 years old, and at that young age, having that much of success. It also gets into your head. Having access to that… 40 crores every year in your hands and that 40 crores we would spend every time to regrow the company basically, right. That’s a lot of money. When I used to speak in crores with my dad he would get scared. He would ask me if I was doing anything wrong. I would show him the bank account and for him, he’s never talked about crores or even thought about it. He’s never seen 1 crore before and here I was talking about 40 crores. In one month, 5-7 crores of revenue. In ’17-’18, especially after raising money, what happened was that we became a press darling for tier-two because not many companies were being made from tier-two. So we broke all the startup cliches. We were making it from tier-two, bootstrap, profitable, non-IIT/IIM, media from India and India to global. These are all non-cliche things that wouldn’t happen but we were doing it. I think we became the poster boys of the tier-two ecosystem. We used to get lots of PR and then the world knew us as the founders of a WittyFeed. If there’s no WittyFeed then what are we? And that question mark on the identity became a very big part of you know our struggle at that point in time as to who we are. Siddhartha literally we went through existential crisis man that who am I? Why are we? What are we doing? Why are we on this Earth? Why are we making this company? Why have we come here? I used to ask everybody this that what do you think is the purpose of us on Earth and what’s the point of everything, right, all of that stuff. So I think it takes a lot to just go through it. I guess that tenacity came into work there from howe grew up. If God put us through so much then I suppose he also gave us the strength to go through it and I think that’s where comes the support system that you have. Again lots of privilege… very lucky. I have the best family. All three of us you know. Both of our families, our parents, our wives show such unconditional support. They never questioned us for even one moment. They always said ‘It’s fine that it has happened. Don’t worry and we are with you.’


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 41:51

(SPEAKING HINDI) The biggest thing is that three crores loan is always hanging over your head—


Vinay Singhal 41:59

(SPEAKING HINDI) Exactly. At all times so to have that support system and then after family I had access to some of the best mentors. Somebody like Ritesh for example we were talking about that. Ritesh fought WittyFeed’s case against Facebook as if it was Innovate’s case. I remember we didn’t have money to fight the case, so I thought that I’ll hire a cheap lawyer and by that point Ritesh bhai’s call came saying that ‘Vinay Bhai this is the lawyer in Delhi. I’ve sent him the money so you just go and meet him. We’ll only work through him now and nobody else.’ So that sort of support you know, having that unconditional support. The 20-21 people who were there in our cap table and few mentors… I think it was so supportive and I had access to some really great advice from them. Nobody troubled us during that time. Sure there were some people that said don’t bring my name into but that’s fine you have to look at the brighter side I think, you know. I think we had more good than bad. If we didn’t have positivity around us then we wouldn’t have been able to come out of it, right? So good won since there was more good that happened to us than bad and so that’s why I’m sitting next to you today, right? So fighting that identity crisis Siddhartha was probably the biggest fight. My bottom of U-curve… Oh now I remember the point I wanted to tell you. So my biggest point of failure was not… My lowest point my bottom of U-curve was not when we lost WittyFeed. Not when we had this identity crisis. During that time, you are in the battlefield and you are fighting. When this is happening you don’t have the time to think of how many have lost, etc. You are only thinking about survival. At that time, we did not have time to mourn. We were just fighting to survive. We just had to be alive one way or the other. We have to get to the next day basically. For example, we got the STAGE idea and we launched it and raised a fund as well. The response also came out decently and then we launched in November 2019. This is about December 2020, we had about 6 months worth of runway. We had done everything, as in the engagement was very good and a lot of people were downloading it so according to us we thought we were doing very well. So we went out to raise a round of funding. I spoke to probably 30-50 investors atleast and everybody was like “Great thesis.” At that time, making OTT for India was unheard of. UPI was not so big at that point and all those things. So everybody was like you’re making an amazing product and the thesis is great but people won’t invest money into it. And so no investor put any money into it, everybody rejected it. What happened was that at one point, this got to our heads and all my fears of failure that were hidden, all of that came out. All of them got triggered so the self doubt that I was telling you about that people were writing us off and calling us failure. All of that had come out. Initially, we were just listening when we were making it and so we didn’t care about it as people will talk only. Now it felt like all of that fear came out and people were saying right about it. People were right that we are just a fluke and that we don’t know how to make a company. ‘See even WittyFeed also closed and in 6 months we will run out of money for this also. Nobody is giving us money and so this will also close. People were saying right at the end of the day.. I was at Indore at the time and I used to ask myself that company will close for sure and so who will give me a job man? What job will I do, bloody hell I don’t know anything. Sorry for the language. I don’t even know anything. I am the CEO of the company but if you ask to do cable content work then I haven’t got experience in that. So what will I do? I used to do work in product management but if you ask me to write up a PRD, then I won’t be able to do that. I’ve done vision drive but who will give me a job for doing that at this age. So I literally used to think about who will give me a job, and how will I run my house? In Indore also it was impossible to think about all that and that was the bottom of my u-curve of life. Siddhartha, in the middle of afternoon… first of all I used to struggle to wake up in the mornings. I used to keep my room dark at all times and live like that. There was a feeling in the gut of something sucking you from the inside and you don’t know how to get up in the morning. So it would take me 12-1 pm to get up and my family was also getting tired of trying to wake me up. I used to eat lunch straight away and sitting at home I used to tremble so I would go straight to the garden and spend all my afternoon there with earphones in my head and listening to the Bhagavad Gita. I’m walking close to 20-25000 steps throughout the day in the garden. There is only one thing on my mind and that is what will I do? People were right that the company will eventually close so what will I do? You are a failure. You are nobody and that darkness, I don’t want to go through again in life. That was really dark. That was the real place of darkness and bottom of my u-curve. Again very privileged, very lucky that I had the support system that I had. The people who pulled me out. From there I ran from Indore. Shashank showed courage first in February 2021. The money wasn’t coming and so we decided to launch the monetization as we weren’t able to do anything on our own so we needed to take money from users as this is the only way to keep us afloat. So we asked the team to put in subscription models. Shashank showed strength and shifted to Noida and he shifted first. Shashank’s strength is what gave me strength and so I decided to follow his path and go to Noida as well. In our house we believe that the house should first experience Diwali and only then go through Holi. If I had stayed at Indore for another 1 or 2 months then I would have gone mad so I had to leave. We reached Noida in 1st April and released the subscription model on 10th April on STAGE. That first subscription changed the air and gave us courage that before our runway finished and by the end of June, we raised about 15 crores. It was the same people and company so nothing had changed so our company got a second life. We finally got out of the well after reaching the bottom. That was probably the darkest that I’ve seen. And, you know, and I had to find the most courage in life then to do anything. So God willing I never have to go through that experience again.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 49:39

(SPEAKING HINDI) How did therapy help you in all this?


Vinay Singhal 49:47

See I am very privileged to understand that therapy is a tool of self awareness—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 49:53

(SPEAKING HINDI) Could you go into a bit more detail about it as this is still a taboo topic in Indian entrepreneurial system as people have the mindset that ‘We are very strong.’—


Vinay Singhal 50:01

(SPEAKING HINDI) I’ll tell you what, if you are a founder and if in your life, everything is going absolutely great then you are missing on something. I’m talking about when things are going great because when they aren’t going great then obviously it’s very important. I’m saying that therapists needs to be in your life like you have, like you eat food every day. There needs to be a therapist to which you can go to whenever you need to, right? Therapy is a journey of self awareness, right? Therapy is not magic and so you don’t get answers from therapy, but in Indian spirituality we are told that everything is within and that you nee to dig deep and find yourself from within. I think therapy is one of the most amazing tools of discovering that within. I compare therapy with meditation by the way, you know, because as much as meditation can help us find our inner selves and dig deep, I think therapy can do that if not more than meditation in my self awareness journey. After that you get the answers from yourself something that not even your mentors, your parents, etc can provide. The answer and the courage to come out of that darkness comes from within you. So for that therapy or meditation are two most amazing tools that any founders should use every day as part of their day to day life. Not when they’re down. Not when they’re not feeling good but every day as part of their day to day life is what I would say.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 51:18

(SPEAKING HINDI) If you could go a little more into detail, as in, how did you find a therapist? When you are at your lowest—


Vinay Singhal 51:43

(SPEAKING HINDI) Very lucky again, you know. Just before WittyFeed it went down, we had hired an executive coach for our team. My very dear friend, her name is Aparna Jain. She’s an executive coach. So I met her… she’s an author also. So I met her as an interview for her book. But then we became friends and I realized she said executive also. So I hired her for doing executive coaching for our leadership of WittyFeed which is about 20 or so people. And she was one of those very few people when we went through this entire journey, she used to check on me very regularly. ‘Are you okay? You’re doing fine’ because she was very aware of this and she understood the mental health thing. She pushed me too. Initially she used to do sessions with me. Then she realized that she is a coach at the end of the day. I need a therapist. She pushed me to look for a therapist and she gave me a number saying that ‘This is the number of a therapist and I’ve already told her about you and you need to call her.’ She even followed up once or twice since nobody calls on the first try and again very lucky to have friends like that.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 52:50

So the first step is denial, right?


Vinay Singhal 52:53

(SPEAKING HINDI) For sure. We think that ‘There’s no way I’m crazy right?’ See when you are sick physically then you need to take a paracetamol right? So then when your mind is in stress and you are feeling depressed then you have to go to the doctor.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 53:07

It even says in the Gita that your mind is your friend as well as the enemy so if the mind becomes your enemy then—


Vinay Singhal 53:09

(SPEAKING HINDI) Absolutely. Everything is from within. All the good is here and so is the bad. God is here and so is the Devil. So for you to explore the good side of the mind you need a guide. For example, needing a guru in meditation. That same way you need a therapist to explore then the scientific side of it basically right? Aparna pushed me. I called the therapist and I think there was no looking back. For the first year or year and a half, I did sessions every week for one hour without missing a session. They give you a lot of exercises they they asked you to journal. They ask you to do meditation, yoga. Therapists will push you to do a lot of things and I think if you follow through it only gives you. It takes nothing from you.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 53:10

I think cost would also not be exorbitant that—


Vinay Singhal 53:55

(SPEAKING HINDI) Not at all. I think you get a therapist for every price range. I recently discovered a great organization. Sorry, I’m forgetting the name. I’ll give you the…Maybe you can put it in the notes. You can get a therapist for 800 rupees per session. And they are really good people. It’s very cheap here.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 54:26

A founder is suffering so silently in this ecosystem.


Vinay Singhal 54:30

(SPEAKING HINDI) Exactly. It’s a very lonely journey. When you had first come, we were talking about that only firstly. It’s such a lonely journey. So much loneliness happens from all this and who to share it with and tell all these things to so at least have a therapist. Even by paying money someone is listening to you. Do it for the fact that for one hour, I’ll make my mind lighter and just do it for that fact. For 800-1000 rupees, someone is listening to all your stories so what is better than that. I say just do it for that and you will realize in the process you will discover—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 55:02

And you took medications also in the beginning?


Vinay Singhal 55:04

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yes I did. I did take medication. I still take ayurvedic and ashwagandha even now and I recommend it as it has no side effects as it’s an ayurvedic medicine. You talk to your advisors that you need to but entrepreneurs should do it. Ashwagandha really helps in calming you down and reducing the anxiety and don’t shy away from medication also if you’re going through something severe. If you are going through panic attacks… Let me tell you my stomach was going through severe knots so to come out of that, naturally your body won’t be able to do that. Serotonin is not being made in your body so you need supplements. Again, if you have a fever and for it to reduce you use paracetamol, right? Under medical advice, it’s absolutely okay, right? It’s absolutely okay to do it. I mean, I would definitely recommend that since it’s so much better than suffering through it, to just go seek medical advice and take it.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 56:09

Today right after I think it has been what after 2021 April, you touched your lowest point and came out of it. How’re you feeling? Now Mentally, right at this point?


Vinay Singhal 56:23

I think I’m in a great space today. I’m feeling very good, very, you know, feeling very good here now. There is no such thing as 100% for an entrepreneur in terms of mental space, because there’s always something going on.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 56:40

Something always occupying your mind—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 56:41

Which is why I’m saying you need to have these tools available at your disposal as a part of your life as a therapist, a coach, you know. Some of these things which will help you calm down and you know, Ashwagandha etcetera. But I’m in a, I’m in a much better space. I feel much more liberated. I think my triggers of failing, I think I’ve been able to recover from that. Today, I don’t fear for STAGE to fail anymore.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 57:12

So that fear has gone then?


Vinay Singhal 57:12

Yes, I think Shark Tank helped in a big way. Therapy helped and overall, I think I’ve been able to resolve that I am so much more than just my companies. I am not just a company founder. At that time I only thought of myself as Wittyfeed’s co-founder, and did not realize that I’m a son. I’m a husband. I’m a brother. I’m a friend and now I’m a father also, and I’m so much more, right? So I think I don’t have that anymore in my life. I don’t… I think even if I’m in a difficult situation so to it doesn’t trigger me that i’m a failure or a fluke. I don’t think so. I don’t care about what people will think about it or say about it. I don’t think they have any right to say that anymore. But even if they will, I don’t care about it anymore. I think I’ve been able to rise above that. One. Second, I realized looking back, my 20 to 30 years of journey was about big and fast. I want to live 30 to 40 with slow and small. That doesn’t mean I don’t have ambition anymore. That doesn’t mean my size of ambition has reduced but I want to look at life in terms of slow and small, small chunks and they will compound you know over time. I’m not in a hurry anymore. When I was 20 I felt rushed but not at 30 anymore. Now I feel it’s a long journey. Like I said, at the start that there is no destination I’m seeking. Now I enjoy the path and the journey and it is every day that I want to live and I want to love and I want to you know be happy about basically. So it’s very liberating I think. Which is why I think I’m in a much much better mindspace today.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 58:10

(SPEAKS HINDI) This is very important. When do you think this change came from being just having an identity as a founder?


Vinay Singhal 59:08

I can’t pinpoint a time because it was a journey you know. It took its own sweet time. You know, I think that December 2020 was definitely there when I mentioned the bottom of the u-curve. After that also it wasn’t much easier to get through it. I think Shark Tank definitely has been one big, big, big, big moment in all of this. But I think this identity point already started a bit earlier when I realized that we are building something so great again. And therapy has really specifically helped this part. the therapist really enforced it into me that you are not just a founder but so much more, you know. And then what I did was I started to spend a lot more time lot more conscious time with my wife, with my parents, you know talking to them and you know sharing with them, listening to them and I think I realize their value also during that period of time as in the way they supported me throughout. Firstly, when someone or something sticks by you throughout you have a certain value for it and secondly when you go through an intense experience then you notice the people who’ve stuck you through that so I’ve realized their value so much more. At that time I realized Shashank’s value a lto more as well. Before I used to just say that he is my brother but now I truly feel that as well. All of those thoughts became a lot more enforced over time. So yeah, over time it has evolved. I can’t pinpoint a day and time but but it has been a journey and therapy has been one of the biggest things that helped me discover that.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:00:50

(SPEAKING HINDI) So if someone told you today that STAGE has been acquired and that you are not a founder anymore for example. Will it affect you as much?


Vinay Singhal 1:00:57

I think so, yeah, for example, at WittyFeed I rejected that offer. At STAGE I wouldn’t be a fool like that anymore. I’m not saying I’m building it to sell. But I will sit down and I’ll consider it calmly and I will not let the ego of me being able to call myself a founder and all that come in between. And now I’ll be a founder for life so nobody can take away from us. I will be STAGE’s founder regardless of whether it will be bought out or not. It’s that Chak De India reference, that these 3 minutes will never get taken from you. So this can never be taken from you, right? I’ll always be WittyFeed and STAGE’s founder whether this company closes or someone buys it out. One more realization I’ve had is that you can be founder in so many other ways than just this one way. This is just one of the ways. Founder is a mindset and not a tag and one has to realize that to really feel it. So I think I’ve had that realization it’s not a tag. It’s a mindset. And I will be always the founder in my mind. Who is founder? To me a founder is a problem solver. A founder looks for issues to solve. I will be that no matter where you are no matter where you put me. In life, I will be a problem solver… Problem identifier and then solver. I’ll always be. Who is founder? It’s someone who will ask questions. Founder is someone who will look for opportunity. I will always be that person, right? So even if someone buys STAGE, or if I’m in STAGE anymore or not, or if I’m doing a job somewhere else, I’ll always be that person, right? You’ve build so many companies Siddhartha in your lifetime, right? And you went through your own journey, right? You are a VC in one role today. But do you feel any different?


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:01:08

Not at all. Even today I travel in an auto because I enjoy that.


Vinay Singhal 1:01:55

So being a founder is a mindset. We are a founder from our hearts and minds not from any tag or from a domain name so I think it’s chill now and it doesn’t make a difference.



Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:03:21

Thank you so much! I can’t even put into words how deeply this conversation has affected me.


Vinay Singhal 1:03:30

Thank you so much. You know, I think you… I think from where you started is the reason why this conversation has been so deep. In our combined journeys there are so many commonalities and I think we feel each other and during the convention we discovered that we even got married in one way as well [laughs] so too much common stuff in between us right and so I think I think we understand each other very well and you were able to feel my story and so you were able to ask me the right things.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:04:00

(SPEAKING HINDI) That low that you’ve been through… I can’t say that I’ve gone through that exact experience but I’ve experienced that feeling before so Nansi told me once ‘This too will pass and you will look back at it happily.’ And I thought that I’m going through my worst phase currently, how will I look back at this happily?


Vinay Singhal 1:04:17

(SPEAKING HINDI) How will I see this happily, and when you are sitting here and I’m sitting here and I think we look back and we will say that it went well only. And if you’re ending it, I would like to end it with Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s line which Amitabh Bachchan recited really well and you can find it on youtube. In this he says ‘If things go according to plan then that is good, but even if they don’t then that’s better. Even if it does not happen according to how you want things to go, that’s okay because God has a better plan for you then you think.’ So don’t worry, chill. Let it happen. You will realize it’s happened for the best.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 1:04:52

Thank you!


Vinay Singhal 1:04:52

Thank you. Thank you so much for that.

Our Sponsors

Sponser Logo

Looking to build a differentiated tech startup with a 10X better solution? Prime is the high conviction, high support investor you need. With its fourth fund of $120M, Prime actively works with star teams to accelerate building great companies.

Visit Prime Venture Partners to know more.

Vector Graphic Vector Graphic

Know when new episodes are released. Subscribe to our newsletter!

Please enter a valid email id