AVENTURE CAPITALIST Column for BUSINESS GOA magazine by U. Mahesh Prabhu
I was 16 then; had just dropped out of college for the want of money. Life looked like a puzzle solving which it appeared to be a daunting task. “What’s going to happen to me?” I always thought. Insecurity was taking its toll. Frustrations were way too much. I wouldn’t know if I would have money get even a morsel of food. Least to say: my life was pathetic.
It was at this crucial juncture that I was endowed upon an opportunity to start one of India’s first web development companies. The person who backed me was a scion of then major industrial group in south India. “You won’t get salary but you’ll get food to eat, place to work and a dorm to sleep.” I agreed instantaneously taking his word that I’ll own 35% of the company’s shares.
We pitched for a few contracts and, thankfully, we got one soon. It didn’t take us much time to get more orders flowing in. We got some decent contracts soon. Since I was supposed to own 35% of company’s share I thought of the money we made 35% was supposed to be mine. “That’s not how it works!” my ‘partner’ said, adding “we first need to put this money into business, and then run an audit and then declare a profit. You can only then have 35% of that amount!” “Oh darn!” I thought, before asking “What about money to pay for my expenses.” “I told you at the very beginning… no salary – just a place to work, sleep and food.” It didn’t take me long to realize that I was being used. But then what would I do?
Soon I was to learn that I was cheated of my money by this partner of mine. I was shattered to the core. I didn’t know what to do; tears came through my eyes – rather instantaneously. “May be I can talk to his father.” I thought and promptly embarked upon an appointment with this grand old gentleman who was then in his 70s.
On meeting him I told what his son had did to me. “I don’t have anything with me… I need at least a part of the money what he has unrightfully taken away from me I said.” He was called Dhritarastra by many for his blind love for his son and I saw for myself how true that analogy was.
“It’s between you and him – I wasn’t even involved when you made a deed. Considering this how do you expect me to mediate between you both?”
“But he’s your son!” I insisted.
“But this is businesses, son!” he retorted.
I knew I stood no chance forth a man whose career spanned three times my age. Against all that he said, somewhere for some reasons I did had, and have, the respect for him. I just went to him touched his feet and said in the most touching voice.
“When I came to your son for starting this venture I didn’t have anything but while I leave I have a loss of a few lakhs.”
He was touched. I realized that when he said “Mahesh, I know exactly what you are feeling right now. Trust me there’s no legitimate way in which I could possibly help you. But I will give you a talisman. Hear it well, it has helped me and it will help you too… You may not have money, but you have time. Use it. Use it well… and in time the time will repay.”
I summarized it thus: If I need something and if I spend all the time at my disposal worrying or concerning about not having it – I am wasting it. But, if I spend the time in finding a way to get that thing, by learning or working hard and smart towards it… I am doing justice. I also learnt for myself that fear or hope are but two figments of human imagination. Their chances are always 50-50. Considering this when we fear – we waste a good deal of time first by worrying and then by doing wrong things. So the best decision would always be to first hope for the best and work towards it by learning or doing.
To conclude: The secret lies in how we handle our present, neither past nor future. Today is that special block of time which holds the key to lock our yesterday’s nightmares as well as unlock tomorrow’s possibilities. We got to admit and submit unto it – to make the best out of it.