Being Happy, and Other Thoughts On Leaving iSPIRT

I had written this blog post around 15th August ‘2017..but published it only now.

“Until you have learned to be tolerant with those who do not always agree with you, until you have cultivated the habit of saying some kind word of those whom you do not admire, until you have formed the habit of looking for the good instead of the bad there is in other, you will neither be successful not happy.” — Napoleon Hill.

Five years ago, on 15th August, the foundation was laid for iSPIRT. I was incredibly happy as I would get to work on something that was close to my heart: Building India’s product ecosystem. There were five key proponents: Vishnu Dusad (Nucleus Software) and I had joined in over the phone while Bharat Goenka (Tally), Sharad Sharma (then BrandSigma) and Shoaib Ahmed (Tally again) were meeting in the Tally office.

It was a special day for me, and I remember that first official meeting with fondness and nostalgia.

I’ve had an amazing time for the first four years at iSPIRT, and it showed in my work. I was fortunate to build and support some amazing programs and initiatives for India’s product ecosystem. I remember some very touching emails and kind words that founders would recount about iSPIRT in public forums. This motivated me and the team, it kept us going. It was very satisfying to see so many founders and organisations benefitting from our work.

This was a phase of incredibly fulfilling work, but, as they say, all good things come to an end; sometimes that happens earlier than we expect.

About a year and a half ago, while we were making good progress, I somehow was not enjoying the same drive and motivation that fuelled the non-stop action from the earlier years. Something had started to bother me, but I was never able to put a finger on it. I met Sharad over a year back and told him, in Hindi, because sometimes nothing can convey feeling more than your mother tongue. Mujhe mazaa nahin aa raha.

I’m not enjoying my work.

Sharad helped me think through this and suggested that I explore new areas within iSPIRT which I could build and take to the next level, somewhat like growing from early stage to growth stage of a startup. There were several new initiatives at the early stage, including PNFI(ProductNation Founders Institute), innovation agenda and also IndiaStack at the stage it was one year back. He advised me to take a new path and get out from the engine room. His suggestions were based on the insight that I had been involved in planning and strategy for a long time and now needed to come to the forefront and lead some of the initiatives myself.

Sharad’s other suggestion was that I take a sabbatical from iSPIRT and have a go at a couple of courses at Stanford or Duke to enhance my skills. An upcoming visit to Stanford gave me an opportunity to interact with folks like like Sharique Hasan, Amit Pande, Indus Khaitan and few other well-wishers. It was a great experience, but I decided to shelve the studying idea for a while.

After a few more conversations, I decided to pick the IndiaStack program and build some programs for developers who were keen to leverage some of the layers of the stack. Working with IndiaStack was amazing but also led me to think its more suited for someone with a core engineering background, and that was certainly not me.

With a renewed thrust on Playbooks I decided to grow it further and focus (blog post — Why I’m doing What I’m doing) on the BTRC(Bootcamp, Teardown, Roundtable, Cohort)part of the puzzle; it was what I knew best, and better than anyone else. By the end of this decision-making process, I had thought about a few more initiatives for companies in the open source space, for founders building consumer products and even a community for product thinkers.

It was coming together and I was all very excited and happy again and looking forward to making a new beginning in 2017. All of a sudden, my father had a brain stroke and I was out of action for 4–6 weeks. In that time, I read lot of books, listened to lot of podcasts and spent a lot of time on writing and reflection. After a few weeks the fourth edition of SaaSx happened in Chennai and I was back in action.

Or so I thought.

Something was still bothering me inside and I still wasn’t enjoying my work. Possibly, iSPIRT was growing and taking on bigger agendas and I wasn’t able to keep up :) this lead to doubts about a few of the things iSPIRT was involved in, and these further lead debates with my passionate colleagues and as well as with myself. But this time, it was different. I must humbly acknowledge that iSPIRT was taking on bigger and nation building agendas including the India Stack while my passion was more to help founders who are building global products from India and also category leaders for the domestic market. I must proudly acknowledge that the institution had truly grown much beyond the individuals who started with a big vision though taking small steps.

And as time went on, this became more definitive — in my mind at least. We had a few more discussions, but I realised that the tone for the future was already set.

I also got to reflect on my role at iSPIRT, my purpose of life and how do I start doing something which allows me to make a larger impact. I felt that it was better at this point to let go and focus on creating something new, or look for another mission for my life.

Hence, I have decided to move on from iSPIRT. I will, of course, continue to help the team whenever they need me. I plan to do something where I can leverage my potential, contribute to the ecosystem and also do something which makes me happy.

I’m grateful to many people who have supported me in this journey and my happiness quotient always is on a high when I’m in the company of founders and entrepreneurs who have contributed to iSPIRT. They have been my wellspring for energy and inspiration, and though this is a goodbye, I’m most happy about the fact that I’m going to keep contributing in my own small way to iSPIRT as a volunteer.

Some of the Programs which I co-created with many volunteers in the last 5 years…

I wish iSPIRT all the best and I know it will continue to make an impact in the Product eco-system.

PS: Some of my friends often remind me as the dancing person in this video who started the product movement in India. Hopefully, i can take up another mission and make some magic happen again :)