Almost 2 years out in the cold and loving it.

[First published on Bombay Connect Diaries]

“Start-ups are my favorite thing in the world because they are the direct collision of fantasy and reality.” — Andy Dunn (@dunn)

Mine too. In another well written piece on Medium, I’d come across an apt description of what drives an entrepreneur to initiate the first precious steps of building a venture. We are driven and distracted by the existing world around us. So distracted, that we start living our imagination. That is when we dream, we imagine and we get down to building.

I personally believe that the world around us is simply a physical manifestation of our emotions, our ambitions and our desire. At every living moment, we shape the reality around us. We welcome experiences, but forget everything when we start reacting unfavorably to the experiences we invite. The act of starting up is thus beautiful, since you’re creating value out of nothing. It is the result of belief, trust and consistency.

Almost 2 years out in the cold and loving it.

It has been an interesting journey so far. My startup, Hammer & Mop (inc.), provides cleaning services to high end residential and commercial properties across Mumbai. It is a business that demands focus on employed labor instead of technology. Being a service provider, our customer experience ought to be good enough to be talked about.

I started out from scratch, with a co-founder who helped me with design and tech know-how. It has been almost 2 years now and we’re currently are a team of 20, able to sustain ourselves with what we earn. And we’re growing.

Stepping out

At 20, I was pursuing a monotonous engineering course for no clear reason. Taking a break and interning at a nuclear power plant helped. Now I had lost all inclination of completing my degree and had finally made a choice. As a next step, in order to feel how it is to be ‘out there’, I interned with a web entrepreneur. My next realization was that of being a terrible employee but admiring the way my boss worked. Now I knew that I had to be one.

Why cleaning?

Starting up is not a straight path. You end up stumbling upon what you’re currently doing. Being in the home cleaning business was not exactly a well thought out plan. “Providing a quick cleaning service” seemed liked a pretty good idea then, especially because I had no idea that a huge industry already existed. On venturing out and understanding the marketplace, the optimism made me realize that there was a clear gap in what the market delivered and what a customer expected. It all sounds good and bookish right now, as I encapsulate it in a few lines. It took me 6 good months then to reach a conclusion.

No really, why cleaning?

It has never been about cleaning. It is about building a fort in the playground we are in. It is about not giving up the playground, since we like it. It is ours. The first play ground that we had staggered into was the repairs business. A couple of months into it and we realized that controlling the service quality is going to be a tough job. The adjacent playground was the home cleaning business, which seemed pretty attractive since the act of cleaning is logical. We were good at logic, and the art of cleaning could be mastered.

We didn’t want to move out of this new playground. The other kids were quite okay with new players, there were no clear bullies in sight and so we built a fort. Since then, it has been about the quality of the fort, its size, what we sell to our clients and how well we sell it. It is all about what we’re building and how we’re building it. Cleaning doesn’t motivate us, the way we do it does.

Being a pack of wolves in the wild

It is funny writing about our own ‘journey’, ‘success stories’, ‘things we have learnt’ and (most weird of all) ‘advice to others’. Nothing seems pompous at its personified best than actually doling out ‘advice’ to others. Very few people are qualified to be in this position and interestingly enough, they would deny this. Such humility, such greatness.

An entrepreneur is a pack of wolves- team builder, strategist, not a lone hunter, possesses multiple skill sets, intimidating when shows up with full force. Not a hyena- doesn’t steal and prefers fresh meat (ethical, proud, original). Not a lion- isn’t born a king, isn’t powerful alone, isn’t lazy. Not a giant herbivore- kills, rules, fights.

An aspiring entrepreneur? What does that mean?

As some wise men rightly put it- “There is no such thing as an aspiring entrepreneur. If you want to be one, what are you waiting for?” An entrepreneur does business, as a poet writes poems, as an artist paints his dreams on a blank canvas. That is the beauty, an entrepreneur (armed with design and processes) can add to a commercial transaction.

The path ahead

Looks green, filled with forests and tall peaks. My team has taught me lessons in client servicing, discipline, hard work and sincerity. Opening myself up to networking has helped me get connected to amazing individuals with incredible energy and passion. It is inspiring to know them, to be around them and see how they build.

“Spurts of Red, from Me, around Me.
Wings take me to the heights unknown.”