What was your primary motivation for starting a company?
Both Paul and I have been really good friends since college and wanted to start a business together since those University days. The fact that we are driven by common motivating factors made acting on this college talk a natural step.
The two motivations for starting the company were curiosity and the pathetic state of work culture everywhere.
Both of us have always had a strong interest in business and all the aspects of running a company. So, one reason for our decision to leave well-paid jobs was our sheer curiosity to know and to learn. What better way to learn about this than to jump into the driver’s seat and start a company from the ground up.
Beyond this slightly selfish motivation to satisfy our own curiosity, we also both feel strongly about how most established corporations treat their employees, purely as a resource, and almost like a commodity. They are not given the freedom to choose their way of working. This often results in unsatisfied people or suboptimal work. Also, the top level management at many companies takes the arrogant and incorrect stand that their intelligence is greater than the collective intelligence of their employees. We want to setup a culture at En Route that breaks these traditional methods of working.
What were the major steps you went through to start your company?
Varun – The steps I took to startup the company were to quit a well-paying job, pack my bags and move to India and decide what business to start up. All the decisions (besides moving to India) were very difficult.
Also, I took those steps in exactly that order. Many people advise that while deciding what to do, one should hold on to their day jobs. However, for me that just didn’t work out. I couldn’t manage the responsibilities of a very hectic job and plan out a business on the side. So, I decided to quit and take the plunge.
Paul – For me there were three major boxes (the if?, the how? and the when?) I had to tick before jumping into this adventurous ride. First was the decision to start a company one day. Whatever your motivations are, at some point you might tell yourself: this is why I want to go off the beaten path. I did this around 3 years before starting this, my first venture.
Second was finding out what conditions I needed to convert talk into walk. More specifically, I realized that I am the kind of person who can not do without a partner on my side, with whom I can share the fun. Consequently, I looked through my friends circle and luckily there was someone at the same wavelength as me yet different enough to complement my skill set.
Once I had taken these two steps, it was only a question of time until I would make the jump. The last step, however, is extremely crucial and where many people with good intentions falter – recognizing when the time is right. This is obviously influenced by many factors, depending on your background. I answered the following questions for myself and went for it: is this the right opportunity, Am I ready financially? What do I have to loose? Why should I wait any longer?, etc.
Where did you find the seed capital for your company?
Paul and I have committed everything we have to the company, and we have also got some support from our families (monetary and in kind) to get this thing of the ground.
We have consciously decided not to raise any equity finance before launch. At this stage of our business even we are not 100% sure of our business model; it would be difficult to convince any external party of it. Also, due to the high risk of a pre-launch startup we would end up diluting too much of the company. However, we are confident enough of our business to take the risk on us for the launch and initial post-launch period.
What was your most valuable asset in the process?
I believe the most valuable asset we had during the process was the partnership. There have been several advantages to having a partnership such as division of work (of which there is a lot), getting a second opinion on matters and having somebody to bounce ideas off. However, one of the main benefits has been in keeping the energy up.
Making a company successful is a long and drawn out process, and once you get past the glamour of being your own boss, there are several uninteresting or tedious tasks. There were several moments since we started when the enthusiasm of one of us simply faded. That is when the energy and drive of the partner can lift the team up and get it back on track.
One thing which has also worked out well for us has been that we have similar ethical values (which is very important), but have different styles of working, thus complementing each others strengths.
Did you get supports from any incubator’s or professional bodies? How helped it during your scale up?
We have not approached any incubators for support. However, we have got some support from TIE’s mentorship program. They assigned us a mentor who has ample experience and is able to guide us through this stage of our company.
I think it is very important for all entrepreneurs, especially first-timers, to find a suitable mentor, as these mentors have often tackled the obstacles we are likely to face during our initial stages.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge so far has been overcoming the frustration due to delays and counterparties not maintaining commitments. This was further amplified for me, because I believe that the work ethic in India is not as developed as it was in the UK (which is where I worked previously).
However, I think this is just a learning experience, and the only way of overcoming it is by being persistent, always keeping an eye on the finish line and of course by trying to have as much fun while you’re on the way there. In breaks we try to play sports and games with the team. Even the little things help, like all of us sending each other our personal “Happy Song” of the week.
What is your vision for your organization/ Future plans?
Well, the obvious step is the launch; all our efforts will be concentrated towards this. However, in our quest to take the Indian DOOH industry to new levels and stir up the competition we are already planning out the next 3-4 phases of our roll out.
Another focus effort of ours will be to actually establish the culture we envisioned, which was one of the main motivators to starting the business. We’d like to replace the ’workplace’ with a ‘second home’ (as corny as that may sound).
Your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
If you ever want to start something of your own, do it now. There is never a better time to do it then now. Now is when you can go out there and risk it all. Most of us start of with no money. What’s the worst case scenario – you’ll end up with no money, but a whole lot of invaluable experience.
Paul’s dad, realizing the sheer amount of things that his son is learning during this startup process, summed it up nicely: “No MBA program can teach you so much in so little time!!”
However, once you get started don’t expect it to be a smooth ride. You will spend more money than you expected and take more time than you planned for.
About the company
Name of your Company: En Route Media Pvt Ltd
Founded in: 2008
Head Quartered in: Mumbai, India
Industry: Media & Advertising, Embedded Technology
Business Description: En Route is in the business of using the latest technologies in the Digital Out Of Home industry to increase interactivity and hence impact. It is in a pre-launch phase and will handle a majority of the chain, including media ownership, network management, and advertising sales. Your USP: Strong understanding and background of technology
The Team: Paul Schwarz, Varun Jain, Rajesh Jain
No. of employees: 5
The most memorable moment as a team: first meeting with the CEO of a large organization
Company Address & Contact: 157, A-Z Industrial Estate, G. K. Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013
Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/companies/en-route-media