If you think life is a great Teacher then entrepreneurship is the Dean. I totally agree with what Grand Master Oogway said in Kungfu Panda – “There are no accidents in life.” As a result, I wasn’t very surprised when I “accidentally” quit my corporate job one fine day and decided to become an entrepreneur. Although I was clear that I would work within the film industry, I had no idea that the business plan I embarked on would be as close to reality as the forest in Avataar is to the Borivili National Park. I was on cloud nine when I coined the name Magus Entertainment for my consultancy, designed its logo, and printed my first set of business cards. I was fully equipped to live my dream of being an entrepreneur. And then, as life would have it, reality struck me!!!
My stable monthly salary began to disappear. People, who would frequently call me when I was a senior executive in the corporate world, suddenly started looking through me. The timelines I had set for revenues to trickle in seemed like an oasis in the desert. My parents and other well-wishers started doubting my sanity. I desperately needed a way out to redeem my belief in myself. Moreover, I needed to buy time in order to build confidence and survive without financial dependency on others. And that’s when I discovered the word- Bootstrapping- (Wikipedia: Bootstrapping usually refers to the starting of a self-sustaining process that is supposed to proceed without external input). My passion was all set to become my profession- a passion that I had inculcated right from childhood.
As a child, I fully enjoyed the performing arts and was keen on displaying my talent as a Dancer. I would participate at a large number of religious festivals, social functions, and school parties. While I was studying in the US for my MBA, I discovered Salsa much before it got a desi flavor and became Masalsa I learned Spanish in order to master the dance better. This step also supported me well during the economic down turn, as I became a ballroom instructor in a studio in Virginia after being equipped with two MBA degrees! My vocabulary began with salsa, merengue, cha-cha and ended with foxtrot, tango and waltz.
I got back to India in 2002. At that time, Salsa was like a ghost- everyone had heard about it but no one had actually ever seen it. With the help of friends and supporters, I quickly spread awareness of this vivacious dance form in resto-bars and hangouts. With all the time I was spending on this new yet fulfilling mission, I neglected to realize the reverse repercussions it was having on my corporate life. Thus, I inadvertently allowed it to take a back seat. This was also the time when mom-n-pop salsa classes mushroomed across the nation.
Dancing, however, turned out to be my savior after I took the plunge into entrepreneurship. I started a group- Two Left Feet – that taught dancing to non-dancers in just two weekends. Moreover, I targeted senior professionals who believed Salsa was meant only for physically fit individuals.
While this gave me the initial impetus, there were more challenges in store. My profession required me to travel to film and documentary festivals- largely in Europe. This meant additional spending when I was already scraping the bottom. Luckily, I got invited as a jury member for a Bollywood dance competition all the way in Stuttgart, Germany. This new opportunity made way for the second phase of my boot-tapping journey. The popularity of Indian Dance abroad inspired me to conduct an array of Indian dance workshops. Soon Europeans were dancing to not just Shahrukh’s tunes, but also to ‘dandiya’, ‘bhangra’ and other folk dances. These workshops were scheduled just before the film festivals and facilitated my travel there frequently.
Once I realised teaching is my strength, I was able to use it in other spheres of my professional life too. Soon I started teaching at various media and business schools and corporate training centers. In addition, I conducted panel discussions at media events. PR followed and so did felicitations; building my equity in media further.
One of my ultimate challenges was to use dance as a tool for corporate training and team building. Therefore, I made a connection between a dancer and a team-player and made a list of their similarities. I learned the following: (1) Both have to be self aware, (2) Both have to understand and learn how to work peacefully with their team-mates. Based on these similarities I developed a model of team-building using various dance forms that became a huge success with several corporates.
Every individual is talented and adversity is the best opportunity to discover it. Bootstrapping is a very useful tool for any entrepreneur and the following ‘E’s are useful to recognize them:
Explore: Introspect and look at the various things you love doing when you are free. Shortlist one or a couple of them that you think you can do repeatedly without major distraction or fatigue.
Execute: Imagine how you can use the shortlisted activities immediately and monetize them. Take help of friends and relatives to promote them. For e.g. If you have a knack for making chocolates, use your friends and relatives as ‘Free PR’ to spread the word around.
Extend: Constantly look at various alternatives to make your bootstrapping activity effortless and more relevant to your business. This can enhance your branding and reduce your marketing and PR cost.