I am writing this in middle of 32+ hours train journey - from Bangalore to Delhi. Sort of on a flash-back journey too.
I started a cute little business when I was 11. Now some people will shoot me in the head for calling 'business' cute but I couldn't care less. So read on.
Back then my dad was trying his hand at network-marketing. He had a collection audio books and talks on cassettes - they always made me curious. You know the 'killer headline' headlines and shit. And then something happened.
I got a Walkman! (Yeah, it was 90s)
Within few days I finished most of them. Half of them made sense, half of them made me sleep. It left my head buzzing with ideas. A need to build something and a desire to make money.
A few months forward, I started a club sort of thing called 'Friends Club'. As the name suggests - my friend circle (and of some other popular dudes) was the club. I asked each one of them to introduce one more friend. Entry fee to the club was Rs. 5 (10 Cents). We managed to get around 60 bucks (some kids needed discount).
Purpose of the club was to have fun, be a strong gang group and access collective resources like comics, discounts, sports gear etc. I don't remember exactly what was the sales pitch, but soon we did not need one. The size of group spoke tons about credibility .
Word of moth, ftw.
Summer vacations were on, kids were bored - a problem to solve. So we organized events for kids. First event was was a disaster. Our customers (the kidsies) were not happy. I still remember trying to pull of a magic show with lame tricks I learned from the newspaper. You know, crap like that.
Boy, were those pissed!
Business is tough.
We needed more money to make it a tad bit better. So we went around to local shop asking people to give 10-20 bucks. That was my first experience with "fund-raising".
Some donated, some shooed us away. One guy gave a lecture. Bah! Next event was a hit. We had competitions, games and even a cricket match. We gave trophy to the winning team. There were snacks too.
But But But!!!
The team that lost wasn't happy, they claimed that the winning team cheated. Cricket is huge in India, and I underestimated their emotions about loosing a match. Oh! A match for trophy. There was a heated debate, arguments and name calling. Then they called their parents. That's when shit hits the fan.
We were officially labelled as 'stay away from those guys'.
And bang! Business to dust.
Lesson learned: Know thy customer and dynamics of their lives.
So that was my first venture - what I can remember of it. I still remember the feeling of doing business - having a customer and making money. Nothing beats that!This piece was published on Oct 15, 2011.