I still drive my Hyundai Grand i10, which I bought in 2015 and lead a very humble lifestyle.
Today, I am fortunate to earn well, but I don’t see much change in life with money. The only difference in my personality is that I try to value my time over everything else. I would not think twice about investing money on anything which saves time or gives convenience, as it results in more efficiency at work.
I am just focused on building an empire that I always wanted to build. With money in the bank, the greed for making money has almost gone and whatever I do, is all about creating an impact on society. Because after a few crores, money is just another number and it doesn’t give any eternal happiness.
Before I share my story, let me introduce myself. I am Founder & CEO of AstroTalk, which provides online Astrology consultation on call/chat. Astrology is an industry which has a huge demand but Astrologers/ companies in this field were trying to loot people by intimidating them. I started AstroTalk in October 2017 and within a span of 2 years, we became the market leaders (by Revenue) as we just did one thing right – “Did the business honestly.”
Here is my story:
I come from a lower-middle-class family and got graduated in B.Tech from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh in 2011. Through campus placement, I got into Nomura Group (Investment Bank of Japan) in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India and started my career there. I wanted to quit and start something in the field of Ayurveda but it was difficult to leave a job which promised a comfortable life.
Meanwhile, I fell in love with a gorgeous lady, who had an immaculate storytelling technique and a great sense of humour. Just imagine how powerful that combination is. People talk about having common interests with your partner, let me tell you, all that is nothing compared to having a partner who can tell you any situation in a form of a beautiful story with a pinch of sarcasm. I could just sit and listen to her all day. There could be nothing more erotic than the beautiful conversation we used to have, around those stories.
However, like any other love story, we had our differences. She belonged to an upper-class family and I hailed from a lower-middle-class background. My daily expenses on meals were less than her single cup of coffee at Starbucks India and she would usually have it every day (with a cookie). Having said that, she had always been very nice and we had no issues related to our backgrounds, other than she trying to push me to earn well.
I was quite satisfied with my salary of 37k per month, as I had no desires and was enjoying the financial freedom for the first time in my life. And this was so much into my DNA that I could never pay heed to her explanations of earning well. She wanted me to work hard and progress in my job or start something along with my job, but I was just in the full-time job of being in love.
For me, love was enough to keep the two people together and lead a happy life but she tried to explain to me why love was not enough, which made no sense to me. The difference of opinion brought some tension in her head but I was never bothered as I thought she was immature and would understand eventually. Moreover, I was so happy being with her that I felt I was the most powerful person in this world as I loved someone, who loved me back. There was no reason and I thought I was leading the best life as I was earning well and had achieved the happiest emotional state as well. Aur kya chahiye bhai?!
And when I started thinking, “apun hi bhagwan hai,” that’s when God thought of showing me my place.
She was quite irritated by my sense of satisfaction in life and one day, while I was riding my bike on a road with a lot of potholes, filled with rainwater, and an auto-driving past us spilt 10 ml water on her feet.
“Stop. Stop, or should I jump,” she shouted when I was focusing on riding over the little zig-zag road on the sides of potholes. Before she could get angrier, I quickly stopped on the side of the road. She got down and came in front.
“How many times have I told you to take a cab? But you need to bring your useless bike to save money,” she continued and I would not dare to argue at that point, as I could see she had a long story to yell. In my opinion, I would have done anything to stop her but I knew any action at that point, could get an equal or worse reaction.
As soon as she took a pause, I apologised and told her to take a cab and also promised her that I would sell my bike and buy a car (like you tell a stubborn infant). But she was in no mood to trust my words that day and was filled with anger, obviously because of that 10 ml of water 😐 (I grew up enjoying jumping in potholes to spill water on each other and I never thought it would become such a big deal to someone, someday).
“My father drives a Mercedes and your whole family has not seen a car. You are so lucky that I still love you…” she shouted in anger and as soon as I heard those words…………..my mind got blank and it felt like someone has pressed audio off in life. Everything was moving around me but there was no noise to my ears. Maybe my nerves were still processing a reaction to that situation and my system got hanged.
After shouting for a while, she held me from my shoulder and shook me. I came back to reality and when I looked at her, I didn’t see her the way I used to. I would always notice a beautiful face with a dimple on the left cheek and the mole on her cheek would go inside that dimple when she would smile, but that time I noticed pimples on her face. My eyes were refusing to see the beauty and focused on everything that was wrong. I felt like I was standing with a stranger. She realised that she had said wrong things but my silence was making her even more uncomfortable.
“I am sorry, please don’t be angry. I had a little fight with my flatmate and that was running through my head,” she tried to make an excuse. She would do that every time and I would believe her but that time I could read her face, she was lying to me. “Please speak something,” she almost begged but I was blank and didn’t know how to react.
“I am so sorry,” she said again.
“Can I go home? Let’s talk tomorrow,” I asked her without reacting anything to her apologies and wanted to run away from that situation as I didn’t know how to react. When I used to see her a little sad, I would do anything to cheer her up and at that time, I could feel she was very uncomfortable after saying things in anger, but my mind was not allowing me to console her. At that moment, my brain was more powerful than the heart (maybe for the first time, since I started dating).
“I knew you were not in a mood to go out. Now you have got an excuse also. Well done!,” and that’s when I realised she was not done with spilling foul words. I was still thinking of an answer to that and she walked towards her place. She had done that walk away thing and got sympathy before and I would keep running behind her every time but that time I could understand it was all for sympathy.
So, I started my bike and left without looking back. A lot of emotions, questions, memories, hatred went through my head but when I reached home, I made a promise to myself that I would work my ass off and not settle for anything less in life. I thought success was the only answer to what I went through that day.
The next day, I quit my job at Nomura without any business plan and decided that I will do whatever it takes to achieve success. But who thought that achieving success could be even more painful?!
(We did try to make things work but I became very laid-back in putting efforts to make the relationship work and she also thought that I was very immature to resign and leave the job without a plan, and it only became worse and ended in a breakup)
I served my notice and left Mumbai in November 2013. I moved to my hometown (Bathinda, Punjab, India) to start something in Ayurveda with my grandfather as he used to practice medicine and had cured many patients for Appendicitis, Hepatitis, Stone, Piles, etc. However, I had taken it for granted that he was my grandfather and I could go there any day and make his products reach to masses, and I was massively wrong. When I spoke to him about the plan, I realised that our thoughts did not match and there was no common ground on which we could work together.
I left my job; I was going through the after-effects of a breakup from my first relationship (If you know how difficult it is to handle the first breakup); And the only hope of starting up, had gone down the gutter. I was even more devastated. And to add to it, my relatives made my life even worse as I was staying with my parents, doing nothing at 25.
After that, I tried to start a few things in desperation but I was not emotionally stable. And as nothing was working out and my savings were getting exhausted, I reached a state of depression.
After 7 months of staring at the walls of my house, my friend Aman started calling me after his office and would speak to me for 2–3 hours, to convince me to find a job and he made me believe that everything will be hunky-dory again. I tried to apply for jobs but my CV was not shortlisted by any company due to a gap in my work experience. Finally, a startup called me to complete a project in a month and their budget was half my salary. I agreed and went to join them, as I thought I will find a permanent job in that month.
This startup had asked me to come by a flight and take a reimbursement after joining, but when I joined, they said it will take 15 days to approve and therefore it shall be credited in my salary after one month. I had 17k in my account when I left home and had spent 11k on the flight. No way I could survive in Mumbai with 6k.
So, I decided to eat cheap food and find a cheap place to live in. All my friends had left Mumbai by that time and I had no place to share an apartment. But one of them asked me to go stay at his friend’s place and when I went there I saw there were way too many people in that flat already and had no extra bedding.
(Lunch – something like this)
I slept on the floor for a few days in that apartment. For breakfast, I had coffee filled with a half cup of sugar so that I don’t feel hungry. For lunch, I found an amazing place where labourers used to eat, and they served 5 puris with unlimited vegetables and salad for Rs 15. For dinner, I would eat raw bread and have milk.
After completing that project, I joined BNP Paribas (company). As soon as I started getting some stability, I thought about starting up again but with a plan. I worked there for 9 months and then quit to start up again. I had taken up a job only to become emotionally stable and save some money.
Then I started an IT service company named CodeYeti in April 2015 and ran it for 2.5 years, before pivoting the entire business to a product named AstroTalk in October 2017.
Link to the story of how & why I started AstroTalk?
Within 2 years of launch, AstroTalk became the market leader in this industry. What we did right to scale so quickly and leave 20 years old companies behind? I think it is one or all of these:
- Value Customer experience over everything else
- Excellent customer support
- Did the business honestly
They say a customer is a king, but we treat them like the queen and handle all their tantrums 🙂
AstroTalk became profitable within 1 year of launch and as I write this, it is making an annual profit of over USD 1 Million.
I realize I was right when I told her that we don’t need money to be happy. Money is required to meet your daily needs and to fulfill a few desires, but it doesn’t give you any eternal happiness, after a certain number.
While working on my startup, I have very few moments when I felt extreme happiness and none of them had anything to do with achieving any financial goal. It was only related to people and creating an impact on society. Below were both those moments:
- When we celebrated the first anniversary of Codeyeti and I saw everyone in our team of 30 members – enjoying, laughing, and dancing. I felt I have done something good in life
- When an unknown person in a social gathering at my friend’s party, referred me to try AstroTalk
I would end by saying that a few years of focus can take you way ahead in life. But to have that kind of focus, you need a huge motivation. That one incident in my life, changed me as a person as I had never focused on anything in my life before. I lost her that day but she gave me everything I needed to achieve my dreams. Well, in astrology they say, some people in our life just come to teach us a lesson, and they leave when their job is done.
If I have to choose between love and money, I will choose love every single time. Because none of my career achievements have ever given me the high that I got while being in love.