My life’s calling!

Love, Motorcycles, Entrepreneurship and Engineering

I was born in a mediocre Kayasth family in erstwhile Bihar. Kayasth as a lot are very strong in education and averse to risk taking. During 70s, 80s India was going through a phase where there were more opportunities (under the table as a government officer)  than as an honest businessman. Getting into government jobs is highly dependent on educational qualifications and my dad was a topper in his board exams. Bihar or Kayasth are not known for Entrepreneurship,  in fact any kind of risk taking was looked down upon in our community and most families would avoid a prospering businessman and happily marry their daughters to mediocre or lesser job owner. Yet both my grandpa and my dad owned and ran businesses.  According to my dad,  my grandpa’s business was large enough to be spread from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh. My father pursued a business while keeping a job,  his success was a bit lesser but his heart and soul was in that…  in fact it still is.

I literally grew up in my dad’s manufacturing factory (a vendor for SAIL, Steel Authority of India Limited) and I just loved seeing machines and be amazed how one simple lathe machine could do so many different things. I just wish I learned how to run one of them… So IT is not a big surprise that at an early age of 9 years I had decided to pursue a degree in engineering.

Around the same time,  I visited a book fair and picked up two coffee table books on Racing Cars and Sports Cars.  Oh boy,  I just loved glossing over the history of the most beautiful and powerful cars in the world…  was it not for it I would have never known about cars like Napier-Railton or manufacturer like Auto Union (predecessor for Audi)…  my love for automobiles had just started…  I remember while my friends used to have posters of their favorite Bollywood star,  I had that of the Lamborghini Countach.

The Railton Napier was a mammoth racing machine

I was about 15 years old when one day my dad asked my cousin brother to teach me how to ride a motorcycle – that has started a fire which hasn’t stopped till date.  I still remember that day when I first rode a Yezdi motorcycle – the power was just thrilling, the speed exhilarating. After that day there was no turning back. I wanted to ride it all the time but wouldn’t get enough opportunity to ride one and I couldn’t ask one for me because it was illegal so I would just disappear with my dad’s motorcycle… but I was so young that I didn’t have the strength to kick start a Yezdi motorcycle – I got a sprain in my ankle trying to start it – I was bedridden for a week. Later I figured out that I could start a Yezdi motorcycle by pushing it down a slope,  engage a gear and start it; and then be in big trouble at home. It was just worth it …

In school,  I  was desperately attracted to this girl. It would make my day if she gave me a look,  or some sign.  I used to have a Bajaj Priya scooter (painted turqoise blue) in those days and I remember riding it to do things to impress her –  get chocolates for her,  perfumes but all of it had just the opposite effect.  I did everything in my power to give her the signs but I never had the balls to walk up to her and tell her that I love her…  to this day I regret that …

During the time,  I literally lived in the factory and spent time with dad learning about technology and business.  I was really curious about Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and I remember discussions where he would explain the workings of ICE. Being kind of a captive company for SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) had it’s own set of issues and the biggest was that you were entirely dependent on a single buyer. I often wanted dad to modify our business to one where we could have many customers. I still remember this time when I earnestly went upto him and argued that we should build cars. He never agreed to that but I guess somewhere in my heart that ambition of building a automotive company kept burning …

Early career and startup experience

I had a very good run during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, first I cleared IIT-JEE and entered IIT-Kgp. During college years, I had a lot of fun and a couple of motorbikes I can never forget – first a Bajaj Caliber (that was originally for my brother) and then a Bajaj Pulsar 180 (it was my first feel for a bigger bike).  I worked for about 5 years in global leaders in software outsourcing services companies like Infosys and CapGemini. In India, an on-site opportunity in these companies is coveted. I was given an on-site opportunity as a tester in Germany – I wanted to do something more substantial. Another time, I was given an opportunity to lead a team of about ten with a little experience of 3.5 years. On-lookers might say I didn’t grab those opportunities, I know that my heart was never in them to rise to these challenges … it was somewhere else.

I always feel my real jobs started in 2009 with a team leader role with a startup wanting to build an algorithmic trading system for Indian markets. It was a good experience, which helped me build my technical skills. After this I started my own services company which provided solutions for algorithmic trading – that business went good for a couple of years, we made profits and then we ran into co-founder issues and ran it into the ground. Next, I tried building an algorithmic trading software product company. That never really took off – most businesses run out of funding and die – and as a fact that is what happened. I know that while that might be true, the fact is that I lost motivation to push that business forward. Since then I have held that you should find a job if you want to make money, entrepreneurship is for pursuing your passion …

MyGlamm & a calling …

In 2015, I joined MyGlamm as the CTO of the business. Its rare that a technologist has the opportunity to build a system from scratch,  to choose the technologies  without any historic burden,  to build a team from scratch and makes loads of money in the process and in that sense the opportunity was truly exception not to mention the people that I worked with. I was enjoying the opportunity – I also bought a KTM Duke 390 and I just love the way that motorcycle is. At the same time as a keen follower of the automotive industry and a fan of Elon Musk, I was myself toying with the idea of an electric two wheeler (E2W). Then something happened which jolted me – Flipkart founders funded electric scooter startup Ather Energy.

I decided to build an electric motorcycle – and it was a tough decision. I told this to my family and no one would support me – not even my father who inspired me into taking this step. I asked my friends to help me co-found the business but they were not convinced initially. I told my boss and advisor and initially they were uncomfortable.  I loved engineering, i loved automobiles and i loved motorcycles, i always wanted to be an entrepreneur (and boy have I tried that), I dreamed of building an automotive company and here was it right in front of it … my wife and I were scared of the financial implications – on one side I could continue being a CTO and reap huge financial gains and on the other endless struggle with finance (well that’s a understatement). I just could not …. I could not walk away – I did not want to regret years later like the girl I loved in school – it was my life’s calling and I had to take the leap of faith …. So here I’m building India’s first motorcycle focused at business – and it’s called Nemo.

Leave a comment