Although we shout from the rooftops that Indian Startup Scene is emerging and lot of people are willing to startup – the very fact that corporate jobs offer stability and good pay still deter a lot of young people from taking the plunge. Jumping from an existing plushy corporate job into a startup is not everyone’s cup of tea. Isn’ that the reason we have so many people do TGIF(Thank God It’s Friday) so that they could live their life atleast on the weekends?
Meet Rohan Naravane, Head of Content at PriceBaba.com. He is the co-conspirator for Annkur Agarwal at PriceBaba and has worked for UTV group and Apple Inc before moving to a startup. We talk to him and find out how life changes when you shift from corporate to startup, on the eternal questions of flat-family-marriage and who should not consider taking part in startup. Read on to get his thoughtful answers wrapped up in a casual tone!
For a start, tell us about yourself.
I think I’ve been in love with Technology since childhood; I remember how in the pre-internet days I used to voraciously read the CHIP magazine that my mum would get from her office. I would cut out the good content and place those clippings in a file. So, when the time came for me to choose what I wanted to graduate in; Computer Science was the most obvious answer. But in between college, I started working for TechTree.com — one of India’s foremost tech websites. There, I wrote gadget reviews, buying guides and opinion posts in the realm of consumer technology.
After writing tech for a couple of years after graduation, the crazy in me wanted to do something else. So, I moved on to managing an Apple Shop within a giant multi-brand retail outlet. The store job was physically strenuous, but taught me many virtues like patience, discipline, using the gullibility of people to sell them Apple products etc. Ok, kidding with the last one; selling any product becomes easy as long as you yourself are sold on it. But retail jobs can get onto your nerve after a while, and I found myself missing my writing days. So, I quit cold turkey and was freelancing with multiple publications for a bit till I met Annkur, who gave me the opportunity to be a part of something awesome.
I am what I am today because of the trust and confidence my parents put in me, as they gave me a free hand to do whatever I like in life (though my mum still sometimes nags me about not getting a Masters degree).
Tell us what kinds of activities are you involved at PriceBaba?
I primarily manage all the content you see on PriceBaba, and am deeply involved with the product’s new features that we roll out. But then, if you’re working at a Startup; you’re going to be donning many hats. So, beyond this I’m also the PR guy, the Social Media guy, the Video Editor guy, the Marketing guy etc. I always like to recall Annkur’s famous ‘C2C’ designation that he proudly prints on his business cards (C2C stands for Clerk-to-CEO). All of us at PriceBaba are ready to do everything we are good at for the betterment of the product.
As you can see, other than tech writing, there are a lot of things that I’m doing for the first time at PriceBaba. The team makes sure that they are supportive of anything new you take up, which gives me confidence and makes everyday interesting and fun.
Why the change from Corporate to Startup?
At the expense of sounding like a broken record, I suppose the reasons are mostly similar to ones heard before. A Startup gives you the ability to build something from scratch, and most of the time, have it exact the way you envisioned it. One of the compelling reasons for joining PriceBaba was that they had already built something that I always wanted to be a part of, even when it did not exist! It is also because of the attitude of the team — they’re always open to trying something new, always willing to find an answer for something that’s going to make the product better. And the best part is that most of the stuff we dream about actually turns to reality — I’ve been part of way too many discussions in my past that never saw the light of day.
If you don’t mind – how old are you? Usually they say, flat, marriage and family are the biggest reasons why people don’t turn towards startup and entrepreneurship. How did you cross that chasm?
In the words of John Mayer, I’ve just begun my quarter life crisis (I’m 26, but people used to say I look like a 25-year old even when I was 20). I’m not married yet; but honestly I’m able to manage my time better at PriceBaba than I could at Apple. I’ve seen people turn down Startups because they feel its not “secure” enough or because they want to be people managers at bigger companies. ‘To each his own’, I say — everybody has different priorities in life. I am fortunate enough to have parents that back me up in every way. Also, I’m satisfied with knowing what I want to do two years down the line, and absolutely have no clue what I’ll do when I’m say, 40. But one aim that doesn’t change is to keep doing awesome things and then some more awesome things!
Also, in today’s world, I honestly feel no job is safe. You’re equally at risk in any company; big or small. Yet, on a brighter note, there are way more things that you can do than ever before! So, you can always bounce back to something else if a particular startup doesn’t work out for you.
Since how long are you with Pricebaba, and what are the fundamental differences between working in corporate and startup? And how did you adjust to it?
It’s a little over 7 months that I’m with PriceBaba. The first big change that comes with a startup is your workplace. There may not be fancy lobbies with office managers and admin staff to take care of stuff. There may not be HR executives sending you birthday emails (I’m not saying that’s the only thing that HR does). There may not be a pantry with tables and chairs to eat your meals. But with time, you realize that you don’t really miss all those things. So, when the AC breaks down, you just have to call the repairman, just like you would if it happened at your house. So, in a way, you’ll start treating the office like your second home. Everybody lends a hand when you have to move furniture or clean up after there’s cake on the floor post some birthday celebrations.
But then there are advantages too! You get to define the rules. For e.g. I used to find it pointless to send content in a Word Document attached to an email. Here, we just slap it into the body of the email itself or use Google Docs. We use cool productivity tools like Yammer and also a lot of in-house tools to keep a track of tasks. I also do live copy-editing of content written by my team using online collaboration tools.
Did you repent anytime on leaving the corporate and entering the startup world? For whom do you suggest this journey is not for?
Not at all. Although this is my first experience with a startup, I was fully aware of what I’m getting into and am currently enjoying the ride! This journey is definitely not for people with a traditional mindset of just clocking-in and clocking-out their hours. Not to say you’ll have to work 30 hours every day if you join a startup either — in fact, I feel you can create a better work/personal-life balance. It is also not for people who are in it just for the money; passion is the most important quality a startup needs to blossom. Everybody in the team feels equally important in making or breaking the future of PriceBaba. This puts tremendous pressure when taking any decision, but also pushes you to do things that you wouldn’t have normally done. And speaking of that, this journey is also not for people who are looking at a fixed set of responsibilities. New stuff gets added to everybody’s plate often, and it teaches you how to balance and prioritize in doing what’s best for the startup.
All the best Rohan, and we wish you continue to do more magic at PriceBaba!