To begin with, I must mention that I would not be writing a success story without the selfless support of my wife Sonia. She has been and continues to be my greatest support system through my struggle for success.
It was very hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my parents could not afford to pay for my commercial pilots training, when at that time in the late 80s’, training to be a commercial pilot cost in the region of 12 lakh rupees. I lost confidence in my future and with it my focus on a career path for some time and drifted like a piece of wood in a tumultuous stream, until I got a grip on myself and trained my energies on a career in electronic engineering.
It seems that my choices were more unrealistic – from a financial point of view at least and by no means by a lack of aptitude. However, my financial situation played truant once again and I had to abandon my aspirations of becoming an electronic engineer as well. I gave up and took to sales – the first job offer that happened to come my way. I joined a local distributor who trained me in marketing and I made a small fortune (by my standards) during the two years I worked with them selling 3M products, such as; ScotchGard, PostIT note pads, Nomad mats, Scotch Tape, 3M industrial tape, and LeatherGard among other products.
Though I never made a career in sales, here is where my success story began.
While my success story is by no means a rags to riches story, it is my success story because I found contentment in the end. I managed to not only make ends meet but made them overlap quite a bit too.
The story unfurls
I made quite a success of my short lived career in sales. Within two months of joining the aforementioned distributor I was transferred to Varanasi – a city located at the confluence of the four rivers, Varuna, Si, Gomti and the Ganga. For a bit of trivia, that’s how Varanasi got its name, from the rivers Varuna and Si (pronounced ‘see’) – Varuna-Si gave the city its name – Varanasi. In Varanasi, I had to set up a branch office from scratch. While the branch was not to have more than 5 employees, I was to manage a monthly sales target during the first 3 months of Rs 1.5 lac per month selling only ScotchGard – nothing else.
With all of two employees, I managed to earn Rs 3 lakh in the first month itself. This was my sales strategy:
That a Rs 5 note can go a very long way, is something I discovered during the few months I spent (or should I say “invested”) in Varanasi. I was selling 3Ms ScotchGard, a chemical that protects fabrics, upholstery and carpets from stains – for life.
ScotchGard way by no means is “cheap”. Only the wealthy could afford protecting their expensive furnishings – it cost as much as Rs 800 to protect a 2 by 8 carpet. Riding around the up-market areas, targeting rich looking houses and making cold calls was not getting much by way of results. So, I hit on an idea. I noticed that Varanasi is a town with some of the most expensive cars. Now, who will own an expensive car? So, I contacted some car showrooms, vehicle registration and insurance agents, and even some traffic cops who hung around tea stalls goofing off from duty. I offered them Rs 5 for each address of an owner of an expensive car they provided me with.
I was inundated with addresses and my “hit list” became a “hit scroll” in no time at all. I approached each car owner at his or her address and sold them the idea of protecting the expensive car upholstery with ScotchGard. The demo I gave them was so effective that a mere suggestion that they treat their curtains, tablecloths, upholstery and expensive clothes was enough to get a huge order from each and every one I contacted on that list. Need I mention that most of the people on the list were carpet manufacturers or exporters and Varanasi is a carpet export center!
While my billing shot through the roof, my popularity with the office staff back home plummeted because we were all working on low salaries and high (15%) commissions from sales. I was transferred out of Varanasi and thus ended my stint with sales but not before I earned myself quite a bit of dough.
I may have advanced my sales career if it had not been for a lucrative offer from a certain Sikh gentleman, who I came across during one of my sales calls at the office of the MD of the UP roadways. I was there to propose protecting luxury bus upholstery with ScotchGard. The Sikh gentleman was the MD of a liaison company and was there to collect a few million rupees in arrears for supplies he had effected a couple of years ago – he was losing interest on his money. Impressed by my mannerisms and the way I interacted with senior and junior roadways staff, he made me an offer – and kept pursuing me every month to take it up.
A change of career
Attracted by his offer, I accepted three months later. I was assigned to the Chandigarh office as the “Manager Administration”. My duties included corresponding with and meeting heads of corporate houses involved in manufacturing truck, bus and locomotive engine components, which were supplied to the state roadways and the Indian Railways. Basically, by job was to keep the industry bosses happy by collecting orders from roadways across eight states and the Indian Railways and ensuring that payments were released in sixty days from the date of invoicing.
I enjoyed my work and survived in the company for five years until the death of the MD, when the company crumbled due to infighting among the directors. I moved on.
Pune – Computer Hardware Engineering
Electronics was always on my mind and I got this opportunity to study computer hardware engineering from a leading hardware institute in Pune. A very enterprising person, the Principal of a 125 year old school in Pune, known to me, invited me to join the staff and set up their computer labs and study engineering simultaneously.
During the five years I was with the school I set up the school website that facilitated online admissions, completely doing away with parents having to visit the school to fill in application forms, paying fees and receiving interview letters – it was all done online. In addition, parents could follow the progress of their ward online and even track homework, attendance, and teacher’s comments et al on a daily basis.
When I left the school I left behind a network of 150 computers, a cybercafé (the first in a school in India) and automated biometric attendance for staff, and automated mark sheet and report card generation.
A Dream job begins
It was during this time, when I was sitting in my office in the school creating content for the school’s web site, that a parent, who was running a web development company in Singapore, approached me and offered me a contractual position writing web content for various web sites owned by his clientele. He offered me a very attractive per-word fee, which amounted to as much as three times my salary at the time. Naturally, I accepted.
No looking back
Since then I have set up a content writing firm complete with a website and offices in three cities in India. I also have over 20 freelance writers working for me. And I? I just edit the content and control the quality of the articles, checking them for mistakes, SEO compliance and plagiarism before passing it on to my clients.
So, I may have not been able to become a commercial pilot and I may not be earning as much as a pilot does today, but I can work when I want, from where I want (as long as there is an internet connection) and choose to do as little or as much work as I want and I’m contented with the money I earn. Not to mention the freedom I enjoy. Work or not, I get a residual income every month from the work I have set up with partners overseas and my team of loyal freelance writers all over the country and the Philippines.
After all, success cannot solely be measured by the money in the bank – one must be contented, at peace and most of all free to lead a lifestyle of choice. And I am proud of my success story.