The C4E 2023-24 Annual Shareholder Report

So FY24-25 is upon us.
And here’s my attempt at reporting how the last year was and what we plan to do this year. 

Before I start, I wish to reiterate a few things that I will not compromise on while we build C4E. 

  1. We will always be a culture-first, open company and we will prioritise the health and wellness of our people over profits. And this does not mean we would take it easy. See the next point.
  2. We would not be outworked. (credit to Will Smith for the seed). We are not the most talented team but we would be the most hardworking team. We would work harder than anyone else but we will also choose what to work on, how to work and who to work with. 
  3. Today we may be offering a service X. Tomorrow we may offer Y. Day after Z. Whatever we may do at any point in time, we would do it in the C4E style (I need to write this guide) and all of us at C4E acknowledge that we are in this for the long haul and we are preparing ourselves for a Mahabharata – whenever that dawns upon us.

So with that, let’s go.

PS: In this entire piece, I am very mindful of the use of I and We. And I haven’t used these two words interchangeably.

1/ So, what is C4E?

Lemme start at the start.
What the heck is C4E?
I get this question a lot.
And here is my attempt to write about it.

I’ll start with what we are not.

We are NOT a communication business.
Yes, we make our money by offering services in brand strategy, social media, website design, marketing collaterals and more. We do this for large companies, startups and individuals. We do this by working on ongoing retainers and one-time projects. We do this by ourselves and with the help of numerous contractors. And we compete with other communication agencies of all shapes and sizes. And when someone asks who we are, we introduce ourselves as a communications collective.

But… but that’s how we make money.
Our identity as a group is different from what we do to make ends meet. 

So more than anything, C4E is a village. Inspired by this post, here is my revised definition of the village. 

We are a virtual place (for the time being) where each person is part of a village, a community larger than themselves.

Each person at The C4E Village is at most separated by two degrees. Each has been invited by someone we trust. And there is inherent trust and safety in being part of this community.

At the C4E village you can lean on others for help, support, input, connections and if nothing else, to have a good time!

Saurabh Garg

No village can ever exist without its people.

So if I were to ever talk about what business we are in, I would say, we are in the people business. Each thing we do is to bring people together, learn from each other and grow on the shoulders of each other.

Plus, we will always be big on culture. We will be open. We will encourage freedom and movement. And yet offer reliability. And like most communes in this VUCA world, we would make ourselves a perpetual learning machine. 

So today the C4E Village operates as a communication collective. Eventually, we would take some other shape. Whatever that is.

2/ What did we do in 2023-24? 

If I were to capture this in one line, I would say, 2023-24 was a great year for us but it could’ve been better. I like the idea of being divinely discontent! 

2.1. Here are some wins to start with…

2.1.1/ We added more people to the team than I had imagined.

In 2023 we were 5+.
Now we are 10+.
We pay 30+ people every month.
The fee ranges from 5K to approx 150K.
No. I am not the highest-paid person at C4E.

If things go the way they are, we will be 20+ by the end of this FY.

PS: + refers to people who are third-party contractors that are not “married” to C4E.

2.1.2/ The C4E Delivery Model

While we’ve grown in numbers, we’ve remained a remote-first team. At some point in this FY, I will get a physical office in Mumbai but no one would be forced to be in office.

Despite our distance and the nature of work, we’ve been able to arrive at a delivery model where we deliver with insane reliability! It is built on the pillars of overcommunication, redundancy, frugality, freedom and trust. This has to be one of my biggest achievements. I know that as we scale this would get more and more tough to manage. But like in the previous times, we will learn and scale.

Happy to give gyaan on this, in case. 

2.1.3/ We clocked our highest turnover since we started

We incorporated C4E in 2016.
Back then, I created the legal entity to be more tax efficient. Now, of course, we are a business with people and projects and profits.

We closed the last financial year with our highest turnover yet. We clocked in the vicinity of half a million dollars. I can share the actual number if you want. Ask me.

In terms of numbers, YoY, our turnover grew 86%. This means if we billed 100 in 2022-23, this year we billed 186.

In the last year, we made 178 invoices, served 43 clients, and offered services across 10 business verticals. In the previous year, these numbers were 135, 32, and 8 respectively.

2.1.4/ Acquired a few large clients

While I take pride in being the best friend to a founder, the nature of business dictates that we get some large companies. These companies help with retainers and that helps with building the team. So we were keen on getting some retainers and luckily friends and mentors gave us access to leads that we could convert into clients.

Some new clients that we started working with include GE Healthcare, Ajax Engineering, HDFC Ergo, Ageas Federal Life Insurance, Lux Cozi, Case New Holland, and others. As third-party contractors to other agencies, the team worked on Incredible India, AMFI, Microsoft and more.

We did lose a few clients. In most cases, we decided to pause our engagement. More on this later.

There’s a red flag here, however. Most of these new clients offered work to Saurabh Garg. Not to C4E. Today, the business is large enough that we need to have a structured business growth team that builds business independent of Saurabh. This is one of the problems 🔴 (I will use this dot to capture problems) I will work on with the team as we go along.

2.2. Some losses

While the year was great all around, we made some blunders and losses as well. Here’s a list of the ones big enough that they need cataloguing… 

2.2.1/ We had to let go of some colleagues and some colleagues let go of us.

While each person who comes into C4E is carefully vetted, we do make mistakes. So there was someone that we had to let go of. This is the second time since I started C4E in this avatar that I had to make the decision to ask someone to leave.

On the other hand, at least two colleagues chose to stop working with us. In both cases, they chose to move on because the money I could offer them was not enough for them. And that is the second thing that I want to fix as we go along 🔴. I want to pay more to my people. And to pay more, I need to earn more. And I need to work on that. We need to work on this.

2.2.2/ The Red Sparrow (TRS)

To be honest, this is more of a loss at a personal level but because I used C4E’s money for this, I am accountable. And I must document this.

So, neither we nor I are no longer a part of TRS. I was unable to communicate my vision to my co-founder and I was unable to spot a merit in her vision. We tried to disagree and commit but that road too wasn’t taking us anywhere. So instead of raising a child in a broken home, we decided to part ways. 

Films remain a dream. And I will ensure that at least I am a player in the film business. This is thing number 3 that I want to work on 🔴.

2.2.3/ We had to let go of some clients

I will not use specific names but I realised that ALL (bold statement) clients that we let go of had the same traits. These are…

  1. Unclear briefs
  2. Unreasonable expectations (though I love the idea of being unreasonable)
  3. Neverending iterations
  4. Micromanagement
  5. No value on time. Time is THE most non-fungible asset and I do not want to commit to a place where time is treated as if it’s in abundance. We are not in the business of renting our time and we will not be held accountable to a clock.

Of course, this is my version. This is my side of the story. If you spoke to these clients, they would have their versions. And trust me, I have tried to understand my and our shortcomings from them but I haven’t got any clear answers. So that.

3/ A report on SG as a leader of C4E

Brings me to a self-evaluation-ish report. I dont have a strict win-loss-fix format for this. I will talk in bullets. And I will keep my personal goals, plans away from this. For that, I have this tracker.

So, I recently declared myself a benevolent dictator.
I got some flak for it.
And I am ok.
And as a very self-aware person, I know my limitations as a human and a leader. And I know that the current version of SG is simply not equipped to lead the C4E of tomorrow. 

So, I know that I need to scale alongside C4E.

As a result, I have started to invest more time into being a better human and a better leader. Of course, my world revolves around me but I am seeing the shift in me where am ok to be a distant planet in someone else’s solar system! 

I have started to work in a manner that will make my team want to ape (hello, mimetic theory) and do better. And I have started to be more mindful of my words and actions. I’ve even engaged with a coach to help me with the next steps. Most work that he and I are doing is for the org, to be honest, but I am learning alongside.

And in the coming year, I will focus on building C4E (read a dilemma towards the end). This will mean I need to do the following…

  1. Inspire better people to work with us. When I say better, I dont mean our current team is not great. I mean the quality of applications we get needs to be better. We should be spoilt for choice. After all, people create magic and we need great people for grand magic shows.
  2. Put more structure into things. This means, building processes and creating failsafe mechanisms. From BD to delivery to money management. Like I mentioned earlier, Saurabh today is the linchpin that holds the org. I dont like that. Org needs to have more robustness.
  3. Get a design leader on board. This has been my number one challenge for eternity. Lemme put a red dot on this 🔴.
  4. Expand into new service lines or geographies. We already have one retainer client out of Dubai. We service it via a remote team, managed by a partner in Goa. Isn’t this amazing? More on this during the year.

While none of these 4 look like revenue-making actions, I believe these four would give me the grounding we need, the base we need to establish before we can jump to the next level. 

3.1/ The lessons I learnt while running C4E in the last year?

Quite a few! List…

3.1.1/ The respect you get from the world is directly proportional to the amount of money you make.
I have been aware of this for a while but in the last year when I made visible money, I saw the attitudes of people changing. And you know what? I never want to go back to being poor again.

3.1.2/ There could be merit in saying no!
I have almost never said no to things. This is very different from what most people recommend in this day and age and yet I continue to say yes.

However, in the last year, I said no to at least 3 clients that were sucking away more energy than what we got as ROI. In terms of ROI, we want to make any two of three – learning, money or reputation. With these clients, we were only making money. Truth be told, it was hard to say no to money. Especially as a growing business but I am glad we did.

3.1.3/ Safe havens are not where mettle is tested
Nothing new or interesting in this. In the past year, we’ve had multiple instances where people in the team had to step up their game. Some did. Some did not. While we were prepared for such challenges, till we faced those for real, we did not know if we were prepared.

4/ The road ahead for C4E / What do we plan to do in 2024-25?

So, what next?
Afterall, all is well.
Money is coming in.
Clients are happy.
Culture is good great.
Now what?

Honestly, I dont know where to go from here on. I have a vague idea. I need to get the team together to do this. This is a task in itself. Big enough to have a red dot 🔴.

But I do know that I dont want stasis.
I dont want to sit easy.
I dont want to NOT make more effort than last year.

So that.

For starters in 2024-25, I want to 10X our topline.

And I dont know where this would come from. In terms of vague ideas, I shared the following with the team…

  1. New territory – establish presence outside of India
  2. New service – films, design etc. 
  3. New projects – C4Efilms platform
  4. New focus / niche – crypto, d2c, affiliate, funnel, drip, healthcare etc

Each of these four has the potential to add a multiple to our topline. Each is doable. Each is equally tough.

So these four.

I dont know which one will we end up working on. We are still thinking. One thing’s for sure – whatever we do, we dont want to compromise on our values, promises, ethos or culture.

Oh, while the team will figure this part out, here are a few things that you can help us with.

4.1/ What do we need help with at C4E?

I’ve made this list of open challenges at C4E. The intention is to keep this as an open document and build C4E in public. You are welcome to pick up any of these and throw help, ideas, inputs, connections etc.

To make it palatable, at this time (7 April 2024), the key problems are…

  1. Build Brand C4E – We are still not a brand that people aspire to attach their name to. As a client, as a team member, as a contractor.
  2. Creative leader/owner – We need someone to lead the creative function. Someone hands-on. Someone willing to help the team and hustle.
  3. Set up an office outside India.
  4. Build a product / productised service – We want to be out of service business.
  5. BD for C4E – We still don’t know how to acquire new business. Our pitching muscle is weak. I suspect once we get a creative leader on board, we will be able to fix this.
  6. C4E website – Lol

At a personal level. I need help on the following…

  1. SoG – building the next edition of SoG.
  2. Brand SG – I want to attract clients and people and opportunities. And thus I will have to build my brand. I’ve never worked hard on it, even though I have a lot to say about it. Maybe in this year. This is also a large goal for me for 2024.
  3. Hire for Team SG / SG’s office. I need someone to be dedicated to helping me do more.

Brings me to a large dharam-sankat. Aka dilemma that I talked about earlier.

4.2/ SG’s Dilemma

So, here’s a dilemma that I am stuck with.

At the place where C4E is at, I have three paths.

  1. I can easily become a “regular” business, squeeze my team and take home a lot of money. And then live a good life.
  2. Invest profits into building a product / startup that has a shot at being a unicorn. Today I don’t. And I’d be honest. I really really really would like to be among the richest people around.
  3. Grow C4E into a communication business and take a shot at being a CLA, if not an Ogilvy.

Each day I wake up with a different want. Each day I want to take a different direction. I know the answer would come from within but this one large decision is what I need to work on and then go all-in.

5/ In the end…

As I end this, here’s a question.

What can we at C4E help you with?

Some ideas could be…

  1. We are good at building a great culture. At least at our scale. Do you need gyaan on that?
  2. We want to be the shoulders for your success. You stand on top of our shoulders and do well. Tell us what boost you need and we’ll do that.
  3. Throw any problem at us – marketing, communication, strategy, brand, etc. We are resourceful. Relentlessly resourceful at that. And we know a guy that knows a guy!

So yeah.
This is about it for the report.
Please do write to me, should you have any questions. Or feedback. Or inputs. Or brickbats.

PS: If you have feedback for me at personal level, you may please use this form – This is 100% anonymous. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a self-aware individual and I am willing to work hard to become better.

Thank you!

6/ Notes

  1. I would have liked this letter to be more extensive. But I couldn’t for my life figure out what to write. But then, am glad I started. I plan to send a quarterly update as well. I hope to get better as we go along.
  2. This is inspired by AK’s shareholder report series. The latest one is here.
  3. The last time I wrote something like this, I published it here. I plan to be more regular from now on.

A Benevolent Dictator

At C4E, I am going to adopt the leadership style of a benevolent dictator and this is my attempt at the rationale.

A few days ago I met this classmate from MDI that I hadn’t met since we passed out of there.

In these 18 years, he’s lost at least 18 KGs and I am guessing made more than 180 million dollars (in USD) as personal wealth. The first two numbers are real. The last number is my best guesstimate.

And thanks to his work, he’s got visibility with some of the most celebrated entrepreneurs from around the world. To the point that he knows many billionaires on a first-name basis. Which is great. But that’s not the point of this post. While talking, he used the term Benevolent Dictator.

And that is what the post is about.

Benevolent Dictator.

Of course, the term sounds fancy.

And it means fancy things as well.

And it looks fancy when looked at from the eyes of Chat GPT.

Back to my friend.

He explained what this term meant to him. And whatever he said made a lot of sense. I came back home and read more about it and I am so inspired by what I read that I am willing to change my leadership style!

If I were to define a benevolent dictator, I would lean on this definition I found online (I missed capturing the source)…

A ‘benevolent dictator’ does what he deems necessary ‘for the greater good’ of the state he rules over, or the nation he specifically belongs to. An ordinary ‘malevolent dictator’ has no such concerns and is only interested on keeping power on his hands for the kicks of it.

Source missing.

How would this awareness change me? What am I so inspired by?

Lemme try and explain and catalogue the changes that I would make in my life.

For starters, I am willing to admit that I am a leader (of at least C4E).

This is a far cry from what I’ve maintained all my life (that I am no leader per se and if at all I am one, I am at best a “servant leader” – a position of responsibility where my job is to support people in doing theirs well). I have never set directions, dictated targets, pushed for deadlines, asked to deliver or did anything that you would expect a typical “leader” to. I’ve worked to build consensus in each decision. I’ve operated from empathy, at the cost of topline and profits. I’ve had people make decisions and I’ve always used Bezos’ disagree and commit. If there’ve been times when I hated the decisions taken by our folks, I’ve remained stoic and told myself that this too shall pass. And it often passes. Now, I probably will get into nuance (in the video, Jeff mentions that he often commits because he’s able to trust others and they’ve been together for years and he’s seen their judgements turn out better etc etc) before I disagree and commit. I am getting too much into details but I hope the thought is clear.

Then, as I read more about benevolent dictators, I realised that almost all progress (good, bad or in between)- human, technological, philosophical, societal, or otherwise – was seeded by dictators.

Lemme lean on history here.

The ones who were not kind pushed and left their people in a mess, a ruin. There are quite a few examples. Hiter is often called a mad dictator. There’s a long list of tyrants. I am not as well-read to have a direct opinion.

The ones who were benevolent took their people to a place of prosperity, peace and progress. Most people agree that Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew was a benevolent dictator who made Singapore what it is today – a developed, prosperous state. I read on Quora that Marcus Aurelius is also often regarded as a benevolent dictator. Of course, I am a fan of Aurelius and anything and everything he does is worth copying.

The absolute power that these dictators commanded allowed them to make decisions that they would otherwise not be able to make in a democracy where different powers move things in different directions. And in decision is where the progress is. In indecision, there’s only potential. And I believe that any progress, even if it’s in the negative zone, is better than potential. Another example – Steve was a dictator (he might or might now have been benevolent) and he made decisions that made Apple what Apple is.

Now with power and the ability to make decisions, you can either go mad or you can see Pale Blue Dot often and become a benevolent dictator.

So, if I want to create progress in my village, I need to be able to make bold decisions, at the cost of displeasing my people and living with the knowledge of those tough decisions.

This is also important to me at a personal level. Especially if I want C4E and myself to go from a mild success to a wild success.

So, what does ‘SG as a Benevolent Dictator’ mean for C4E?

Benevolent Dictator is made of two words – benevolent and dictator. Each is important. Allow me to write about those and find an answer.

Benevolence is top-down kindness that “rulers” often shower their people on. I dont agree with this idea of benevolence. I am no one to give kindness from top-down. I am one of the people who run the business. And at no point I want to “give” to anyone. My definition of benevolence means shared kindness, equity, freedom, independence, personal liberty and more.

Dictator is someone who has complete control, authority and autonomy to work in the way they deem fit. I like this definition. I want to be responsible for actions at C4E and the output of C4E. All this while, I wasn’t. I was at best one of the folks who would own a part of the output. Now, I will change this.

The dictator has some resources (people and otherwise) and they need to apply their brains, will, persuasion, connections, ideas and all that to get the best possible return. In most cases, the resources are scarce. At least in my case, they are. I need to put them to optimal use!

So, as the Benevolent Dictator at C4E, I need to marshall my resources and take all of us to prosperity. And while I do that I need to keep reminding myself that I am at the service of C4E.

So that.

What would change in how I run C4E?

Lemme start with a lesson that I learnt from Gokul. He envisions CynLr as a platform for opportunity exchange. I would like C4E to be the same. Further, in the words of Rajesh Sir, I want to be like a hose through which prosperity and opportunity flows. I want to give shoulders to people. And no, I do none of these with an altruistic intent. I know that kindness and getting people together is the best strategy for long-term, sustainable profitability and I want to do that.

I believe that at C4E, of all the people on the team, I am best equipped to take on this role and maximise outcomes. Hello, delulu 😀

And the change at C4E? Truth be told, I dont know this yet. These are some broad areas that I am thinking about.

A/ I would start asking for more accountability.
This doesn’t mean people at C4E are not accountable – they are FAR more accountable than an average professional. Just that we tend to slack and take it easy at times. I need to fix that. And that fixing starts with me. I am the one that takes it easy the most.

B/ I would become more assertive.
It may sound stupid but at this time, I am NOT assertive at all. Like I said earlier, I believe in disagree and commit. I from now on will probably disagree, overrule and act. This would be tough, to be honest, but let’s see how this works. I also run the risk of wasting time on managing egos and all that. But let’s see how it pans out.

C/ I will say no to more things
My default state has been hell yes to each thing that I come across. And I want that to remain the case. However, I will ask my people to say no more often. And I will ask them to channelise their energies. I can the be the one that wanders all the time but I will need people to stick to things and take them to conclusion.

What would NOT change?

I know that the one thing that will NOT change at C4E is the freedom that people enjoy to work however they want to, where they want to, with who they want to will not change. This value of freedom is at the very core of what C4E is and I would not change that for anything.

Other things may change. I dont have a thought. I will think more over the next few days and add those here.

Finally, what do I need to be careful about as a benevolent dictator?

Since I’ve read some about benevolent dictators. I have a ready list of things that I need to skirt from. Here in bullets…

  • The lust for power. And the corruption by power. After a point, you tend to enjoy power and you want to enjoy power for power’s sake. I need to keep this at the back of my head that I am merely a servant for C4E who is working as a benevolent dictator to make things happen.
  • The sense of invincibility that comes with power (and control). I need to know that I am human and fallible. I do not want to ever get swayed by the inflated ego that the power would give me.
  • The loss of benevolence. The loss of humility that has made me what I am. If I had to choose between benevolence or dictatorship, I would choose the former.
  • The plundering of gains that I get out of running C4E as a dictator. This would be the most unfortunate outcome. C4E is a village and each thing that at least I earn needs to go to help C4E thrive.

So, that.

Guess this is it. Let’s see how I go from there in my new experiment. More later!

Further reads on Benevolent Dictators…


Waking up on the left side of the bed

Thanks to a sleep tracker, I realise that I probably need to fix my relationship status. Read on.

I recently got myself a Whoop. It has been telling me that I sleep about 5 hours and thus I need more. Last night I decided that the world be damned, I will sleep at 10. And I woke up at 6ish. So a solid 8 hours. As per it, I slept for 7 hours and 39 minutes (compared to about an average of 5-6 hours).

See this chart…

Now, logic says I should’ve woke up fresh, ready to take on the world and conquer it all.

But no, I feel the same like I do on most days. Groggy. Slowly. I can feel various parts of the body start cranking and come to life. I can feel various parts of the body complain about various kinds of pain and moan with various kinds of discomfort.

I want to justify that my body has been scarred in various battles over the years but clearly, that is not the case. It’s at best scarred with all the food I’ve gobbled over the years while shaping the couches and beds around houses that I’ve lived at.

I dont feel any more refreshed, any more rested, any more changed that I do on other days. In fact, something different happened. I woke up with the feeling that I should’ve woken* up next to someone.

And I need to address this feeling.
For numerous reasons.

One, I haven’t felt like this in a while.

My last stable, serious, relationship was a couple of months before COVID put us in a lockdown. 4 years ago**. And over the last four years, I’ve got used to having the entire bed by myself. I can’t recall when was the last time in the last four years when I felt like waking up next to someone. So this is new.

Two, I had always imagined that I am the kind that would be a lone nut. My eccentricity and life choices would make me an unsuitable man for anyone sane. The odds of finding someone who’ll accept my shenanigans is like zero. And all my life I have trained myself to operate as a one-person army. I mean I neither feel the need for having someone around me and if I do feel that on rare days (like today), I quickly remind myself that all modern relationships are built on the bedrock of convenience and comfort and capital and these things are often easy to screw up. In my case, I saw one of my serious relationships go south because I didn’t have money. So, when I feel the need to wake up next to someone, this means that I am not fully trained and I need to do more work in my head.

Three, lately, I’ve been flirting rather seriously with a friend. The kinds where am actually thinking about what to text her and how to make her smile. The kinds where I anticipate her replies and make decision trees in my head on how the conversation would flow. And no, I haven’t done that in a while. Thus, maybe all those conversations and thoughts about being with someone have switched on those neurons and receptors that signal affection. And this need to have someone on the right side of the bed could be an outcome of that.

This third one is easy to solve, to be honest. I know that these conversations are temporary and the road leads to a dead end. I am way too invested in her life and I know that my eccentricity (see point 2) would lead to jeopardy.

Four, I am used to living a certain way and doing things in a certain manner. These things may count as eccentric (again point 2) but these could also be dismissed as negotiable behaviours. For example, I dont want a kitchen in my home. I want AC at 22. I want music playing all the time in the house. While a potential occupant of the right side of the bed may dismiss these as “cute” behaviour, over time, these start to become points of contention and then a pillow magically appears between the line of control on the bed. And then it’s all downhill from thereon.

So that.

I am sure there are more reasons. But I do have this feeling and I need to find a solution. And I dont know how to solve it.

I will see if the feeling persists and lingers on. If it does, I will find a way to solve it. If it doesn’t, I can continue to use the right side of the bed to store my laptop, iPad, phone, book and all that.

Time shall tell.

With this, over and out. Thanks for reading my bedtime and bedside stories.

*Repeat. Woken up next to. Not slept with.
** I have had a few conversations where I thought they would evolve into relationships but they did not.

How much money is enough?

A simple conversation over whatsapp helped me think about how much money I want to make. Read to find out.

Here’s an unfiltered, unedited chat between AA and me. The conversation is about money – a topic that we often shirk around.

PS: When you read this, please excuse typos 🙂

So, out of the blues, AA asked me,

“Hi, respond whenever you want but respond definitely.

Why do you want to keep earning more money? What drives you?

Context: I am figuring out my relationship with money, which has so far been extremely traumatic and I have tried my best to deal with it.

And… Last night, a reason occurred to me that gave me a satisfactory answer. I want to deep dive into it and build a better relationship with money.”

I said, “i want to make money to be able to live a better life and give better life to the ones around me”

I then quoted Kabir and said that I am inspired by that intention of making enough for self and for others. And then I pointed her to this post about C4E Village.

She followed up with,

How do you describe ‘better’?

I said, afford things that I cant today. i dont have a car. prak doesnt have a publishing company. chandni doesnt have a house. upgrades in life.

She asked,

Do you keep a range in mind, ki itna to earn karna hi hai for these to upgrades to be actualised?

I said, “nope. there is no end to upgrades. it’s mindless chase. from 10 i want 100. from 100, 1000. from 1000, 10000. zeros keep adding. i look at the next goal. like my next goal is to have 2 years of salary in bank. right now I have -2 months of salary in account. for my team I mean. and then after that goal is to get a car for myself”

She asked further,

Ah, understood. We can’t achieve everything at once. Set goals, and jump to the next when one is complete. Makes a lot of sense.

Do you despair? Do thoughts of not being able to get these done occur to you? If yes, how do you keep up and show up?

I said, “a lot. and that keeps me going. i dont want to die a poor man”

She asked,

Interesting. But when upgrades are endless, where do you draw the line of being poor?

I said (and this is the most interesting part), “i have some benchmarks. i want to be able to afford unlimited starbucks coffee. i dont want to take a train ever. i want to be able to buy a birkenstock chappal whenever I want. i want to be able to buy a mac. i dont want to take a loan for a medical emergency. i dont want to take a bus / train / metro for intra-city commute. and not jsut me – all my people. and this is the base level. wait rent. i dont want to worry about my rent for the next 24 months rolling (i dont want to buy)”

While we are at it, see this thread.

She asked,

Why do you not want to buy?

I said, “i dont think thats optimal use of money at this stage”

Thankfully she did not push me more. If she did, I would not know what to respond with. So that.

After this, we moved on to other things. But while talking, I realised that when someone asks me seriously how much I want to make, I dont really have a tangible answer. I mean I want to make a billion dollars at some point in time and I will. But most people laugh at it. And even when I respond with all the earnestness, people dont take me seriously. Why would they. At 41, my net worth is negative!

To best honest, I don’t know where I picked this billion as a number but it has become my yardstick. Maybe cos it’s a significantly large number that puts you in the top 0.1%ile of the population (or whatever %ile). I checked. There are 3194 billionaires in the world as of Jan 2024. And I am not even counting the ones that are not reported.

I know this number will take time (apparently less than 10% of billionaires are younger than 50) and by the time I reach there, 1 trillion may very well be the new billion.

That’s not the point.
The point was, what is my immediate money goal?

And this conversation helped me answer that. Thank you, AA.

So yeah.

The immediate goal thus is to make…

  • 11 lakhs (debt that I need to pay back)
  • 288 lakhs (at this time, I pay about 12 lakhs to my people each month. I want to have 24 months runway in the bank)
  • about 12% more for each year (inflation)

Thus, the number is 375 lakhs.
Or 3.75 crores.
In cash. In bank.
At the current team size.
Once I add more people, the number will go up.

Once I get to this number, I will start adding upgrades – first to people’s lives (remember air travel, Mac, Birken etc etc.), then to myself. And then hopefully become patron to some young folks and pass on the baton!

So that.

Time’s short.
Need to make 3.75 crores.
Time to get going.

Untitled – 4/5 Mar

A long rant. Please ignore if you get triggered easily.

Feel like talking to someone. Have no one. And thus this blog. I started writing this last night at Starbucks. And then I got interrupted. And then I slept. And then I feel in that weird loosie thingy. I hate to be unwell. Anyhow. Let’s dive in.

1/ No Pity Party

After you read this (whoever you are), please do not reach out and text me. I will talk about a few things that may seem to be like a call for help. This is not one.

2/ Music

I was at the beach today (on the 4th). I dont know why but I somehow remembered these lines, “aise bhole ban kar hai baithe, jaise koi baat nahi“.

I tried my best to hum these like a human being must. But I was unable to. I sounded like a cat screeching a steel plate. That to be honest is not important. Important is that I realised that I love this song. And since I’ve been listening to this track on a loop.

Here. Listen in.

The other day I told someone that if there’s one thing I’d like to change about myself, it would be my inability to sing well. I would love to learn. Not sure if I have the time. So that.

3/ Friends turning into strangers

Lately, yet another very very very close friend has turned into a stranger. This one hurts a lot cos with this one I had imagined that I would be with till my time comes and I walk into the jungle. It clearly wasn’t meant to be.

Like all other times, I’ve taken my lessons and moved on. The biggest one of those is to not get attached. And lean on Epictetus and Aurelius at these times.

To be honest, I don’t know why I am unable to keep my friendships for long. I do all that you need to do to nurture friendships – often giving in more than I must. And yet at the end of the day, I find myself by myself. I can never forget COVID-19. Not one friend stood by me. If not for the steadfast support of my parents and the kindness of strangers, I wouldn’t know what I would do. I probably wouldn’t be here.

Each time a friend walks away, I console myself that the world has about 8 billion strangers and if I’ve survived for so long, I would stay afloat for a few more years. And all I need is a few more. I am old.

Plus each time I start feeling bad about not having enough friends, I start to look around for folks that I could be a stranger and a shoulder to. The satisfaction that I get out of helping others who are often left with no other option is unparalleled. I think that’s what my raison d etre is – offer a shoulder.

No, I am not depressed. Or even sad. I am merely recording my emotions. And in public. I would not add a judgment to the emotion. Guruji taught us that. I must go for another 10-day session. Maybe in September. Let’s see.

4/ Work

A lot is up at work. Like a LOT. In caps and bold. I can’t even begin to list it here. Ok, lemme try. I mean why would I bring it up if I dont want to talk about it. Here’s a list.

A. Hiring – I need to get some many folks at C4E. And I can’t find them. Here are the reasons – there are in order…

  • my inability to pay a lot of money (fuck you, startups) – I can only pay so much and everyone wants to be paid the moon and a Mercedes. I wish I had the ability to pay.
  • my ability to “teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea”. The work we do may sound small on a day-to-day basis but how we do it and where we want to be is a large large thing. And I am unable to communicate and thus I am unable to rally people to be around me.
  • lack of culture fit – we are big on culture and it is really tough to find people that fit into our scheme of things and we fit into their scheme of things. Unless we fit like hand and glove, we don’t want. I’ve made hiring mistakes in the past. And I dont want to make those again. So I often go slow on this.
  • work ethics mismatch – most people in this day and age do not want to work hard anymore. Most. Hard. And I respect their choice. Just that I dont think I can do what I want to do around people that are not willing to work hard. I know that I am average. And that means I need to work hard. And if I have people that dont work harder than me, I will have some discord with them at some point. And that means I need to find people who are willing to work hard. If not harder than me, then as much. And such people are rare. At least they are rare in my network.
  • ambiguity – we are very non-conventional. And that means that whoever wants to be around us needs to live in the ambiguous structure that we are. And this is something that not a lot of people are comfortable with. So that.

There are more reasons. But I hope you get the drift.

B. Growth – I am of firm belief that stasis is death. And that means we need to grow. And we need to grow like I want us to grow – in a sustainable manner, in a controlled manner (not like cancer), in a manner that allows each of us to thrive, go beyond our abilities, learn, get better etc etc. And I am finding that expecting such a growth is tough. So that.

Tough because we are construed as slow. We are construed as non-aggresive. We are constured as easy going. Perception. Sigh.

This also means that I need to amplify my efforts with BD. And I suck at that. I simply do not know how to get new business. I dont call people on the phone.

C. Services – Right now we offer social media marketing, content, brand strategy and other allied services. All these are services. And that means there’s no objective metric to evaluate what we’ve done. And this means that my people are often thinking about work even after work hours. And I dont like this. And I want to change this. And I dont know how to.

D. Higher value work – I want to move to a place like Singapore or Dubai where am able to charge more per hour. And I dont know how to do that.

So yeah, these. There are more things that I worry a lot about. Let’s see where I find a solution.

5/ Challenge of Consistency

I’ve known this for a while that I am designed for a life where I work on short, high-intesity projects that require short bursts of work. Short could be up to 3 months. Anything longer, I know I am not the right person. Thankfully at work, we now have people who thrive on doing the same thing over and over again and we are ok. If not for them, I would have been a ruin by now.

Even on other things like health, I can get started but I lose track often. Funnily am very disciplined and I would have bet a lot of money that a disciplined person is consistent. But I am not. I can say no to alcohol, cigarettes and other such sinful temptations. But I dont know why I give up when it comes to health. Wait. Health is the next bullet point. Lemme talk about consistency in general. I started yoga and I stopped after a few days. I started writing everyday but I stopped. I quit coke and then I got back to it. I did not touch coffee for a while and then I got back to it. I even fold my bedsheets and make my bed each day as soon as I wake up!

Thing is, I tell the world and all my kids that to get to something, you need to lose something. If I want to get fitter, I need to lose this inconsistency. If I want to be a published author, I need to lose the procrastination habit.

Naval says that you need to judge a fitness trainer by their own physique. If I want to be an inspirational business person, I have to be more effective and I have to be better. I even know my why — live till 120 at least, help others around me, go further — and yet I am unable to get consistent. I dont know what to do about. Get a coach?

At work, thankfully I have a team that works on day to day things. And I am eliminating things that need me everyday. So that should be ok, I hope!

6/ Health

The last few weeks have been tough. They continue to be. When I thought I was ok (last evening), I got an upset stomach yet again. The ankle has been acting up lately, to a point that I cant even walk properly. The lower back is fucked – this I know can get fixed if I fix my posture. The hernia has flared up. NAFLD is visible all of my neck, elbows, ankles, waist and all that. The finger remains broken. Anyhow.

The point is to not describe my car-wreck of a body. The point is, I am probably at a point in life where I am staring at a one-way door to ruin. If I dont start acting now, I will not be able to live thrive for long.

And I know that for health, all I need to do is eat right, do some workout and sleep well. I sleep well to be honest. If I can find a solution to food, I will be ok. Just that with all the travel I am unable to. All my life I have avoided getting a cook (cos the mess that food makes) but I am now willing to hire one. I have started to ask around for that. Let’s see when I find a solution.

I think this is it.

Oh, one more thing…

Like I said in the beginning, if you read this, I dont want any sympathy or whatever. I am over most of the things listed here in. I had to let out of my system and I am ok now that I have written here.

More later!

The February Hits (and Misses)

A few things that I am not happy about and helpless about. Mostly a rant. Read at peril.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you would have noticed two not-so-happy posts back to back. Today I have a few things to talk about that may not be happy either.

Read on.

One. Whatsapp.

For some random reason, yesterday I got logged out of WA and I haven’t been able to log in since. I’ve read all support things, mailed Meta, and tried all hacks – including deleting, installing, taking the sim out, switching devices etc etc. And yet nothing works. I dont know what to do.

While I find an answer, am mindfucked that all my work has come to a stop. I can NOT even tell people that I am not available. I can NOT access links / files. My effervescent notes are stuck in the limbo. Thank God I moved to Apple Notes and Roam last time my data got wiped.

Oh, that reminds me, this is the second time I have lost access to my WA account. Last time around I was angry and pissed that I lost all chats and photos and all that. This time, I am ok with that. Just that my work lives on WA and I feel handicapped and helpless. I wish I had the power to know someone like Mark and get him to rest my account from the server.

So am mindeffed cos my work is pending. And I dont know what to do about it.

Two. Asking People to Leave.

This is the first time since I started working that I will have to ask people to leave on my own. And it’s not a nice feeling at all. I’ve always believed in building the village and the collective and this is anything but that.

In the past people have moved away from me while working – some at their own accord, some I’ve had to ask to leave. In one instance, there was this misunderstanding that I couldn’t solve and we had to part ways. In any case, it was never about my inability to pay.

This time, it is. Despite me doing ok with work and money, I am unable to pay for the people that I’ve hired. No, it’s not about overstaffing – just that at C4E, we hire for projects and once a project ends, we need to part ways. So that. In most cases I’ve been ok to let go of people once project ends.

This time, I feel bad cos I’ve worked really closely with these people for almost a year and I’ve come to like them as my own. Plus each of these is hardworking, dedicated and committed. And am having to let go of these folks cos of money. Double damn.

I keep getting these shockers but I am unable to do anything about these. I dont know when I’d wake up. Funny that I wrote a few days only that I dont know when this bubble would get burst.

So I am sad that I have to take this call. And I dont know what to do about this.

Three. Work. Future.

All I do in life is work. And since we are close to starting the next financial year, I was planning for what I would do in the next year and how I would go 10X from where I am right now.

While doing that, I realised that unless I do something large and drastic, the way we’ve been going, we are staring at ruin. Not that we are not good, just that the world is changing very fast and there’s way too much unpredictability around us. Surviving itself is a problem. And I am thinking of 10X-ing from here. So that.

Plus, I’ve never had to plan things – I was always at a tiny scale and things would come to me easily. Now we are larger than I’ve ever been (while we remain tiny in the grand scheme of things) and this means that the ship needs to be a lot more stable. And I am finding it hard to imagine how to do that.

I know I will do ok. I know we will do ok. But I need to work harder than I’ve ever worked. I would’ve if not for my gut. Read the next point.

Four. Gut.

Remember I said that my guts are apparently made of steel?

Well, they aren’t gutting.

It’s been more than 10 days now and I am still running between my desk and the loo. If I show some strength and resolve and go to a Starbucks or a meeting, I run back home faster than PT Usha!

And each time I get to the loo, the walk back is more laboursome and tiring. And I am left thinking if I should even make an attempt to get up the next time. And then I think I’d just stop eating. Let me spew out everything that I have in me. I’ve done almost 3 days of fasting in the past. There’s no reason I can’t do this time. May be starting tonight. Let’s see.

Oh, I refuse to go see a doc. I am hoping I will be better in a few days. been 10. Should take another there or four. Let’s see.

To be honest I am ok with it. Just that work is suffering. Same as the WhatsApp snafu. I dont think of anything more than that lol. I really need to get a life. Any tips?

Five. My failure to be a good shishya.

One of THE most important mentors I have ever had seems to be angry at me. To the point that he’s not even keen on talking to me. I know I’ve fucked up. And I’ve said sorry. And I will never ever repeat the mistake. But I think I’ve broken the relationship to a point that it’s beyond repair.

Like a mature adult, I went to him to apologise face to face. But I dont think it’s working out. So that. Like a mirror, it’s broken. I can put it together but I will always see a crack 🙁

So that. It was important enough to capture here on the blog.

So yeah. These five things.

The whole of 2024 and February specifically seems to be jinxed at so many levels. I need to find a way to fix this. Any pandits around?


A manifesto of sorts about how I want to live my life.

Do me a favour. Listen to this song while you read this.

From this one, I love these lines…

On bended knee is no way to be free

I would have heard this song a million times if not more. And each time I hear it, the emotions it evokes are the same. That of a life lived on my terms, spent chasing things that I want (and not others), of being free. 

The song talks about something very very fundamental to us humans. The want to be free. The need. Not in a mythical manner that gets romanticised where you say you control your time outside of your office hours. But in the real sense of the word. Where you are the master of time, the driver of your destiny and the only one who makes decisions for you on a day-to-day basis. 

No, I am not saying that we become hippies and start roaming around free without an agenda or a mission. I dont want us to start running wild and amok and go back to the days of jungles and caves. I am not implying that we quit everything and wait on patrons to provide for us. Let’s park this thought as A. We’d come back to this. 

So, Naval says that you are free when you are not a slave to your calendar.

I love that idea.

Of course, we all have calendars and deadlines and meetings and tasks and all that. But having all of it without being a slave. You are free when you control a “large part” of what you want to do, who you want to do it with and how you want to do it. This “large part” is where the spectrum could be. For Naval, it is 100%. For me, it would be 80%. For someone else, it would be 10%. You need to find what your “large part” is and then aim to get to it. That simple. Like I said, mine is 80%

The thing is, the world is governed by two things and two things only – the fundamental laws of physics and the ego of people. One you can’t control and have to submit to. The other you can manage. And in this management is the freedom. This is the lever you push to see if freedom pops on the other side! 

Lemme talk about C4E for a bit. This avatar of C4E started post-COVID when an old client and a friend from MDI got me started on a couple of projects. Since then, C4E has largely been an experiment. And a good one at that. That has allowed us to grow into a collective of some 15 people, each almost free. At least from my vantage point. While we dont make enough money to live a lavish life, we do have enough to pay our bills (I think so) and yet have a large control over our time. It’s so good that I often think that the bubble would someday burst. I often wonder when would the penny drop. I know it would someday. I know this too shall pass. 

However, the experiment over the last three years has given me the taste of life as a free man. I now know what is independence. And I dont think I would ever want to be chained. 

In fact, looking back, I realise freedom has become one of the most important drivers of my life. Even simple acts of rebellion (not wearing shoes or pants) is a struggle for freedom for me.

I hope most people at C4E are like that – free, not wanting to ever go back to the clutches of a timesheet and trap of a fixed salary. 

Of course, this freedom has come with a certain price – that of working harder than the ones that are not free. This is the first time I’ve brought the W word in this note.

Remember I had parked an A a few paras ago?
Time to revisit that. 

So in the ideal world, most of us would have patrons that allow us to chase our respective bliss. But the world is not ideal. And we dont want to become hippies. So we have to work. And word harder. Hard work is indeed the price of freedom. All of us know about the recent brouhaha around the 70-hours of work per week. I am proud that I clock more than 80 hours a week. I wish I could do more. Laws of physics dont allow me to (old age, you see). No, this is not a norm at C4E. There are people that work “full-time” and yet clock 10 hours a week. And others are probably in between. Of course, these numbers are estimates – we dont have timesheets. 

But the point is, we have earned our freedom by paying for it with our hard work. And with one other thing.


At C4E, we’ve taken vows to ensure that we are reliable. And that is the only promise we make to our clients. We dont claim to be the most creative team. We dont win awards (we may at some point in future but that is not our ambition). We dont pull rabbits out of hats. But we deliver. We’ve designed our work to have redundant structures so that we dont miss deadlines. If we say a thing will happen at 5 PM, it happens at 5 PM. There is no if or but or when or doubt about it. We typically over-communicate and in case we are getting delayed, we will tell you. 

And despite being reliable and working harder, longer, and more rigorous than others, I want to claim that most of us are largely free. While we continue to be a slave to our calendars, like I said, we choose where we are when we work, what kind of work we do, how we work and who we work with. We are a fully remote team, we work on our schedules, at locations of our choosing (am mostly at some Starbucks) and we respect each other’s freedom. And while we do that, we ensure that everyone is paid fairly (at least to the best of our abilities). On top of this, each person is encouraged to build their dream life (not the life that any one person would want to impose upon them). 

Of course, we have clients and deadlines and their business goals and we need to deliver to those clients. And we like to be reliable and available and good. Plus, at our scale, we are unable to say no to a lot of clients but we remain very very choosy. Each time we get an opportunity, we ask ourselves if we’d have to give that client our freedom. 

If the answer is yes, we pull back. 

If the answer is no, we do whatever we can to ensure that they get what they expect. And more. After all, if not for them, how would we survive? And the world we live in, power equations are biased – some people have work that needs to get done and they have multiple options to get their work done. If they choose us, we are grateful about it and we do everything we can to serve them to the best of our ability. And this is where I mentioned, that I am not sure if 100% freedom is possible. 80% is. 

I also think that this service mindset is what has kept us going and has given us freedom. And now that I have tasted it, I really wouldn’t want a life where I am not free. The best part is that we’ve been able to build a village (not a family, not a sports team) where we look after each other, cheer for each other’s success and work to ensure that the village continues to thrive

Oh, one more thing. 
Here’s an invite to the village. 
I want others to taste freedom. 
Do read this post and write to us if this speaks to you. 

Till we speak next,

Further Readings
1/ Naval and Kapil Gupta on Freedom – Link

Thank you to (in no order) Anshika, Krishna, Pradx, Riya, Vivek, Vanita for leaving comments on the first draft.

The Guts of Steel (or not)

The heroics and sobering of a man who overestimates his ability with his health.


So, growing up in Delhi and binging onto street food and eating all sorts of things made me believe that I have guts of steel. I could eat anything, made with any kind of oil, laced with sweaty palms and the dust and grime and all that that is all around us. And yet continue functioning like I am Rajnikant or Flash or any of those superheroes that are quick on their feet and all that. After all, that is what I am, at least in my head.

I would flaunt these heroics and guts and often participate in competitions around eating gol gappas, vada pao, pao bhaji and dunno what all. In fact, even alcohol. No, I don’t drink per se but on the VERY rare occasions I drink, I can outdrink any fish in the sea and yet walk in a straight line. Really. Try me sometime. Or not.

But, you know life has a way of humbling you and showing that you are an insignificant speck on a pale blue dot and you are meaningless in large cosmic things.

That happened.

Read on…

So, like most large forest fires that start with a tiny spark that often would die without disturbing anything of importance. But once in a while, these sparks help raging fires that engulf civilizations!

In my case, it started as dizziness. I thought my eyesight was finally giving in. Then I got the first burp. I could sense bile building up in my food pipe. And I knew I was going to puke. I know my body like that. Oh, I was on a call with some new colleagues while that was happening. Funnily one of the people on that call was a doctor and we were working on a pharma client.

Anyway coming back. I was on a call. And I knew I was gonna puke. And since this was a new team, I had to maintain my reputation as a sakht man. But then life had the better of me. And I had to puke. So I excused myself. Ran to the loo and spilled some. I thought it was gonna be ok after that. I came back, and finished the call.

And as soon as I hung up, I had to run to the loo cos there was more. And this time, I realised how much my stomach could hold. It all came out. And then for the next 2 hours, I puked and pooped.

Each trip to the loo became tougher. To the point that I could no longer walk the 2 feet distance from my bed to the loo. I walked with some support. I leaned on the doors. I got onto all fours. And then I crawled.

One time I couldn’t even build the courage to crawl and reach in time. Finally, I decided to lie down on the floor of the bathroom itself. I will let you fill in the other details. You do not want to know. I will make detailed notes in my Roam lest I forget. 

I am grateful that no one saw me like that. As someone who’s kept his spine straight through thick and thin, this would have been the lowest point of my life. I remember the look on the faces of my parents when I got my nasal polyp operated on. I remember how C4E Junta looked at me when I broke my tooth at a picnic. I had decided that I would never let anyone ever see me in pain. I’ll walk in the rain if I have to cry. I found out that I may not command rain at a whim but I can sit under a shower for sure. Thank God for that shower!

So while I was dying (no the thought did not cross my mind – I knew this was a temporary thing and I will be ok; unrelated, there was a time when I was in Bangalore and I thought I would die. I called Poo and told her to take care of my people once am gone), I had the presence to tell people that they shouldn’t wait on me. I texted a couple of colleagues that I had to work with. 

I then switched off my phone. 
And slept. 
At least tried to. 

The bed was way too comfortable, the floor too cold. I couldn’t find a way to rest my head – neither on the pillow nor on the towel that I had rolled up. There were way too many mosquitos. Somehow I drifted to sleep. I remember waking up once to go puke again. And then finally finding it comforting to sleep on the mattress.

All this while, I did not think of work at all. In fact, the work be damned. I have some really fabulous people to work with and they managed everything. Phew.

I woke up late, I dont recall the time. I read online what to eat. Ordered a Gatorade, and some electrolytes. Called for boiled rice and toast. Ate the soggiest toast ever and yet it was yummy. Ate the blandest rice and each grain was full of taste. Slept again. Tried to. Was tough. But I slept. 

I woke up the next morning (Saturday), showered, had idli and more toast. The idli was how and what you expect an idli to be. The toast was ok. Went to Starbucks, had half a green tea, some yoghurt (which was really bad tbh; Starbucks need to up their game), some bananas (read about BRAT diet) and then off to the airport. I had curd rice, hummus, pasta and a Diet Coke at the lounge. There, I spotted Subhash Ghai – each time I see a star from the yesteryears, I feel sad about what age does to them. Ghai had to be chaperoned by some flunky who was more keen on filing his plate with pasta. And I will ensure that I dont have a flunky for clutches when my time comes.

So, here I am, now, on 8D, typing things away. Feeling ok. I am grateful that I dont fall too sick for too long. I dunno why – my lifestyle is not the best. Irrespective. I am committed to doing better. I want to rebuild my gut. I want to gnaw at Steel and laugh while I do that. I want to bombard the gut flora and fauna with all sorts of food and fluids and everything in between. Maybe yoga would help. Maybe it won’t. Let’s see. 

I am on the road for the next few days. Once am back in Bom on Thursday, I promise will not set a foot out till the Dubai trip (mid of March). I will have about 20 days that I will strictly do Keto! No cheats. No tiny carbs. I will find a way to resist temptation. I will also do yoga. As we speak, a yoga mat has been ordered.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about health for a long long time. If the incident of Friday is not a wake-up call, nothing would be. And this came in quick succession of my uncle’s passing. Since Friday (and the episode), I have only eaten kachra and I vow to never eat shit again. The body is the damn temple bro. I dont sit in a place that is not nice. I returned the in-flight meal cos the air hostess did not serve it with politeness. If I can skip a meal cos it hurts my ego, can I choose what I eat for my health?

So that.

Anyhow. My throat is still sore 48 hours after the incident. The only good part was that I finally weighed less than 91 KGs after I had emptied my gut into a gutter. I just hope it’s not something large. Like I said in the beginning, I want my heroics to never end and continue to operate like a superhero! More on these later. For the time being, over and out!

The 5 AM Calls

A personal note about losing a loved one.

I wrote a large part of this en route to Delhi on board UK 970 on a Sunday morning. The other part I wrote over the last few days, as and when I could get time.

When your phone rings at 5 AM on Sunday, you know that something has happened. And that something can’t be good. While this knowledge primes you to hear what the person on the other end has to say, it never prepares you well. It helps that you are typically in a slumber at that hour and you process things slower. Plus you are on the bed. So you are in a stage to accept things. 

So today when I got one of these 5 AM calls, I figured something was wrong. No, I was not ready. I did try to make all the scenarios that may have warranted a call at this hour – I do this for a living – make scenarios and strategies. I couldn’t guess what was the call going to be about. 

I wasn’t left guessing for long.
My mom told me that my uncle had passed away.

No, I wasn’t close.
Yes, he was an important man.
No, I don’t know how old he was. I found out that he was 81 or 82. Back then they did not keep records as meticulously as we do now.

But I know that he lived a fairly full life – he saw ups and downs and fortunes and ruins and happiness and sadness. He has 5 kids, 10+ grandkids (most married) and a great-grandkid. I don’t think he was a man of knowledge or if he travelled far and wide; but I do know that like most people in my family, he operated from his heart and emotions and not from his brain and maths. 

I can’t recall when I was the last time I saw him. I am not particularly close to my family except a cousin or two. Plus I don’t do goodbyes well at all even if it was with someone I care for. I don’t like the finality of these goodbyes.

And I definitely don’t take death well. At least of the ones I care for am related to. Strangers and celebrities – I am indifferent. I get filled with dread and existential one at that when I hear of someone close passing away. To a point, I start questioning the meaning of life and all. I recall last time someone important passed away, I had to go to Faridabad. I distinctly remember me trying to think how would I greet the ones that are mourning. I somehow managed. The days after that were tough.

This time, I knew I’d manage well. And as I write this from the familiar safe space of a Starbucks, I think I managed well.

Life goes on. You know, Pale Blue Dot.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot.

When I go, I swear to go, I want to go without anyone ever knowing. I would walk into the jungle when I know my time has come – if I can walk. Or I will ask someone to put me to sleep – with no one around me. I don’t want anyone to see the frail me. I have lived my life with a straight spine and I would not bow down to anyone, even when I’ve aged. Like I said, most folks in my family operate from emotions and not from logic. I am no different. Just that my will needs to be executed.

Ok, I have made this about me and not about him. Lemme come back. 

To be honest, I don’t know him enough to be able to write a proper eulogy. As a kid, I would’ve met him a lot – summer holidays, festivities, festivals and all that. At least in the last 5 years, I haven’t met him. Three lost to COVID-19. I didn’t take any holidays, I haven’t travelled back to my home town and I’ve been missing from most of the festivities in my family. I think my decision to live in Mumbai has a large role to play.

Plus from what I know, he’s not been in great shape for some time now – nothing major, just old age. I recall that he smoked bidis like a chimney – as many as he could, as fast as he could. I remember him liking stale rotis with mirchi ka achaar. We’d make extra so that there was enough for him to eat the next day. I’ve seen him watch cricket with the fervent passion of a teenager and having opinions like you expect a die-hard fan to have. From the simple deewan-bed placed in his tiny hall, he ruled his kingdom like you’d expect a patriarch of a family to. And from what I recall, he had a temper and yet he was kind and loving. Despite him growing up deep in the villages in Haryana, he’s as modern as they came. He ensured his daughters and granddaughters got due respect and he was always supportive of any decision that the family took.

Knowing what I know of him, I think he’s in a better place.

Heart goes to my aunt. I don’t know where she came from or what she really wanted in life. May be she didn’t really want anything? I don’t know. Maybe she did, as a child. She would’ve probably loved something – music, art, fairs, something! I don’t know. I won’t ever know. I can only hazard a guess that as a woman in the patriarchial India of the 60s and 70s, she probably didn’t even know the concept of free will or ambition beyond a kind family to get married into. All I know of her, all she did post her marriage (at a young age, mind you), she was a pillar to my uncle. I may argue that she was reduced (I use this word with a lot of deliberation) to a supporting act for my uncle as he went about with his life. No, I don’t know what that life amounted to in the large scheme of things. I know that they are well-to-do as a family. I know they have great values and each member of their family is humble, honest, caring and has all the virtues that you expect a human being to have. My uncle and aunt raised a great family. And this wouldn’t have happened without my aunt’s unwavering support. She is exactly the kind that I wish I had. I know I am making this about me again but this is what someone’s passing away does to me – makes me reflect on my life.

Coming back to my uncle and his passing away. So the best thing that came out of this was that I could see my entire family together in one room. I had my cousins and their spouses and their offsprings under one roof and I realised that I’d never known the concept of a family. Whatever I knew before I moved out of my house to go to MDI and beyond, I have forgotten. I have chased billions of dollars and an impact on a billion lives and yet I have not built anything for myself. I wondered yesterday that when it was my time to go, I wouldn’t probably have another person next to me. No, I don’t want anyone next to me to be honest when I go but if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have. No, this doesn’t make me sad. Today it doesn’t. Maybe it will, in the next few years as I grow older.


So, while I was there, as a son, I participated in the last rites for my uncle. In a full-blown, Hindu tradition, I got to see from my eyes that the process of going away is as messy as the process of coming in is. In both instances, you are on your own and you are aided by others. When you come in, you are a lump of pink flesh and water. When you go, you are a stack of half-burnt bones, ashes and dust. And the time you spend from being a pink gobble to a pile of black pebbles, you create things – memories, objects, things and we get attached to those. And worse, others get attached to those as well. And you then are ready to die or kill to preserve those.

Sigh. I am rambling at this time now. I think I will close the note and hit publish.

I did click this picture at one of the places I visited and I want to leave it here as I end this post.

I will try and bring a change in the way I live from here on. I will try and build a family of sorts. I will be more mindful with people. Let’s see where I end up.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for indulging.

PS: This if probably for the first time that I have written about my immediate family on a blog in a serious note. I like the idea that I am so open about things with the world that I can do this.

A secret. A confession. And a solution.

A longish note after a few hard days at work.

TW: I talk about dark days of my life as an entrepreneur. I talk about things that may be construed as triggering, depressing and of mental health challenges. PLEAES PLEASE PLEASE do not read if these things affect you.






Here’s a secret.
If you want to derail me and my life, all you need to do is talk to me in an impolite, rude or condescending tone. 

Let’s park this. I will come back to this.

Now, another secret.
More like a confession really.
The last few days at work haven’t been the best. Dont think people who work with me or know me apart from work would’ve spotted it. Or may be they would’ve. I don’t know. The point is, all I do is work. My life starts and ends with work. I wake up, work, eat, work, nowadays try to catch the sunset (see this reel that I posted today), work, sleep and repeat. 

What I do may not be meaningful in the grand scheme of things but it gives meaning to my life. It probably helps anchor the lives of a few other people as well (but I am not sure). So when I don’t have great days, it affects me and my raison d être and I don’t know what to do about it. Most people have a family to go back to. I have a Rubik’s Cube. That too I crammed the solution to and I have since forgotten. So, all I end up doing is closeting my emotions on my echochamber (on my Roam) or writing cryptic posts on my blog (or twitter) or eating crap (Dal Makhani mmmm).

This time, today, I choose to do none of these. I am going to put it out. On my blog. Here. After all, I chose to live in public and live more authentic this year. 

So that.

Now, why’s that I haven’t had great days at work? 
Simple. Go back to the line I opened this piece with. 
“…talk to me in an impolite, rude or condescending tone.”

In the last week, almost EACH of my clients has spoken to me (or my team) in a tone that’s not the best or polite. And today yesterday, a friend who’s also a client spoke to me like never before. That was probably the last straw that made me think this much and all.

Of course, he can’t be wrong, he’s almost never wrong. He knows more than me and all that. And as a result, things in my head have spiralled down an abyss. You know, like Alice fell down that Rabbit hole?

And I know that I am not bouncing back to my A game anytime soon. I take time. Of course, I will fake it and the world will continue to see me functioning as I do on other days – reliable, high-functioning, in a hurry, high on energy, dreamy-eyed, lost and other such things. As I write this, its 8:30 AM, I am at a Starbucks 20 KMs away from home, sitting on a table facing the wall with my back as straight as I can stretch to. Someone looking at me would see a old man going at it!

To be able to find my groove, I would need to find peace over the next few days. Not inner. Am ok on that front. But the outer one. Like you know, get my space. Since the last relationship went sour, I’ve become this loner who likes to have his space and his freedom.

So, I don’t know how I’d find my outer peace.

I would also want to get a closure on the reason for this. I mean would could’ve gone so wrong at so many places that we have so much trass from all sides? I am unable to understand why do these people, all from different industries, and different parts of the country chose to speak with us like that. Nothing is broken at any of these clients. We may not deliver award-winning work but we are reliable as fuck. Plus, we at C4E work really hard to ensure that we deliver more value than what we promise, often at our cost. You know, underpromise and overdeliver. To each of my clients.

And this has been hardwired in the heads and hearts of each person that agrees to work with C4E. That we would overdeliver come what may. Money is never important. We could lose money on projects (I’ve often done that). I would beg, borrow, and steal to keep the kitchen going. I’ve done that in the past. I would do it again if I had to. I’ve kept my team lean. I dont pay them as much as I want to. All to preserve sanity and not go beyond our aukaat (while taking shots beyond that). 

Wait. Before I digress. So, the funny part is, ALL our clients know this. Each of them. And they see it. And yet they tend to talk to us in a tone unwelcome, uncalled for and unneeded. I know they dont know that am soy and snowflake and easily hurt and their simple act of trying to push me to do more would derail me. I think I am still ok but I can’t imagine how my team feels!

But then, why be impolite? Why be condescending? Why be rude?

Maybe, a large part of this sadness and disappointment is my expectation from life and people itself. Maybe I am too simplistic (and wrong) in believing that people don’t have egos. Maybe people at the core are bitchy and mean for no reason. Maybe people love playing power games. Maybe people like to just poke with harmony and see what comes out of it. What if Joker was right all this while? PS: Even if they are wired differently, I will continue to chart my path. If I had to go live in a village where costs are low, I would. I would retire in Goa or in the hills where at least I can breathe free!

The other part could be that my approach to life could be unsettling for the world at large and they can’t understand it. I am trying to build a utopian world where everyone is kind to each other, everyone is engaged, everyone is chasing meaning (and not vanity goals), everyone sees magical possibilities. Where its one for all and all for one. Where I exist because we exist. But maybe everyone is hardwired into creating kalesh for kalesh’s sake? PS: Dont think this is the case though. I know people are really really good. I really believe that people do create magic.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days now and I am at my wit’s end. So, I kinda give up on trying to find the reason or answer. All I know is that I will chase my utopia till I can. 

Truth be told, I am often flexible on morals. I like the idea of doing whatever it takes to build a life I want to live. No, I am not talking about doing illegal things. But I am ok to bend a few rules if I have to. As long as I am not taking away from someone more deserving. I sometimes feel I were a tad evil – I would’ve done so much better! If I could sell my soul, I would probably be rich enough already to pay myself well and pay my people well. But then I get back to my thought about trying to build a long-term, sustainable, boring business that everyone tapdances to work on an everyday basis. 

The other part is these lingering thoughts about the challenges of running a service business in the market that we are in. We work hard to make other people’s dreams come true and in exchange, we get to make just enough to be happy about. Some days we make more than what we need but most days we merely get by. Luckily we are at a good place – on any given day, most of our clients are great companies, folks and all. They pay us ok money. We are challenged enough. All is well. But then when there are days like the last few and especially yesterday, I start questioning what we do.

The last bit is, maybe this is the trigger to push harder on my attempts to build a business that does not rely on just a few people or companies. Maybe build something that has hundreds of customers spread across geographies. Maybe I need to rethink how I work and slowly move on to a product business or something. I don’t know yet. My head’s in a soup. You can see. Lol.

Anyhow. Long rant is over. The point is, when someone speaks to me in a tone or a manner that is not kind or polite, in my head, all hell breaks loose. I spiral down and this is where I am at right now.

Of course, I will be back. I am strong like that. Vanita calls me a survivor. I survived COVID-19. I survived people cheating on me. I have survived so far. And I shall. Maybe i’d get a tee that says, “I am a survivor” :D. Lol!

Ok, more later. Thanks for reading (if you did). And yes, all is well. My back is still straight. I am still surrounded by a team that will move the mountains for me and for our clients. And we would continue to give our heart, head and soul for the work we do.

Oh, if you are reading this and you want to hire a great team to work with you – look us up 🙂