Given that most founders are much younger; I am often asked why someone who is close to retirement would dive into the turbulent world of start-ups.
In fact, investors worry if you would have the same hunger and drive to create wealth when you are already wealthy and have nothing much to lose. Not to forget the self-doubts that have crept in from time to time on being able to deal with the physical and mental stress that accompanies start-ups.
However, I can confidently say now that there is no right age for starting up. There are those factors that push you to be an entrepreneur and those that make you pause.
I joined the startup club relatively late at the age of 42 after having spent close to two decades with Citibank in India, Thailand and then US in various global roles. My entry into startups was with Paypal, where I was a member of the founding team and which went on to become a multibillion dollar company. I then returned to India and became part of another startup called Eko when I was 49.
A predictable job, a predictable career path and a predictable salary provide great comfort; and moving out of one’s comfort zone is the greatest challenge for anyone who wants to be part of a startup.
While the thrill of taking a disruptive idea and creating an iconic company around it is exciting, life in startups can be quite an emotional rollercoaster. The challenges, the obstacles, the occasional depression and despair is not everyone’s cup of tea and age is absolutely not a factor here.
What keeps you going is the burning desire to solve a big problem. That’s what we did at Paypal, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to with Bharosa Club.
It all starts with a problem and a big idea that makes you confident about solving that problem. The next step is to assemble a team of believers who are equally passionate about solving the problem. And this needs to be followed up with unbelievable amount of hard work and an element of luck. Notice, age still aren’t a factor.
The birth of Bharosa was rooted in the realization that Mutual Funds have created enormous wealth in India over the last few decades. The problem was that a little less than 1% of Indians took advantage of this opportunity. Digging deeper one realized that the root cause of the dramatically low penetration of mutual funds were a set of systemic problems plaguing the industry. Bharosa was formed to address these systemic problems so that great financial products, starting with mutual funds could reach and benefit millions.
Startups are never about just one person. My wife Anita and my co-founder Prakash were very much part of the group who believed that we could make a difference to millions. All of us were over 50 but we knew we brought different skillsets to the table, which together could help solve this problem. We then started building a core team of like-minded people who shared our passion and believed in our vision.
And since then, there has been no looking back. While there are many more milestones to achieve and many more scales to peak, I can’t be more satisfied with what we have achieved till now.
What I can’t emphasize enough, and this is what I often say to people I meet who are much younger to me, is that it is really never too late to start. This may sound like a cliché, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is true.
If you think that you have a great idea that can solve a definite problem, age shouldn’t be a factor at all. In fact, your experience and the business acumen you have developed over the years will stand you in good stead.
The start-up ecosystem has greatly evolved in India, and with the government pushing and incentivizing home-grown startups, there has never been a better time to do business in the country.
Once you have the conviction to back your idea and see merit in pursuing it, do yourself a service and give it a try – sometimes even failure can teach you a lot.
Sanjay Bhargava is the chairman and CEO of Bharosa Club