For someone who was looking for a fitness band that could make them push harder, all this former startup entrepreneur wants to do is quit running.
Ravi Handa, by all means, is a successful edtech founder who conforms to the famous one-per-sale test. Now that he’s also outwhich acquired its cheeky-named e-learning platform last year, he is actively looking for a job.
Not just any job. He’s pretty picky, and here’s his pitch: “Ideally, I’m looking for a job where I have nothing to do and where I’m still well paid.”
But this ideal does not exist. Certainly not in an overzealous startup world where “hustler” is a badge of honor and founders put down roots for 18-hour workdays. And he knows it.
By Ravi’s own admission, this is the first time in his career that he has found himself in an unclear situation. But he is certain: “The only thing I know is that I don’t want something full time. For now, my priority is to be without time.
It’s an interesting concept – being timeless – and Ravi goes into detail. But it’s not something you often hear from the pursed lips of startup entrepreneurs. Especially not from someone who came through the coveted doors of IIT-Kharagpur, and with a dual degree on top of that – BTech and MTech in Computer Science and Engineering.
Hustling, for a long time almost a clannish mantra in startup circles, has gotten a bad rap lately. Relentless grinding and plowing meeting after meeting and iteration after iteration is almost inevitable for most founders.
The startup’s employees embraced a “work hard, play harder” culture. The ‘play harder’ part came to a halt during the Covid curfews. And as businesses worked harder to survive, the successes of those efforts were glorified.
Then the virus receded and the intensity of this phase quickly regressed to burnout, great resignation and quiet abandonment.
A few startup founders who sought to reignite the unrest through what in their minds might have seemed like motivational social media posts, had to run for cover as they were harassed by a generation weary of being pushed. at work.
And yet, as Jasdeep Mago points out, the scam in its toxic form is also often self-inflicted, with many individuals pursuing multiple ambitions themselves – “an active project, a passive project, and a passion project.” Jasdeep is the co-founder and CEO of Invisible Illness India, a workplace-focused mental health startup.
“Everyone I know has three streams of income. I don’t know a single person who just goes and gets 9-5 and goes home chilling,” she said during a phone interview “And that’s what hustle culture is really about – the need to use every second of your time to prove you’re somebody.”
In the office, this manifests itself in companies valuing people solely for their work, not for who they are, says Jasdeep.
She does, however, have a good word for startups. Several start-ups are changing the narrative not only by pushing the numbers, but also by engaging their employees in multiple ways and celebrating the impact they have on the business as a whole.
“Like when a crisis comes, people have a different focus. It’s not only, oh, I’m making sales, but it’s also when there was a crisis, we all managed it together. Then it’s like, I’m not just those numbers, I’m more than that.
Ravi, nearly 40, and the son of government doctors with transferable jobs, thinks the turmoil in startup culture is mostly happening because people are vastly overpaid, counting themselves among those who were.
“Once you overpay people and everyone around you is overpaid, then it’s expected that, okay, everyone is a superstar, a hard worker… And once you work 12 hours a day is becoming the norm, that’s a problem.”
Trust Ravi, a fairly funny and passionate Larry David man, to flesh out the absurd to illustrate his point.
“I can give you the example of a friend of mine who spent a week or 10 days in Bali (when offices were still closed), saying he was still at home in Bengaluru and working. And he’s the founder-CEO of a reasonably well-funded company. No one in his office knew that bugger was in Bali and working from there,” Ravi says, visibly relishing the anecdote during a brief Zoom interview.
“At the end of the day, you have to have a way to motivate a lot of people. I understand they have to. (But) I also believe that some of them overdo it.
Ravi talks about his experience as a founder who was able to run Handa Ka Funda for eight years with minimal fuss (the largest team was 12 people).
“I believe if you give people some freedom…they’ll do a good enough job to justify their salary…I think that’s good enough.”
Ravi’s take isn’t necessarily a blow to the scam. After all, shortly after he tweeted looking for smartwatch recommendations to improve his fitness, Vishal Gondal, Founder and CEO of GOQii, hustled and jumped into the conversation to showcase his company’s smartwatches. fitness startup. (A “talk” was arranged for the next day and a watch was obtained.)
On the contrary, Ravi’s priorities seem to be firmly in place, since even before his debut. After graduating in 2006, he decided not to pursue a computer science job.
“In college, I realized that people who did computer engineering were smart and hardworking. I realized it was going to be hard work to do… (But) teaching was something that came naturally to me, or maybe it didn’t seem very difficult.
So he set about teaching with IMS Learning Resources, training students for entrance tests to major management degree programs, including the Common Entrance Test administered by the Indian Institutes of Management.
A few years later, it hit a ceiling. There was more money to be made to help children prepare for engineering class tests. So it was either a case of moving on to that, or moving on to the business side of things – in a leadership role or setting up your own test prep institute.
Instead, he chose to fall back on his engineering degree and joined sales enablement startup MindTickle in Pune.
Meanwhile, Ravi had posted video tutorials on YouTube, both for IMS and for himself. Although he didn’t see any significant pull on these, it was a useful skill. Soon he introduced it to small institutes and started making YouTube videos for them, earning a little.
“That’s when I realized that if other people were paying (for my videos), I should start making them myself. And the margins were pretty good.
Ravi founded Handa Ka Funda in 2013. Around this time he also met Gaurav Munjal with a proposal to make coaching videos for him. Gaurav’s Unacademy will officially see the light of day two years later.
Handa Ka Funda performed well, peaking in 2016 as Reliance Jio’s lowest prices for mobile and data services encouraged more people to use the internet. “Income increased and everything was going very well. But with easy access to the Internet, many content creators have come.
The edtech sector was also recovering, with investors flocking to tech-focused startups. And when Covid hit, even traditional classroom-focused coaching hubs went online. (A different question now that edtech companies are going the classroom route.)
Ravi had three options: pivot to an IT company and raise funds (“but that would be too much work”), let the company run until it eventually shuts down, or sell.
So, after eight years running Handa Ka Funda, mostly from Jaipur, Rajasthan, Ravi sold his startup to Unacademy in March 2021 for an undisclosed sum. It was a good deal, not only because it provided Ravi with financial security, but also allowed him to focus solely on teaching at Unacademy.
But that, too, involved certain commitments. He had to take about 80 live online classes each month, which meant preparing and scheduling classes well in advance, so his students could be prepared.
It also meant a lot of preparation for him. And “because it was about live lessons, much more than work, it is also about not having freedom of time”, he specifies. “Previously, my schedule was not predefined or predefined.”
And so, earlier this month, Ravi left Unacademy. He could now be “timeless”.
“There are lots of things that everyone wants to do in their life. But the top three concerns are whether their health allows it or not, whether their finances allow it or not, or whether they have the time to do it or not,” he says. “I have the money to do most of the things I want to do. But I never had the luxury of time.
Ravi’s big inspiration is currently a college friend named Rahul Lodha, former Chief Technology Officer at Aakash EduTech Pvt. ltd. who now runs Urveera Sustainable Learning and Development in Chakulia, Jharkhand.
“When other friends share pictures of them drinking or traveling, he shares pictures of a tree and asks us to find the snake in it,” Ravi explains. “He seems to be devoid of any struggles that I have or see my friends having. He is beyond that.
For now, Ravi isn’t looking to start, or even take on a full-time job, seeing both options as extremely demanding and carrying a lot of responsibility. He is ready for part-time assignments, however, at least for about a year.
Until then, he is content to channel his inner Larry David: “People tend to have a lot of expectations (of me). And I’ve been ruining expectations for a very long time.
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