The year I turned 10 was 1972.
Speaking from the ramparts of Red Fort, the Indian Prime Minister thundered, “India is stronger today than it was 25 years ago.
“Our democracy has found roots, our thinking is clear, our goals are determined, our paths are planned to achieve the goals and unity is more solid today than ever before,” concluded Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
She didn’t mention anything about India’s economic progress as we’d achieved little. Annual growth rate over 25 years was barely 3 to 4%. Average Indian had an income of about Rs.5,200 ($65) per year (it now stands at Rs.56,000, or $700).
Still, there were positives. The bicycle, telephone and schools had reached the villages. India now produced 11 times more electricity than it did in 1947. Surfaced roads had doubled and industrial production had grown 2 ½ times.
Nepotism was high. Corruption abounded across the country. Kickbacks on arms deal, taking cuts on government projects, acquiring land disproportionately larger than known source of income. Sounds familiar?
This was the year India celebrated its 25th year of independence.
I turned 10 years old the same year. I was in 4th grade.
Amongst the things that I still remember vividly is my class teacher Mrs. Wallace. Dark, thin and cruel – she beat me a lot. In fact, she beat everyone. I also remember watching my life’s first cricket match on TV. I saw Tony Greig – the tallest cricketer of the time, standing 6 feet 6 ½ inches tall. Media was agog about his abilities. He didn’t disappoint – scoring 68 and 40 not out and taking 2 wickets in a match which England won by 6 wickets (I didn’t remember the score, I checked this in www.cricinfo.com)
Early this month, I turned 10. Again.
This time, I completed 10 years of being an entrepreneur. The company I founded and built – UCP or Up Close & Personal – was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
How did it feel?
In a speech I delivered to my 72 member team at Agra (we’d gathered to celebrate our 10th anniversary); I described my feelings. Reproduced below are excerpts:
“Not many businesses get to their 10th year. Across the world. In fact, the business mortality rates are really bad. Only 1 in 100 businesses actually reach 10 years. Reaching 10 years is like a trophy for staying there, in thick and thin. A prize for sticking it out!
“My business has given me a chance to manage my life and my career, at my pace. Nobody to report into, except myself. Wow! While this may sound fantastic, it’s actually very difficult. Having a boss is an extremely fortunate thing. A boss directs and coaches; a boss orders and counsels, and most of all, a boss protects. But as my own boss, I enjoy no such luxuries. In fact, it’s worse. None in my team dare question me. Even when they disagree!
“During the last 10 years, I’ve worked on 47 clients and had a chance to interact with over 300 executives representing them. I consider this as the greatest fortune bestowed on me. The experience has left me richer and happier, with so many deep and wonderful friendships. The realization hit me by accident. My close friend Oscar once introduced me to one of his friend, saying ‘Raj’s social circle comprises only friends and clients. Either his friends turn clients, or his clients become his friends’.
“During these 10 years, I’ve had over 175 people work for my company. 72 of you are here with me, and nearly half of you have spent more than 5 years in the company. Absolutely wonderful team I have!
“I had a chance to create history. Not by just doing great campaigns that beat average response rates almost as a routine, but to see all our clients refer us to their friends and associates. Believe me, there is no bigger joy than being referred.”
Those are positives of being a entrepreneur. Here are the two greatest difficulties entrepreneurs have to manage 24×7:
1. The venture rarely works the way one expects it to. Mostly, it survives (barely), trudging along. But worse, it doesn’t get so bad that you may close shop. On the other hand, it also keeps throwing enough highs to keep you going.
2. Spouse’s support. Without this, no business can ever survive. At least, mine wouldn’t have.
With 10 years gone by, I’m now looking forward to the next 10. And hope like hell, I experience more highs than lows this time around! 🙂
It’s going to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this enormous piece of
writing to increase my knowledge.
Thank you Oscar! Your good wishes and your advice and encouragement have been tremendously helpful. I’m expecting ‘more’, now that you too are an entrepreneur:-)
Congratulations Raj and Team UCP. Keep up the great work, the great workplace atmosphere and the constant quest to epitomise your own name – Up Close and Personal – with clients, employees, shareholders and of course, friends. .
And you Shiv have been a very crucial member of the team, and have made a huge difference to the journey. Thanks! Raj
Thanks you Mukesh! Not to forget that you yourself were always a great source of inspiration for me. I’m waiting fir the opportunity to work with you again! Regards, Raj
We fondly remembered you and the 5th year celebrations in Bhopal.
Thanks so much for writing. It’s wonderful to hear from you. I very much appreciate your comments, so nicely and meticulously written.
I’d prefer you address me as ‘Raj’. But final choice is yours.
Thanks for liking the selection of medals. A true nationalist like you can appreciate the value. You are right, using the national flag may have been a good idea. I’ll perhaps add one.
‘Spouse’ may be used as a placeholder for someone who is a very important part of one’s family, and one’s decision to become an entrepreneur could impact him or her adversely. Hence support is critical.
Well. with Mrs Wallace, I was twice unlucky: she was our class teacher in both 2nd and 4th standard. She used to teach English, a subject I was extremely poor, especially during those days. I somehow don’t remember Ms Dyer. Unlucky again, perhaps?
Thanks so much Sandhya ma’me for writing! I’m elated.
As my class teacher and the maths teacher in 8th standard, you were a great guide. You encouragement made me realise my own ability, pushing me do better. At important junctures in my life, all through my schooling and later during my early graduation days, I’d occasionally sought your advice. Your words of wisdom have helped me take right decisions. I’m immensely thankful to you, and shall always remain grateful.
With best wishes,
Hey thanks Seher!
Where we go here is entirely up to people like you as you can decide where we want to take UCP. Hopefully, far. And, high! Regards, Raj
Congratulations Raj … I think we 72 are very luck to experience this beautiful phase of UCP when it has reached a milestone . Lucky we , got to know about how UCP was started and everybody involved in the making…Thanks to the Agra Workshop .
All the very best to you and all the luck to UCP
The amount of energy that you radiate, keeps us all glowing 🙂
Way to go …
May there be many more fruitful 10 years to come for UCP.
I remember my time with UCP fondly (mostly), and wish you and the team that has made it happen the very best.
1. Should I address you by your Nick (Bittoo)?
2. Makes interesting reading! Heartiest Congratulations! May UCP grow by leaps and bounds in the decades to come.
3. I like the Medals that you choose to use in the logo at the beginning of your piece. Just hope and pray that you are able to imbibe the values of both the ‘The Lion Capital of Ashoka’ and the ‘Ashok Chakra’ in all your Colleagues & Employees. Wish you had added the National Flag. There’s a lot to learn from its ‘three’ colours.
4. Didn’t understand your last point about Spouse’s support! Although you do clarify it, in your personal case. But what about young entrepreneurs, who are either not married and nor do they stay with their families due to various circumstances?
5. Somehow can’t remember Mrs. Wallace’s face? if you have an old school photograph, mebbe you can scan and send. However, I vividly remember my class teacher Ms. Dyer!
I enjoyed reading about your journey to the present; particularly the statistical references, well researched no doubt. Congratulations Raj, you are wished 1010(read as 10 to the power of 10) years of success and happiness!
I read of someone being described as “he actively pursues a deeper understanding of the world around him, and his humanitarianism gives a depth and wisdom to his actions” ….. a perfect description for an entrepreneur !
U make UCP the warm, lively place it is.
Waiting for the big bash on the 15th anniversary !
Happy to be a UCPian.
Great going,wish you and your team many more such celeberations….
Congratulations! It is indeed an inspirational read. One of the many things that I liked about you is your humility. Also, leading an organization through thick and thin requires character. You have one. Y
ou lead by example. This is a true entrepreneurship.
Thanks and regards,
Definitely missed being one among the 72. I always let out a sigh now when I think back about my UCP days, you were a cool boss to work for.
Quoting from UCP website – ‘The moment you step into our office, you’re struck by orange.’ sure one is just the way one is struck by your orangy warmth.
Waiting to put my comments up for the next 10………………
Way to go Raj! Here’s wishing UCP many more decades of doing result-oriented work! Cheers!
congrats sir 🙂
it really is a great journey 🙂