Secret Diary Of An Entrepreneur

"The Glass Is Always Half Full Or Half Empty"

Secret Diary of Rashesh Shah

    • Most inspiring phrase Long-term greedy!
    • Strengths Strong persistency. Never give up
    • Weaknesses Hurried, impatient, overthink issues
    • Eternal quest Talk less, listen more
    • Best friends Vidya and my Kindle
    • Most touching moments When Neel and Avanti were born
    • My inspiration, role model Warren Buffett
    • Never fail to lift my spirit Vidya, Whisky
    • Good life Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Batman, Matrix, Kill Bill, Terminator Series, Popcorn and Pizza
    • Best Gifts Warren Buffett letters that I got in 1995, Good to Great from Navtej in 2001, and Vidya’s 2003 surprise party. How it changed my mood - looking at all old and new friends, I thought things couldn’t be as bad as I was thinking!
    • Favourite movie dialogue “You had not the courage to be loyal, only the conviction of your own vanity” from Elizabeth
    • Best days of my life Now


My first day at Edelweiss wasn’t pleasant at all. After spending months to get 403, Dalamal Tower, Nariman Point up and running, it was just me and the office boy, sitting in that 500 square feet office, meant to seat 11. Speaking to Vidya and Venkat bought little solace. A few client calls and couple of faxes later, at the end of the day, packing my bag, all I could think of was the Rs 5,000 that had gone down the drain. That was the rent we were paying per day.

Of course, it was a refreshing change from the dingy cubbyhole above Akbarallys that I was using for many months ­— I still shudder thinking about the walk all the way to the Taj to use the restroom, for there was only a dirty, common loo in the building. But getting to office every day, with no one to talk to or have lunch with, and then going back home with the feeling that you lost another Rs 5,000 without accomplishing anything was worse than walking a kilometer for the loo.

I had everyone and no one to blame really. It was all my choice. I never wanted to scrimp or start small. I wanted a South Mumbai office. And it had to be Nariman Point and nowhere else! I hated the idea of working out of suburbs or being a briefcase banker…I wanted to start out in style...wanted a classy office…

After seeing how grubby business is in India, having been a mute spectator to Dad’s business, I was determined not to go down that road, with excise inspectors and all that. I wanted to study, become a professional, wear a suit and tie, work in an air-conditioned office — that was my idea of a good life! Everyone was upset. Words like “you are the only son, how can you say no to managing your Dad’s business? Who else will?” flew thick and fast. But I chose higher studies at IIFT and IIM Ahmedabad. Eventually, Dad came around to accepting my decision.

Being placed at ICICI was great. I admired that bank. Having experienced the lavish culture at Prime Securities, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a dingy office that forced me to think of “business” the way I hated it. I wanted to build a new-age financial services company — not just go about “business” the conventional way.

My fantasy was to build a diversified financial services company like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. That’s what drew me to Prime. But stock market trading was going so well, the original idea was never pursued. There was a feeling that there was enough scope to grow by repeatedly doing what we were already successful at. That’s when I met NRN for counsel. He put it bluntly: if you believe in an idea, you have to start your own company; you can’t expect to mould someone else’s company in the manner you want.

Initially, it was six of us, including Venkat, Shridhar and me, when we decided to build our dream company. Just like NRN and his five co-founders. NRN was my biggest inspiration those days. I can’t forget meeting him at the ICICI lobby when I had to escort him to my boss. We were sitting together, waiting for the boss’ secretary to call us upstairs. NRN was talking passionately about his business, and I, arguing about how murky it is to be an entrepreneur in India. I recall NRN saying that I had not come across true entrepreneurs. I argued, again, but we agreed to disagree.

When I quit in May 1995, announcing our intent to branch out on our own, how excited my friends were — many wanted to tag along. Aparna from Ventura happily said she would join us to head the back office and another guy tagged along to take care of accounts. But not all co-pilots had mustered enough courage to give up their jobs and jump in! All of them wanted to straddle two boats before taking the plunge altogether.

I was the only one in a hurry. First things first, I wanted to set up the office. But it was a nightmare, finding a place within our budget. Between May-October, in mere five months, five people already had a change of heart. Aparna and the accounts guy got jittery about where our venture was headed. Five months out, I still did not have that office. I had nothing to show. They wanted to see the fax machine, the phone, the chairs and the table, not just my face. They gave me some lame excuses on why they were not coming on board.

At least they were employees. Of my five co-founders, three decided to stick to their jobs. Shridhar did not commit to a timeline and Venkat was waiting to take his bonus due in March 96. Things were unravelling, I was extremely anxious. Seeing people drop out made me realise how important physical space is. Very few people will bank on you based on the ideas in your head. I was stupid, really, to think they would follow me blindly. That’s when I decided I wouldn’t hire anybody until the office was done. But when the office was done, there was no one but me, the walls and the office boy.

I didn’t realise how lonely it would be, until I moved in. I was setting up the phone line, fax connection, furniture while running around to close deals and trading in stocks. There was just no time to think. The first day at the new office was full of mixed feelings — I had the coveted office, but was all alone…the second day was depressing. Third, even more so. I chugged on for a week, battling the emotions, the emptiness. Then, one day, I just called Venkat and told him to quit there and then, bonus or no bonus. He quit within a week and came to Bombay from Chennai. That put me at ease; little did I know that the real struggle was yet to begin.

Personally, things were not as challenging for me as for Venkat. I feel bad about it now, but then I insisted that we take home only Rs 25,000 a month — Rs 3,00,000 per annum. It wasn’t easy. The previous year, I took home Rs 28 lakh as salary plus bonus; Venkat took home over Rs 10 lakh. I was comfortable because Vidya was working. So was Venkat’s wife, but of the Rs 25,000, he would spend Rs 15,000 on his house rent alone! It was hard.

But the harder thing for me was to convince Mom to mortgage the house to shore up the capital. I was clear right from the start we had to start with a capital Rs 1 crore. That was the networth requirement for a category-1 merchant banker. I put in Rs 20 lakh, everyone else pitched in, but we still managed only about Rs 50 lakh. When Mom agreed finally, we capitalised the company, and I thought we were all set. Far from it!

Irony of ironies, the day we were ready with the application, there was a Sebi notification that increased the networth requirement to Rs 5 crore. I can’t put down the feeling, it felt like it was the end of the world. I was devastated. Our whole business model had collapsed.

Right from the beginning, my only worry was capital. We spent several days simply agonising over the next steps. In our own dream world, we had gone ahead and hired two MBAs from Symbiosis too. We had no income, the deals were not getting closed, the market was bad - Asian crisis, LTCM, Peregrine closing down…. it was scary….

But now, I think, it was the best thing to have happened. Such a big jolt, early on, taught us that we needed to be ready to take it on the chin. I loved deal making, so we decided to pursue M&As. As we started meeting companies — don’t know how — we invariably ended up meeting up a lot of start-ups. That’s how we realised the need was to raise capital, but not from the public markets. We started focusing on that and never thought we would become leaders in the game so quickly.

Several entrepreneurs would talk to us those days because they knew we were from ICICI and we could connect them with ICICI, rather their private equity arm TDICI at the time. We made those connections. But we knew nothing about private equity deals ourselves! It’s laughable really, but the realisation hit me only after meeting a private equity fund manager.

What a meeting that was! I waited three hours to meet a lady fund manager at the 20th Century Finance office, which was par for the course. But what came up in the meeting was even worse — it was like she pulled out an AK47 and started firing at me — what’s the business model? roll out plan? capitalisation plan? Pre-money valuation? Post-money valuation? …. I knew some answers but for many others, I said to myself, why don’t I jump off the Air India building.

I decided that day I have to know inside out of any company I take on as a banker.

I wasn’t really fretting why IIM Ahmedabad did not equip us with all that because what I got out of Ahmedabad was far more valuable than anything else in life. Vidya has been my pillar of strength at every step. Those IIM days, when we decided to do a project together, was real fun — that’s when we stated enjoying each other’s company, fell in love, started dreaming about being together. Life looked beautiful then, it’s looked beautiful ever since.

When we were teething at Edelweiss, Vidya was going great guns at Peregrine, a coveted place to work in those days. She put me in touch with her colleague in the Hong Kong office. During one of my visits, he showed me what he called an info memo — essentially, a document outlining all the relevant points required to present a company to private equity investors. It had the barrage of questions that the fund manager from 20th Century had asked me and more. I glanced through it only for a few minutes. But I was so excited that the first thing I did when I got back was to create a similar template.

I thought we will be well prepared to present our clients to investors, but who could have thought that it would become our unique selling proposition! We would go to entrepreneurs, show them the info memo, tell them we could make a similar report for their company…we could literally see the promoters’ eye pop out…deal signed! Thankfully, Internet was just taking off, so copy-paste was still not that easy…our competitive advantage lasted until 1998, after which every one in the business picked it up.

But thankfully, investment banking is more about what you say than what your papers say. And what to say and – what not to say – was something I learnt through Vidya. Her boss at Peregrine, Tim Chang was a great banker. Vidya used to talk about his client meetings – that he never looked at the watch during the meeting, would keep asking questions, would focus on understanding what’s the pain point rather than making a pitch to the client. I met him a couple of times but never had the opportunity to see him address a client meeting. But by that time, Vidya had perfected the art of making me see things through her eyes anyway!

I remember writing an internal memo about what made a good investment banker. Those days – and even now – we used to just bracket people as good and bad without actually knowing why they were good or bad. That served us well, but our approach to banking then on has been to understand the pain point of the client first…be a good listener. I started making an effort to listen to clients – it was never easy to shut up and listen. It isn’t easy for me even now!

While we were walking through the maze, trying to find the right answers, Shridhar came on board. It had been three years! Of course, he had put in his share of capital, but he wasn’t there during our most difficult times. It was amusing that he wanted to be called a co-founder. Venkat and I thought it wasn’t fair. So, four months later, we bought back his shares at four times the value and he decided to move on. It wasn’t a bad deal for him. We were not counting on him anyway.

But thereon, little did we imagine how the business would take off.

Venkat and I made a business plan – true MBA style. First year (1996), we thought we would make revenues of about Rs 30 lakh; 1997 – Rs 50 lakh, 1998 – Rs 1 crore, 1999 – Rs 1.5 crore, 2000 – Rs 2 crore. We fell short the very first year – Rs 28 lakh. Second year was even worse – Rs 25 lakh. Next year, we were stunned ourselves – Rs 70 lakh. The market was buoyant and we were oblivious to the fact that the climb had only begun. But we were happily riding the upswing. 1999 was when we hit the magical number – Rs 1 crore. We were still gasping for breath, trying hard to digest the numbers. Then came 2000 – Rs 11 crore. Who could have imagined?

The biggest jolts though come when you least expect it – the markets turned bad. The business was disappearing quickly. 2001 – Rs 5 crore. It felt like we had landed back on planet earth.

Business was tough but it was tougher to deal with expectations, to deal with oneself. The 2002 board meeting was not easy. I was on a different plane – thinking about the future of Edelweiss, how to bring back growth, how to take the next big leap…. I hadn’t stopped dreaming yet. As I articulated my long-term path once again, the board wasn’t pleased – 9/11 had just happened. Nobody wanted to hear about my dream or vision. It was time to regroup and protect what you had. I thought that was routine and understood. With that disconnect, came some harsh feedback, and the realisation that the Board is not something I just needed to update but report to.

 Navtej was always a dear friend – being my senior from IIM days, the association was strong and that’s why he could speak his mind. But it hurt – his remark that Edelweiss was all about me and the Board could see nothing more. Emotionally, it was draining. Business-wise, it was a lean patch.

The fund-raising rounds were painful – people didn’t believe in our growth, they thought it was probably a flash in the pan…unsustainable…and most of all, like Navtej, several investors thought it was still centered around me. That’s not how I intended to build Edelweiss; that’s not how JP Morgan or Goldman were built.

That was a turning point – the point where I started focusing on institution building. I was sure Edelweiss needed not just more hands and legs but heads and faces – apart from money. Finally, we signed up Great Pacific Capital at $100 million in 2005. Our sporadic growth frenzy continued – Rs 10 crore in 2003, Rs 40 crore in 2004, Rs 70 crore in 2005! We had peaked! It felt like we had climbed Mount Everest. We had, actually.

Express Towers was nothing short of Mount Everest for us those days. I used to look at the building in 2000, thinking we would never be able to afford it. Until 2000, we were still in that tiny 500-sq feet office.

I truly felt on top of the world sitting on the 15th floor of the Express Tower office. We had thrown a big party that evening, invited clients and friends and opened up the office. Drinks flew freely, the music was in full blow, tube lights were off, candlelights on. 15,000 sq ft of space, an entire floor to ourselves, the sea view – oh, my god! It was surreal! We had arrived. The clients felt we had scaled up. It was not cheap though – we were paying about Rs 15 lakh a month at the rate of Rs 100 per sq ft, as opposed to Rs 1.5 lakh four years ago. I had goosebumps thinking about that – could we really justify it?

It’s never been a one-way street though. At Edelweiss, growth has always come in spurts, bringing along challenges. In 2004, when we got to know that our franchisee in Anand had stolen shares worth Rs 2 crore from clients, there was pandemonium. I didn’t know what hit us. No one did. The amount was huge. We argued it was not our problem – if the clients handed over the demat slips to the broker, and the broker ran away with the shares, it’s their problem.

But I was enraged because right from the Prime days, I was very clear that we would never lose money because of poor risk controls. I still remember the early days. We used to sit together on the last Saturday of the month and track all the shares – those were the days when every single broker would have some lost shares at the end of the year – all lost in transit.

Everyone laughed when I coaxed broker Prakash Shah and went to the trading ring every day for a whole week to understand the system – undha badla, contango, ring system, vandha – it was fascinating but it was unbelievable that the whole system was so inefficient. We did so many changes at the back office after that. Our front office and back office didn’t follow the caste system, which was the norm those days... and we never ever suffered a loss for any reason other than a wrong trade.

Now this Rs 2 crore loss, right under my nose! How could I reconcile to that? Could we have avoided it? It wasn’t important what we thought eventually as the Board said it was our remisier, who commited the crime, so we could not abdicate responsibility. The question was who to compensate and who to leave out because we knew quite a few of those complainants were in cahoots with the brokers. As days passed, I thought our initial reaction was unjustified. As an organization, we had to hold ourselves to slightly higher standards than individuals.

It’s a lesson I had learnt in economics long ago but never applied in real life. Total utility maximisation – when what you give up is of greater utility to the recipient, you maximise utility. It’s a good trade to make. The day we paid all claims we raised a toast for Anurag Madan, I tipped the bar tender heartily – tipping well is again about asymmetric pay-offs. We may have ordered an additional drink, may not have even finished it, we wouldn’t have cared but that additional tip probably meant a lot more to the waiter.

It’s all about asymmetric pay-offs. It applies equally in real life and in business. Asymmetric pay-offs is also at the heart of stock market success. It’s the framework we look at when we evaluate any business – what’s the incremental cost, what’s the
total benefit?

In 2006, I recall meeting Uday Kotak at his office in Bakhtawar building in Nariman Point. I asked him which way Edelweiss should move. He said something that made me reflect seriously on how to steer the company forward. “Rasheshbhai, bank banijao! When you are doing only capital markets, it’s like milking a cow every day. But when you have a credit business, it’s like owning a dairy.”

Once a credit book is there, it’s earning money for you every day. I kept thinking this over, mulling everything that Uday said. A quote I came across only reaffirmed his view. “Capital markets is a weekday business, but credit is weekend business…” It’s true – the day the markets are closed, you don’t make any money, but when you loan out funds, you are earning interest on weekends too. We had to work towards becoming a bank someday…

But I didn’t want to jump into something I wasn’t ready for. It would have been a repeat of what happened during the family holiday at Queenstown. That’s where bungee jumping started originally, so we all wanted to see it. Vidya was clear she didn’t want to try it, saying “it’s a mad thing to do”. Avanti was under-age and not eligible. Neel was not too keen either and I was afraid of heights. We went to Kawarau river bridge, from where you jump, out of sheer curiosity. We went, saw people attempting it and it started growing on us. Neel looked at me, I looked at him. He said, “Should we try?” I wanted to be brave for Neel. Both of us were shit scared, but we decided to go for it anyway.

Neel wore the harness, looked at me, and just jumped. Done. Over.

When my turn came, I just stood there, with the harness, unable to let go. I could hear, “Come on, Rashesh, jump.” Those guys don’t push you, you have to fall on your own. A lot of people, who go there, harness themselves, get scared and just get back. “Paisa gaya to gaya, jump nahee karna.” I was blank. I thought I couldn’t do this. Then, “you have two more chances –Rashesh, come on.” “Rashesh, come on.” I finally let go.

My fear of heights has only become worse after that! That’s when I swore I wouldn’t do something I wasn’t ready for.

Back in 2005, we were really not sure what more we were capable of. But for that breakthrough workshop by Manford in 2005, I really wonder if we would have made the dash for such an audacious target. I don’t know how the three days flew by. The XY game was great, but the best part was the tower building exercise. Rujan was blinded-folded and was asked to build a tower with blocks using his left hand. We could only help with directions. We all tried independently and no one could build more than five floors independently – the whole thing was turning so wobbly.

No one could believe – Rujan finally built 21 floors! It was magic! Suddenly, it felt like we were underestimating ourselves. That got everyone excited about 10x10 – turnover of 10 times or Rs 1,000 crore by 2010. We got there even faster - in 2008. As they say, if you want to run a marathon, you have to run it in your mind first. You have to program your mind about the future. That 10x10 plan helped. The market more than helped.

Our yo-yo continued – we did the IPO in 2007 and set up the NBFC, but the markets turned bad after 2008 and growth became a struggle again. I wondered what happened to my projections? Rakesh, Akash, Prashant – all the people whose opinion I really value believed the same…that household savings would move into financial assets in a big way, and into equities – it’s far from it. I thought bond markets would take-off in a big way…. I really thought the tilt would be in favour of capital markets rather than banks. Banks still continue to dominate. I thought there would be lot more new-age entrepreneurs and incumbency in business will go away. But no, incumbency still plays a big role in India.

My greatest fear has always been for us to look back and say this great India growth story unfolded in front of us and we did not take those well-calculated risks and capitalise on it. Instead, we settled for small pay-offs. I was sure we could not lose out just because our assessment on capital market growth failed to materialise.

The market continued to test, but my anxiety to play for big stakes only grew. We continued to expand into other areas of financial services – commodities in 2008-09, retail finance in 2010 and in 2011, we started insurance. That was one period, Venkat used to often say, “you are getting too anxious, relax, I’ll take care of things.” Thank God, I started training for the marathon in real. Every morning after I came back after the run, I would feel like there was so much to do.

Mainly my preoccupation would be to frame situations – that’s one thing I learnt from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. In fact, that’s something we have diligently done at Edelweiss. Good business people are those who have a good feel for direct, indirect and intangible costs. I have always leaned towards situations where you clearly see the indirect, intangible costs and still have an asymmetric pay-off. When we were thinking about agri-services business, we thought if we spend about Rs 40-50 crore on setting up the business, it will throw Rs 100 crore after the fourth or fifth year. Then again, when we got into wealth management, we spent about Rs 25 crore and have already built assets under management of Rs 28,000 crore. Same with retail, home finance - Rs 10-15 crore a year for four years, I thought would lead us to a book of Rs 2,000 crore. We are already have a book of Rs 5,000 crore and are on course to make a Rs 100 crore PAT.

I started thinking on Uday’s advice of becoming a bank seriously in 2010 – there was a lot of talk around issue of new bank licenses – and finally applied in 2012. Nothing ever was given on a platter to us, so the bank license not coming through did not shatter us.

But all through this period, I was steeling time from myself to go back and work on the big picture. I withdrew myself even more from micro management. It was like starting out again from B-school. Back to Peter Drucker. Jim Collins. And every other management book that caught my fancy. The one question that has always stumped me is how value is created. The Outsiders by William Thorndike gave me a great insight into how value was created by a diverse set of American businessmen but I am yet to figure how do you know when value is getting created – is it capital allocation? inspiring leadership? Right place, right time?

When we started out, we could not see beyond a couple of years. Actually not even that sometimes. I remember the days when I was running from I-Sec office to GIC office trying to do the HPCL transaction. The warrants were available for an abysmal Rs 3 and not even traded when I figured the intrinsic value was about Rs 35. I convinced Nischal Maheshwari to sell the shares and buy the warrants. I sourced the lot from I-Sec and sold it to GIC but we didn’t even have the resources to buy the entire lot at one go. I had to do it in tranches – get the payment for one tranche, and then go take delivery of the next lot on payment…But I was thrilled as it paid for our office expense. That’s all I thought about initially – profitable trades and taking it one step at a time.

Even in 2000, we couldn’t see beyond three to five years. Now, we are 21 years old, and yes, I can see and plan for the next 20 years. Most people —and organisations – can only see as long as they have lived. As I vet my quest for the right ingredients of value creation, the best advice I ever got about organisation building – an important part of that equation – was from the head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs when I met him in New York. He told me something very basic but very important. The rules of building a good organisation, he said, are known to everyone – it’s like everyone knows that to lose weight, you have to eat carefully and exercise regularly. Similarly, everyone knows what constitutes a good organisation, every book talks about the same stuff in some version or the other - invest for the long term, invest in people, listen to your customers etc, all of that is no secret but following it day in and day out is real work and requires a lot of discipline. That’s what makes organisations great. And great organisations have the mindset to adapt – it all starts with great leadership.

Hindustan Motors is still fresh in my memory. I would never allow Edelweiss face that fate. The four days that I spent in Uttarpara with the McKinsey guys was an eye-opener. It was sad to see a company, with such a glorious past, struggling for survival with the onslaught of a new business model. During its time, HM’s shop floor was state-of-the-art, cars much coveted.  Then, came Maruti and changed the whole game. HM struggled to transition. Whoever said what got you here won’t get you there was so bang on!

Maybe, if Santhanakrishnan was spearheading it rather than running the subsidiary, things could have been different – at least he could have given it a shot with his amazing leadership. How could someone speak the least in a meeting and still inspire people? I always thought a leader should speak the most, give direction, pep talk – until I saw Santhanakrishnan in action. He was a total antithesis of what I thought a leader should be. His demeanour in meetings was a new lesson. No wonder despite being a subsidiary of Hindustan Motors, it remained an island of excellence – cutting-edge, profitable, partnership with Caterpillar... I wanted to be Santhanakrishnan, but not at Hindustan Motors.

HM reminds me of my stupidity when we launched icleo – what a disaster it was despite having all the right ingredients. It was a novel idea – no one was thinking of a hangout place for women online back in 1999. It was stupid on my part to assume that if I put together a bunch of smart people, they’ll automatically work well together. You need a leader to bind people to a common goal, to build trust among them. I could give up anything today but that role of cementing people…Ultimately, it boils down to how much people trust each other’s capabilities.

It’s never easy to trust people anyway. Taking a leap of faith is even more difficult – I could not have thought of doing things someone else’s way when we started out. When you are an entrepreneur building your own business, that’s a tough ask. I could not have let Deepak go ahead with his hiring first-strategy for our insurance business when I thought it had to be the other way round. No way! But I did. I went his way. How can I forget the debate about our strategy for global wealth management – I wanted to spend money and grow the business, Deepak and Nitin argued we should focus on productivity, backend and technology instead and shrink the business – scale down, cut people…I went with their decision and it turned out to be a better call. Now, I trust Rujan, Deepak, Nitin, Vikas and Ravi more than myself on hiring calls – they are so much better at reading people. It’s taken some years. But now I know, I can trust. I genuinely believe I have a number of people who are smarter than what I was at their age, and actually better than me even now!

Ram Charan’s exercise has really helped. There is so much talent around, so many people who can do things that I can never do, but the daily routine just makes me look at things that are going wrong, things that are lacking…and at the receiving end are always the people who work with me closely, my immediate reportees. Sitting with a pen and paper and putting down their strengths, once every three months, makes me realise how wonderful it is to have these people. I never wanted only star performers in my team, or those who can make fancy power-point presentations or speak flawless English. As long as they have a good dhandha sense and are diligent, it’s great. Not a single time that I have done Ram’s exercise over the past five years have I felt any differently, I just feel lucky to have my team. Hopefully, this gives people a breather at least for a few days when their goodness is still at the top of my mind or tip of my tongue! Even if I don’t thank Ram, I bet my people are!

I wish we could do Manford sessions with family members too. So many small things one may have said and done inadvertently, which ended up hurting people and bothering them for years. It’s good to flush it out every once in a while. What a hell of a session Venkat and I had when we did it for the first time! We were chatting every day for nine years since we started Edelweiss… every single day… but never had an intimate conversation like what we had that day. I never knew what hit me when he said so many things I had said and done many, many years ago that was still rankling him so much. I felt miserable. I am glad we talked it all out – we were awake and talking, arguing, and getting all emotional till five in the morning. After all that, we were back at the breakfast table all refreshed. I have never missed a feedback session till date – sometimes, I go to Fountainhead to attend just the feedback session and get back – so much to say, so much to hear.

The Hotseat session sometimes makes me wonder if people are fair in their assessment. I know I am a bit of a micromanager, but am I aggressive and harsh with people? That was true many years ago, but now? Vidya still says I am a man in a hurry, impatient and unthoughtful. I surely want to be less hurried, more patient…but can we manage to grow at the same speed we have grown over the past 21 years? I bet not. I guess at this stage, endurance is more important than speed. The two require totally different approaches – people are astonished when I tell them I have three coaches for swimming – one each for speed, strength and endurance. But it’s required – to be the fastest to get to the other side of the pool and enduring a two-kilometer swim in the sea are entirely different things.

I dread to think of those early days when I started learning swimming. I knew it was a bad idea to learn any sport at 49, but I wanted to give it a shot. Every time I was in the pool, I kept thinking that maybe I was 1% of the population who can’t swim however hard they try. But I had the grit – I always did.

I wish Neel and Avanti inherit that – it will be their most valuable inheritance. Have grit and be fearless, I was telling them when we were in Las Vegas last week on our annual holiday; Vidya added thoughtfulness, I couldn’t agree more. Avanti asked if I was keeping my promise. Yes, I have stopped biting my nails. The act has stopped but the anxiety will take a while…I still have a long way to go.