The first entrepreneur in my family was my paternal grandmother. She got widowed at a very young age, 21, with two sons — my father, who was two-years-old then, and his younger brother, who was one. My granny began tailoring in what was then Pakistan, where my father was born.
My dad never had an easy childhood. Yet, he educated himself — lived on a scholarship from the age of five — to finally qualify as an engineer. He, eventually, joined the Indian Railways. Given the modest background that he came from, my dad valued money and held the principle — never borrow money. That learning has stayed with my sisters and me, so much so that even as an entrepreneur I’m debt averse. Even if I had had to borrow, I have been focused on mitigating any risk arising out of it. I am happy to accept a lower return on equity as long as the risk is commensurately traded off.
Unlike my father, my mother came from a far more privileged background — her dad was a Colonel in the British army. My mother was a doctor and had also joined the Indian Army. She was a captain when I was born. As it turns out, I was an uncontrollable kid and as a four-year-old I would often run on the parapet of our house on the top floor. Things came to such a pass that my mom had to quit the army because it was either my life or her job! She still believes that had I not been such a brat she would have had a glorious career. In fact, 30 years later, too, it came to fore when one day an ex-army colleague came to meet my mom, and I happened to be visiting her that week. Boy, the glare that my mum gave me after her friend left was like “If it wasn’t for you, I too would have had risen through the ranks!”
Thanks to my dad, from a very young age, I have been comfortable with numbers. When I was three, he used to make me multiply 2 digits by 2 digits. And when I was four, it was 2 digits by 3 digits. He was very keen that I get admission in St Columba’s School in Delhi. It was not easy, but he convinced the principal to give me a chance. On the day of the interview, my dad told