I remember the dinner meeting with Mike at Belvedere in 2007 in Bangalore. Mike told me something fundamental that had a profound impact. He said, “In 1992, five people came to me and asked for money, and everyone said don’t because IBM will eat them away, they became Cisco. Then three people came to me and asked for money, everyone said Microsoft will swallow them and they became Google. If you believe your idea is good, you got to pursue it. Dream big for yourself.” If Microsoft and IBM could not kill some company, which other company in the world could? I thought. I had to chart my own course. Another memorable meeting was at a Hong Kong golf course with Ada Tse from AIG Global Investment Group. I remember her asking me, how big can Coffee Day get? I replied, “One coffee company in the world is valued at $30 billion, we should be at least $10 billion.” That other company has since rerated to $80 billion.
I was reading about Elon Musk those days. When he came from South Africa to the US, his first job was cleaning a boiler at $18 an hour. Now that man has created Tesla and SpaceX. Hailing from a family of coffee growers, creating a coffee chain couldn’t be as difficult, could it?
I was lucky to have private equity investors who didn’t sit on my head, allowing me to build my business peacefully. I guess when they see the passion and commitment; they don’t question every step anyway. Parag, Nainesh and Sanjay were great friends – they would just make suggestions or express their point of view and leave it to me – and that actually would make me think and rethink their view and take it more seriously. That was even when we were facing the biggest challenge in our corporate history.
Having read Howard Schultz’s biography – he’s always been an inspiration – and then having to be on the other side of what Schultz immortalized was stomach churning for me personally.