Home > Career, Leadership > Whom should he serve?

Whom should he serve?

Vikram has been running his new venture for the last 3 years – business has been up and down; he has not seen a single quarter in which the unit achieved operational break-even. He has been dipping into the savings that had been saved up for a rainy day when he quit a steady job to start this Computer Service business.

23 years back Vikram had completed a Diploma Course in Hardware Technology and added an Advanced Certification in Networking. He first two jobs were with small-time computer service centres, but within 2 years he had been appointed as Service Technician in a leading IT Service Unit with national footprint. He spent 5 years there and then became Manager in the IT Department of a leading organisation. Along the way he got trained in some of the modern methods in hardware service and networking. By the time he left the job with 20 years of rich experience, to launch his own venture, Vikram was Regional Head- IT and had built up a reputation in his chosen field.

Around 5 years before he quit Vikram had lost interest in the job because it was not adding any value to him professionally – work was just routine stuff and he seemed to have reached some sort of plateau. With Indians buying IT products like never before he knew there was a large market out there to be tapped – his idea was to start his own Service Unit. He had spoken to a few friends and they told him to take the plunge – they even promised to chip in with some investment. The other factors that would impact his decision were the following:

– His wife was not employed and so there was no second income to support the family

– Their two children were in high-school – that meant more years of education to fund

– They have a home loan that needed to be serviced for another 10 years

– Vikram was adequately insured and his savings that would see them through 2 years

Vikram felt it was a safe bet and had spoken with his wife about it; she agreed reluctantly because it was a long cherished dream of his.

He started small; he hired 2 technicians and did the marketing on his own. He developed a small website to make himself available to the consumers who searched online for service providers and used his own circle of friends who worked with various organisations in the city. Over a period of time they developed some walk-in clientele too and there were few customers who were unhappy with the work done.

Business came in trickles – Vikram got just enough to pay the staff and for the office expenses. He rarely found enough money in the bank to draw for his own use.

Vikram did not have a grip on marketing – he had never done so in 20 years of employment, not even to market himself to potential employers. During the years he was employed many plum assignments were lost due his lack of influencing and communication skills.

The friends who promised to help with funds and projects went missing when he called for help; a few offered friendly advice on how things can be done. He wanted to appoint a Business Development Executive but had not funds to do so.

There was already a running battle at home because Vikram’s wife had been pushing him to consider returning to a steady job; she even offered to find a job to keep the family going while his business got established. Vikram strongly rejected both suggestions saying that the pain would pass in a few more months.

He strongly believed that his technical skill would see them through. What he did not realise was that the clients had no clue about it because no one spoke with them about his achievements.

Vikram had been in regular touch with Ashok, who was his counterpart at Mumbai in the last organisation he had worked for. This man had quit couple of years before he did and had started a Service Unit there. Ashok worked in a much larger market and was able to achieve stability in 3 years and was now making decent profits too. Recently, Vikram had executed a contract on Ashok’s behalf at Bangalore.

Ashok called him after that project and made an offer. He asked Vikram to move to Bangalore and manage the new unit he was opening there to cater to clients in the South. In the last 5 years he had acquired many large clients who had offices all over India and they felt safe giving the service business to a known entity. Ashok had a good track record as a service provider – he was not as good as Vikram technically but had built a large circle of friends and associates through his networking skills. He had employed employees with good technical skills and they ensured that the work done was of acceptable quality. Ashok paid them well and kept them happy and hence the team was quite stable.

Ashok wanted to take his own dreams to the next level – he wanted to build an organisation that would be known nationally in the IT Service field. With smartphone usage exploding he wanted to tap that market too, but in order to do that he needed someone to take charge of a significant portion of the job he was currently doing.

Hence the proposal to Vikram – he wanted the former colleague to handle the technical aspects and service delivery while he focused on Business Development and new business forays. He knew that Vikram was reliable and competent too.

Vikram was in a quandary – this offer sounded just right. He did not have to make any investment, but would be offered sweat equity for his participation and in addition a monthly salary too was offered for his services. But he would have to end his own dream of growing an organisation- he would have to operate under Vikram brand-name.

  1. What do you think are the avenues open to Vikram?
  2. Can Vikram keep his own dream while accepting Ashok’s offer?
  1. kailash
    September 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    J, I believe he shud have some over lap time while seting up business. He shud have stayed working part-time like as a consultant or on freelencer.second he shud hsve done some partnership with some guy with sales/marketing Back ground n he cud have taken dealership of some IT products, that wud have added diff. Flavor/track to his business.

    • JayadevM
      September 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Kailash

      Thank you for reading and sharing your suggestions.

      I shall include your response and the ones received from others when I present the summary and conclusion.


  2. Vishak
    September 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Everyone has a dream and to follow it, needs a lot of guts! Quitting a stable job, plunging into full time business was a risk that Vikram had to take to find out if he can do justice to his long cherished dream of running his own company. Now that he did and in the process found out what he lacked running his own company. I think with not much hope left, he should seriously consider Ashok’s offer, as its the best chance he would get to revive his career, life along with keeping a part of his dreams alive, being an equity partner taking care of the technical side of the business. His best shot to keep his boat sailing…

    • JayadevM
      September 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Vishak

      Good to see you here and providing some useful inputs too.

      You are suggesting the safer route – my personal thought on this was that a young guy like you would have been ready to take a bigger risk. Just a thought!

      I respect your discussion and shall use it while presenting the concluding part.

      Look forward to hearing from you again.


  3. Jamy
    October 1, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Vikram should take up the offer to get the balance right between his family’s financial needs, but in order to pursue his dreams utilise the opportunity to have constructive and crucial discussions about how to capture the market, find some time to fine-tune his marketing and communication skills and then go after his long-cherished dream fully equipped. The wife would not complain because she would be secure and feel comfortable about the children’s future as well. He should have a short-term and a long-term plan and stick to his guns.

    • JayadevM
      October 1, 2012 at 10:32 am


      So you suggesting a mix. Bit of both.

      Thank you. As indicated earlier, am going to wait for a fw more responses and then present the concluding part.

  4. October 3, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Looks like Vikram took a jump in the raging sea without much of a lifeguard to fall back on. I’d say Ashok’s offer is just the much needed saviour in the circumstances.

    • JayadevM
      October 3, 2012 at 3:46 am

      Hi Umashankar,

      Yes, it sure looks like SOS-time for Vikram. Shall include your idea in the concluding part.

      Thank you.

  5. Kailash
    October 4, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Did you share your comment on all feedback?

    • JayadevM
      October 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm


      Not yet. Will do that tomorrow – thank you for the reminder

  6. Sunil Menon
    November 11, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Hey Jay,
    Whether in startup or established companies, one thing is most important and that is, while one should be passionate about one’s work, one should be detached from the consequence of it.

    The corporate world is rife with stories where the ego (attachment) has caused to waste billions of dollars before it is being abandoned, including people like Jack Welch etc.
    The second most important factor is the cliched”you are as good as your team”, not all start up
    employ the regular salaried employees, you can share equity with yourteam who will work with you long enough for meager sustenance, you should share and infect them with your dream and vision.
    Its is also a sure recipe for disaster if you think, you can drive and conduct all the functions, you must and this I am saying with all the emphasis I possess, that you should get people onboard with complimentary skills.

    Just look what Ashok is trying to do, he is trying to get a person onboard who compliments him. Vikram can join him and become part of a shared vision or
    instead seeking money from friends ,make them to travel with you on a journey where they share your dream and want go become part of it. A classic eg is Infosys.
    I also want to bring here a larger emotional play due to our conditioned attitude ingrained from childhood that to fail or depend on some one is not for grownup, whereas you see all around and also while you are in your Corporate function , you cannot function or succed without inter-dependence.

    • JayadevM
      November 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Sunil,

      My personal experience these last 5 years have taught me a lot about people and the way they turn out to be – promises, commitments and follow-through.

      I have also realised the importance of inter-dependence and am espousing that in my professional life.

      Excellent insights. Thank you for sharing it here.

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