Entrepreneurship Vs Corporate Career – Personal Advice Of An IIM Ahmedabad Alumnus

I will like to share my personal story of entrepreneurship & corporate career to share few insights with IIM & other MBA students & alumni. Many of us are often faced with this dilemma between choosing between the safety of a well paying corporate job vs the adventure of starting on their own.

I did my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 2001 and worked with GE Capital as a summer intern in 2001 and later also joined GE on graduation. I had worked with GE during my summer training in few start-up ventures like Meripasand etc in 2000 at the peak of dot com boom when even large MNCs like GE were trying to understand & participate in the upcoming internet revolution. DOTCOM & E-COMMERCE were the hottest trends. Rockstar Analyst, Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley ( now a VC with KPCB) used to write Internet Report which was like sacred to many of us. I used to read that quite a bit too. 

While doing my MBA, I also spent one whole term with a start-up Inaltus in London & Mumbai with my classmate Subhashish Sarkar on an industry project. During my MBA, one of our guest faculty, Professor Sunil Handa, also an  IIM Ahmedabad alum and Founder of Eklavya Education Foundation. In that course, we all share our stories and after hearing my story of doing a comics library start-up during school and project with Inaltus in London, he gave me an advice that go to Silicon Valley, I will fund the flight and arrange for stay with alumni. I asked sir what will I do? He said, you just go there and you will figure out. You are an entrepreneur and don’t get stuck in the corporate world by accepting your PPO at GE. 

I choose the safe option of joining World’s most admired company with AAA rating and Fortune 5 company called GE.  Was it a bad decision or something I regret. NO. I learnt from leadership skills and training during my years with GE than even during my MBA. Though the restless entrepreneurial streak that I had was channelised into social ventures focussed on Bihar, Jharkhand, Education, Health etc. I also became an active alumnus trying to connect alumni of all IIMs under one platform called IIM Society (will write more on that in a separate story). All these years worked with large to midsize companies including GE, Genpact, Accretive Health, Infosys Public Services, Virtusa etc. Of course with my entrepreneurial dreams getting a partial outlet in social ventures.

In October 2015, when I got transferred to California on a marketing project with Apple, I saw this as my chance of getting back to where I belonged. During my college days at Patna, I had started a venture, A++ CompuLab in a garage start-up focussed on Java and Customised Training.

For emotional or nostalgia reason I named my venture in California as A++ Ventures and channelised all social capital and ventures via A++. (Education & Health) remained focus areas and will share more in a separate story.

However coming to this question or dilemma of Entrepreneurial vs Corporate role. My 2 paisa of learning is, whether you are in a regular job or are part of an entrepreneurial venture, it is all about a mindset. Even if you are in a big company like Google, GE or Facebook it is important to have that entrepreneurial mindset. In a large company your stakeholders, sources of funding are internal whereas in a private venture it has to family, friend & fools (VCs).

In case you have worked in a larger company then know how to scale or work in complex bureaucracy and also have a large network and experiences at your employer’s expense. In case you are starting from scratch on your own then will need to build a network on your own.

So my advice is, try out both. There are experiences that will enrich your life in both worlds and might be worth it. My most recent ventures are “Bharat Entrepreneurs Network” & “Women Entrepreneurs Network” that we launched at IIFT New Delhi on 11th of Feb 2017.

Atul Kumar

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