By Yogesh Chabria:
When I was 16, I was extremely lonely.
I had just moved to Mumbai to study. My parents, sister, friends were all in Tehran, where I had grown up. This was a strange city and college wasn’t any easier, and not at all like what I had seen in Bollywood movies. I was looking forward to some Kareena Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan lookalikes to dance around campus, but none were to be seen.
My loneliness made me take refuge in two things – reading and writing. I read about all the people I loved – business icons and people I thought were cool. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and countless others became my friends through books. They became such good friends, that I would have conversations with them. One thing I realised is all these people faced awkward moments and times when they were incredibly lonely. But somehow these moments brought out the best in them.
Inspired by these icons, at the age of 16, while everyone else was either attending tuitions or hanging out, I began writing for newspapers and youth magazines. I used to barely get paid anything and sometimes would get free T-shirts or caps. I also used my time to sell and develop my business skills. Most people weren’t too supportive of me buying products and selling them for a profit, and even my own grandmother would tell me how I should be “focusing on studies rather than doing all this”. But lucky for me, I wasn’t too obedient and didn’t listen to her and the countless people who kept telling me what not to do.
I liked visiting my parents, sister and friends in Tehran but needed to fund these trips. This motivated me to stumble upon on a nice business model where I would buy Nike caps and T-shirts from their factory outlet in India at a discount of at least 60-70%, carry them with me to Tehran, then sell them there, as Nike had no official present there. I always made sure to sell it slightly below the European prices. In the process, I was able to not just cover my ticket costs but also make a sizeable profit. In fact, all my good friends there as well as some of the biggest shops had become loyal customers!
Back in India, another thing I would do was apply for jobs in every sector and attend job interviews. Funnily I got hired in many of these. The experience that stood out was with a law firm, where I was expected to meet lawyers in other firms and market legal software, to them. I quit five days later, but I got to know that being a lawyer was not for me!
Youth is a time when we face our doubts and ask questions. When I look back, I thank myself for all the questions and the loneliness I faced. I feel it brought out the best out in me, and I was able to use this time to discover things I truly love doing – business, sales, reading, writing and sharing ideas. I dabbled in all kinds of businesses and had people bang doors on my face when I tried selling them things. I suffered failures and also enjoyed the pleasures of making a sale. I believe these experiences helped me discover the power of self-belief and having goals.
Once we discover what we want to do with the time we have been gifted on this planet, nothing can stop us. If you are facing questions about life and existence, thank yourself; you are among the lucky ones! You will find answers soon, and when you do – do share them with me. Every answer is sure to be unique, just like you.