A page from the diary of an entrepreneur at year 4!

Incredibles @ Internshala
Incredibles @ Internshala

Today I complete 4 years at Internshala :). It feels like a life time, it feels yesterday. I have been excited beyond sleep, and utterly bored in-between. I have worried myself (and my wife) sick, and I have lived like a child. I have failed often, and succeeded a few times. I have read the biography of Mr. Jobs and that of Mr. Vaitheeswaran and know that I could end up as either or in-between. Above all, I have learned am learning that it’s OK.

If you were to ask me 4 years ago my reasons to turn entrepreneur, I would say I wanted to leave a legacy & wanted my life to count. I wanted to make the proverbial dent in the universe. But today, I would say because I want to learn everyday, have insane amount of fun, and make as much difference as possible without going bankrupt. :)

Let me be clear – I still want all the things that I wanted 4 years ago but the first approach places more emphasis on the destination while with later you are more likely to stay happy (and sane!) through the journey. This subtle change in drive can make a huge difference to your inner peace.

Here is a quick round up on progress at Internshala since I wrote this piece 2 years ago.

1. From struggling to launch a website (& hence the zombie like appearance in the previous link), we moved to a fully mobile friendly version in between and have just launched our Android app – in another year or so we will finish playing the catch up game with what is needed and would start delivering what is possible.

2. We became world’s largest internship platform (Internshala ranks in top 1000 websites in India and top 10,000 in the world) with 15,000+ businesses and half a million students onboard.

3. Our second offering, Career Services, failed to take off after 3 attempts and was discontinued; while our 3rd offering Internshala Virtual Training Centre (VTC) is growing well alongside the internship platform.

4. We outgrew 2 offices in 2 years and are a 25 member team now (and hiring). We also have the revenue model and capital needed for next 3 years in place ;).

5. Most importantly, for the first time, we have a clearly articulated goal that we wish to achieve – 1 Mn internship matches in a year by 2017-18. Funny, it took us 4 years to define what feels like a common sense now.

And here is what I have learned in last 2 years –

A meaningful goal can do wonders – For Internshala it is number of students who find an internship through us (i.e. number of positions that we actually close). It is a difficult metric to track and for four years we were measuring ourselves on metrices like traffic, # of users, facebook fans etc. These are superficial at best and do not capture the real aha! moments Internshala creates.

Once we started measuring the real impact, everything else quickly fell in place. And more importantly, every one in the team now clearly sees how her work impacts this metric (i.e. lives of people) and is super-charged.

But it will feel overwhelming – Because it forces you to confront the problems that are more difficult to solve. For us, growing traffic or number of users is simpler (a function of marketing spend) than actual closures for which we have to worry about many other things including upskilling the students and bringing a behavioral change.

Other reason could be scale; this year we want to close 100,000 internship matches while the number last year was a modest 2,200. A 45X increase on a metric that we have just started measuring.

If you start feeling bogged down by the goals you set, these words from Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Great Renaissance artist can help – “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” :)

Building a team is difficult, but building a culture is even harder – Invest in it. If there is one thing I could tell my 4 years younger self, this would be it. Strategies would come and go but the culture would stay forever. And (thankfully!) there is no app for it! ;)

Passion is great, discipline is even more important – It is a marathon and not a sprint. Something as boring as routine can make it or break it. Most of the overnight successes are results of someone being at it for years.

Finally don’t stop trying & never stop having fun – this is as much an advice for the outside world as a reminder to myself. It is OK to fail but don’t fail the spirit of starting up – that is to keep trying, to learn everyday, to have insane amount of fun, and make as much difference as you can without going bankrupt :)

In India 92% of the kids don’t make it to the college and for rest 8% a career is by chance and not by choice. We are changing that starting with an internship for each of the 8%. If you are onto something new, you will have your moments of heartbreaks, just make sure you have your share of fun too! :)

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