'It's not feasible to wear two hats'

Charan Padmraju, Co-founder, RedBus.com

Conviction and conscience. That’s how 31-year-old Charan Padmaraju sums up the biggest dilemma faced by entrepreneurs who start up while working a full-time job.

Taking both these issues by the horns paid off big time for Padmaraju and his two room mates from BITS Pilani, who co-founded what has grown into one of India’s biggest bus ticketing portals – RedBus.com.

All three co-founders – Padmaraju, Phanindra Sama and Sudhakar Pasupunuri – had secure, well-paying jobs when Sama was confronted with a huge challenge one frustrating day in 2006. He had difficulty purchasing a ticket on a long-distance bus while trying to get back home to celebrate Diwali with his family.

That was the genesis of RedBus.com. Sama figured a portal would not only benefit passengers who could book tickets online, it would also help bus operators who were wasting inventory. Why, travel agents too would benefit. They would have a platform to log in and locate inventory updates, thus reducing wastage and bridging demand and supply.

But there was still one challenge left to face – all three co-founders had good jobs that were tempting to keep. But once the trio had fleshed out their idea and were convinced it would work, they decided to quit their full-time jobs to do justice to their exciting new venture. For the three months it took to actually quit, each one wore two hats, which was an uncomfortable situation to be in.

At the time, Padmaraju was with engineering and technology company Honeywell and was just 25. He reveals what it was like to do a balancing act for a few months.

Juggling job and venture

For about three months before we put in our papers, we were each working full-time jobs and starting up. We wanted to make sure the idea would work before quitting our jobs. At times like this, your conscience is put to the test. But I realised when you are exploring or experimenting with a new business, you needn't feel bad about it. But it is also important that you do not violate any terms of your existing employment. Hence, we decided to quit our jobs and concentrate on our business as soon as the picture was clear.  

Keeping bosses in the loop

Many entrepreneurs wonder whether they should inform their bosses and peers about the business they are working on. It always helps to keep them in the loop and take their suggestions. You may be surprised at how supportive some of them are! When I told my peers at work, they were curious, interested in the venture and helpful.

Getting in full throttle

Once you have made up your mind, it is best to paddle one boat rather than manoeuvre two and get into your venture full-time as soon as possible. It is very difficult to do justice to your new venture while being employed. Ideally, you should give as much time and energy as possible to your start-up.

Moreover, you will not be doing justice to your job as you are likely to be preoccupied with getting your venture off the ground. Quitting our jobs soon enough spared us a lot of guilt relating to our full-time jobs. We were serving out our notice period while we built our business.

Tips for others starting up while working

* Once you’re sure you want to launch a business and have spelt out your goals, you should work out ‘quitting plans’ – the finances you have, time lag after which you will be relieved of your duties at work, etc.

* Share your ideas and progress with as many people as possible. Ask them whether it’s the best way to go about starting a business.

* Take inputs from other people and, importantly, allow others to question your assumptions. When you try to answer these questions, your own business will benefit.

As told to Khyati Dharamsi

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