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Story of a newspaper hawker who belled the CAT and got hired by Rocket Internet

23 February, 2015

From selling newspapers in his childhood to being roped in by one of the world’s leading internet investment cum incubation firm Rocket Internet, he has come a long way.

Meet Shiva Kumar N, who first shot to fame two years ago after he cracked one of the most sought after competitive exams in India – CAT, door to the country’s most prestigious B-school network. During the weekend he had another big reason to smile.

Kumar bagged the position of deputy country manager offered Rocket Internet for an as yet unnamed venture on day zero at the campus placement at IIM Calcutta.

He has not been given a detailed brief but he is likely to be posted as a de-facto number 2 in one of the Rocket Internet ventures in the Indian sub-continent.

An email query sent to Rocket Internet elicited no response.

Rocket Internet virtually owns and operates ventures such as fashion etailer Jabong, Fab Furnish, Easy Taxi, FoodPanda, CupoNation, Tripda, Wimdu and OfficeYes. Some of these are Indian editions of a multi-geography venture.

The long story

Kumar’s life was never this simple before. He was born to a truck driver with a meagre income in a small village close to Mysore. His father moved to Bangalore after he was a born, in search of a job.

When he was studying in class 4th, he realised that his father’s income was not sufficient enough to take care of the family expenses. So he started selling flowers along with his mother. The mother-son duo would go door-to-door with baskets of flowers on their heads and during the evening they would sit in crowded areas waiting for customers.

Talking to Techcircle.in, Kumar said, there were some good days, some bad days. However, the business would hardly fetch them Rs 50 per day.

But there was more struggle in store for the family as his father met with an accident and lost his job when he was in 7th standard.

It was then, when he started delivering newspapers. He also soon started washing cars of his customers on request from them.

But pooling together the means for his annual school fees of Rs 15,000 remained a huge challenge.

“I tried to approach family and friends but nobody was in the condition to fund,” he recalls.

It was then that he met, Krishna Veda Vyasa, who had just moved in the locality.

“While I was washing his car, I asked him if he could give me Rs 15,000 to fund my education. At first he was hesitant. He said he wanted to meet my parents. So I said instead of meeting my parents why don’t you come to my school and go through my academic records and then decide upon funding me,” says Kumar.

Vyasa went to his school the next day and met the school principal. He was very impressed with his academic performance.

“I used to be a topper in my school,” says Kumar with a smile.

And since then there was no looking back. His entire schooling expense was funded by Vyasa.

After schooling, he sat for a common entrance test for engineering in Karnataka and got an admission in Bangalore Institute of Technology.

Kumar also got a job in a private software firm after he graduated. However, Vyasa did not want him to take this job. “Uncle said that this job may improve my financial status but will not help me in improving my lifestyle in a major way. He insisted that I took up competitive exams like IAS or IIM,” he says.

Vyasa then funded his MBA tutorials and Kumar went on to clear CAT in 2012.

Rocket, dreams & beyond

Talking about the Rocket Internet interview, Kumar said, that the panel was interested to see the entrepreneurial streak in him.

During the two rounds of the interview, which lasted less than an hour, he was asked questions such as these — If he were leading a startup, what sales initiatives would he take to acquire customers? How would he hire the right people? If he didn’t have any money, how would he market his product with limited resources?

“I had to think on my feet and spoke about the complete value chain. Why would I start a project? How will I create a brand for myself, etc,” he said.

Rocket is focused on building online businesses across three sectors: e-commerce, marketplaces and financial technology. It is active in various markets, with a focus on emerging and fast growing economies such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.

“I will be responsible for sales and revenue generation for one of their ventures,” he said, adding, “In 10-15 days I shall be told where I will be placed.”

His long-term plan includes starting up his own project. “Ten-fifteen years down the line, I would like to work on a project. However, I am not sure what it would be like. What I thought of two years ago is obsolete now. You don’t know what customers need three years down the line, forget about a decade from now. Every year you have to come up with something new,” he said.

One thing is clear, Kumar, who had to struggle initially to fund his education, says education is one area that he would want to focus on.

“Given an option, money and team, I would like to do something in the education sector. I would want to make it affordable and easily accessible to everyone with the help of technology,” he said.

Talking about e-commerce and fashion, where Rocket is closely involved, Kumar said it is one of the most promising sectors. “Tier II, III population hardly use internet. Going forward this will be the only channel for purchase,” he said.

He said currently the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is growing and this is one of the best times for startups.

According to him, entrepreneurs should believe in themselves and focus on their strength. “You should know what you want to be in your life and then strive hard for it. The best way is to keep your life simple and keep moving on,” he said.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)


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Story of a newspaper hawker who belled the CAT and got hired by Rocket Internet

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