Having transformed a village in Uttar Pradesh so much so that it's now called Snapdeal.com Nagar, the e-commerce specialist, Kunal Bahl tells us how its done.
The start up
There weren't many career options I explored beyond academics growing up. I went to school at Delhi Public School RK Puram, New Delhi. We grew up in a middle class family and there was no concept of pocket money. But, if we wanted something, it was usually not refused, as long as the request was reasonable.
There was a significant focus on academics in our household from the beginning, and this discipline probably ensured that both my brother and I ended up doing reasonably well at studies. He went on to go to IIT-Delhi and then IIMCalcutta. I went to Wharton, which is honestly, something I regret in hindsight. But, it's never too late.
Nerves of steel
Entrepreneurship at a young age, especially if you have a good academic background, is a fairly irrational decision, because the short team economic opportunity costs as a result of becoming an entrepreneur would never make sense otherwise.
We faced every kind of challenge-funds, hiring good people, finding the right business model, dealing with daily problems, convincing potential partners that wisdom doesn't only come with age and 24 year olds can be good at something too. For both, me and my friend and co-founder, Rohit Bansal, giving up was never an option. After a certain point, we didn't know of a life outside building our company.
It was challenging, and continues to be. Rohit and my biggest contribution to our business is the team we built. Many respected people in the industry often tell us that Snapdeal has the best team in the Internet industry in India, and that's of course just not Rohit and I - it's our entire team of rockstar professionals.
Lose some, get some
Sacrifices are part of life and definitely a part of building a business. Both Rohit and I try our best to take time off to go on a vacation once or twice a year, or a Sunday off and play video games. We still go out for frequent dinners after work, which has been a ritual since the early days of the business. I would go as far as to say that our friendship when we first met in class 11th over a decade ago was based on our mutual love for food.
To be honest, professional life does take over most things, but as long as you are having fun, it doesn't really matter. One should spend time doing what they love and lead a regretless life. And for us that special thing is our company.
The good samaritan
We always wanted to build a socially responsible company, and recently we came across a situation where we found out about a village in Uttar Pradesh. The village has approximately 2,000 residents (about 650 families) and didn't even have access to basic necessities like water. We realised that we could solve this problem very easily. By investing a reasonably small amount of Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakh, we installed 15 hand pumps so that instead of walking 1 km everyday, the villagers now have easy access to clean water within 50-100m of their homes.
I spent a couple of days in the village, interacting with the villagers, and trying to understand how we can further help them, and how this initiative of ours, changed their lives. The community wanted to extend its gratitude through the gesture of renaming their village after our company to Snapdeal.com Nagar. One of our colleague's family hails from a place very close to Shiv Nagar and that is how the problems of the community were brought to our attention.
Food, movies and books
I love food and right now, I am experimenting with some innovative food related concepts, which may eventually be commercialised, but that is not the intent with which I am pursuing them. So, there is a lot of experimentation that is happening in my kitchen. In addition to food, I like reading and travelling, but my undying love is movies. Hopefully, one day I can write a book, which I can make a movie about. Now that would be something.