- Hi, I am, Hetal Thakkar, a Chartered Accountant by qualification and an Entrepreneur by profession.
- I am a poet at heart, have written & directed two short films, anchored a lot of events (still do when I get a chance).
- One might say, ‘I’m all over the place’ or ‘I’m Jack of all’. I do not mind. In fact, I feel in the proverb, ‘Jack of all – Master of none’ the jack has lived a more wholesome life than the Master himself.
- In 2018, I quit my awesome job at a Big 4 firm to start FlexiLife – we are working towards ‘Redefining Leisure’.
- While still midway of building a venture of my dreams, here’s my journey of what it is like to quit and still be going!
Tracing Back Roots – Early Challenges to Pursuing CA
I grew up in a family with limited resources, where my parents did everything possible to give us a good life.
While still in school, I would help my parents with all the ‘business endeavors’ they took up and still did well in my studies.
I would help my mom in her ‘small home business’ of making and selling Papads, and would assist my dad in managing his shop without the aid of any staff.
All this hustling exposed me to business and commerce very early in life!
I clearly remember during family functions I would tag along with dad and hear all the uncles talk about their businesses, marketing strategies, pros and cons of volume trading vis-a-vis selling expensive etc…in short, I loved business!
When it was time to decide what career path to take I chose Commerce and eventually decided to pursue Chartered Accountancy (thanks to my best friend!).
And here started my CA journey, a journey full of lessons...and of course challenges!
Forging my own path: I was okay to ‘give up my CA identity’ and work at a startup
When I started my CA journey…I knew nothing of what I wanted to do ‘after’ becoming a Chartered Accountant.
However, by the end of my articles, I knew what all I did not want to do…and that was working as a regular Chartered Accountant!
I clearly remember in 2014-15 (last year of my CA articles), the word “startup” was in trend.
I would read about various startups – their success and failure stories and found it so exciting!
And it goes without guessing…I was fascinated by startups and entrepreneurship!
In 2015, I finally qualified as a Chartered Accountant and was ready to start my career in a ‘ StartUp’.
My plan was to give up my CA identity (which is not easy) and join a startup.
I was ready to take the designation of an intern, work on a stipend, do business development anything!
However, my overqualification and lack of marketing/ operations knowledge always acted as an obstacle.
Every startup I approached declined my application!
So what next?
After searching for opportunities in various startups for almost 5 months…I finally decided to join a large corporate.
I was selected and offered a package of 7 lacs per annum at a leading company!
And as luck would have it, just a day after accepting the offer, I heard of an opportunity in Baker Tilly DHC, one of the Big 10 CA Firms…in the financial due diligence department which was a fairly new team!
If not a ‘proper startup’ but at least working in a newly set up department would give me more learning! Also, in this role, I would be reporting directly to the Partner…exactly what I wanted!
I was offered a 5.5 lacs package (a pay cut)…without a thought, it was a yes for me!
Quitting my job to starting my own business…finally!
I was enjoying my time at Baker Tilly DHC, and had above-average jumps year on year and was doing well…however, after almost 2.5 years of working here, I had become very comfortable and very much in my comfort zone.
I thought ‘I should work somewhere else for some more time before finally jumping on to Entrepreneurship’.
So, I left Baker Tilly DHC to join a Big Four Firm.
As luck would have it, my first assignment was an Indian based unicorn. And I couldn’t be luckier to be a part of a full-day meeting in the presence of the founder and the entire top management of this billion-dollar value startup.
On that very same day, something in my gut told me to act on my ideas (I would also note down all my business ideas and brainstorm!)
With that very instinct, I called up my elder brother in Canada immediately and said… ‘remember I had told you about the *latest* (I had evaluated many) ideas of a startup that I had, I want to take it up full time.’
He heard me patiently and said go for it!
What Next? The toughest part – I had to tell my parents and trust me I was very scared!
I was scared not fearing that they would say no….but I felt I was taking away everything from them.
I was going to start a business ‘not associated with Chartered Accountancy’, which for them was one of their biggest pride!
Also at the age when most Indian parents start the marriage talks, I was asking for more time.
But to my shock and surprise, without even understanding my business idea much, in a blink of an eye, they said, ‘Do what you feel right, you have our full support’.
And that was it.
After consulting a couple of mentors and friends, I gave my resignation and embarked on my entrepreneurial journey.
Dived into the pool of uncertainty of ‘StartUps’
Having seen tough days during childhood, savings was an inbuilt quality.
And since my family was not financially dependent on me, I was fully prepared to bootstrap my startup FlexiLife.
I started my journey all alone, I had no mentor who could guide me for the steps …luckily the CA examinations had taught me the biggest quality an entrepreneur must have which is ‘Patience’.
It took me some time to understand the entire process -From conceptualizing the idea in my head to penning it down on paper and designing it as a proper product, to building processes for operations to understanding how sales and marketing are both different.
From designing a leaflet to making a pitch deck, from creating written content to making animated videos, from social media marketing to on-field sales, I learned it all. I can speak if not much some technical coding terms as well!
Frustrating moments in my entrepreneurial journey?
I was used to talking to the CEOs and CFO’s of companies in my previous job...and now I was making random sales calls!
It was difficult but a humbling experience.
The thing that helped me the most was my network of people from different walks of life.
I spoke to as many people as possible to have a wider view of the problem that I was solving and not take decisions merely based on personal bias.
Should you quit your job and start on your own?
Considering my confident personality, I always thought I’d do it…but I realized it only now how much I had ‘undervalued’ the term, “Entrepreneurship”.
Just being emotional about your idea and taking risks is NOT the way to go about it.
One must evaluate the viability of an idea with clear penned down answers to the relevant question about the product, market, and industry.
For people who want to start something, give equal importance to reading failure stories as much as success stories.
During your journey, you’ll encounter highs and lows, feel the emotions of both but don’t let either of the emotion get you carried away to the extremes.
Some of my learnings:
- Entrepreneurship is a long journey, take one day at a time.
- Consistent evaluation and acting on the same.
- Numbers are your best friends as they don’t lie.
Molding yourself into an entrepreneur is a very enduring and transformative journey. And in my opinion, anyone who is passionate about it should definitely take a shot at it.
Follow your heart but also prepare to win! Have Patience.
Hetal Thakkar started FlexiLife to connect users to trainers to take up various activities at their convenient time and location by paying one session at a time and continuing to learn every next time.
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