April 17, 2019

On quitting a job at 32

Question from Jaycobb
That was a pretty bold decision at a relatively young age of 32! If am allowed to ask
- Was it disillusionment with appraisal alone that made you take the decision to not work for someone or there were other motivations in play?
- Curious to know if you are able to sustain since then (20 years?) only with trading alone? That would be quite a successful jump into unknown if I may say!

I was an MBA from a premier institute... after working for few years, I realised that my juniors and my seniors were all working just to impress their bosses who incidentally were also working for another boss. This never ended and was a chain.

People rate their work experience in terms of responsibility, designation, perks, salary etc... but at the end of the day, you are still working for someone else. There is no difference between a VP and the office security guy... everyone is working for money and trying to keep their seniors happy, get a raise, a promotion perhaps.

Achievements like I did so and so or met targets etc have no meaning.... it is all nonsense you are doing for someone else.

All this comes at a cost... this can be health, time spent with money etc etc. And with internet always on, the work nowadays never ends.

Since there was no future in all this, I decided to quit. Also, I decided that I will enjoy life today than when I retire. Put differently, if all you want to do when you retire is go and sit on the beach for 2-3 hours, then what is preventing you from doing that today?

About the second part of your question.

I have been investing from the time I was in college. And when I started working, I did manage to trade well and earn some excellent money in the Harshad Mehta days. My working in financial services industry at that time helped tremendously.

But when I quit working, I did not start trading. The markets were down in the dump, there was a horrible recession around 1994-1998 and blue chip stocks was under 10/ 20.

I had very good experience in retail finance so I started off as DSA in auto finance (the name vfmdirect was coined then). But all my planning went for a toss and I had to shut this down in few months. 

Imagine you plan and plan and then your first business flops big time. But there was no going back to work. Luckily I met some people who told me that it was all businesses do not succeed and it is normal for any business to fail... the trick is quitting fast and then moving on.

Then I started 2-3 cyber cafes with a friend (the internet was just taking off and a 14.4 kpbs modem was a big thing). This worked for 2-3 years but we shut this down due to declining margins. This period of business just helped me sustain or exist but the biggest plus point was I managed to learn web design (HTML, Javascript etc).

This set my career towards an immensely profitable field in web design which lasted 3 years. I had only international clients and money was always in advance.

But the dot com crash happened and this business also was shut down.

I accidentally got into immigration business... my web design skills helped me and I started an immigration site for New Zealand and Australia. I was consistently top ranked in Google for most keywords and this business did very well. I added UK work visas and expanded well. But then 2 things happened... Google changed their search ranking methodology and my site was kicked out. Traffic dropped by 90%. Second big change was massive immigration changes.. all this effectively forced me to close this business.

By then the stock market had started picking up. I was fascinated by the technologies, the abundance of data and I created vfmdirect.com ... this site was extremely popular and I was averaging 8-10 million page view per month. Then I had some issues with the exchanges and today vfmdirect is a former shadow of itself. But the trading helps me sustain so it is not an issue.

Common to all my businesses has been the fact that (a) the business has to be web based (b) there should not  be any need for a customer to meet you and (c) the customer should pay in advance for your services. The last is important and I will never compromise on this.

An important advantage of being self employed is that you are naturally/ automatically looking for new opportunities. A salaried person, on the other hand, if he loses a job, he will keep searching for a job and if he does not get one, he will sit at home for months. But he will not start a business and this is sad.

There is a very important factor which I have not mentioned so far but I will mention now. My wife was working for almost 13 years and she has been a tremendous support both emotionally and financially. Thanks to her company (ICICI) we got a home loan at 3.5% pa when the bank rate was 14-15%. Things like this mean a lot and one simply cannot quantify the value of a supporting spouse.

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