On Help— % &For the longest time, I equated help with spoonfeeding. Asking for help was a sign of weakness in my head. I hated asking for help, and more so, hated helping anyone. I would tell them I taught myself everything, right from writing, how to get published, how to start and run a business, how to hire to how to make money with an idea. If I could teach myself everything, armed with nothing but Google and my curiosity, so can you.— % &To some extent, it was right. Google is great, and at times, all we need. I felt this until I realised I cannot do everything by myself. The first such realisation came in the year 2014-2015, the quintessential years of preparation pre-startup. I was a full-time writer at the time, and had all the time in the world to teach myself coding to startup, but somehow it seemed quite an uphill task for me. I signed up for basic coding courses in Udacity and did that with great curiosity. As an engineer, it wasn't too difficult to understand however I figured it needed something else I didn't have. Devotion.— % &Coding turned out to be too immersive to focus on anything else. Unlike music or art, where it can just be a hobby and you can afford to be an amatuer, coding needed you to be impeccable. One mistake and the code won't compile. Becoming a competent coder meant distancing myself from writing, a sacrifice I wasn't ready to do. I had dived headfirst into writing six years ago, and I enjoyed it too much to forsake it. I figured I needed help and that's what prompted me to reach out to Ashish to startup together. He had both the knowhow and the experience that comes with making mistakes for a considerably long time to see the larger picture when it came to building scalable infrastructures. — % &You might think that would have changed me, but no. A year of experimentation later, YourQuote worked and it started growing organically. My cockiness returned, quietly, like a forgotten addiction. When users come without marketing because your product is viral, it's hard to resist the lure of arrogance. I became this brash entrepreneur, unmindful of privileges that came with my pedigree and the healthy economics of family I was bestowed with. I championed not seeking help, not helping on occasions. You are enough, my mantra, no less than a pop self-help guru. — % &My arrogance peaked when in 2019 I refused to help my sister in her career, pushing her to figure everything on her own. Just like I did, completely oblivious of the network that my IIT and YIF degrees spawned out for me, completely forgetful of her mental health, how she was in depression back then. I was so busy doing my "Harship" that I told her I only helped those whom I had worked with and whose work ethic I could vouch for. I started bringing my ego into the picture, citing how I didn't want to put my so-called "reputation" at risk. Little did I know that I had zero or little reputation. Reputation comes when you help someone, not when you build something. Reputation is not about what you do but how you are. I was this pompous prick.— % &Life has its way of getting back to you, of bringing your feet on the ground again. Karma isn't a bitch. Karma is a snake that goes round and round. It circles you until you lose your cloak of pride. YourQuote bloomed and suddenly, its fuel was cut off. We finished most of our funds. Last two years have been the most difficult in my startup years, in anyone's startup years we know.
Abandoned by the investors to survive on the revenue that we generate from the non-paying Indian users, I had to keep my ego aside, and seek help from anyone and everyone. Friends, teammates, mentors, fellow founders, other investors, our users. Everyone came forward. Unhesitatingly. In their own way. Some helped with their advice, some with connections, some with recommendations. None of these folks had worked with me. None of them could vouch for my work ethic. None of them cared about their reputation. They came forward not because I was good but because they were.— % &Help, giving and asking for, is the most underrated quality in this capitalistic world. Newton once wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke, "If I have seen farther than the rest, it's because I stood on the shoulders of giants." It extends beyond the world of money and world of science to the world itself. When you help someone, even if it's spoonfeeding, you prepare them for a newer challenge which you didn't encounter in your time, also much faster. You're developing them faster than yourself. It's not your reputation that's going down but theirs which is going up.— % &When you help someone, even if they aren't able to justify being helped, it still makes them learn. If things do materialise for someone because you helped, they will remember someone helped and carry the gratitude forward. If things don't materialise, they have a new journey. For you both to learn from.
When you don't help, people stop reaching you for help. You miss out on their experiences, their struggles, their learnings, the joy of helping, the joy of seeing things come to fruition, the fulfillment of giving and the fulfillment of seeing someone justify that help to the best way possible. Most importantly, you miss out on helping them once again. And continuing this cycle forever.— % &Last week, one of my friends and former teammates committed suicide. It, apparently, was a matter of debt. He was depressed. Among so many things that one could blame for his suicide, one that stands out for me is my unwillingness to help. In his last few texts to me, he wanted YQ to courier a CPU to him so he could resume his work again, after a long hiatus owing to a family emergency. I had gotten it arranged, and I asked him to send a pickup at an address. When he asked how to send a pickup, I shut him off. 'Google, figure it yourself. I'm busy,' I said. In my head, I was muttering: I hate spoonfeeding. He eventually figured and got it picked up. But I can't stop hating myself for being curt to him before.
I can't stop wondering: had I not been so unhelpful last time, would he — on that gloomy night when he hung himself, have dialed my number for help?— % &