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Getting a head start

Manasi T. Mithel        Print Edition: Feb 17, 2013

On graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, in 2008, Ankit Nagori got a job offer with an annual salary of about Rs 6 lakh from leading analytics firm Mu Sigma. He preferred, however, to do his own thing and launched a social networking site for Indians, youthpad.com. The venture shut shop in less than two years. But that did not deter Nagori from giving the start-up path another shot .

In March 2010, he joined e-commerce venture Flipkart as a manager. Nearly three years ago Flipkart was not the behemoth it is now. Today, Nagori is Vice President in charge of Business Development. What helped him climb the career ladder quickly was the experience he had gained running his own start-up, never mind that it failed. "When it comes to learning on the job, one year of working in a start-up is like three years in a regular job," he says.

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Nagori is among the several professionals who, on entering the job market, opt to turn down the safety of a big brand for their first job and take the riskier route of becoming entrepreneurs, or joining start-ups as employees. Take Ankur Jindal, who graduated with an engineering degree from Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, five years ago.

He initially wanted to work with an IT company but an internship with a start-up changed his mind. He joined Cocubes, a campus placement startup, after graduating. He has been promoted four times since then. His salary has climbed 36 per cent on average annually, and he now supervises 30 people. "I am earning more than some friends who took up regular jobs after college," he says.

Greater job satisfaction and opportunities to take on big responsibilities early make start-ups a good option, more so for those who do not want to work in the rigid hierarchical structures that big companies often have. "For youngsters with innovative mindsets the opportunity to pursue their dreams is more important than the pay offered by an established company," says Asim Handa, CEO, Gi Group (India), a staffing firm. "The chances of getting stock options are also higher in a start-up."

Some professionals, such as Flipkart's Nagori, have become part of their companies' co-founding team that is made up of employees who have not invested any money but bring a special set of skills to the table. "Not everyone can help their companies financially," says Rituparna Chakraborty, Senior Vice President and member of the co-founding team at staffing firm TeamLease. "I shared my skills and took the risk of not having a stable career."

Still, the risks in working with a new venture cannot be taken lightly . Many start-ups fold up in three to five years. Nagori shares the lesson he learnt from the failure of his first venture.

"My biggest mistake was to not have a co-founder. Having a partner at work not only gives you a sounding board for ideas but also helps divide responsibilities so you can better concentrate on your respective strengths," he says. "For kids fresh out of college, my advice is to carefully analyse an opportunity before taking the plunge and preferably do so as part of a team or with a likeminded business partner."

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