An open letter to parents in India from an entrepreneur

Dear Parents,


I am an entrepreneur writing to you. I have been wanting to write to you for a while but there occurred an incident that hit me hard and I decided to not delay this anymore.

First of all, I am in high appreciation of what you are doing for your children. You are sacrificing a lot for keeping them happy. You travel in the bus and not in auto many times so that you could buy a computer for your kid to learn programming. I am aware of all that because my parents and you are no different when it comes to showing love and showering happiness on us.

I was recently invited to speak at a conference attended by about 370 fresh college graduates in Madurai. In the end, the audience asked me, “What is one thing you want us to do after we go back?” and I replied, “Please go to your parents, fall to their feet and say Thank you, I will make you proud” There was a huge round of applause that I got but it doesn’t matter as I am in pain now.

Not all of you are the reason but definitely some are. Not sure if you fall to that /some/ category. I don’t even know how big /some/ means in this context.

In Moolya we were hiring fresh college graduates. We interviewed some 30 people to zero on 3. One of them being Kavita (name changed). Kavita had known about our company through one of our employees who had taught her how to test. She had built great respect for our company and she said to us in the interview that she would love to work in the kind of company we have built. She wasn’t lying to get a job because her eyes were sparkling when she said that. Over the years, I have built some wisdom to know if someone is faking or not, so please assume I was correct in this context.

Kavita had cleared our technical round of interviews and written test before she told that Moolya was her dream company. We were happy to give her an offer and a salary package as good as what we saw a company as big as Wipro was offering after probation.

The day of releasing the offer letter came. We as a startup, wanted to welcome our hires by making our office neat, ensuring they have coffee and tea when they arrive and all that. It turned out that Kavita gave us a call to let us know that she wouldn’t be interested in picking up our offer. We were puzzled and shocked. How could that happen?

Turns out that her parents wanted her to find a better job. We probed her on what her parents thought would be a better job to find out that they were seeking a better paying job. Kavita isn’t from a family who desperately needs more money initially than what we were offering her.

Now, I would like to take you back to the interviews we had with her. I personally did the final round of interviews with her and asked her, “What are your career plans? How much of an influence would your parents have on your career decisions?”

Kavita had responded, “My parents are broad minded and provide great freedom to me. They appreciate my decisions and independence a lot”. I had already become biased to hiring her after she said Moolya was her dream company so failed to notice if her eyes were sparkling when she said that as I skimmed through her written test answers.

Fortunate for us, her parents proved that her claim was wrong. Her parents were playing a role in taking career decisions for her. It wasn’t just a role but more than that. Kavita still wants to join us but she can’t go against her parents demands.

If that is the case with fresh college graduate, I have seen plenty of examples where a lot of my colleagues as experienced as me in terms of the number of years they have spent in the industry appear to go back to their parents for career decision making.

This is becoming a shame for India. This will hamper the growth of this country. You parents, spend so much, sacrifice so much, so that your kids become intelligent but continue to think that your kids aren’t intelligent enough.

I see a problem there. With the attitude of you (parents) wanting to decide which company your child should join and what salary should they ask, your children would never become intelligent.

Turns out that I failed a couple of times in my career just because I didn’t consult with my parents on certain things. One such to cite is, I agreed, signed an offer letter without getting it verified by my father if it had any hidden clauses. I just looked into the salary (CTC) and blindly signed it, just like how you ask your children to join an organization based on CTC.

I suffered a lot because of that decision. I was earning 5000 rupees less than what I was earning in the previous organization I worked for. When I lamented about this with my father, he said, “Learn from it” but didn’t say, “You suffer because you didn’t consult with me”. This wisdom of his has helped me grow from suffering at 5000 less to building a company that in its first year is seeing profits and adding top customers. Someday, we will grow to be an Apple or Google of Software Testing. It would all be because my parents provided me the freedom to take my career decisions. They didn’t disrespect me because I didn’t consult them when I failed.

I was fired from Motorola in 2005 for being the worst tester they ever hired. My side of story is different but you should just know that I was fired. My father told me that he would manage things till I got another job and it took me 6 months to get a job. I had 6 offers in hand at the 6th month and yet, my parents allowed me to chose a job that wasn’t the highest paying job of all the 6.

How I benefited from it is important. The reason I chose that not-high-paying job amidst the 6 is to trade freedom for money. This allowed me to experiment my ideas and I helped the organization create a record story with their customer that still hasn’t been forgotten.

I am proud of what my parents have provided me. No, not just the underwear when I needed it but freedom when I needed it. I am aware of at least ten colleagues of mine whose parents have been providing the same to them.

My business partner, student, colleague and someone who inspires me on a sporadic basis, Santhosh Tuppad, has a similar story. When he wanted to co-found Moolya, his parents supported him. He is the youngest ever entrepreneur in software testing business.

I travel a lot and meet a lot of people. So, I know there are quite a number of parents as good as ours. So, I am not in complete denial.

If your kids have been really educated, why not allow them to take their own career decisions? Why not? For God’s sake, please do not impose what your parents imposed on you. The times have changed and the times are getting hard.

IT organizations wait for recession to happen so that they could axe out low performers. I don’t know why they wait for recession to come but I also don’t know why you ask your kids to stick on to a place just because their marriage is approaching and a bigger brand name as Infosys or TCS would help them get a better bride or bridegroom.

The big brand names you fall for like Infosys and TCS were startups just like Moolya some decades ago. If you were offered a job in Infosys in its startup stage, your parents might have asked you to go for a BHEL or HAL but those who have clung on to such startups have grown much wealthier and have handled more challenging work. So, BHEL or HAL isn’t the only way.

Please, I beg you, don’t do this to your children. If you may allow, I want to write a small note to your children and I believe, you would allow them to read the following:

Note to your children: The true worth of all sacrifice your parents have done is only when you demonstrate you can handle things on your own. If the need be to go agains’t your parents decision of joining a startup like ours, so be it.

Coming back to you, dear Parents, your children should become a brand. Your children should grow to a level where Microsoft says, “We are proud to hire XXXX person” and not you coming to all social gathering and proudly saying, “My son works for Microsoft”.

If that doesn’t happen, India stands a very less chance of making a bigger impact than what it has already made. Everybody thinks the future of India is in the hands on youngsters but I recognize that it is in the youngster’s parents hands too. You will have to stop holding on to them and allow them to cross the road by themselves.

That is the way of the future. Provide freedom and you will be proud of it.

Thanking you,

Yours humbly,

– Pradeep Soundararajan

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