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Tale of a 27-year old Sarathbabu graduated from IIM-A

Monday, May 12th, 2008

When 27-year old Sarathbabu graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, he created quite a stir by refusing a job that offered him a huge salary. He preferred to start his own enterprise — Foodking Catering Service — in Ahmedabad.He was inspired by his mother who once sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai, to educate him and his siblings. It was a dream come true, when Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy lit the traditional lamp and inaugurated Sarathbabu’s enterprise.

Sarathbabu was in Chennai, his hometown, a few days ago, to explore the possibility of starting a Foodking unit in the city and also to distribute the Ullas Trust Scholarships instituted by the IT firm Polaris to 2,000 poor students in corporation schools.

Sarathbabu describes his rise from a Chennai slum to his journey to the nation’s premier management institute to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This is his story, in his own words.

Childhood in a slum

I was born and brought up in a slum in Madipakkam in Chennai. I have two elder sisters and two younger brothers and my mother was the sole breadwinner of the family. It was really tough for her to bring up five kids on her meagre salary.

As she had studied till the tenth standard, she got a job under the mid-day meal scheme of the Tamil Nadu government in a school at a salary of Rs 30 a month. She made just one rupee a day for six people.

So, she sold idlis in the mornings. She would then work for the mid-day meal at the school during daytime. In the evenings, she taught at the adult education programme of the Indian government.

She, thus, did three different jobs to bring us up and educate us. Although she didn’t say explicitly that we should study well, we knew she was struggling hard to send us to school. I was determined that her hard work should not go in vain.

I was a topper throughout my school days. In the mornings, we went out to sell idlis because people in slums did not come out of their homes to buy idlis. For kids living in a slum, idlis for breakfast is something very special.

My mother was not aware of institutions like the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. She only wanted to educate us so that we got a good job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time because in my friend-circle, nobody talked about higher education or preparing for the IIT-JEE.

When you constantly worry about the next square meal, you do not dream of becoming a doctor or an engineer. The only thing that was on my mind was to get a good job because my mother was struggling a lot.

I got very good marks in the 10th standard exam. It was the most critical moment of my life. Till the 10th, there was no special fee but for the 11th and the 12th, the fees were Rs 2,000-3,000.

I did book-binding work during the summer vacation and accumulated money for my school fees. When I got plenty of work, I employed 20 other children and all of us did the work together. That was my first real job as an entrepreneur. Once I saw the opportunity, I continued with the work.

Life at BITS, Pilani

A classmate of mine told me about BITS, Pilani. He was confident that I would get admission, as I was the topper. He also told me that on completion (of studies at Pilani), I will definitely get a job.

When I got the admission, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was excited that for the first time I was going out of Chennai, but there was also a sense of uncertainty.

The fees alone were around Rs 28,000, and I had to get around Rs 42,000. It was huge, huge money for us. And there was no one to help us. Just my mother and sisters. One of my sisters — they were all married by then — pawned her jewellery and that’s how I paid for the first semester.

My mother then found out about an Indian government scholarship scheme. She sent me the application forms, I applied for the scholarship, and I was successful. So, after the first semester, it was the scholarship that helped me through.

It also helped me to pay my debt (to the sister who had pawned her jewellery). I then borrowed money from my other sister and repaid her when the next scholarship came.

The scholarship, however, covered only the tuition fees. What about the hostel fees and food? Even small things like a washing soap or a toothbrush or a tube of toothpaste was a burden. So, I borrowed more at high rates of interest. The debt grew to a substantial amount by the time I reached the fourth year.

First year at BITS, Pilani

To put it mildly, I was absolutely shocked. Till then, I had moved only with students from poor families. At Pilani, all the students were from the upper class or upper middle class families. Their lifestyle was totally different from mine. The topics they discussed were alien to me. They would talk about the good times they had in school.

On the other hand, my school years were a big struggle. There was this communication problem also as I was not conversant in English then.

I just kept quiet and observed them. I concentrated only on my studies because back home so many people had sacrificed for me. And, it took a really long time — till the end of the first year — to make friends.

The second year

I became a little more confident and started opening up. I had worked really hard for the engineering exhibition during the first year. I did a lot of labour-intensive work like welding and cutting, though my subject was chemical engineering. My seniors appreciated me.

In my second year also, I worked really hard for the engineering exhibition. This time, my juniors appreciated me, and they became my close friends, so close that they would be at my beck and call.

In the third year, when there was an election for the post of the co-ordinator for the exhibition, my juniors wanted me to contest. Thanks to their efforts I was unanimously elected. That was my first experience of being in the limelight. It was also quite an experience to handle around 100 students.

Seeing my work, slowly my batch mates also came to the fold. All of them said I lead the team very well.

They also told me that I could be a good manager and asked me to do MBA. That was the first time I heard about something called MBA. I asked them about the best institution in India. They said, the Indian Institutes of Management. Then, I decided if I was going to study MBA, it should be at one of the IIMs, and nowhere else. Inspiration to be an


It was while preparing for the Common Admission Test that I read in the papers that 30 per cent of India’s population does not get two meals a day. I know how it feels to be hungry. What should be done to help them, I wondered.

I also read about Infosys and Narayana Murthy, Reliance and Ambani. Reliance employed 20,000-25,000 people at that time, and Infosys, around 15,000. When a single entrepreneur like Ambani employed 25,000 people, he was supporting the family, of four or five, of each employee. So he was taking care of 100,000 people indirectly. I felt I, too, should become an entrepreneur.

But, my mother was waiting for her engineer son to get a job, pay all the debts, build a pucca house and take care of her. And here I was dreaming about starting my own enterprise. I decided to go for a campus interview, and got a job with Polaris. I also sat for CAT but I failed to clear it in my first attempt.

I worked for 30 months at Polaris. By then, I could pay off all the debts but I hadn’t built a proper house for my mother. But I decided to pursue my dream. When I took CAT for the third time, I cleared it and got calls from all the six IIMs. I got admission at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Life at IIM, Ahmedabad

My college helped me get a scholarship for the two years that I was at IIM. Unlike in BITS, I was more confident and life at IIM was fantastic. I took up a lot of responsibilities in the college. I was in the mess committee in the first year and in the second year; I was elected the mess secretary.

Becoming an entrepreneur

By the end of the second year, there were many lucrative job offers coming our way, but in my mind I was determined to start something on my own. But back home, I didn’t have a house. It was a difficult decision to say ‘no’ to offers that gave you Rs 800,000 a year. But I was clear in my mind even while I knew the hard realities back home.

Yes, my mother had been an entrepreneur, and subconsciously, she must have inspired me. My inspirations were also (Dhirubhai) Ambani and Narayana Murthy. I knew I was not aiming at something unachievable. I got the courage from them to start my own enterprise.

Nobody at my institute discouraged me. In fact, at least 30-40 students at the IIM wanted to be entrepreneurs. And we used to discuss about ideas all the time. My last option was to take up a job.

Foodking Catering Services Pvt Ltd

My mother is my first inspiration to start a food business. Remember I started my life selling idlis in my slum. Then of course, my experience as the mess secretary at IIM-A was the second inspiration. I must have handled at least a thousand complaints and a thousand suggestions at that time. Every time I solved a problem, they thanked me.

I also felt there is a good opportunity in the food business. If you notice, a lot of people who work in the food business come from the weaker sections of the society.

My friends helped me with registering the company with a capital of Rs 100,000. Because of the IIM brand and also because of the media attention, I could take a loan from the bank without any problem.

I set up an office and employed three persons. The first order was from a software company in Ahmedabad. They wanted us to supply tea, coffee and snacks. We transported the items in an auto.

When I got the order from IIM, Ahmedabad, I took a loan of Rs 11 lakhs (Rs 1.1 million) and started a kitchen. So, my initial capital was Rs 11.75 lakhs (Rs 1.17 million).

Three months have passed, and now we have forty employees and four clients — IIM Ahmedabad, Darpana Academy, Gujarat Energy Research Management Institute and System Plus.

In the first month of our operation, we earned around Rs 35,000. Now, the turnover is around Rs 250,000. The Chennai operations will start in another three months’ time.


I want to employ as many people as I can, and improve their quality of life. In the first year, I want to employ around 200-500 people. In the next five years, I hope to increase it by 15,000. I am sure it is possible.

I want to cover all the major cities in India, and later, I want to go around the world too.

I have seen people from all walks of life — from the slums to the elite in the country. That is why luxuries like a car or a bungalow do not matter to me. Even money doesn’t matter to me. I feel bad if I have to have food in a five star hotel. I feel guilty.

Personally, I have no ambition but I want to give a house and a car to my mother.


I did not expect this kind of exposure by the media for my venture or appreciation from people like my director at the IIM or Narayana Murthy. I was just doing what I wanted to do. But the exposure really helped me get orders, finance, everything.

The best compliments I received were from Narayana Murthy and my director at IIM, Ahmedabad. When I told him (IIM-A director) about my decision to start a company, he hugged me and wished me luck. They have seen life, they have seen thousands and thousands of students and if they say it is a good decision, I am sure it is a good decision.

Foodking Services PVT. LTD. by Sarathbabu

10 tips to earn like Warren Buffett

Monday, May 12th, 2008

“An investor needs to do very few things right as long as he or she avoids big mistakes.” Warren Buffett

One of the world’s most successful investors, Warren Buffett is the richest man on earth. Chairman of the Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s wealth jumped by $10 billion to hit $62 billion during 2007. Buffett’s life is an encouragement for investors across the globe.

So what makes the world’s wealthiest man so rich? Buffett believes that successful investing is about having common sense, patience and independent research.

A look into Buffett’s simple, yet intelligent mantras for investing and minting millions.

1. Focus on not losing money rather than making it. Don’t own any stock for 10 minutes that you wouldn’t own for 10 years.

2. A frugal billionaire Buffett believes in straightforwardness. He advises investors to take easy decisions. Never buy when you are doubtful. Invest only if you understand the businesses well.

3. A proponent of value investing, he believes that one must take decisions on his own. He doesn’t believe in listening to analysts or brokers. The best investing decisions come from oneself.

It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.

4. Buffett advises to invest in ‘old economy’ businesses, companies, which have been around for fifty years and will continue to have a long innings.

5. We have often heard of people suffering heart attacks when markets crash. Well, Buffett advocates a sound temperament for stock market success.

6. You don’t need to be a genius to succeed in the stock markets. People who can stay cool will succeed in the long run. Always keep in mind the hidden costs, from commissions on active stock trading to high mutual fund fees.

7. Buffett always looks at businesses he can understand; look at the profits in the past, long-term potential of the company, good top level management of the company and companies that have a good value proposition. The strategy is to think about the business in the long term.

“You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”

8. Invest in businesses with great management. Always keep a track of the management of the company. The top decision makers have a lot to do with the company’s performance.

9. One of Buffet’s biggest strengths is independent thinking. Many people go by what the experts says or what others do but belief in one’s own judgement is the key to stock market success.

10. Patience pays, says Buffet. He says one must not worry too much about the price of the stocks. What’s more important is the nature of business of the company, earnings capability and its future potential.

Good investors never rush to make money. They give time, thought and work on investment decisions. The mistakes that others make should be a lesson for you.

Who is the king of Bollywood… Aamir khan or Shaharukh khan?

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Aamir Khan’s recent comments on close competitor Shah Rukh Khan is a testimony to the fact that today stars prefer waging wars in open than back-bitching. The usually reticent and media-shy Aamir was quoted saying, “Shah Rukh Khan prefers being No 2″. Irrespective of whether he actually meant it or was instigated by the byte-hungry media, the comment clearly came across as caustic. And this wasn’t the first time that Aamir had remarked on Shah Rukh. Some years back he had commented, “If Shah Rukh is the Badshah (King), I am the Ekka (Ace)”. Of course SRK had his replies ready. Which makes us wonder, not only is the Bollywood industry ruled by Khans, it’s rivaled by them as well. The question arises as to who is at the Number 1 spot amongst the two? Not and easy one to answer considering both the Khans are ruling big time at the box-office. We attempt to track down their business records and market value to assess and analyze their star power.
Current Records

In the past couple of years, both Aamir and Shah Rukh have constantly delivered hits at the box-office. Aamir had Rang De Basanti, Fanaa and Taare Zameen Par to boast of, while Shah Rukh had a steady run with Don, Chak De India and Om Shanti Om. The last dud that they both encountered was in 2005 when Aamir’s much-hyped film Mangal Pandey flopped and SRK’s Paheli failed. Last year, SRK’s Om Shanti Om did a gross business of Rs 160 crores worldwide and became the highest grossing Hindi film in the overseas territory. Aamir’s offbeat attempt Taare Zameen Par proved to be a good gamble collecting around Rs 95 crores worldwide. OSO was an instant hit while TZP was a slow starter though soon gained momentum. Interestingly, both, SRK and Aamir produced their respective films. And with their success stories both continued to be the most popular and saleable actors of Bollywood.
Aamir is content oriented, SRK is business oriented

Aamir has always been known as an very choosy actor. Though he commands a big fee, for him money is only secondary. Recently he was offered Rs 20 crore for one film by a big corporate house. While this was a deal-to-die-for, Aamir refused it just because the corporate did not have any script ready with them. On the other hand SRK is aware of his worth and understands the fact that people make money with his star power. So he takes stakes in his own films or offers to make them under his own production banner. “Main Hoon Na was perhaps the first film where he started doing this”, says trade analyst Atul Mohan. “Venus was to produce the film initially but SRK stepped in as the producer and made Venus co-producers”. This way he ensures that his star power benefits him the most and he receives the maximum returns.
SRK believes in profit-sharing

Earlier SRK used to take the overseas rights and assign them to Eros. But now he believes in profit sharing. A part of his remuneration comes in the form of stakes in the profits of his film. While this can prove risky if the film flops, SRK seems to be confident enough of his brand value. Shah Rukh also openly admitted, “If someone makes Rs 50 crores from me, then I have the right to ask for at least 25 crores from it”. If sources are to be believed SRK will be sharing profits in Yash Raj’s forthcoming film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi as well. Only someone of the stature of SRK can command a profit-share from someone as big as Yash Raj.
Aamir believes in brand-sharing

Aamir too has ways of thinking beyond the regular boundaries when it comes to raking in moolah from his films. An industry insider on condition of anonymity says, “Apart from his remuneration, Aamir Khan also charges 30% money on any brand that is promoted in his film. While other actors haven’t realized the potential of this deal, Aamir takes a considerable amount of every product endorsed in the film at the producer’s expense. Other actors promote these brands for free, but Aamir has the power to command for share from in-film branding too”. Unlike, profit-sharing there isn’t any risk involved in brand-sharing. Usually for in-film branding deals, the marketing company that gets the deal done between the brand and the film usually takes a 15% share of the deal. But when it comes to Aamir’s films, the brokerage goes down to 10.5%. Producers state the reason being the percentage share given to Aamir Khan on the in-film deals. Since they lose out money to Aamir, they try to compensate it by reducing the percentage share of the marketing agencies in between.
Shah Rukh has his camp, Aamir is open to all

If one observes Shah Rukh’s filmography in the last five years, he has mostly done films produced either by close friends Karan Johar and the Chopras or his own production house - Red Chillies. He is more camp-based with the camps being some of the biggest in the business. Aamir isn’t associated with any camp and has not always restricted himself to big banners. He usually likes to work with smaller and relatively new people (Taare Zameen Par, Ghajini) on whom he can dictate terms.
SRK believes in quantity, Aamir in quality

Shah Rukh has the ability to multitask with his immense energy-levels. He can indulge himself in films, production, endorsements, cricket leagues, world tours and promotional events simultaneously. Aamir on the other hand has always been known for his slow and steady approach. He invented the idea of doing one-film-at-a-time when actors were juggling between multiple projects. And with less quantity on his hands, Aamir concentrates more on quality which has got him the ‘perfectionist’ tag and at times even the ‘intrusive’ label. A trade expert says, “While other actors are all into multi-film deals, Aamir does just one film in a year. So he has to get his money back through the single film that he is related to. And with one film at a time, he has all the time in the world to work and rework on his films till the perfectionist in him is satisfied. So he focuses all his energies in getting the best from this one film”. He goes on to add, “If I had to compare the working style of Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan, I would say Shah Rukh is ‘get set go’. With Aamir its get, set, come back to get, try again to set and there is no go.” As Shah Rukh himself confesses, “Aamir is more intellectual and intelligent, but I’m more instinctive”.
Branded rivals

Shah Rukh Khan is undoubtedly at the number one position, at least as far as the number of brands he is endorsing is concerned. He is the ambassador of almost every other product. And when rival companies of the brands endorsed by Shah Rukh want a contender who is equally powerful as the king, their first choice happens to be Aamir. In other words, if there’s any actor who can give competition to SRK, it’s none other than Aamir Khan. Both the actors have their own market value but interestingly they have always featured in rival brands. SRK endorses Pepsi while Aamir promotes Coke. SRK has Nokia while Aamir supports Samsung, SRK is endorsing Hyundai and Aamir endorses Toyota.

Mukesh Ambani’s $2 bn home - world’s most expensive

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

The 27-storey skyscraper being built in Mumbai by Mukesh Ambani, the richest person in India, could be the world’s largest and costliest home with a price- tag nearing two billion dollar, according to Forbes magazine.

“When the Ambani residence is finished in January, completing a four-year process, it will be 550 feet high with 4,00,000 square feet of interior space,” Forbes said in a report on its website.

Earlier in March, Mukesh Ambani was ranked as the fifth richest person in the world with a net worth of 43 billion dollars by the Forbes magazine in its annual list of world’s wealthiest billionaires. While Lakshmi Mittal, who is an Indian citizen was ranked higher at fourth, he is a British resident. Among resident Indians, Mukesh was ranked at top.

“The only remotely comparable high-rise property currently on the market is the 70 million dollar triplex penthouse at the Pierre Hotel in New York, designed to resemble a French chateau, and climbing 525 feet in the air,” Forbes said in its report titled, “Inside The World’s First Billion-Dollar Home.”

Mukesh Ambani heads India’s most precious firm Reliance Industries, an oil and petrochemicals giant.

“Like many families with the means to do so, the Ambanis wanted to build a custom home. They consulted with architecture firms Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the designers behind the Mandarin Oriental, based in Dallas and Los Angeles, respectively,” the official said.

“Plans were then drawn up for what will be the world’s largest and most expensive home: a 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai with a cost nearing 2 billion dollars.”

As per Forbes, Mukesh, along with his wife Nita Ambani and three children, currently live in a 22-story Mumbai tower.

The report further noted that the cost for the Ambani residence, called ‘Antilla‘ whose shape is based on Vaastu, would be more than a hotel or high-rise of similar size because of its custom measurements and fittings.

While a hotel or condominium has a common layout, replicated on every floor, and uses the same materials throughout the building, the Ambanis’ home has no two alike in either plans or materials used, it said.

“At the request of Nita Ambani, say the designers, if a metal, wood or crystal is part of the ninth-floor design, it shouldn’t be used on the eleventh floor, for example. The idea is to blend styles and architectural elements so spaces give the feel of consistency, but without repetition,” it said.

“Atop six stories of parking lots, Antilla’s living quarters begin at a lobby with nine elevators, as well as several storage rooms and lounges. Down dual stairways with silver-covered railings is a large ballroom with 80 per cent of its ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers.”

The report said that Ambanis plan to use the residence occasionally for corporate entertainment also and they want its interiors to have a “distinctly Indian” look and feel.

“The top floors of entertaining space, where Ambani plans to host business guests (or just relax) offer panoramic views of the Arabian Sea… For more temperate days, the family will enjoy a four-story open garden,” it noted.

Super Stars….Super News

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
by Sck
Barbara Walters Admits Affair!

Who would have thought that our dear Barbara Walters would have ever had an affair? I never had an idea, but I was wrong.

Barbara Walters just stormed the weather by telling everybody, Well Oprah, then everybody in the world that back in the 70’s she had an affair with a married man. That man, who was not just married but also a Senator, is Edward Brooke.

Barbara tell Oprah, that the Senator was “exciting” and ‘brilliant” I was certainly infatuated…It was exciting times in Washington.” I deduce SO!!!

For those of us who didn’t know, Brooke was actually a moderate Republican who was married and the affair lasted until he lost his bid for election in 1978 for a third term.

Why now? I have no clue, other than she said that if it did come out both of their careers would be ruined. In today’s world I don’t think it would, do you?

Nick Cannon’s Family Confirms Wedding

As per a relative (whether it be a long distant cousin or a parent) of Nick Cannon, they say that Mariah Carey & Nick Cannon are indeed married! PEOPLE magazine has reported that this relative confirmed it with E! News.

I don’t know any of the details other than, she has been wearing a really BIG ring on her finger (a 17 caret diamond ring) and that it could have happened at Mariah Carey’s private estate that is off the Caribbean Island of Eluethera, wherever that is!

The two have known each other for only about 2 months or so, it is a pretty prompt engagement/marriage but hey if they are happy then I say go for it and have fun!

I don’t know how long it will last, but I wish the two the best.

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