DON’T TALK, JUST DO
Farrhad Acidwalla. Twenty four, entrepreneur, investor, and TEDx
speaker. Not to mention counter-intuitive, persistent, non-textual. Among the
world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Farrhad is the founder of the award-winning
creative agency Rockstah Media, which has among its distinguished clientele
top-ranking MNCs and public figures. A recipient of many awards for his work,
particularly in digital strategies and concepts, Farrhad has been featured on
CNN, CNN-IBN, LiveMint, MSN.com, Yahoo! Finance, The Economic Times and The Times of India among others. Farrhad is a stakeholder/cofounder in start-ups and
businesses, focusing on education, cyber security, telemedicine, fin-tech, and
online retail. Pallikkutam caught with Farrhad recently amidst his law examinations.
Farrhad, you have been an original, one of the world’s youngest entrepreneurs. That’s extraordinary, if not unusual. How did you conceive of the idea of a branding agency in your teenage years? And, of course, much more.
When I started off, the start-up/young entrepreneur ecosystem wasn’t even close to where it is today. Through a sequence of steps, similar to a chain reaction — I realised I had found a business vertical that I could fit in. With that, I set out to build the team and find clients who we could benefit with our services. Today, almost a decade later, things are very different. We have teams and processes in place that work towards finding new gaps and solving problems within the industries we’re focused on.
How did your parents take in, absorb, and accept your entrepreneurial instinct? I ask this because it isn’t easy for the average Indian parent who dreams of his or her child ideally taking to ‘fruitful’ employment and soon ‘settling’ down, a phrase, which, if not befuddling, isn’t intelligible either.
There were many a time in school when I’d be working, and my mother would come and disconnect the computer/internet as I had exams to prepare for! However, by the time I was in college, my parents saw that I was lucky enough to find things I am passionate about and maintain a balance with my education. They were firm on structured learning and it’s something I believe in too. Currently, I’m in my last semester of my Bachelor of Laws at K.C. Law College, Mumbai.
In relation to the above, how, to your mind, can we have a hard look at some of our deeply held beliefs, fears, and clichés about breaking away from the trodden path? In other words, how do we de-condition ourselves? How do we unlearn what seemingly is cast in stone?
Entrepreneurship is one of the toughest ‘jobs’ in the world. It’s not just about solving a problem, it’s about a building a sustainable enterprise. If you’re passionate about something and can turn it into a business — my advice would be — don’t talk, just do. Very often, people get caught up in talking and making plans instead of executing said plan. Taking the first steps actually solves most of these clichés and other pressures.
Farrhad, you have lectured and taught extensively. What are your thoughts about pedagogy? Or, shall we say if you were given the task of restructuring our curriculum what would be three key things (or more) that you would do to infuse it with a radically transformational direction and purpose?
We have the largest youth population in the world. With modern technology (automation and artificial intelligence) comes a new challenge for the youth and the education. Our system is definitely improving and the market and industry will naturally evolve. In collaboration with one of the leading educational institutions in the world, we are in the process of launching an innovative education platform that aims to bridge the gaps we see in the education sector from the student’s perspective.
In your interactions with students and teachers alike during your lectures, what are those crying needs you have felt in our education system? We have world-class institutions in the form of IITs and IIMs, but how far or close are we to building an entrepreneurial class or an entrepreneurial culture driven by leading problems of society?
Every child, every individual is different and we can push people but one must know one’s strengths and desires. While we must promote analytical thinking and problem solving, just focusing on launching new companies and entrepreneurs should not be the focus.
What is the single-most important or critical question you often ask of an aspiring start-up?
For me, it’s about solving a problem and adding value to the client/customer at scale.
How do you deal with failure? Or rather the fear of failure? Our young are neither taught nor trained to deal with failure. Failure is taboo.
Failure is the stepping stone to success and nobody can beat the person who never gives up. It doesn’t matter how many times we fail, it’s about getting back up and trying again. It isn’t easy out there and while many people do achieve success on their very first try… to put things in perspective — the average Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who has a successful exit, is aged 47!
Finally, how do you deal with some of the toughest business or entrepreneurial decisions that, I am sure, you face from time to time?
As an entrepreneur you have to find the balance between what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Our business goals and objectives are very clear — this gives us a path which makes our decision-making ability clearer.
One last one: You are into branding and much more. What are the fundamental brand resonances you look for in a product or company when you set out to branding it?
In brief, it would come down to value addition for the customer/client.