You’ve been dreaming of finally leaving your corporate cubicle forever. Maybe it’s because you think your work is boring and repetitive. Maybe it’s because it eats into your personal life. Or maybe it’s because you’re truly passionate about something, and are willing to forego the comforts and perks of a normal job to follow your dreams.
As a part of the “People Who Quit Their Jobs To Do Something Amazing” series, we bring you another 11 enterprising people who did leave their corporate cubicles. Their motives were different – some have set up businesses, others have travelled, yet some others have tried to give back to society. But their underlying motives remain – they’ve turned their backs on a safe, conventional life and taken the plunge. And they’re all very happy with their life choices.
1.He quit his tech job to teach underprivileged kids
Robin Keshaw, fellow at Teach For India
Robin hails from a Forbesganj, a dusty, nondescript town in northern India. He attended BITS Pilani, and graduated with degrees in Computer Science and Economics. Following that, he worked with California-based virtualization giant VMWare as a Software Engineer. However after spending 2 comfortable and financially stable years with the company, he quit his job to join Teach For India as a fellow. “The complacency of a corporate job, restricting oneself to the comfort zone, the urge to change myself and contribute to the change in society, the utter mess of Indian education system, all of them were responsible for this decision.“, he says.
At Teach For India, he found himself amongst 35 odd kids in a Government primary school, situated in the heart of Azadpur Sabzi Mandi, one of the biggest open markets in Asia. The kids he teaches belong to the families of vegetable vendors and are migrants from UP and Bihar. “Whenever I used to see a poor, destitute kid on the road, it used to bother me a lot. What if this kid was a Maths prodigy and could become the Ramanujan or Shakuntla Devi. I could have been there, if it was not for my family or for the education I have received. The more I thought about it, more convinced I became of the need of education, especially among the disadvantaged sections, to change the destiny of our country.“, he says, reflecting back on his decision.
He says his life has changed completely since quitting his corporate job and choosing to teach young kids in the dusty by lanes of Delhi. “At my corporate job, my day would start at 10 am, and by the time I used to drag myself out of my house to office, it would be post noon. Nowadays, I have found myself early in the community, persuading kids to come to school. Mondays are exciting and sometimes I curse the government for giving so many holidays to the students!”
He says that he’s learnt a lot from his students too. “Most of my students live in a small 100 square feet room, cramped with 7-8 family members, in an excruciatingly noisy neighborhood and yet in the classroom they discuss gender discrimination and empathy with such ease, as if all is well with their lives. This makes me feel like my problems are so trivial and gives me all the more reason to work hard for them.“
2. He quit his advertising job to make people laugh
Vikramjit Singh, Comedian
Vikramjit Singh’s life followed the predictable pattern that most young Indians are familiar with. After completing his schooling, he went on to study Electronics engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology, which was followed by a stint with Accenture in Bangalore. He also worked in advertising. Vikramjit had always enjoyed writing, and was on the editorial board of his school and college magazines. He also had the uncanny knack of making people laugh. He’s briefly done amateur theatre in college, so he reckoned that stand up would be a good natural progression.
Quitting his job wasn’t all that difficult. “A job, however good, is still a job, which by definition, is working for someone else and their rules. I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see how I would fare if I tried making and breaking some of my own.”, he says. However standup came with its own set of challenges. “..the certainty of getting a paycheck no longer exists. There’re times you perform for people who look like they don’t understand a word of what you’re saying, there are times you perform for people who laugh before you complete your punchline, there’re times you just perform because you committed – so what if your audience includes two guys and one mixer grinder and the bar.”
He has no regrets about his career choice though. “The only constant for me, irrespective of the result, is to make sure I’m having a hell lot of fun while doing it, so I get my reward first. And I have more control over how I spend my time. I’ve attended fewer meetings and met fewer irritating people spewing corporate jargon.”, he laughs.
3. She quit her Human Resources job to bake!
Simran Oberoi Multani, founder at Ovenderful
Simran is a Calcutta girl who did her BA in Economics and then went on to do her MBA at Goa Institute of Management. After her degree in Human Resources, she worked with big names such as Hewitt, Hay Group and PwC. While she’d been working, she’d also been pursuing baking as a hobby, and had started a baking blog that she called Ovenderful. After her son was born, she says she realized two things – “..most organizations did not have the kind of supportive infrastructure that enabled new mothers to remain with their babies in the nascent months and years, or even bring their babies at work and second, that my role was no longer what it used to be in terms of growth.” This led to her exploring Ovenderful in a bigger way and started focussing on it as a venture. It transitioned from a blog to become a bakery that specialized in simple cakes that you could eat on an everyday basis.
“I was involved in working on scaling it up, developing a framework of what I believed it should stand for, and also focused on developing partnerships. Simultaneously, I started making small investments in equipment and marketing, to build a foundation.” While she’d been working a corporate job for years, she says that it is only after that she’s started Ovenderful she’s actually putting her knowledge of Business Management to practical use.
She says that starting a baking business is no cakewalk – when she started off she made less money than she’d ever made in her corporate career, and got even lesser sleep than when her son was born. But the benefits outweigh the costs. “I don’t need to worry about how to remain energized each day. I’ve made many friends who felt that I could be paid for what I bake and I get opportunities to challenge my ideas. I’m excited about what the day is going to be like when I wake up these days“, she says.
4. She quit a Think tank to start a firm in rural India
Prerna Mukharya, founder at OutlineIndia
Prerna had largely been an academic her whole life. After finishing her undergraduate studies at Delhi University, she completed her Masters in Economics from Boston University, and later did research stints at Harvard and MIT. It was an intellectually stimulating time in Boston, she says. ‘You could be sitting next to a Nobel laureate in the train, or standing in line with a student who will go on to be the next Fed Chairman, and you have this awesome conversation…its good to be in the presence of brilliant minds“. She later came back to India to work at a think tank called the Centre for Policy Research.
“It was here that I learnt a lot and apart from the geeky work that most researchers do, I got a chance to travel across India, see up close and personal what rural India looks like, how people live, what they think, what an average day looks like, away from the city traffic and chaos.” She was loving what she was doing. She also realized that there was an urgent need for an organization that targeted ground work for Universities, think tanks and the Government. “I had seen how bad the quality of data was and I thought someone must step and try and make a difference.” That’s how Outline India was born. “Outline India does all things data. This could entail data collection in Bihar, host training sessions for Government officers in Lucknow, talk to University students in Mumbai, engage in research for India today, run online campaigns for the British Council, or show Sesame street cartoon content to children in Jharkhand.“, she says.
The startup experience has changed her life. “I think I am a much stronger and livelier person since Outline India came about. I can meet donor agency heads and work alongside fieldworkers with equal ease. I think we must all work with startups at least once, to test ourselves, to see how far we can push ourselves, to try new things out, to tease our brains and to see how we react and respond to foreign stimulus. I have had a chance to learn, to fail, to struggle, to persevere and above all to be happy every single morning when I head out to work“, she says.
5. He quit his job to travel
Saurav Arya, founder at Impressive Infographics
Saurav is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur. After graduating, he was into Operations and Business Development for 8 years, working with firms like Danieli, Historic Futures and Exilant. In between, he took a gap year to travel in search of fulfillment, creative freedom and spiritual growth and created the very interesting “Year full Of Sundays” project. He finally quit his job as VP, Business Development at MakeITDeals to do the things on his famous bucket list. “I felt 8 hours a day in a cube with a half hour lunch was getting quite unproductive for me. I needed more time to do justice to things I always wanted to do and I felt only way to achieve that is by being a solopreneur – don’t have a boss and don’t be a boss.”
Today apart from being a serial traveler who has been to over 50 countries, he’s started his own Infographic Design firm, Impressive Infographics. “I looked around and found that there is a data revolution taking place across the globe. From journalism to government, the world’s stories are being told through numbers and facts using infographics and data visualization. I felt it would be fun riding this wave.”
While Saurav admits that giving up a job and diving headlong into a business with few savings and fewer clients was initially scary, things are looking great for him now. Besides the creative satisfaction of seeing his creations come alive on clients’ presentations, blogs and resumes, he feels he’s in a relaxed pace in life which gives him enough time to focus on his work and his wife and his love for traveling.
“Now I don’t have to think about writing a leave application before booking my travels. I guess that has been the biggest plus.”
6. He quit his tech job to make commuting easier
Anurag Singh Rathor, Founder at Zify
Anurag grew up in the beautiful city of Guwahati. After studying Computer Science Engineering at Sikkim Manipal University, he moved to Hyderabad to work with Wells Fargo for five years. There he saw people getting affected as a result of their tedious daily commute. “And with the increase in population and the number of cars, it is going to get worse. I felt the need of an alternate mode of transportation which relied on the shared economy was by the people for the people.” That’s when he decided to quit and find a solution to this problem.
The solution took the form of Zify, a dynamic ride-sharing application that makes the daily travel experience more social and economical for the people by re-inventing carpooling. However starting up was not easy. “As an average Indian, I too was burdened with various loans and specifically a home loan. Starting Zify meant no income for the next couple of years. There was no way I could have managed it.” This is when his family’s support proved crucial. “They told me to not to worry about the house, if I lost it I could always buy another one later.“
He’s enjoying his startup experience immensely. “I have started to appreciate life more because everyday is a struggle and a new learning. As human beings, we all the problems, but how we handle them is what helps us move forward and makes us successful.” While he maintains that he did pick up some useful skills at his corporate job, like understanding processes and managing people, he has no plans to go back.
“Entrepreneurship is like an addiction. Even though I know the risk is extremely high but I don’t think I will be able to get back to the corporate lifestyle.“
7. She quit her advertising job to tell fortunes!
Pashmina Narwani, Founder at Amaluna- Divination and Spiritual healing
Pashmina Narwani comes from Guyana in the Caribbean and shuttles between her hometown, New York and Bangalore. And that’s only the beginning of her interesting life. She did her Bachelors in Commerce from Bangalore and then went to the UK to do a Masters in Marketing from the University of Leeds. Like most marketing graduates, she dabbled in marketing communications and advertising and got a job with the advertising giant McCann Erickson where she worked for over a year, followed by another job at the ad agency TBWA. But Pashmina realized that she needed a big change in her life and “felt a lean towards spirituality”. “Life felt routine and I hated the days where I felt like killing someone. So instead I decided instead of killing someone, why not heal someone. I make my karma better this way. So I quit. Besides if I had continued for another year in advertising I would have lost my sanity for SURE. I was sleep walking and talking and was living like a zombie. Work was my life. Change was badly needed.”
After learning to read Tarot in New York, Pashmina’s set up her own tarot card reading venture called “Amaluna- Divination and Spiritual healing” where she does Tarot card reading, candle healing, crystal ball gazing and is constantly experimenting with other spiritual art forms to extend her repertoire. “But this profession is not very welcoming to a lot of people. The western culture is more open to it whereas in India people are cynical about it and some even consider what I’m doing as “Devils work” or black or whatever you may call it. But what I do is purely white and only good vibrations are being used. My only goal is to find a good space and to help people. So I guess when helping someone there can’t be any hurdles.”
8. This IIM-A grad quit to start his digital agency
Jithamithra Thathachari, founder at Rouse Digital
Jithamithra is a Mumbai university engineer and an MBA from at IIM Ahmedabad. After graduating, he joined The Monitor Group, a Boston-headquartered strategy consulting firm, straight out of campus. Over 5-6 years there, he advised large conglomerates on growth strategy and market entry. He also did a lot of work in social impact, including working with a small healthcare provider in Kenya, on the rural BPO space in India and on a project to develop a business model to increase adoption of toilets in rural Bihar. But despite having great job where his work was impactful and garnered him media attention, he quit to fuel his entrepreneurial desires.
Along with his co-founder Akshat Poddar (a batchmate from IIMA), Jitha has started a digital marketing venture called Rouse Digital, where they are piloting an app called Smart Saver, where users can get rewards on their regular shopping, dining out, or watching movies. Being thrust into a startup environment had its own set of challenges.“The first hurdle I faced was that I suddenly had to make decisions on many things, many of them uninteresting. In a regular corporate job, you have a role that you perform, day-in and day-out. Suddenly, here I was, designing my business card! Next day I was handling paperwork to register the company. So yes, quite a lot of work unrelated to the company’s main focus. Being your own boss also requires a different level of discipline – there’s no monthly paycheck to keep your shoulder to the wheel.” Jitha says that after starting up, he’s more open to taking risks, listening to feedback and channelising it towards improvement and being more patient to try new things and observing what works and what doesn’t.
“A monthly salary is like an addiction – once you’re over it, even regular work becomes more exciting.”
9. She quit her job to start a crafting business
Cassandra D’Roza, founder at Moonstruck designs
Cassandra graduated with a degree in English literature, and went on to write for a magazine and then work for a startup. Even though it was a great learning experience, and she was doing well professionally, Cassandra felt that she was “climbing the wrong ladder”. Three years into her first job, Cassandra started feelings pangs of dissatisfaction and felt lost. Even though she thought writing was her only talent, she says she instinctively started crafting to de stress. She experimented with origami, paper flowers, weaving and home decor and one thing soon led to another. She quit her job just then and secured her first order, a bespoke plaque for a guest house which was well received and got her thinking that maybe craft was her true calling.
Today Cassandra owns her own DIY and crafting business called “Moonstruck” which does custom jewellery pieces dabbling in different techniques like wiring wrapping, metal bending, and macrame. However like most young entrepreneurs in a niche space, Cassandra has faced her share of hurdles. “During the initial months since the launch of Moonstruck, I started out with limited knowledge and limited supplies. For someone with no business background or any solid skill set, of course I was being quite defiant but I stuck to it, in spite of questions like, ‘what if this is just a phase’, or statements like ‘as long as you’re passing your time’. Despite the initial skepticism about making contemporary craft a business, as it was something that was yet unheard of in Goa, I stood my ground and I’m so happy I did. I evolved and grew and I really feel like the creativity just keeps growing.”
10. They quit their plush investment banking jobs to teach kids how to learn
Sayali and Maruti Konduri, founders at Cracku.in
Maruti Konduri did a B.Tech in Computer Science from IIT Bombay and went on to do his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, where his met his future wife Sayali. After graduating, they both went on to take up well-paying banking jobs at Barclays, Hong Kong. “We lived the kind of life where money was the least of our problems. We’d swipe out card at restaurant even without looking at the bills”, says Maruti.
Maruti had always had the entrepreneurial bug, having started a football magazine in college with his friend Srikanth. After 3 years of a privileged, corporate life in Hong Kong, the couple decided to move back to India and start something. “We realized that these are historic times for our country. If we were abroad during these days, we would regret not being part India’s development.” He along with Sayali and Srikanth discussed many ideas to start up and felt that there was a good opportunity for them in the online test preparation segment. Together they co-founded a startup called CrackU which is a test preparation platform provides a social and mobile friendly way to prepare for competitive exams like the IIT JEE and CAT. Even though it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Hong Kong and the associated financial security, quitting the corporate world was one of the best decisions they’ve taken, feels Maruti.
Today CrackU is a successful, fast growing, startup, with seed round funding in its kitty and the founders receive regular appreciation emails on how their product is helping the students prepare for stressful exams better. “Life’s changed. We now do look at the bill in the restaurant, figure out the tax and the VAT breakup. But there is no better way to start the day than know that you are helping someone else in a small way.”
11. They quit their job to lead a nomadic lifestyle
Reshma Pamnani and Ram Kumar, Travelers and writers at ScreamingPiston
Reshma and Ram were colleagues at Google, Hyderabad. They bonded over their work and a shared passion for travel. In true Bollywood movie fashion, they fell in love and got married. Being a couple that worked high paying corporate jobs, they were able to take frequent vacations, but their travel seemed unfulfilling. “The itineraries were jam-packed and we wanted to explore places at our own pace and move from one destination to another rather than a desk.” So after 7 years of comfortable high paying corporate job, they decided to call it quits and embrace a nomadic life.
They began their journey with a trip to Thailand, where they marveled at the historic temples and the crazy nightlife. They explored sea caves in Phuket and witnessed the rare bio-luminescent phenomena in the ocean. Soon after returning, they embarked on a 43 day road trip covering 4270 km across Madhya Pradesh and visited places that were a blend of historical monuments, wildlife, pilgrimage and pre historic cave paintings. As if that wasn’t enough, their love for mountains made them hop on our bike and explore Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan on a trip that lasted for 50 days covered 4269 km. It gave them a chance to catch a glimpse of the one horned rhino by foot, visit the birthplaces of Sita and the Buddha, ride their bike on the second highest bridge in Asia and visit the happiest Kingdom on Earth.
“We have made hotels our home, locals our friends, and memories our companions. To be able to earn experiences rather than money has taught us that there is so much more to life than materialistic things. Today, we feel a sense of joy, contentment and overwhelming satisfaction at being able to follow our dreams.”