A job, however lucrative, is a job after all. There are rules to follow and protocol to adhere to. Sometimes it’s a compromise of who you are. But every once in a while there emerge people who listen to their inner calling, say enough is enough, and go on to follow their passion.
In an exclusive project, OfficeChai brings you 11 stories of people who actually did. The fat salary, the cushy secure job, and a stable life couldn’t deter these people from treading a path less traveled – one fraught with risks, uncertainty and financial instability – all to follow their passion. Whether it was to pursue a hobby, giving back to the society or starting a business, they all took the plunge from the corporate into a life of their own terms. Their stories are illuminating and inspiring.
In no particular order or ranking, here are our 11 heroes.
1. Arpan De, an IIT grad who quit an analytics MNC job to travel, photograph, document.
A Physics Grad from IIT Kharagpur, Arpan had always loved numbers, and so was only too happy to land a job at Barclays Capital as a Quant Analyst. But very soon the regularity of the job got to him. The challenges were not big enough for him in a corporate set-up. “I felt I was wasting the most precious years of life doing something I didn’t want to. While sitting in front of a computer somewhere on the 14th floor of an office building in Mumbai, I decided to quit everything I was doing and discover my country and, if possible, myself.”
He picked up his backpack, battling resistance from his loved ones and set off on a soul-searching journey across India. “I lived my life as a nomad. I swam naked in a deserted beach, I slept in subzero temperatures beside a mountain lake. I saw the most intricate monuments humans can make and I saw people spitting on it. I met some of the most welcoming people in the world and I met some of the rudest people of the world. I loved the carnival of life called India. I realized how beautiful and vast our country is. India is certainly beyond any stereotype.” He documented this journey with his own lens and the India he saw. He is an avid photographer who likes to tell stories through pictures. He talks about the unspoken colors of India , its people, its places but mostly its happiness.
During this time he also hit upon the idea for his startup. So, he went on to found Inkwix, a startup that provides city wise correct, exhaustive, concise detailed information and reviews of schools and coaching centers and other educational courses.
Interestingly, the travel did not hamper his work. Arpan found himself taking investor calls from the rocky beaches of Gokarna, coding in the sand dunes of Jaisalmer, finalizing design at The Beatles cafe in Rishikesh.
2. Shalini Krishnan, quit an MNC to reach rural children.
An alumnus of NID Ahmedabad, and an engineer from MSRIT, Bangalore, Shalini Krishnan was working as an Interaction Designer in MNC’s in Bangalore for 7 years before she decided to take a path not so mainstream. She quit her challenging but comfortable, safe and well paying corporate job to work for underprivileged tribal communities.
Shalini is someone who believes in equal opportunity for all. With the help of SBI – Youth for India program, she got the opportunity to work at the grassroots level and realize this belief. She worked in a school in a remote location in eastern Odisha run by the NGO Gram Vikas . After working with the children for a while, Shalini noticed a lack of platform for tribal children to express their innate talents like painting, sculpture, dancing, and this inspired her to establish Kalpanadham. Shalini has been working towards creating an ecosystem through which art, design, science and maths enthusiasts can volunteer and take workshops for these children exposing them to the various facets of creativity like material exploration, robotics, fine arts, creating out of junk, building science concept models. In this direction she has been able to connect with and invite institutions and artists from within and outside Odisha.
After this one year of a marathon fellowship, Shalini does not want to stop. For her, Kalpanadham at Kankia school is just the beginning. Gram Vikas has expressed interest and enthusiasm to establish 3 more Kalpandham in their other three schools. She is also thinking of extending it to other government run schools so more and more children get the opportunity to experience hands-on learning.
3. Anupam Behera, quit his corporate job to start a cafe.
A marketing graduate and an HRM Post Graduate, Anupam Behera started his corporate stint with Infosys, went to on join Thomson Reuters where he worked for 9 long years. Finally, the monotony creeped in, and Anupam bid farewell to his corporate career. “Change of job was the best comfortable choice but then the call of passion was way too stronger and I decided to chase my dream.” Being a foodie, Anupam has always had an interest in all things food, his participation on the Bangalore Foodies Group is well-known, and as destiny had it planned for him, Anupam now runs a small café called “What’s in the Name” in Bangalore. “Now we work more but we know this is for us and this keeps us self motivated. It has definitely helped; helps me being little more professional customer centric since I am Six Sigma Black Belt in customer service. This helps me interact with my guests, understand their requirements and take control of a situation. Many of our guests tell me that I look more a passion driven person rather than “business driven” and this makes me happy since that’s the whole purpose.”
Would he go back to the job? “As a choice I won’t wish to go back but yes, if things don’t work out as expected I am left with no choice, might go back.” he concludes.
4. Rupin Pahwa, quit a cosy job at Google to pursue music.
After his MBA, Rupin had a dream job at Google where he saw much success across many roles and teams, not to mention no dearth of perks, friends and great relationships with colleagues. However, it took winning a national-level singing contest in India and representing his country in Finland for Rupin to pay heed to his true calling- music. He called it quits on the comfortable job to focus full-time on music, soon after. Rupin has been working on honing his own talent, apart from performing at local clubs all over Delhi. He was also recently featured on India’s first English music reality show “The Stage” on Colors channel, where he reached the finale.
To give other artists an opportunity to perform, he also started a small company that supports local talent and helps other artists get gigs, etc. He plans to expand the business into a 360 artist management firm that supports a community that can create enough content online; that is self-sustaining and promotes innovation through collaboration.
“Life was very comfortable at Google. Pick up and drop facility, food, frequent trips, good fixed salary, gym, a great working environment with some of the smartest people around. [But] in your own venture, you have to fend for yourself everyday, devoid of all creature comforts. Plus you’re all alone and you tend to miss the human connection. But fortunately, as a musician, while performing, you’re certain that you’re in charge of making sure everyone around you is happy. You’re in charge of healing them, taking them away from the troubles at the office, stress at home, etc.”, Rupin muses.
5. Bernard D’sa, quit his job to become an author.
A literature graduate by education, and a prolific writer by passion and author of a few books, Bernard D’sa lives and breathes literature. However, professionally he worked as a “sad banker” who was fed up with his 9-5 job and felt that he was killing his passion and his dreams. “I believe in following my heart and when I grow old rather would want to say “At least I tried” rather than “I should have tried”. As epiphany would eventually strike, he quit the 9-5 to not only focus full-time on writing himself but also started “RainDrops Company”, a publishing house. Bernard is working on publishing his own book, apart from giving other authors and poets a platform to publish theirs. Today RainDrops Company has over 15 titles, 2 imprints,100+ poets/authors, offline and online distribution. His books have made their presence felt over 50 bookstores and 10 international book fairs.
“Being stuck in fixed hours I wasn’t able to contact people to discuss or propose ideas. Now I have a lot of time to go around and execute my plans. Time is no constraint anymore. There is no one I have to report to (grin). I am my boss and the realization of materializing my dream is the only thing on my mind. “
Mukesh passed out of IIT Kharagpur and then worked for Oracle and Amazon for 2 years as a Software Development Engineer. In between the two jobs, he spent 2 years as a freelance web developer. At Amazon, he wasn’t satisfied with how much his work affected the end user and with the little control he had over shaping the product in general. By this time he had been following the startup ecosystem keenly for a while, and really wanted to build something that will solve a problem for a lot of people.
“My last job at Amazon (because of its extremely unique work culture) also gave me the confidence that I can do my own startup”
Mukesh turned his back on the corporate, tried a few things, and today runs a successful office food delivery startup called TinMen in Hyderabad.
“I work 80 hour weeks now, but I am extremely satisfied with the quality of work I get to do. Being an early stage startup where the founders have to do everything, I am sometimes forced to do things that I am either not an expert at or don’t really like, but I end up with lots of learnings.
My last job at Amazon certainly did help in my current journey with TinMen. It taught me how and why consumer products thrive (Customer Obsession is the word they use in Amazon). The work ethic and culture I saw at Amazon is what I am trying to incorporate into TinMen.”
7. Ekom Mamik, quit a job at Goldman Sachs to travel, explore and start an organic produce business.
Ekom worked in the corporate sector for half a decade before trading in the confines of a rigorous office job to travel, discover and rediscover.
After leaving her job at Goldman Sachs, she travelled to Kenya, to work with a model sustainable village of HIV orphaned children and grandparents; where she encountered the drought resistant, multifaceted Moringa Oleifera tree, proven to be beneficial for a multitude of conditions, and full of nutrients. Followed by months of research, she tied up with smallholder farmers in the foothills of Darjeeling, India to grow and harvest part of the produce of the Moringa Oleifera tree and spread awareness of the nutrient dense leaves that research has shown, has the potential to effectively tackle malnutrition. And thus, MoringaWhat was conceived. When not playing entrepreneur to produce, market and sell this “miracle oil”, Ekom unleashes her expression through her art and music.
“At the time I left the firm, I felt I had to do this for myself for those little dreams I held onto, that all of us do. Personally, each experience is an opportunity to take from, absorb or understand what to let go of. I view my time at Goldman Sachs as a stepping stone to what I am doing today. I keep reflecting back on a painting I did years ago titled, ‘Past, a Future’, which I think captures the essence of that. There are certain skill sets that one imbibes, transferable across different roles one takes on in life and a work culture that places ‘people’ on the top and provides the opportunity to network like no other place, that was GS for me. I continuously see myself draw from my experiences during my time at the firm and apply that to the way I’m taking MoringaWhat forward”
8. Nisha Kapashi, quit a fashion job in NYC to become a nun.
Born in USA, but raised in Mumbai, Nisha Kapashi went to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. She also studied in Florence, Italy, before starting work as a fashion merchandiser for J Crew. During her college days, Nisha Kapashi had begun to attend lectures at the Jain Center of America, which increasingly sounded more relevant than what she was doing.
She realised that she was a timeless soul and not just a body that would live for a few years on earth. But here she was spending every ounce of her energy on acquiring comforts for the body. Nisha Kapashi then started contemplating on what would give her soul everlasting happiness and decided to take diksha (Jain form of renouncement) and today is living as a nun in Asansol in West Bengal.
“I was trying to be fashionable and successful, but the more I did so, the emptier I felt. Slowly, I began to change. I stopped caring so much about how I looked. I began to wear simple outfits . . . and no makeup. The more changes I made, the better I was feeling.’’
Today her Gucci handbags have been replaced with organic products, her partying has been replaced with meditation and she’s traded her multi-dollar treatments with a shaved head and a barefoot stance.
Now, as a nun, “we sleep for six hours a night, meditate for 90 minutes a day, and we study the Jain philosophy for 15 hours a day,” Kapashi said. “We live a nomadic existence in India. I have no possessions, not even a bank account. I have committed to a life of celibacy and simplicity for the rest of my life. This is my life now — and it’s the ultimate happiness.’’, Kapashi trails off.
9. Madhu Chandan, quit a corporate job in the US to come to India and start an organic produce cooperative
Until August 2014, Madhu was living up the American dream, a life of comfort and ease with his wife and daughter in San Jose, California. He travelled the world, worked with various companies and became the cofounder of a company in San Jose. He had the world at his feet, as the product he designed for this company has become the leader in the field.
Epiphany struck and Chandran told his wife, Archana, his classmate from their engineering college in Mandya: “I want to go back to Mandya and live the life of an organic farmer. Do you want to go live that life only after we are old, or can we do it when we still have some energy left?” And he moved, lock, stock and barrel back Mandya, hoping to do some farming, and living on a farm for a while. While that didn’t materialise, something else did that changed the life of many farmers in Mandya. After a year of brainstorming, coordinating with farmers, consulting various people, he teamed up with a friend Venkatesh, to put together the Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society comprising progressive farmers, ayurvedic doctors and agriculture scientists. They sell and market organic products under the “Organic Mandya” brand which will generate a turnover of Rs. 36 crores, and also benefit the 300 farmers in the area.
“After getting into organic farming, I am happy, no stress and have a contentment of serving our society.”
10. Andrew Daniel, quit Google to start a music & event management company
Andrew studied in Bangalore and throughout his education, he’d harboured a keen interest in music. He even learnt music professionally and was part of many music groups and choir back home in Bangalore, while he went to do a coveted job at Google for over 5 years, until he quit to start his own music production company called String theory. Andrew believes that working at Google was one of the best experiences in life and quitting the company was the toughest decision he’s taken in his life. “I finally realized I need to take the leap of faith and quit to pursue something in the music industry but then once I returned to Bangalore I joined a startup called “Pressplay”, I value the work it tought me what needs to be done from A to Z from a entrepreneur point of view. It came to a point where I realised that I needed to do something finally on my own and quit in October and on the same day started working for myself and with help of friends and well wishers my very own company in the form of String Theory was founded.”
String theory is a music events company, that provides and facilitates musicians and gives them a platform to perform and a merchandising company where they make creative merchandise for schools, colleges and corporates based on their requirements.
Andrew no longer works a 9-5 job or has a fixed salary hitting his bank account every month but loves what he’s doing now. “I love performing in most of String Theory’s music events and travel extensively which is my bigger dream if it comes as part of my work of performing and promoting String Theory. It’s the best thing I can ever ask for in my life.”
11. Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha, quit their jobs to travel & become writers.
Saurav Jha worked as an analyst, specializing in energy economics, while Devapriya began her (short) working life at the Sahitya Akademi, as an assistant editor, after which she worked as a book editor for Routledge. Meanwhile, the couple both wrote a book each that were accepted for publication by HarperCollins, after which they set out together to co-write a contemporary book about India that has now become The Heat and Dust Project: The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat.
For this book they decided to quit their respective jobs and travel across India on local buses, on a very very tight budget: 500 rupees a day for bed and board, for both. The aim was to see the country as it is, here and now, and also undertake what they joke, is the ultimate relationship test. Luckily, the project has been quite a success.
When asked how their life has changed after quitting their jobs for their pet project, “we think, read and write when we want. And we often worry about money. Because make no mistake, giving up your jobs entails accepting some fiscal anxiety!”, says Devapriya.
Saurav echoes her thoughts. “Not being under the enforced discipline of the workplace requires that you become rather hard on yourself to get things done. You also tend to take a lot more on your plate because, hey, after all you are now working for yourself. No more excuses.”