Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other. - Walter Elliot
Any kid starting college wants new shoes. Rahul Narvekar, ex-CEO of NDTV Ethnic Retail Limited’s Indian Roots, was the same. But coming from a Mumbai chawl in a family struggling to make ends meet made affording the new pair of shoes another question altogether. So the aspiring entrepreneur found a solution to his pain point – he recycled his friend’s brother’s old pair of shoes that had been thrown away. Of course, the fixed shoes were a constant source of worry for Rahul who would feel conscious in a local train if people were looking at them and judging him. He was even ashamed of going out on a date on their account.
It was around this time that a story made the media rounds – of Ratan Tata’s uber-expensive pair of shoes being stolen at a funeral. After some digging around, Rahul found out that the shoes costing thousands were from an Italian fashion house named Bally. And, in true dreamer style, he vowed that the day he became successful he would own a pair of Ballys just like Tata.
Little did he know, that from wearing recycled shoes, he would eventually go on to buying two pairs of Bally shoes, sell a shawl worth $28,290 (INR 19 lakhs), build a company worth $85 Mn and a niche community for entrepreneurs and investors so that somewhere some other dreamer could fulfil his dreams too.
What he did not know was that he would have to put in time as a ward boy, sell watermelons and crackers and struggle with money for the longest time. And ironically, be kicked out of business college with the label of ‘least likely to be an entrepreneur. So how did a boy from a Mumbai chawl go about launching a cable advertising company, a music channel, dabble in real estate and build ecommerce portals – dreams which became reality when he read Harold Robbins novels at the local scrap dealer.
So how did a boy from a Mumbai chawl go about launching a cable advertising company, a music channel, dabble in real estate and build ecommerce portals.
Entrepreneurship Was In His DNA
It seems that the seeds of being a fighter/entrepreneur were planted early on in Rahul’s life. Born as a premature baby with low immunity, his chances of survival were slim. In fact, the doctor even nicknamed him pehelwaan (wrestler) for his survival spirit.
Rahul’s father had been brought up in an orphanage and worked at Oriental Rubber Tubes — the largest tyre factory in Asia at that time. One thing from his childhood that Rahul remembers fondly is that his dad would involve other people in the chawl for threading tyres, an extra source of income both for the family and the families who helped them. He says, “His act, to provide employment to others, was an early entrepreneurial influence on me. It not only influenced me but as a result we were respected as a family.”