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Many parents encourage their children to become entrepreneurs. Mine did the opposite. But in an unlikely way, we took this journey together — and the person who once seemed most apprehensive about my career choice would come through with the greatest support precisely when I needed it.
This conflict was baked into my upbringing. While I come from a very traditional Indian family, my father was a career diplomat, and so we moved roughly every three years, living in places like Nigeria, India, and Vietnam before settling in the U.S. for high school. Because of this, I always felt at a crossroads between my family’s values and the multitude of other cultures I experienced.
I graduated college in 2000 with a degree in finance and landed an investment banking job. It was comfortable, well-paying, and intense. My parents approved. But after five or six years, I lost my passion for it. I’ve always been a sucker for entrepreneurship and a believer in the American dream. I was passionate about starting my own business. My parents staunchly opposed this, though. They were focused on all the ways I could fail.
After many difficult conversations, we arrived at a stalemate. They wanted me to make a bona fide effort to get into one of the top business schools. So I applied. To their dismay, and my relief, I didn’t get accepted. They reluctantly agreed to my starting a business.
I founded my first company, Bulldog Gin, in 2007 with the goal of creating a modern premium-gin brand. Two years later, it was gaining traction in Europe during a gin boom in Spain — but despite that, the company wasn’t profitable due to heavy marketing expenditures. At one point during the global financial crisis, I was about 45 days from having to shut it all down. And that’s when my mom, who is a religious woman, came walking into my office. It was a difficult time, and she knew it. She said, “I’m giving you this statue,” which she placed on my desk. It was of Ganesha, the Hindu deity associated with removing obstacles. “Always make sure it’s facing the door,” she said.
Not long after, I raised money and kept the business going. The brand flourished, and in 2017 it was acquired by Italian branded beverage company Campari for almost $70 million. Today, Bulldog is distributed in more than 160 countries.
I have no idea if there was a correlation between the statue and my success, but I do know that someone was looking out for me — be it my mom or some higher power. So as I build my new brand, electrolyte hydration beverage Halo Sport, I keep that statue in my office and look at it during hard times. I feel that, though no guarantor of success, my own relentlessness combined with a watchful eye makes the difference in the often-fine line between success and failure.
April 5, 2019 at 01:08PM