Perhaps the greatest lesson one can learn is to remain a student of life; to keep learning at every stage, no matter what. This insatiable appetite for learning is palpable in Deepjyot Singh Sethi’s approach to his work, as well as his life in general. Sethi recalls how his ambition has altered its course over the years, but the drive for learning has not. “I wanted to become a doctor, earlier. My parents badgered me not to become an entrepreneur; they wanted me to be a professional. In high school, my focus shifted from medical sciences to law. I studied for the exam, and cleared it for one university. However, we had to move to Ludhiana, so I had to pursue BBA from Chandigarh since it was closer to home. After my PGDMM, I enrolled on law school, but touring for business along with studies became tedious so I dropped out. But, currently, I’m pursuing my MCom from IGNOU.”
Grounded to the earth, Deepjyot’s flair for learning – be it bookish knowledge or practical experience – perhaps runs in his blood. His grandfather arrived in India post-partition and built a manufacturing firm from the ground up by his own hands, sweat and tears. “He is my singular greatest inspiration. From business values and ethics, I cannot fathom how much I’ve learnt from him. He worked in the government for some time and started the business in Meerut.” Sethi’s roots in an industrial family background exposed him to the vagaries of the business early in his life. “I’ve seen both crests and troughs of business.”
It would not be remiss if someone draws the conclusion that being a fourth-generation entrepreneur, Sethi must’ve had it easy. But the truth betrays this assumption. Sethi and his friend and partner in business Gagandeep have had to learn the ropes of the business the hard way. “Our entrepreneurial journey has been very topsy-turvy. My business idea required capital at a large scale, and I thank my father for placing his trust in a novice 23-year-old me and giving me the freedom to manage my business on my own. The past few years have brought on a lot of unforeseen external stimuli like GST and covid. All we’ve learnt is that the earth will keep revolving, and we’ll have to keep facing new challenges.”
His early twenties went by in railways compartments, cheap hotel rooms and meeting clients while he toured the country for his business research. But calendar years have failed to keep up with the pace of his intellectual maturity. Once an experienced client of his guessed his age to be 40. Sethi was 23 back then. “I took this as a compliment.”
Both Gagandeep and Sethi have worked on the ground, so much so that their customers didn’t think of them as owners, but employees of their own firms. And for Sethi, this is true. “Gagandeep and I treat ourselves as employees of the company. We’re not the owners; we take our salary and reinvest the rest back into the company. That’s the work ethic we have.” Gagandeep and Sethi are two peas in a pod who’ll probably trust each other with their life. “Gagan’s been my trellis, my emotional and professional support through all of this and he’s taught me a lot.” Sethi’s grandfather told him to form a concrete taal-mel with Gagandeep if they had to work together. Safe to say, he’d be proud of the relationship Gagan and Sethi share.
Sethi’s learnt a lot from the Growtharator programme, but he very candidly says that he hasn’t applied it to his business for now. “I’m glad I’m getting invaluable knowledge from the programme, but the ground reality is too grim. I just don’t feel like applying anything to the operations right now, which, by the way, are running below capacity, and only for the sake of my employees. I’m waiting for the situation to take a hopeful turn. Till then, the ultimate priority is to stay safe and stay alive. I can rebuild the business again, but I just want everyone to remain safe.”
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