A Remarkable Love Affair
At 17, when most of us still await life happening to us, Bhavini was already out there, juggling between college and a job. Starting off with taking tuitions of sixth and seventh graders, she joined Kotak Mahindra and became their insurance agent after the privatisation of the insurance industry in India. In an attempt to help her parents with the finances of the house, Bhavini never got to make a lot of friends but developed a habit of reading. This is when she says, she began a “love affair with books”. Little did she know that years later, her love affair would solidify into a marriage.
Bhavini’s hustle from then till now didn’t stop there. While pursuing her MBA, she continued to work part-time, this time at Franklin Templeton Investments. Managing classes along with the job was never easy, but Bhavini says that it only helped her become more mature and turned her from an impulsive person to one who could remain calm and undaunted in the face of the most trying circumstances. She continued to set the bar higher, a pursuit that bore fruit when while still in her college, she got recruited by one of India’s largest banks. She says that all the time-management issues during college make everything else seem handleable now.
Doing More, Being More
In 2007, while working with an investment company, Bhavini started a loan disbursement venture with a colleague, which started taking off but was soon thwarted because of the economic crash of 2008. She then went to work for a health insurance company in 2009, and soon became their top performer. It then came as a surprise to her when she was told to resign when she became pregnant. In yet another setback, she lost about USD 10,000 while partnering with an Australian company that failed to make good on its promises.
One may wonder how Bhavini stayed afloat after so many instances of failure of her plans, and still chose to take risks and become an entrepreneur. After all, anyone would prefer a fool-proof job with a regular payslip after getting through so many mishaps. But not Bhavini. She says, “ I’m the kind of person who would slack one day and dust off and get up the next day. Every day is day 1 for me. That way, any loss you incurred, doesn’t count.”
Infinity & Outliers
It was her can-do attitude and the persistence to do something and be someone that Bhavini started Infinity Business Solutions, a firm providing virtual assistants to CEOs/CFOs in the US & Australia with remotely working employees. Now, here’s what happens when people refuse to give up: sooner or later, impressed with one’s perseverance, life will sneak you in through an opportunity’s door (please do not take this out of context; if you’re persistently stalking someone against their will, the only thing you will get is a restraining order). One of the CEOs that Infinity provided VA services to, needed help in self-publishing a book he was writing. To help him out, Bhavini and her team went all in and published his book in 2006. This made her realise that a lot of people have good content but don’t know how to operate the self-publishing mechanism, which is technical and tricky. Bhavini started to take a lot of courses on self-publishing and met experts on self-publishing to get into the what’s what of the topic. Soon enough, Outliers was born.
Focusing less on the publishing process and more on the strategies to make their books a bestseller, Outliers grew slowly and steadily, with their five consecutive books making it to the bestsellers list, and their second book getting featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair. From taking care of websites and blogs to software development and CRM, Outliers became a multi-faceted, niche publishing company, aiding first-time authors. Outliers was formed with the aim of not publishing more books but giving voice to lesser-known or controversial authors, and Bhavini says that she wants to keep that reputation.
Men vs. Women
We live in a subconsciously-patriarchal society. Men are by default, deemed to be the breadwinners of the family. If a woman decides to work, it’s probably because she needs money – which is not true. If a woman belonging to a financially well-off background decides to go to work and build a career, she’s asked – why do you need to do this? “But why not? People don’t understand that it isn’t always about money; sometimes, it’s about dreams and passion” Bhavini weighs in.
The Startup Ecosystem
So, what is so special about a startup ecosystem anyway?
“You have your whole team relying on you. So if you’re upset, the mojo of the entire place goes down because there, you’re the one running the show. They look up to you, but you have no one to look up to!” Bhavini continues answering my question, “but being around other people working on their dreams day in and day out charges you up instantly. That aura is magical.” Bhavini recounts her experiences at GUSEC and says, “I’ve never been told, “this won’t work, try something else”. It has always been “Sure! Let’s try that” even at my most far-fetched ideas.”
“But I’m sure people doubt you all the time, partly because you’re an entrepreneur and mostly because you’re a female entrepreneur,” I ask.
Bhavini tells me, “Sometimes you land on the right book at the right time in your life, and that completely changes your outlook on life. For me, that book was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. There’s one piece of dialogue that I always remembered:”
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it is, who is going to stop me?”