Nothing feels better than making a loved one smile, or getting a stranger inspired. It is our constant endeavor to keep bringing out stories of awesome people whose stories strike a chord. They leave us inspired. A true rags-to-riches story never fails to inspire us. The challenges faced and the determination to overcome the oddest odds in such stories often reminds us of our own inner strength and capabilities. One such story is of Nawaz Ahmed, who faced a lot of challenges and started with very small jobs such as vegetable seller, to becoming a successful corporate executive to setting up a business consulting firm, 5n Business Consultants, that helps startups to raise funds.
Nawaz, in an exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, talks about his struggles and challenges, his business and more…
I lost my mother when I was in 10th standard and started working at the age of 19 years to support my family. So I had to drop out of college. I did all kinds of jobs like from selling vegetables to being a newspaper boy. In 1993, when I was 19 years old I was a typist in the court complex. I was the only guy who could type in Word Star and Lotus 123. So I was in good demand, as I was the one who knew how to type in the computer. By the way that time, the computer configuration was 386, with 4.2 MB Hard Disk. However, somewhere deep inside I realized that these jobs are not going to take me to further levels as my qualification was only 10+2. I also couldn’t do a full time course as I had to support my family. So the only option was to do graduation through correspondence. All my studies have been while working. Then I went on to do Masters in Mass Communication. I started my professional career in 1997 after graduation. Started working with World Bank as contract employee where in my job was to take advertisement releases to newspapers. I got my break when I joined an advertising agency as a Media Planner. As I always had fascination for numbers, I started climbing up the ladder from media planner, to content planner in BIG 92.7 FM, then lecturer in Manipal University, Associate Media Director in R K Swamy BBDO and finally with Deccan Herald before starting on with my own venture.
I had always wanted to start my own venture, always dreamed of having my own company. I used to read a lot about successful people and learn about and from their life struggles and get inspired. I launched my first venture in 2005. It was a website called Nadiaexim Corporation that dealt with online import – export. In the process, I used to follow news about funding, new startups, etc. I came across the incubation center in IIMB Nadathurraghavan and went to meet them. There I was first introduced to the concept of business plan. But at that point I couldn’t do much as I had got married in 2002 and had two kids by 2005.
I always kept on following the industry and by 2006, I started researching on how to write business plans or what does it comprises of. I met a lot of chartered accountants who called in for project reports, then auditors who had absolutely no idea in the process. I started to realize that there would be many people who would need writing of business plans. By 2008, the first seed of having a consulting firm which would cater to this segment was formed. But it was shot down by everyone including my wife. I had to keep it aside. As corporate life had become hectic by 2010 and a lot of startups were emerging, I decided to set up the consulting firm with a free website. By 2011, people were liking it and also the market for startups had grown up. And by the end of 2012, I was getting regular clients. This gave confidence to start this all on my own. I gave up my corporate job in December 2012 and came in full-time into the business. What was conceived in 2008 was launched only by 2011.
I started with zero funds. I had a laptop which my company had given, at home I had the desktop. I started with a free website www.5nbusinessconsultants.webs.com. I was inspired by Narayan Murthy’s words about not needing money to start a business, but the will. Continuous revenue started flowing in and by the 8th month I had got selected as 504 most promising ideas of 2012 by Power Of Ideas Contest. The first funding of Rs. 200,000 came from my friend who had seen the business grow. By 2013 had sold 35% equity for Rs. 600,000. My target audience is any startup which after having finished the initial stage of existence wants to go for funding. Then I also have students who want to know idea viability. I help them in giving directions as what model would be good for a particular idea and how to go about.
The Present and the Future:
The response has been very good until now and we have done some good work over the years. Some of my works are:
- Casual Theme Based Barbecue Restaurant A series funding for starting for 4 units at INR 5.27 Crores
- 200 bed super specialty hospital for B series funding of INR 110 Crores
- Online Agregation Shopping Portal A series funding of INR 5.20 Crores
- Mobile Application: Business plan, VC strategy for seed funding of INR 2.10 Crores
I have franchisee offices in USA, CANADA & SYDNEY and want to expand the company in India with bringing in more franchises in cities like Pune, Kochi, Nagpur and Mumbai. I want to bring value to the small stream startup economy and play a vital role in shaping good startups by helping them raise funds. The road map ahead for 5n Business Consultants is to grow to next level and raise funds for which we have started networking with top venture capital firms already.
My wife used to laugh at my mention of what a business plan is. When I left for meetings with the laptop, she’d call me the ‘electronic fakir’. When I used to tell people about the potential in my idea, they’d say why someone would pay you for writing which may happen or may not. They thought I was just trying to prove some point. They question me that whether I was a chartered accountant or an auditor to know about accounts. I used to tell them it’s not about accounts. It’s about finance.
I had the opportunity to learn financials with all the big companies that I worked with. I always had passion for numbers, followed my dream of creating a document today as to what a company will be in next 3 years. That gave me a lot of satisfaction.
I faced a lot of personal and social challenges. Leaving a 6 figure paying job and start some business plan writing business sounded scary to a lot of people. Faced vehement opposition from all directions. I kept my mother’s words to have belief in myself and made sure that I stayed put and kept fighting. And you know, when things change, the whole world around you changes. All my knowledge comes from working and doing things practically, not out of textbooks. I always believe in the words: “When you can dream of it, you can achieve it.”