Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Another Explorer: Is Professional Networking Important???

Dear Friends

I am writing this article, because I have recently observed my friends from premier B Schools like IIMS & ISB, and premier engineering colleges like IITs and very good career path in top positions of leading MNCs not able to get the opportunities, which they deserve. The point is that they don’t know how to search for this options. In other words, they don’t have good professional networking skills.

Now, professional networking or any type of networking can’t be taught, it is inborne skill. But, yes you can sensitize the one and help the one to discover the skill within.

I am not claiming, that I am expert in Professional Networking, but I have my own ways, which have proved to be effective. So, via this mail I would like to share my ways of professional networking. And would like to receive feedback from you guys, which will help me to further improve my skills. Anyone can connect with me via my email id or via my linkedin profile

Now the starting point of any networking is the will, the urge to network. It can’t be created, it has to be within oneself. I have seen my friends, sitting at home for an year, after being laid off during recession. They will continuously use the job portals like and, but to no avail. At these times, they try to meet people who are decision makers in good MNCs via their personal contacts, or via sites like But, do you really think that somebody just met me at party or at linkedin, and next thing he does is talk about a job option from me. Will I help such a guy?? The answer in most cases is no. Till I don’t know that guy for a fair amount of time, I wont help him. So, the point is that network, can’t be and shouldn’t be built overnight. It needs continuous efforts and time.

Now, the medium for professional networking could be many. It could be attending professional seminars, it could be alumni or batchmates meets, it could be emails, it could be professional networking platforms like linkedin. And true networking, needs combination of all of them.

I will tell now my ways.

Few years ago, when I was doing my engineering, one of the professionals told me to keep visiting cards. I was totally shocked, how do u expect a graduate student to keep a visiting card. But he had his own point, that this may seem odd but its an investment. And when I joined MBA, this advice came very handy. Not many, students in my institute used to have visiting cards. I used to keep it, though it used to pinch my pocket. It helped me to keep in touch with lot of high fi professionals, I met during seminars organized by TIE and NEN. Then, sometimes it so happened, that during the vivas, I came across a professor, who was external faculty or unknown to me. I used to introduce myself, by exchanging a visiting cards with him. It may seem odd, but believe me I did it. And this used to take the viva on altogether at different platform (mostly I got better marksJ ). Now, since last ten years from my engineering days, I never used to throw a visiting card, I always used to store it. You never know, who could be of help to you, in future. So, this was the section covering importance of visiting cards, especially for students.

Now, there was a time, when I had my first official email id during my first job. And then best use of it (apart from official work), was forwarding interesting mails. I used to be in the race of sending most interesting mails to my friends, and vice versa. These mails could be good pictures, some masala news, some funny mails, some videos and what not. But, I observed, that most of colleagues when left the organization, they never used to send the mails , as they earlier used to. Second aspect was, that these things seemed good, while in start of career, but later on as the responsibilities grew, I used to grow irritated, by continuous flux of mails in my inbox. The reason was simple, that they were irrelevant mails to me, and they didn’t help me in any way at all. Gradually, it so happened that the friends who used to send these sort of stuff to me, I slowly started deleting their mails even without reading. I learnt from this behaviour. It so happened, that when I left my first job and subsequent second job, on my last day, I made a list of people, with whom I would like to be in touch in future. And the best and cheapest way, was emails. But what type of emails, how not to get marked as a spammer?? The idea clicked me, that one the email should be good one, which adds value to the receiver, and secondly, it should be infrequent. So, I made a list of email ids. This feature is easily available in all the frequently used mail services like yahoo. I made a lists or groups of email ids by tagging them with relevant nick names like company 1, company 2,…. Or mba friends, engg friends…. Then being an MBA grad, I had a wide repository of business articles. I used to send the best articles to my groups, in 2 to 3 months time. Not earlier than that. And it used to be continuous. This lead me to stay in touch with hundreds of ex colleagues even after 5 years of leaving the job. I still get mails, from these colleagues, that how come you haven’t sent an interesting email, since last few months. I keep on getting calls, from them, sometimes after 3-4 years. But it’s always a good surprise. So idea, is that you can use emails as a good source of touchbase with your ex colleagues or friends, without being marked as a spammer, on the contrary creating respect for your communication. But, still there may be many of the people, who doesn’t value it or still are not in touch with you. One can’t please everyone!!! Clapping happens, when both the hands participate, if one person is not interested in networking with you, you can’t force him to.

Then, the next way to do networking is participating in professional seminars or alumni meets. Now, I was ardent participant in all the free professional seminars organized by NEN and TIE. Apart from it, I used to participate in conferences, which were of my interest, and which my pocket allowed me to. The biggest challenge I faced, when I came back to Delhi, after completing my MBA in Mumbai. I lost touch with quite a few batchmates of my engineering, and now most of my MBA mates were in Mumbai. And it was the time, I was looking out for socializing and to expand network. Instead of waiting, for somebody to take initiative, I initiated Delhi Chapters of my engineering as wells as my MBA college in Delhi. This led to frequent meets of these chapters, where I was able to network not only with my batchmates, but with quite a seniors as well as quite a juniors. This actually expanded my network to a great extent. So, idea is don’t wait for anybody to take initiative. If you want to network, then create your own ways and take the initiatives. Another thing, I would like to emphasize here is that email is not a substitute for phone call and phone call is not a substitute of face to face meeting. Also, to make the communication effective and meets easy to organize, I created email groups of the participants and the possible participants. These sort of group services are easily available like and But, the problem was that I found that these groups were equally linked to the inboxes of all types of people. Some busy some free, some interested some not interested. And all the mails posted in them were not very relevant, which irritated quite a few members. This is an evil; I am not able to understand how to cope up with technically. At the same time, the groups I created with the view of networking, soon started having mails, where alumni started helping members to get jobs, to get more business. This was a real eye opener for me.

Then the latest tool, which is a boon to any networker are social and professional networking sites like orkut, facebook and linkedin. I like best for this purpose. It has helped me to connect with the people, about whom I used to read in the Economic Times or see on CNBC TV 18. It has totally punctured any boundaries imposed on professional networking. On the flip side, I had once the tendency to increase my network blindly i.e. my no. of connections should increase. But, later on I realized the difference between Active Network and Passive Network. If I am not interacting with the person I am connection of, then how it is better than repository of electronic visiting card? So, again the idea is to interact with the people you find synergy with. It can lot of topics for students regarding their studies, for professionals regarding their careers, for academicians regarding the research they are doing, for businessmen regarding their business. Infact, if you don’t have any purpose, than it will be very tough to network. In that case, at max you will be able to get back in touch with your old associates or friends. But, what about meeting new people. I don’t think it can be done without a purpose. So, have a purpose, and don’t be afraid of meeting and interacting with new people, that is the essence of networking.

Another aspect, I will like to emphasize here is that networking can’t be done by being selfish. If you seek to take help only, it will sooner or later diminish your networking capacity. Be willing to help others also, and that too in selfless way. This is the true essence of networking. Take interest in the people’s work, and try to think how you can add value to him or help him out via your network. Sooner, or later this will give you returns far more than you have expected.

Now, the purpose of writing this mail is not to boast about myself or my networking skills. I am also on learning path. But, to help my friends, ex colleagues and alma mater to take advantage of the skill, which is not taught in colleges i.e. Networking. Second purpose, of this mail is to start a dialogue regarding the importance of Professional Networking and the ways to do it. So, friends do reply to this mail to start the dialogue.

Just Another Explorer
Prabal Aggarwal

PS: I got lot of queries, via forwarded mails that can one forward or use this article. The very idea, of this article is to share experience, so that the mistakes I did in my professional life, others shouldn’t do it. Even if one professional or student is benefited by this, my purpose is more than served. So, friends if you like it spread it. That’s the whole idea of sharing.

Friends, as an author of this article, I authorize anybody, can use this article for publishing on any media i.e. print, visual, audio, internet, forwarding emails, intranets, etc.Only request is that, the name of the author, body of the article shouldn’t be changed or altered. Secondly, would request to mention that this article was originally written & posted by Prabal Aggarwal, on Jan 18 2010 on You, can start discussing with me and other readers, by commenting on the blog post. Also, if anybody using this content, feel like that monetary contribution should be made, you can donate on my behalf that sum of money to Project Why (, not for profit organization.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is risk in Entrepreneurship?

Dear Friends
Recently I came across the following mail forwarded by my friend. It just changed my mindset regarding Entrepreneurship. Hope you will feel the same after reading it.

Update on 18th May 2010. I have been long wondering who has written this inspiring post. Finally, I found him. His name is Sameer Guglani. People may refer to his linkedin profile at
Recently I met with parents of the founder of one of our portfolio companies. They asked me about their son’s venture , how do I think its doing and what will be the outcome etc. Here was my answer to them:Your son worked for 1 year as a SW engineer with a big company before starting his ventureNow the venture is 4 months old and is already seeing some good tractionLets say he works on this venture for 2-3 years, at the end of it one of the two outcomes will be seen Good case outcome: He continues with the venture. It has become successful – not necessarily an IPO but at the minimum its growing steadily and makes enough money to sustain itself and pay him a salaryWorst case outcome: The venture shuts downWhen your son started this venture he auto promoted himself from SW engineer to the CEO / CXO A level he may have never achieved or achieved after a very long time period in a regular career with big SW companiesSince he is CEO / CXO – he would need to work & network with CEOs / Founders / Owners / Senior management folks of other companies As a matter of fact this person I am talking about has already met CEOs / owners of more than 10 established / funded companies which are from the similar domain as his own companyIn case of shutdown of his venture it is certain that with the right efforts your son will: Find a senior management position – VP / AVP / Director / Head of department with a company in the same domainGet very good salary to go with these positionsAnd he would have switched from writing code to a domain of his choiceAnd if he has another venture in him, he can save enough to start itThis will happen because 2-3 years as an entrepreneur will give the two things needed to get a senior position: Network of decision makers at good companies who have seen him run his own company3 years of intense learning you get as as a start up founder, is worth more than 10 – 12 years in regular jobThese days people in the industry are very happy to hire X-entrepreneurs, since they know these guys can get work doneNot all companies would be open to hiring him. But there are lot of funded, growing, young, dynamic companies who would be happy to consider him seriouslyYour son will be way ahead, both in salary and position, as compared to most of his classmates / colleagues who will never go out of the SW industry and become Senior SW engineer or at best a team lead in these 2-3 years. Some of these guys may have gone to top B-Schools to do MBAs and after 2 years will be doing entry level jobs in companiesSo if in the worst case spending two years passionately working on your startup can him chance to switch his job profile and domain, a very good jump in both and salary, and in good case he may be running a successful venture – doing a start up is a great investment in career, and not at all a riskThey understood my point since it was quite logical, but still did not seem fully convinced . I don’t blame them. They are from a different generationI also shared with them my personal example:In August 2004, when I left my job to start madhouse, I was Principal SW engineer in a telecom startup in California, two levels below a managerI started madhouse and promoted myself to be the CEODuring my three years with madhouse I worked and networked with lot of other CEOs / VPs / Owners / Partners of other companiesAfter three years madhouse was acquired by Seventymm and I joined as Vice President – Corporate StrategySo in three years I went from being two level below manager to the topmost layer of a well known company and with quite a good salary packageNow while I was at Seventymm I had access to senior management jobs across domains like retail, consumer products, media. I had an offer to join as president of strategy at one of the leading public entertainment companies in India and the annual package was more than 50LBut I turned that offer down and decided to start the next stint of entrepreneurship – MVPOther two founders of madhouse (Ankur and Nandini) saw a similar result as well. Nandini became AVP @ Seventymm and Ankur joined as VP @ TravelguruI am aware of many more similar casesBusiness Ideas may fail, but Entrepreneurship is risk freeNo opportunity comes with surety. Even an MBA from a top B-School might not get the best returns. There are lots of bright ideas which never reap fruits. What is important is that you should be able to separate failure of your idea from your personal failure. Its very clear, if you choose to become an entrepreneur for the right reasons, have the right approach and are determined to give it your best shot for 2-3 years and create value in your venture, chances of failure are near zero. You will learn so much and get to know so many people that even in case of the worst outcome, you will come out way ahead and will be a much wanted resource.hThe journey of entrepreneurship is the real value add for the entrepreneur. The result is a by product.So where is the risk in entrepreneurship?
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