Donning many hats with ease, Anil Shetty, entrepreneur, writer and self-taught investment banker, was the brainwave behind ‘Peace Auto’ (an initiative that provides safe and peaceful autorickshaw services to passengers) in Bengaluru. Also a board member of Bangalore Political Action Committee (B-PAC), chairman of Bangalore Youth Festival 2016, founder of The World Peacekeepers Movement (an NGO), Anil recently resigned from all these posts to focus on his political career (and refers to his party as a political start-up). He says Peace Auto and The World Peacekeepers Movement are in good hands and he will always be ready to support them whenever required.
Anil also continues to be an advisor to start-up owners and helps them find the right path. Ask him about the secret behind juggling so many commitments with a smile on his face and he says, “Because I am an investor of time.” In a chat with Innovate Young, he speaks about all this and more.
Tell us a little about your childhood.
I like to call myself half-Mowgli (laughs). I lived in the forests of Kundapur, Karnataka, for 18 years and studied under a kerosene lamp. I used to walk ten kms to go to school and 35 kms to go to college. I got 95 per cent in PCM in 12th standard and got a free government seat in MS Ramaiah College of Engineering. However, to pay my fees, I had to work at my uncle’s sweet stall in Bengaluru.
What made you take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
When I was 22, my mom said that I was the worst thing to have happened to her. I just wanted to make sure that she took back her words.
So I decided to make money but on my own terms. I started working as a stock market advisor. But the market crashed in 2009 and I ended up losing a lot of money. There were times I would go to ISKCON Temple to eat because I had no money.
How did you get back on track?
It was all thanks to the power of an idea, an initiative called ‘Fly with VIP’ in Mumbai, which helps fans spend time with their favourite celebrities. Amitabh Bachchan launched the project and even Deepika Padukone and MS Dhoni were part of it. Though I had no contacts in Bollywood, I would gatecrash into parties to meet stars. We ended up raising four million dollars from investors all thanks to one idea.
How did ‘Peace Auto’ and other initiatives materialize?
I came to Bengaluru in the spring of 2012 and started The World Peacekeepers Movement. I also became a self-taught, independent investment banker. Basically, my life was divided into two halves – one was helping businesses grow and the other was ‘Peace Auto’, B-PAC and Bangalore Youth Festival. Now, I am all set to launch my own party called Navbharat Democratic Party, which I term as a political start-up. My third book ‘Shopping in the Spiritual Supermarket’ is also ready and will be launched soon.
What were the challenges you faced in your journey?
I don’t consider anything as a challenge. It’s all part of the journey. I failed in a couple of businesses, lost money during recession. But all the failures taught me what investors look for in an idea. For instance, sometimes the idea is great but the team isn’t and vice-versa. Then there are some ideas that work on a small scale. So with all the failures that I had experienced, I decided to help budding entrepreneurs who are looking for seed fund. So now I meet many start-up owners and prepare them to meet the bigwigs of the industry. I help them meet the right people for their business.
What keeps you motivated?
Wishful thinking, hard work and an absolute faith in God. I like to call myself a time investor as I make the best use of time and I also tell people that I have seen the future because I have always known what I want to do in the next 20-30 years.
I also believe in a quote I came up with – ‘Listen to understand, not to reply’. This is one of the reasons I am able to strike a balance between everything that I do.
There are many avenues now for students to take up entrepreneurship. Is it a good thing?
Yes it is because there are many choices. But choices also bring about confusion. Youngsters should acquire enough knowledge and make the right choice. You can be 35 and unsuccessful and it’s okay as long as you have your own ideas and don’t aim to bask in the glory of someone else’s idea.
What advice would you like to give budding entrepreneurs?
Never fear the unknown and compete only with yourself as you are on your own journey. All of the world’s greatest achievers have had an inward journey and as you go on one, you will get some clarity of thought. Besides it’s not enough to just dream. You need to set goals to achieve your dreams.