I think we all realize the biggest demotivating factor for Startup founders in India is the cultural bias that Indian society has towards a well-paid job. Entrepreneurs with ideas are not motivated to go ahead and take the plunge; failures are not celebrated; support systems from parents, colleges, governments and society as a whole are weak.
What’s often overlooked is how all that impacts on personal relationships, particularly marriage. It’s a topic that I’ve been contemplating to write about for some time.
Getting married in India is a big deal. A very big deal. As soon as your parents and relatives see you earn decently in a well-paid job, you are immediately seen as a ripe target to be sold in the marriage market. I don’t know why, but Indian society and culture wants its young to “settle down” immediately – with a good job, a good wife, a good house, a car, and a couple of kids. If you can’t achieve this in a limited timeline – like, a job by the time you graduate, marriage by the time you are 30, kids before your wife turns 30, a house before you are 33 – you are considered a big failure.
It is important to achieve all these in the timeline – or else something is seriously wrong with you. That’s what society dictates.
“Grow up, son”
English men made Indians as clerks, lawyers, teachers to facilitate their own business. Indians were obedient servants during British regime and Indian businessmen were crushed. The slavery in our blood has not yet completely left us.
Whether the job is shitty-rewriting-someone-
I mean, what were you really thinking. Really. What were your chances? First, you have to survive one of the most outdated education systems that there is. You are already like 23-24. You are expected to marry and settle down by 27. So, that leaves you with 3-4 years to
- Figure out life and its nuances, after slogging through first 23-24 years
- Figure out what you will like to do for next 5 years (which is ~13% of your work life)
- Get a job (and do well)
- Get a girl
- Get married
- In between, if you get time, get an MBA & fool around or get an MS & fool around or get a PhD and die.
Or if you are insane like I am, then you will startup, two years into the grind. Not the brightest idea, especially if you are from IIT. The world expects you to be some millionaire by now. 3 years is like the litmus test of survival for any startup. And that’s when you are expected to marry.
Well, a broke founder (ok, not really broke. Yet) of a crazy idea isn’t a hot selling product, after all. Is this bad? No no. It gets worse. Most likely, at this stage, your idea is hardly understood by anyone. Mostly, they will be other founders and few angels (if you are lucky). Your parents won’t get it. And your ex will be happy cuddling to her new found job-wala-guy, thanking her stars for breaking up.
But your parents want you to get married, so that you become more “responsible” as you are not responsible enough by leaving a well-paying job and not thinking of taking up a job and doing the mainstream stuff. And here is when you are introduced to random folks, carefully curated from the greatest Indian-web-tech-innovatio
Next moment you are pitching yourself to girl’s mama, chacha, jija, dudhwala or anyone remotely educated, that your prospective in-laws can get their hands on, to pass judgments on you, your idea and your startup’s potential.
Nothing is more emasculating than this. Nothing. Yep, you will be judged by the prospective in-laws in-house expert, who has a shitty-rewriting-someone-
To make matters even worse, in most likelihood, you will be rejected, firming your parents opinion that startups are shit, you are irresponsible, IIT has screwed up your head, no one will marry you, job is the path to attain moksha, job is what chicks dig, job is what makes a man, a man.
And this repeats. It’s an inefficient carrot cycle, the one I call “in-laws carrot cycle” where the maximum temperature is based on your stubbornness(your will) and parents decide the sink temperature, while all sort of prospective in-laws suck up all the work. This goes on and on, till something gives away. Mostly, your will, because you are responsible towards your parents after all, whether or not they believe it. And another startup bites the dust.
If you are still reading this and are a girl. Don’t let this happen and marry a founder. Trust your instincts, your guts and choose the right person. Trust me, you won’t find more passionate, intelligent guys anywhere else. They will try to solve problems and not aggravate them. They will be pleased with even the slightest bit of pampering, as they have never been pampered. And most of all, they will be extremely loyal.
They are loyal to one idea, remember, the only catch being, be a little patient with finances. Educate your parents. If there is anything that India needs, it’s more startups. We are a growing economy and have shit loads of huge problems to solve. Else, you will be sending your kids to Dhirubhai Ambani school instead of having the chance of owning the school.
Now imagine if you are a founder. You are chasing a dream, you are chasing a passion. On a different track. Trying to do something different. You understand that life and youth are limited gifts and it’s up to you to utilize them in chasing your dreams rather than chasing societal norms.
Once you decide to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, the first consequence is that your girlfriend (if you have one) will leave you. Next, your mother will have hypertension and will tell you that you are going nuts. Your father will ask you to grow up.
If by some chance you get a proposal through the “arranged marriage” route (you may not get one at all because you don’t have a proper job), you are going to be rejected. No exaggeration.
A cousin got married to a very intelligent chap who has recently graduated from IIM Ahmedabad. My sister’s parents were happy that now their daughter is going to have a happy life because their son-in-law is “highly educated” and has four or five job offers in the bag. However, the son-in-law had the entrepreneurial itch and founded a startup for trading mobile accessories. My sister’s parents were dejected. The last time I met them they were criticizing their son-in-law for being stupid and hoping that he finishes whatever he is doing and gets a job quickly. It was like they were praying that he fails quickly.
The Indian middle class sucks when it comes to supporting entrepreneurship. So this is my request to all the women out there – please don’t reject that entrepreneur boyfriend or be disappointed at that entrepreneur husband. They may fail or they may succeed. But you will definitely have an intelligent partner who will value you the most – because he knows you value him over his job, whether that’s what society sees as a “proper job” or not. And don’t worry about the future. Entrepreneurs have a bright future – even if they fail.