From a bankrupt to a Managing Director & General Manager for PayPal India, Anupam Pahuja’s story is full of learning lessons. He is the one who doesn’t mind displaying his failures. In fact, they are mentioned on the PayPal India MD’s resume. Before joining this digital payment platform, he founded two startups but they both failed. He did not lose even when his company went bankrupt and learnt biggest business lessons through his failures and these failures proved to be stepping stone to his success.
Anupam Pahuja’s Career Life
Singapore based Mr. Pahuja holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in International Business from Georgetown University.
Prior to PayPal, he was the Managing Director of SumTotal India Pvt. Ltd., the world’s largest eLearning company. His area of expertise is in the design, implementation, and management of complex mission critical eCommerce and mCommerce architectures. He worked with the largest of e-commerce businesses in the world to build their transaction management, security and fulfilment capabilities.
Failures Faced by Mr. Pahuja
Pahuja faced the toughest period of his life, Way back in 2000, when mobile startups were barely emerging, Anupam founded his first venture MobiApps Holdings Private Limited, a mobile-focused company where he played the role of CTO and COO but sold the company in 2006 when it did not do well. He then founded SeaKey, a startup for boat communication using satellite phones, which failed in 2008. The boat industry sank during the 2008 financial crisis. “I went from one financial crisis in 2000 right into 2008. I had VC funding lined up, but suddenly everybody backed off. When you are in a crisis situation, you don’t know it. You can tell only in hindsight. At that time, we didn’t know what was going on; we were waiting. Term Sheets had been signed. I had a great product and there was lot of traction. People loved it”, said Pahuja.
But it didn’t take long to realise that it was time to down the shutters. “I had 200 employees at that time. I ran through my savings to make two payrolls because in the US, you make payroll every two weeks. That’s a lot of money. I couldn’t continue. “It was so tough because it [the company] was your baby and you were doing so well at one point. You think this is what I am going to do for the rest of my life”, he recalled.
As a result, Pahuja ended up with a ton of debt and just a glimmer of hope. He once sold his house to clear his debts. “It was tough for me and my family. I had two young kids and [I] had to make sure they went to school. I had bills to pay, but I didn’t have any money. So, very tough times,” he said.
What did He Learn from Failure
Pahuja took away the knowledge from this failure something from SeaKey —don’t put all your eggs in one basket. He learnt from his failure “During a financial crisis, why would I put my personal money as opposed to the investors’, which is what most startups do? Why would I leverage myself to the hilt, unable to see the bigger picture? Why would I go into an industry where it’s a leisure spend? There are not that many boats in the world; it’s not like a mobile phone. So, big learnings from that and then [I] moved on from there,” said Pahuja.
A firm believer of “a rising tide lifts all boats”, Pahuja feels that when you are in the right place at the right time, you can’t judge whether the highs are because of you or whether the tide is taking you up. A lot of times, it’s just timing. And if you have an idea that is ahead of its time, chances are you will fail at that point. “When you lose, reality really sets in. I learnt so much from that, that I know what not to do. And since then, I have not done a startup,” he said with a laugh.