Corporate Life vs Startup Life: The Difference : Mukesh Bubna

Leader: Mukesh Bubna, Founder at Monexo FinTech (P2P lending), Ex – Citibank

I’m going to share my personal story with you. Hopefully in this story, all of us will be able to relate how I transitioned from a blue pill, living in the corporate world, and I did that for 20 years, after that how I moved on to a startup and why I did that. More than why? today is the question of how I prepared for it. And now I am living a red pill life.

Most of us, and specifically me, I lived all my life in fear. Not chasing my dreams, and that’s how I got to the corporate world. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, but I’ve seen as a child the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and that made me fearful. When I got an offer from a global bank after my CA, I just rapidly took it. Nothing wrong with it, I had a fantastic journey. I learnt a lot, I lived overseas for 15 years, I travelled the whole world. But something was missing. I was not living my dream. That realization does happen when you are at a point in your career where you are starting to become another cog in the wheel. I felt I created this but came 2008, I saw all the people who were very hardworking and dedicated, they were let go. And they were very proud of the institution they worked in, and still today they call and when we speak they say “we created that”. But the organization didn’t realize that had happened and overnight their dreams were shattered. So I continued for a little longer, all the way down till 2015, when I was still living in Hong Kong. But the question in my mind kept coming back, “if that can happen to those talented people, how long will I have time to continue in a corporate world and will the axe come down to me”. So I thought, I am overall a very passionate person, I like to build things and I’ve built many things which I still call mine in a large world, but in that large world, the brand of those companies are important. So I said I have to build something in the financial services world since I have learnt a lot from the organization I’ve worked with for 20 years. So I took 3 steps:


First, I spoke to my family, and family means not only my immediate family but my extended family, specifically my father and mother, my wife and my only son who is almost getting to college, which as you know is a large expense. So all that was done and they gave me a thumbs up. In fact, my father said as they say in Hindi – because we are a family of entrepreneurs, where were you in the banking world? Come back and do business.


Two, when you leave the corporate world, the HR heads get to know about it. And they keep chasing you. What I did was, I pulled all those contacts out. I pulled out other contacts of my friends, colleagues who were very close to me, and I think they must have run into 400- 500 people. I sent them an email saying- I am doing a startup of my own and this is what I’ll achieve in the next 30 days even though they didn’t ask me. But I needed somebody to keep myself true. And some came back saying congratulations, some said “don’t spam me, delete it”. All that happened. But what it gave me was a sense of purpose, and I could every 30 days, go back to those friends and people and write to them that I’ve done this, these are still pending. My first 120 days journey was all alone, frankly.  So that kept me going.


Third, I knew one of the things I’ve learnt being in a large corporation was that nothing works like an excel spreadsheet. Very rarely, you get your excel projections right. And in a startup world, you frankly learn that you rarely have very little control over anything compared to a large corporate where you have lot of control, you have lot of resources available. Here, you are the resource, you have little money and time is also a constraint. So. I had to cut down a lot on my lifestyle like crazy. And that time I was still living in Hong Kong. To relocate from the heart of the city to a suburb which was 40 minutes away. I had to continuously manage our lifestyle to a point where we were comfortable. But not extra bagged, because there was no salary coming on exactly the 25th or 26th of the month. In fact, it was the other way around. I had a team in India, I also had a team in Hong Kong, and I had to make sure that I had enough money in my bank account to pay those guys on the first of the month.

The transition from the blue pill of the corporate world to the red pill of the startup world was tough but very fulfilling. When I came back to India, nobody knew the brand Monexo. Nobody knew Mukesh Bubna, I was out from the country for 15-16 years but, every partner we signed up, every customer we enrolled, I can tell them “that’s mine, that not somebody else’s”. Now I have a team, and each of them due to this Covid time have lived like a family with us. They are all back in office today and working with us. This pleasure you cannot get in a corporate world. You can, I am not saying it’s impossible. Some people do get that and there is nothing right or wrong about red pill – blue pill. But, for me, it’s been a very fulfilling journey. We can see every day ourselves making progress, building literally a virtual bank or a neo bank as they call it. But we started from the other way around. Most neo banks start with building a saving account where they pay extra interest. We started the core product called lumes. And that too we are disrupting with peer to peer lending, so like a mutual fund. We are far from where we want to be, all the excel projections are wrong. We have lived in a drought of capital raise, but we have survived, we are resilient. We find ways to move forward every day, we launched new products, we have done new partnerships during Covid times. And that’s what gives you the highs and the lows. A day is like up and down 25 times, you may feel like giving up 20 times and 5 times hit the highs but it is still worth it. So, whatever works for you, but when you decide to take a red pill, do get your family and friends together, talk to them. Because they will be your biggest support and your co-founders.

That is all I had to share in this series of MbaShots. And the next time, maybe we will talk more about the real journey and the red pill side.






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