Entrepreneurship

In the middle of shiny funding news, this entrepreneur addresses the elephant in the room – depression

“My mother would come to my room to give me food and water, almost every day for several months. I wouldn’t even get up to wash my hands.”, says Mitesh Shethwala talking of a point in life, that his doctor told him could be ‘depression’ .

Since last several months, Mitesh and I have been sharing the same office space. From the first day I met him to today, I have been seeing him effectively juggle two companies – one IT company and another e-commerce startup – Alagrand, always seeking funds for the later. Never upset though. Until this one day over a lunch, several months back, when he shared his story with me. Not rags to riches. Not of building a unicorn startup. But of how far he thinks he has come.

“I was fascinated by the ambiance of the college and amazed by the respect students get for scoring good marks”, says Mitesh, recounting how he felt when he visited a medical college his sister was studying at. Even Mitesh dreamt to practice medicine, but scored only 60% in his HSC.”

Mitesh sought haven in Engineering and started studying Chemical in SVMIT, Bharuch. There were only 8 juniors staying at the hostel and a regime of ragging followed. Chagrined by the ragging, he decided to change his college and moved to Civil Engineering in DDIT, Nadiad. Not six months into the course he realised that IT was the best suit for him and he moved for the third time to another college.

“I had started college in the middle of the semester. I was totally unaware of what was being taught and it got me frustrated to the point that I stopped attending lectures.”

Hmm, relatable.

“My dad used to drop me to the bus stop and he didn’t leave until I boarded the bus for the college. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. So, I would go to the college but skip lectures. I’d simply chill with friends.” chuckled Mitesh

Relatable #2.

Mitesh failed in 2 out of 7 subjects and scored poorly.

His parents had already lost hope on him. And so did he. 

“I decided to take up a job at a call centre. I had average proficiency at English so I got a night shift where I’d handle international calls. Initially, I felt really proud. I was earning Rs. 14K while my classmates were still studying. But 2-3 months down the line, the monotony got to me. I realized that I wasn’t meant to do just this for the rest of my life.”

Meanwhile, after constant persuasion from a friend, Mitesh decided to fill the forms for re-examination. A little luck, 3 grace marks in a subject and with hard work later, he finally cleared all his backlogs. Then on, things got better and he shares proudly that he cleared engineering with distinction.

“Some really good companies came to our campus for recruitment. I remember the process day of Capgemini –  I had boarded a train for Vasad from Ahmedabad but I got off half way. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I was sure of what I didn’t want to do – committing in a 3 year bond.”

Mitesh prepared for GRE and scored a 770 on 800. He was eligible for a financial aid but that wasn’t enough. The only option left was to mortgage the house. However, the loan didn’t come through. 

“That dream shattered too. Just like others”, says Mitesh. I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

Mitesh never stopped changing the way he tackled things. He picked himself up and moved on the the next thing. And now he appeared for his MBA entrance exams and secured an admission in Alliance, Bangalore. But the fees of 14 Lakh wasn’t what he could have afforded back then. He chose to pursue an MBA in Marketing and International Business from L.J. Institute in Ahmedabad.

“Whatever the opportunity is, raise your hand and participate’, one of my professors advised me. I was an introvert, but I chose his words to live by during my MBA”, says Mitesh

Mitesh passed with flying colors and secured a good job. 

A few months later, like in most college student’s life, the boy fell in love. 

“We made great friends!”, he chuckles.

The friend encouraged Mitesh to start a venture with her.

“She made me realise that I could too build a business. She offered her brain for free.”

Nice.

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Together they started an IT solutions company. This right here, was the inception of YouDedicated.

“The toughest part was leaving the job. I had a bond of Rs. 44,000 which I was ready to pay. But I didn’t have the courage to face my manager who had recruited me just 30 days back. I lied to him that I had a family problem. I did a pretty bad job at that, and ended up crying in front of him. As he saw me well up, he let go of my bond. That made me feel even more guilty. I still remember crying on the bus stand for hours at stretch.”

Some serious misunderstanding between Mitesh and the girl led to demise of their business. Things went sour and Mitesh was driven into depression. At this, I laugh. Realising seconds later how much it meant to him back then. 

He tells me how he spent years doing nothing at all . 

“I used to sleep at around 4 AM and wake up 2 PM. For about 6 months, I did nothing. It took me and my family a while to contemplate that I was going through depression.”

It was his sister who came to his rescue. She put him in touch with a psychologist friend. After months of efforts he finally came out of it.

“You see, when you’re depressed it is hard to not think about negativity. Your mind is on loop – trying to figure out what would have happened if you had acted in some other way in a particular situation. You go through endless iterations. It is really important to keep yourself engrossed.”

Help comes in ways you can’t imagine. Sometimes it banal, other times it’s quite astonishing. For him it was a TV show of the 90’s. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. He used to imagine himself as one of the characters and would play scenarios in his mind. That was his escape. 

“Coming out of depression gave me a new outlook on life. I began acknowledging the fact that now, there was nothing that could go worse than what had been.

Without further ado, he started working at a company which paid him well. 

Two years later, Mitesh re-started what he had left behind. And this time, it wasn’t one but two companies. He found alagrand.com. The morning Mitesh announced that he raised funds at a valuation of 3 Million USD (20 Crore). This post going live today, is to celebrate this. And his birthday. And to celebrate a simple story of an ordinary guy, someone like you and I. 

“Tute hue dil se sirf sangeet hi nahi nikalta, kabhi kabhi Startup bhi nikalta hai”, he winks.

When you’ve seen the nadir, all you know now is move towards the zenith. Give yourself time to work your way out of situations, in your own timezone. 

Along with Aditya Mankad. 

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Shruti Chaturvedi

Telling inspiring, powerful, (extra) ordinary stories brewing around on Chaaipani. @adhicutting on Twitter.

About the Author

Shruti Chaturvedi

Telling inspiring, powerful, (extra) ordinary stories brewing around on Chaaipani. @adhicutting on Twitter.

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