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This three-time entrepreneur started out waiting tables

 

He runs three ventures covering financial advisory, education and analytics, but for Harish Mamtani it hasn't been an easy path to the top. When his family left the US when he was 14, Mamtani decided to stay on and did what it took to survive — attend school by day and do odd jobs at night. After spending more than two decades in the financial advisory space, he decided to start his own firm, and now splits his time between the US and India, where he has two ventures. Mamtani, who has served on the TiE global board of trustees since 2014, tells TOI about his journey.


Tell us about your childhood. Why did you decide to stay in the US alone?

I came to the US at the age of 14, but when my father decided to return to India a year later, I told him I would stay back and lived with a relative in South Carolina. When things didn't work out, my father offered to send me a ticket home, but I wanted to stay on. I ran the night shift from 7pm to 7am at a motel for the first two years, while attending high school during the day. I waited tables at restaurants and lived in a trailer park for some time. The turning point was when my friend's parents took me in. They not only helped me but also instilled in me the desire to help others. To this day, I have room in their house. A lot could have gone wrong. I consider myself lucky.


How did you start your career?

I completed college and a master's in international business management from the University of South Carolina. At the start of my career in Atlanta, I was in a sales role and was handed a phonebook to make cold calls. I told them I would do it differently and asked for a runway to my two-year goal. I met people outside, networked and personalised our services to their needs. I ended up delivering business worth $280 million in a three-year period, over 10 times my assigned target. I've since worked at Bank of America Private Bank, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Price Waterhouse.


When and why did you become an entrepreneur? Tell us about your ventures.

I was in the financial advisory business for almost three decades. Friends from the tax circle called and initiated the idea of setting up a family office. When I was 39, I started Bluefish Capital in 2005, advising high net-worth clients. I have managed and co-invested in direct investments in technology, healthcare and real estate, and have advised clients with assets of over $1.5 billion.

SEED Capital was my foray into education in 2013. I wanted to build a chain of low-cost private schools that deliver quality education. We got capital from Acumen fund and built a passionate team, and now have three schools in Hyderabad with 1,300 children. We have collaborated with Khan Academy, Karadi Path and IIT to put together a holistic approach to education. When we were approached by a group of 29 orphans, the social focus came in. We ran a crowdfunding programme to raise funds for them. Those who can afford, pay us. We don't want it to become a money-making machine.

The analytics venture was born out of frustration. When I was taking a long walk, I saw multiple instances of people breaking the law. Cars parked in no-parking areas or in the middle of the road, people jumping signals. For someone from the US, this rule breaking becomes more evident. As citizens, we should be able to report this. So I set up YrReport. The idea is to capture such instances, collate reports and use these to build rural BPOs which can be managed in the remote areas. Along with the smart cities project, we are trying to work with the government. This is a-long term project and we have to be patient.

Being in areas like job creation and education is part of the fun. Not having done something shouldn't scare us.


What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

 

Just go do it. Don't worry about what if and how. Start facing challenges because till you don't, you won't know what you are fighting. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It is perfectly okay to say, 'I am happy with my job'. Having support of your family is crucial. In entrepreneurship, things crumble very quickly and it is family that will pick you up and have faith. And if at the end of the day, things do not work out, tell yourself you did your best.

 

Source: The Times of India

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