Early days as an entrepreneur….

16 Jun

Very many years ago, in 1995, we started TASC; one of India’s first technical writing and training companies.

We started not in the proverbial garage, but in a beauty parlour that belonged to a close family close friend of my business partner. We were given the place on a “pay when you have the money” basis, no questions asked. The only condition was that we had to use the place “as is, where is.” So here we were, in pink sandblasted 200 square feet room with mirrors on the walls and the classic parlour countertops. It took some ingenuity and a few curtains (yes, curtains) to camouflage the surroundings. Visitors, the few that we had, were very mystified by our “office”! 🙂

And oh! there was the cat that we inherited. For the first few weeks, it was a ghostly presence that left behind a dead rodent as a tribute at least once a week! **Shudder** We soon discovered how it got in and put an end to that.

The location of our office was also very unique. Bang opposite us was St. Michael’s Church (Mahim Church), one of Mumbai’s most famous churches and a few meters down from there was the famous Mahim Dargah.

We were also cheek-by-jowl with a “dance bar” and a few doors down on the other side was a small traditional eatery. Being an all girls team, we were persona non-grata at both the eateries that were within reach. That was a problem because we often worked till 11 PM and stayed over ever so often (the parlour had cubicles at the back with benches on which we could sleep).

We tried, once and once only, to get a takeout from the traditional eatery, but our very presence at the door was uncomfortable to the owner and patrons. An old “chacha” who worked at the place realised our plight, and took our order and sent us packing back to the office. He personally delivered the food, and since then would drop in ever so often through the day to see if we needed anything. I will always remember the roti-dal fry, egg bhurji, and chai-bun-maska we lived on in those days. And bread pudding, Mava cakes, and assorted “puffs” from the nearby Crown Bakery.

On a day we needed a treat, we used to take a taxi down to Shobha, the Udipi Restaurant on LJ Road aka Cadell Road or get Biryani from one of the local eateries.

The bar would start its day at about 1 PM with a thorough cleaning accompanied by the melodious voice of MS Subbulakshmi. They played the most divine selection of music till about 6 PM, when regular business hours started. That was the time I learnt several stotrams and popular dance numbers all in the space of a few months. And we could do without our watches because of them! When the storams started, have lunch and when the dance music started, go home.

Though I did not know it then, I was the unwitting subject of classical conditioning. 🙂

But the bouncers and waiters at the bar were ever so considerate of our finer feelings and protective of us girls. They would ensure that the bar’s patrons did not disturb us, call us cabs, …. So typical of Mumbai!

But boy, did we work hard those days. Our first contract was to develop documentation for a RDBMS developed in India. We had to write 11 huge manuals in about 7 months, with one DTP operator for support. We had to shuttle between Mumbai and Gandhi Nagar, where the development team was based.

In the middle of all this, we were also training individuals on Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office 95, PowerBuilder, C, and C++. You see, we were a technical writing and training company. Do note the “and training.” In those days, very few in India had heard of technical writing as a profession. Our task began with educating the companies we visited on what technical writing was all about, how we could add value to them, and more specifically they had to pay us to “just” write. It was tough going, but fun!

I have lost count of the number of times people asked my parents, “Okay, your daughter writes. But what does she DO (aka what is her JOB?)?”

My abiding memory of those days the tremendous support we got from people around us; family, friends, and complete strangers. And everyone had tremendous faith in us and our abilities, as other instalments of this saga will show.


Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Musings, Technical Writing


Tags: , , , ,

19 responses to “Early days as an entrepreneur….

  1. Chitra

    June 16, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    waiting for the saga to continue…which actually is not one….but ofcourse a gaga!!!

  2. kartikeyadwivedi

    June 17, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Very well written Ma’am! I’m sure people will find this inspiring. I do! Awaiting more!

  3. veeskitchen

    June 19, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Wow you such a multi-talented personality! Just saw your pic in ‘Aharam’ FB page. Rare to see women working professionals showing such an exceptional interest in kitchen in my experience.

    • Aruna Panangipally

      June 19, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      Thank you for the kind words. For me, it is very natural. My mom and aunts had full-fledged careers but were excellent homemakers. Indeed, I could say this about my father, brother, and uncles as well. They are excellent professionals and outstanding homemakers as well. 🙂 Even today, at 80, my father reads new recipes and tries them out.

  4. veeskitchen

    June 19, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Excellent !

  5. Namrata

    June 23, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    I found you rather accidently. But, Im loving every moment of it.
    Aharam is a wonderful site, and the write ups here leave me inspired. I’ve recently started a food blog, but I write on varied things as well. Would love to hear your views if you happen to visit

    • Aruna Panangipally

      June 23, 2013 at 11:57 PM

      Thank you for the kind words….. 🙂

      I am glad you like my blogs and I will most certainly visit yours. It is always refreshing to read or understand another person’s take on various things.

      Let’s stay connected…. 🙂

  6. malathi S

    September 17, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    i tracked back to ur blog from the ‘like’ to my post on coconut barfi and i thoroughly enjoyed ur wit in this post. thank u
    malathi S

  7. sb2711

    December 1, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Wonderful story! I never knew you had this blog 🙂 WIsh you more success. 😀

    • Aruna Panangipally

      December 1, 2014 at 8:53 PM

      As you can see, I do not update it often! 😀

      • sb2711

        December 1, 2014 at 9:22 PM

        Yes…but still. It looks nice 🙂

  8. negativethinkerr

    April 23, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    good 1 !!!

  9. Anup

    October 9, 2015 at 1:46 AM

    Wow..Brilliant…You are so Inspiring !!

  10. cafegarima

    March 26, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    Loved every bit!!
    You write beautifully ❤️
    Made me empathise, made me giggle, made me live those days with you 😃

  11. Priti Gaikwad

    October 23, 2020 at 12:29 PM

    This post gave me such pure joy and tremendous nostalgia… 🙂 I will now have a perennial smile pasted on my face as I go about the day.

    Your journey is inspiring and enthralling in equal measures and I am so blessed to be a tiny part of it somewhere along the line. And you know what is the best part, you never saw problems or discomfort, you only did what needs to be done with the resources at your disposal, I think I have witnessed so many lessons in leadership and enterprise by just watching you over the years.

    • Aruna

      October 23, 2020 at 12:32 PM

      Thank you, Priti. It is “our journey”. I may have started the legal entity but it is our team that made it what it is.

      As I said in the post, I have always been blessed to have people who helped me in anything I have wanted to do.

      Indeed I am always reminded of my mother’s word. Take the first step and the rest will follow.


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