Outliers 86: Phanindra Sama on how entrepreneurship is a self purification process

Pankaj Mishra November 28, 2018 2 min

What’s the biggest lesson you learned as a founder?

“Entrepreneurship is a self purification process.”

Why sell now?

“I wanted to demonstrate wealth to my parents who were getting old.”

In September 2013, I interviewed RedBus co-founder Phanindra Sama for Mint newspaper, right after he sold the startup to Ibibo (now part of Makemytrip). To be honest, his answers didn’t make any sense to me back then. If anything, I was sceptical and thought Phani, as he is called in startup circles, was feeding me some academic answers.

Back then, we kept chasing him to share the story about his next entrepreneurial venture or a new startup fund after RedBus was sold. After all, it’s only natural to build your next startup after a successful exit. Much like everyone is talking about Sachin Bansal today.

In fact, a recent social media post from Kanwal Rekhi, one of the early backers of RedBus and a critic of the sellout, created raging debates.

In another column for Mint newspaper titled “In RedBus exit founders lost the opportunity to create a PayPal mafia”, I even questioned the decision to sell RedBus.

But over past few years, and especially as a rookie entrepreneur myself, a lot of what Phani said and did have started making sense. After the exit, he took his mother to London, her maiden foreign trip. Phani tells me now in this podcast that she’s not in a shape now to travel overseas.

And his thoughts about how entrepreneurship is a self purification journey cannot be more relevant at a time when debates about a crisis of culture and integrity are at centre of India’s startup ecosystem.

Do listen in. (The transcript of this conversation will be up Friday.)


Updated at 12:55 pm on November 28, 2018  to correct typo in the spelling of 'Startup'.

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