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.)


Thank you for reading FactorDaily

We hope this story worked for you.

Our journalism is produced by some of the best brains in the story-telling business who believe that good stories have only one master: you, the reader. Bringing these stories to you, just so you know, costs us a pretty dime even as the context of disruption remains unchanged in the journalism business the world over.

If you like what you read here, consider supporting the FactorDaily journey. We don’t have a paywall because we believe access to good journalism must be free to all, especially when it is in public interest and informs citizens with independence and accuracy. Such stories should not be restricted to a few who can pay. You are free to support us with any amount you like. 

Please note that 18% of your contribution will be paid to government as GST, per Indian accounting rules.

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

Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham among its investors. Accel Partners and Blume Ventures are venture capital firms with investments in several companies. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham are entrepreneurs and angel investors. None of FactorDaily’s investors has any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.