He made Ravi feel big – for a while
By Sona Maniar
The ice cubes swirled wildly in the glass as Ravi stirred his drink distractedly. He was deep in thought and worry – two hours into the investors’ meet in Amsterdam and still no tangible lead that he could latch onto. He cast the agitator aside and stepped forth to mingle again with the investors, muttering a quick prayer that his desperation for funds wouldn’t be terribly apparent.
Ravi’s story since graduation from business school hadn’t been very inspiring. He had opted to tread on the entrepreneurial path, but five years on, he had yet to find that venture he felt proud of hoisting his flag on. VidArt – his latest startup in the video on demand space – was quite honestly his last try at the entrepreneurship counter. If this company went belly up, then he would hang up his entrepreneurial boots and settle for good into a 9-5 job.
He had started VidArt with his friend Ayush, an ace programmer. The idea was to develop a superior video archiving platform for corporate. He had put 75,000 dollars of his own savings into the venture to kickstart it. That funding had got them through the first four months, with a prototype now in place. To take it to the next level, Ravi needed 500,000 dollars. For the past three months he had been in an intense pursuit of this funding. All without success. Old investors rejected the proposal as they had lost money before and new investors turned him down for the lack of a proven track record. Time was running out and he needed to clinch a deal in Amsterdam. That pressure had kept him up most of last night.
A pat on his back made Ravi turn his attention towards a young gentleman. That person looked at him through his deep blue eyes, his gelled blond hair combed backwards to perfection.
“They met after so long”
“Ravi, Ravi Krishnan, right?” the gentleman inquired, his face breaking into a friendly and engaging grin.
A fraction of a second later, Ravi reached out to hug him as his identity suddenly dawned on him.
“Arjan Driessen, is that really you? Hoe gaat het (How’s it going)?”
“Ten years since Delft University and our paths crossed again,” he practically screamed.
“What are you doing here?” he enquired
“I am now a partner with Driessen and Halsema, the legal firm that my father co-founded. My father retired a couple of years ago and handed over the reins to me.”
“You seem to be doing very well for yourself,” Ravi remarked, enviously eyeing the finely-tailored suit that he was wearing.
“I advise clients on deals particularly in African countries like Namibia and Mozambique. But I also have an interest in investments for high returns. So, I am here at this conference more as an investor than as a legal professional.”
Ravi immediately got more excited. He launched into his one-minute elevator pitch about his plans and funding needs. Forty seconds into his pitch, Ravi noticed that Arjan was actually staring at his shoes. Had he lost him? Ravi shifted slightly. Then, as he concluded, Arjan placed his hand on his arm and suggested that they continue this discussion at his office later in the afternoon. Ravi was delighted. Finally some real interest.
Part 2: Meeting with Arjan Driessen
Ravi showed up at his office later that afternoon. Located on the Prinsengracht, which quite literally means the Prince’s Canal, the premises of Driessen and Halsema alone were very impressive.
A collection of tastefully procured contemporary European artworks greeted him by the entrance. He was guided to a glass cabin that bore huge photographs of Arjan and his team with dignitaries from African countries. He stepped closer to take a look at a framed certificate. It was from the Government of Mauritania acknowledging the path- breaking work done by D&H in facilitating investments in the country to the tune of five billion dollars. Ravi felt like a small fry, insignificant and irrelevant. It would indeed be a privilege if Arjan invested in his firm, he thought to himself.
“Hallo. Wil je een kopje koffie (would you like a coffee)?” Arjan asked as he walked into the glass cabin.
Ravi struggled for a moment to find the right response in Dutch. “Ja zeker. Ik heb altijd gevonden nederlandse moeilijk (Yeah sure. I have always found Dutch difficult),” he laughed.
“I won’t trouble you in Dutch then. Tell me more about this venture of yours.”
“At the meeting”
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, Ravi laid out the growth plans of the startup. He talked about Ayush, his key programmer and the virtues of the platform they had built so far. He also provided him a brief demo of the prototype and emphasised on how the video-on-demand segment was about to explode in India.
“I’m in,” Arjan said finally.
Ravi was esctatic. “That’s great!”
“I will give you 500,000 dollars for 49 per cent of the company.”
That was higher than the share Ravi had in mind. They haggled and Ravi ultimately agreed upon parting with 40 per cent of the equity for his investment.
“Do you have the contract papers ready?” Arjan asked.
Ravi replied that he did and handed over the documents to him.
“I’ll have my people look over this,” Arjan replied. “When do you return to India?”
“Day after tomorrow. It’s an early morning flight out of Schipol,” he answered.
“Then we’ll try to button this up by tomorrow evening. You’ll return to India with an investor for your venture.”
This was music to Ravi’s ears. He was thrilled and found it hard to contain his excitement. They were in business, his little venture was going to flourish, he would soon be rich, and other such thoughts hurriedly rushed through his mind. He instantly sent a message to Ayush through his Blackberry detailing all the events of the day. “We are on!” the message ended on that note.
Part 3: What happened to Ayush?
The next morning was not very productive. Ravi had received no response from Ayush as yet. But he knew that he would have been delighted with this development. He made his way to Arjan’s office towards late afternoon. His staff was still going over the documents, so he bided his time reading a corporate brochure that talked about the achievements for D&H over the course of 18 years.
“It’s been cleared,” Arjan declared as he walked up towards him in the conference room, waving the documents.
He grabbed a pen and signed on the dotted line. Handing over the papers to Ravi, he shook his hand profusely. “You’ll receive the funds shortly. Now we should celebrate,” Arjan said.
Ravi walked out of the office with a spring in his step. Actually, it could even have been a jump. He wasn’t sure. He was just plain happy and relieved, that he wasn’t returning home empty-handed. He marveled at the speed with which he had managed to conclude the transaction. He wanted to share the news with Ayush and then decided that he would deliver the good news to him in person within a few hours.
“Ravi messaged to Ayush”
They headed for the Red Light District and spent the rest of the evening hopping pubs and clubs, recalling incidents from their days at Delft University and generally drinking themselves silly. By 2 am, they finally concluded their merrymaking. Arjan’s severely combed blond hair now appeared like a pile of hay in disarray. It was time for Ravi to catch his flight back to Bengaluru.
He arrived at Schipol airport in a totally inebriated state. Glancing at his mobile, he noticed a message from Ayush. He opened it and as he read the message, he suddenly felt ill, very ill.
Story So Far: Ravi has a dream to become an entrepreneur. He was focused to achieve his goal but he was out of money (not having enough funds). He wanted an investor for his business. One day he met his friend and discussed his deal with him. He agreed to invest in his business. Find out what happened next in the last part of Woman’s Era Originals.
Part 4: Ravi switched to Corporate Job
“There has been some breaking news. Termed as the Panama Papers, the revelations throw light on offshore shell companies used for tax evasion, bribery and money laundering. Arjan’s firm Driessen and Halsema has also been named in the papers. They are under the scanner for bribes and kickbacks in association with major contracts in African countries. Cases have been lodged simultaneously in London and The Hague. Arjan’s personal investments are being scrutinised to establish the money trail. Advise against getting this person on board.”
“His dream shattered”
Ravi sank into the chair in the lounge, the alcohol and the message both taking a heavy toll on him. If only he had received this message a few hours before, if only he hadn’t been so overwhelmed by Arjan’s success and felt compelled to have him on board, if only he had demonstrated some patience before sealing the deal, then he wouldn’t have landed this trouble on his hands. He boarded the flight home, carrying with him the burden of unwanted baggage, the future of his entrepreneurial career hanging in midair.
Later, when Ravi would narrate the story of his entrepreneurial days – for every entrepreneur has a fascinating story to tell – he would identify this incident as the turning point, one that made him finally decide that he had had enough and would get him to switch to a corporate job. So, how did Arjan react when Ravi shuttered down the venture and returned his funds? Ravi would smile on being asked this question. He would clasp his hands and rub his lower lip thoughtfully. The response was fairly muted, he would reply. The communication was handled by the lawyers. Arjan had grander matters to attend to – such as evading the red-corner notice issued by the Interpol! What Ravi did not reveal to others was that the incident had marked a collapse of his hopes and that he no longer felt very clever.