I liked Chhichhore, the film was all about the carefree college and hostel days. It was the sort of film that we can all add to, with our own versions of the same story. I had my own set of characters – Sexa, Acid, Derek and Bevda. But I didn’t like Rajput. At least not at that time. I only started liking him when unfortunately, he was no more, when I read more about him and his struggles, when I could relate to him a lot more. No, given my looks, Bollywood wasn’t ever an option for me neither did I try. But relate to him I could.

His death got me thinking – Bollywood strugglers, Startup founders….is there a connection? A common ground? While both are as different as chalk & cheese, they seem to have the same underlying theme where nothing succeeds like success & nothing fails like failure either.

Stress and overwhelming anxiety is a reality for both. And sometimes, ones who do not make it through the criteria find themselves in a whirlpool of doubt and depression. Unable to take the failure in the face of family and peer pressure, they often resort to actions which can cause irreparable damage to themselves and their families.

Let’s take a closer look at both the ecosystems. Every year thousand & thousands of hopefuls land up in Mumbai, hoping for their big break. Young boys and girls with starry dreams arrive by the dozens every day in Bollywood. Only a very small % of these strugglers ever make it to the glitzy side of the real Bollywood, but this depressing statistic never affects the surge of hopefuls. In reality, it’s only five percent of those who see their dreams reaching the level they set for themselves. Yet, braving all odds majority of the pack, labelled as “strugglers” in Bollywood parlance, continues to dream of becoming the next AB or SRK.

The only other ecosystem that can give competition to this statistic is that of Start-up. Indian cinema is the largest national film industry in terms of the number of films produced, we are the third-largest ecosystem in the world as far as startups are concerned. Every year thousands of Startups are launched though they also don’t score too high on quality, like their movie counterparts. Bollywood has its Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri, SRK, Akshay, PC, Aamir etc; we have our own celebratory entrepreneurs – Sachin and Binny Bansal, VSS, Bhavish Aggarwal, Ritesh Agarwal etc. who need no introduction.

When an aspiring actor comes to Mumbai he goes from one production house to another looking for jobs. Reminds me of when a Startup founder goes to the ‘pitching events’ in the hope of landing a meeting with a VC or a potential investor.

As far as money goes, Bollywood’s investment model is not exactly working while the same could be said about the big VCs putting in obscene amounts in massively-funded startups as if money is the only criteria for startup success. Which proves the point whether it is the movies or the Start-ups, it is the underlying content & the story that sells, not the massively mounted glitzy disasters like ‘Mohenjo Daro’ or its equivalent ‘We-Work’. For every Flipkart, Oyo, Paytm, or Ola, there are 50 other failed startups. In fact, 90 percent Indian startups fail within the first five years. Didn’t I say the failure rate is similar & depressingly high. As you were reading this article, 7-8 new startups were created (and probably even more). And by the time you finish it, a similar number of existing ones would have folded.

So both ecosystems have a lot in common, be it founders (strugglers) or investors (production houses). I am neither a Sushant Singh fan nor I love Bollywood. But his untimely demise shook most of us from inside. I can’t talk much about Bollywood strugglers but as far as the startup ecosystem is concerned, it is lonely out there. Being a founder can be a hard, a very hard experience. You’ll face different all sorts of problems— right from recruitment to finding a way to pay employees, acquiring users, raising funds etc.

Some of the very best support one can get during tough early days comes from friends who are in the same boat. So find more like you. Find the founder community; you just have to tap into it. Reach out – Talk, communicate, Express. Find more of your kind. No matter what stage you’re at in your business, joining a group of founders who meets regularly to support each other’s entrepreneurial ventures is one of the best things you can do for you & your company.

BTW back to Bollywood, Andheri, the Mumbai suburb is every struggler’s springboard to Bollywood. Hopes rise and sink in every rented apartment housing filmi hopefuls. On any given day, Andheri’s coffee shops swarm with ripped bodies and girls in slinky clothes, all hoping to get discovered like Kangana Ranaut did. If you dream of the spotlight, it’s pointed at Andheri.

Startups don’t have to go all the way to Andheri to improve their odds of success – they can just apply to our next cohort 🙂


Stay safe!

Ashish Bhatia, Founder & CEO, India Accelerator