Our world has been most captivated by the ideas of extreme players who took the world by storm, some who pulled the stock market to heights and figured that path to success. Our fundamental knowledge of success comes from people like Dhirubhai Ambani (1), Ratan Tata (2), Jeff Bezos (3), Azim Premji (4)- those who won the market in the ’70s and the youthpreneurs like the Flipkart Brothers who shaped the way for Indian e-commerce retail. Our knowledge is so limited to these kinds of success that our success doesn’t match theirs for the sake of confidence itself but, some unsung heroes fought bravely against the speed of time, and their stories are the real inspirations that make up for the present-day world. One such story has been the Life of Ashok Varma, a man whose vision has been betrayed.
Ashok Varma may not have been India’s most prominent entrepreneur, but he certainly left a mark that could inspire a generation to build ideas and talents and balance it. His work had been commended by many, and he was revered by his people who looked up to him and these ideas that were bountiful for success. He was the founder of “Report Garden” a SaaS startup that was counted for a million ARR and had a consumer base of thousands across the Globe. It was also a rare opportunity when an indie startup like his got acquired by a US Corporation. By 2018, Ashok was crossing 30, and he wanted to venture into new lines of ideas rather than sticking to a single market, and thus, he made an idea to sell off his Venture toa US-based competitor for millions of dollars. His craving for that stimulus of engaging in a new venture set sail for something much bigger and valuable than Report Gardena and believed that the venture could make his company a Million dollar ARR company.
Ashok Varma was born in 1988 in a middle-class family. He recalls his family to be quiet people who kept to their work and never intended to disturb the others. His father was a government official, and his mother was a teacher at a school. He had a brother, and they all resided in Hyderabad. He was a boy who was fascinated with bringing up solutions; he would indulge in family problems and deal with ethem even though his father would advise him to stay out of it. His answers were straightforward and human alike and never took a breath away from anyone. His family has enough to live happy lives and were content. His brother would recall them sleeping together on a single BHK, dreaming of more significant prospects and achievements in life.
Varma’s attitude to academics was sparked with interest and dedication. As a quiet boy, he would spend time preparing and studying for a better future. He used to top his exams in Vignan Schools in Hyderabad. He had a sting for research analysis. After his schooling, he applied for a Master’s in Information Systems at BITS, Pilani. He was a curious individual who spends most of his time preparing his mental accuracy through chess and other board games. In 2009, he joined KNOLSKAPE, a startup based in Singapore, which developed assessment platforms for employee development. He was most fascinated by the idea and the way programming works and wanted to conceptualize a product that could help the state community.
He spent time analyzing market needs and developing ideas. He started to research Mobil app to SaaS applications that could meet his approach. He always considered Failure to be a stepping stone for success. Finally, he developed Report Garden.
The Days of REPORT GARDEN
Varma eventually had been spending most of his time earlier designing reports and calculating analytics, which was seriously and time killer, according to him. He could help himself focus on the aspects of his growing career and spent most of his time fixing up graphs and reports. He realized the pain that many might have undergone through the messy time and wanted to speed up the process at which report creation took place. He built a prototype software of his version that created Google advertisement analytics ina matter of minutes. He pushed him to create financing to develop the product. Thus, he started up his venture through incorporation and indulged in discussions with customers who faced similar problems, and therefore, Report Garden was initialized.
Varma’s Report Garden was growing ever since its inception, and sales have crossed their initial levels. He solely was making revenue of 10000 dollars every month even though they didn’t have the capital for initial development. He found success and wanted to expand by calling in his friends and previous workforce. It included some of his alumni for BITS and one guy from his last startup venture “GharPay.” He also called in his brother to run the operation together. The company was growing then and thereon. In 2016, the company had hit its first 1 Million ARR mark, and by 2018, it has crossed the 3 Million ARR mark. The company grew in size with more employees and had completed service for more than 1500 customers worldwide. Eventually, they ran short on finance.
Selling Report Garden
Later in 2018, Varma had noticed the growing workforce and short revenue over time. The business grew challenging, and Report Garden was going through many workforce-related issues; they even face negative reviews on Glassdoor (5). He regretted bringing in such a large tam even on such a low budget and felt that he could solely run the company with a dedicated team. He also hoped to reach the 10 Million ARR mark. Later on, he received an acquisition offer. He felt that it was in the best of his interest to leave the company and enquire with his US competitors in the Acquisition. He received an offer much higher than the initial one. He felt good that this was happening and was joyous at the new change in life.
One day, he started to receive emails about his employees’ and customers’ details. The email from an Anonymous and cc’d was his senior heads. He didn’t know what to do and thought this would stop. The emails kept arriving every day, and this panicked him. He talked this over with the US entity, and the deal was downgraded. The actions to find out the email owner had much effect on the company. Law and order in the US didn’t go well with Ashok’s Report Garden. It became even more complicated. After filing with the cybercrime and engaging in talks, he decided to pay back the employees in terms of unpaid ESOP’s (Employee stock ownership plan), but this didn’t change anything in dissolving the problem. It still kept happening. He couldn’t even approach creating his new startup due to RBI conflicts.
One morning, Ashok Varma died by suicide, it shook the company and the acquirer. His people and family were heartbroken at the news. The emails still didn’t stop. The cybercrime detected that the emails were from the company itself, and it was none other than the company’s finance head itself. He confessed to sending out the emails. Alas, the end of a new phase that could have shaped the startup phase in India.