“My dad asked me if I am okay being called a ‘chaddiwaala’ when I told him I wanted to make boxers for a living,” chuckles Shubham Kedia, CEO and founder of Whats Down. “People often over-simplify occupations to the extent of trivialising them. Since he’s the CEO of Sudarshan Cars, my family’s car rental business, he may be referred to as a ‘driver’.” However, for Shubham, happiness precedes money, labels, and designations.
This does not imply that money is dispensable or that Shubham has no monetary responsibilities. Shubham’s relationship with money is less about its pursuit, and more about finding value in work and life. Money is a facilitator, not the focus. Field Notes, the series that investigates people’s priorities and relationships with money, traces Shubham’s perspective of finances.
Shubham does not draw a salary from Whats Down or from Sudarshan Cars where he consults for their marketing and digital outreach. While Sudarshan Cars is currently the sole investor in Whats Down, Shubham is working towards making his enterprise financially independent. “I will not call myself financially independent unless Whats Down can survive on its own without investors and lenders,” he says.
While he may believe otherwise, to an onlooker, Shubham is financially independent. He has efficiently navigated through his last job in Australia to create a nest egg to sustain him till Whats Down starts generating profits. He credits his Marwari genes for inculcating the habit to save. “As a Marwari, I am genetically wired to save money. It is easy to spend money when you earn a good figure. Whenever I was tempted to overspend or indulge when I was in Australia, I converted prices in Australian dollars to Indian rupees and asked myself if I should spend so much. My answer would be right there.”
Books like The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape and The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick J. McGinnis have also helped him save efficiently. The former suggests dividing income into percentages and putting money in different bank accounts. Shubham has multiple bank accounts, “I’ve written on my ATM cards what each card is meant for.” Yet he feels that he was financially more independent in Australia than he is right now. “In Australia, I lived in a rented home and apart from personal expenses, I had to only manage my house rent. The rest I saved and invested. But in India, I stay with family. While I don’t have to pay any rent, I have to give salaries for people who I work with. My account is the same as the Whats Down account and till that does not become substantial to support all the employees, even on rainy days, I can’t call myself financially independent.”
For Whats Down too, Shubham has a plan in place to help it break even in the near future with concepts derived from the book The 10% Entrepreneur. It teaches ways to establish a side-hustle alongside a regular job with 10% of your time and money. Whats Down also offers marketing solutions to upcoming brands for an additional stream of income. While everything does come down to money and numbers, Shubham asserts that he strives towards a holistic life where he can enjoy his work as well as his money, “I don’t want to burn-out chasing money. What’s the point of wealth if I’m not happy?”
When Shubham returned to India, he did have the option to revert to a job but chose to start a business since the office-culture in India had no work-life balance and he didn’t want to conform to the 9-to-5 grind.That’s how he decided to launch Whats Down. He also had a deep interest in the space and he always felt that there was a dearth of fun boxers and the ones available in the market were simply boring. He says, “I researched in my peer-group and figured that men still do wear boxers. In a country of 1.3 billion, even if 5% of the population wears boxers, it’s a good number of buyers.”
Interestingly, Shubham does not undermine money even as he positions happiness over money. His methods of spending and earning money revolve around contentment and work satisfaction and not a balance-sheet of numbers and profits. Which is not to say that the latter won’t transpire for Shubham, it will eventually, given that he seems to be making the best of his privilege and opportunities towards growth and financial freedom.