“What’s in a POR?” 4.0 – Advitiya (Adhu) Sharma

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Correspondent – Anant Kekre

A short introduction

Advitiya Sharma
Aerospace Engineering Department
IIT Bombay 2007-’12
Co-Founder, Housing.co.in

What were your expectations when you entered IIT Bombay? How would you say the first year treated you?

I remember myself entering IIT with a hope to meet amazing people who would inspire me, and influence the way I thought of things. I come from a small town in Jammu & Kashmir, and was hoping IIT Bombay would make some of the best years of my life. And boy, it did.

I have always loved playing football, and my freshie year ensured I loved it more than ever. Having also played at the national level, I jumped headfirst into the team preparing for Inter-IIT that year – the one to take place in IIT Bombay itself.

During the countless practise sessions I observed this whole bunch of people sweating themselves off for days, not only because they loved the game, but chiefly because they loved being part of a team. In particular, the Captain of our team, Sumeet Malik – who was also the General Secretary Sports Affairs that year – inspired me to a large extent. In addition to handling the responsibilities of a General Secretary and organising the Inter-IIT in the college, his commitment towards his team was extraordinary. This taught me one important fact about people here that I will never forget – they did things not because they had to, but because they wanted to – and were deeply passionate about them. And I was likewise spurred to achieve the same dedication to my path through the coming years. Our team, after a drought of 7 years, finally won the Inter-IIT Football Trophy, and I am proud to have scored the winning goal.

I was awarded the Sports Freshman of the Year that year. My first year turned out to be the best I could have ever imagined. And my passion for football was deeper than ever.

So you had a deep and enduring passion for football. Can you tell us what else you did to work towards what you loved?

I had been devotedly playing football for the past two years, and I felt a strong attachment towards my team. I felt that working for things I loved, and for people who believed in them would be an amazing experience. I became the Institute Football Secretary in my third year.

I always like to imagine how one person through a well constructed and thought-out vision can affect several people and events simultaneously. The efforts get magnified. Being at the forefront of change which is brought through your efforts is an amazing feeling to have.

Being the Institute Football Secretary, I felt the same, and getting to change and modify the football scenario was great. I was awarded the Best Office Bearer for that year. I had proved to myself that I could indeed do things, and my will to do more was stronger than ever. This led me to contest for the post of General Secretary Sports Affairs.

The elections would have been an experience in itself. What did you feel after the results? How did you deal with the loss?

(almost stunned) The election! You ask me to compress so many of life’s experiences into a talk so little! But let me try. If I could say there was one event in my life at IIT that changed me drastically, it would be the elections.

I had been an introvert in school, and the election saw to it that this changed. During this time, I interacted with a variety of people. It was a stark change in my personality that I experienced in a short span of time. Even though the competition was tough, I kept myself strong and stood up for what I believed in. The elections are testing times, and I came face to face with my strengths and my weaknesses.

The results came out, and I had lost. I had been eager to follow my ideology through this path, and realising that I wouldn’t be able to do so by being a GS, was quite disappointing. But there were other avenues that could offer me the chance to work and learn. At that moment I realised that “I had been rejected, but I was still in love,” and rather than dwelling on my failure, I decided to get back up, brush the dust off and find other opportunities to pursue. In the next two years I served as a Mentor, Contingent Leader for Inter-IIT, Hostel Ward nom. and Captain of the Football team.

It turns out the experience indeed strengthened you and taught you a lot. Tell us about the entrepreneur in you, and about your company Housing.co.in.

It was in my fifth year that me, along with a bunch of friends, decided to work on a housing portal that would make home-search hassle-free. At that time we engaged in countless discussions about how it could be brought to life, how it could be designed to become a strong tool for people searching for homes. And it was an amazing phase.

It also gave us the chance to shape something using our own ideas and do things the way we wanted to and felt fit. And I believe all the experiences I’ve had during my stay at IIT help me shape Housing better every single day.

My experience with this company has been extraordinary. To be at the center of things and see them move, and to see so many end users benefiting from your ideas, is a thing in itself – it’s an unrivalled feeling of joy!

Being at the helm of affairs must be a powerful feeling indeed. You got yourself a job at A.T. Kearney, but you left it later. What can you tell us about your job days and your decision to give it up?

I worked with A.T. Kearney for 6 months. During this time, I practically juggled with two jobs at once, the one at my own company and the one at ATK. But I soon realised, as I had thought earlier, that the job did not give me as much pleasure as working with my own team at Housing. In this job, I was doing stuff others had planned for me, and there was little room to dream and change things. And although it would’ve been a great experience, I could not see much value in it.

But in contrast, Housing offered a chance to analyse the system, tweak it at the proper places and time, and see the company grow tremendously. Not surprisingly, I left the job at ATK and dived full time into our venture.

You have had a wonderful journey through your years in IIT Bombay. What is your message to your juniors who are still to make it big?

I have always been fascinated with vectors. A zero vector is one with no magnitude and an indeterminate direction. Early on, we are much like a zero vector. We have little or no experience – the magnitude – and no sense of direction we want to pursue. What is important is to figure out what you love doing, what you dream yourself to be doing several years from now, and get a sense of the direction you’d want to go ahead with. Because even a slight change in the initial stages can deflect you far away from where you intended to be. The focus today seems to be on the magnitude of things – the medals, the PoRs, the job packages – rather than the direction. I would urge everyone to spend this time trying out all the options they think they are crazy about, and decide on a particular direction that should shape their lives later on.

I remember once talking to an alumnus of our college, and we discussed about a general difference he saw in students back in his day in the 80s, from those in the institute today. He said, “Back then the focus was on gaining enriching and valuable experiences in life, instead of achieving a few certificates and medals, which I feel depict everyone’s priorities today.”

So follow your passion, and keep the hunger for gaining amazing experiences always alive.

Thanks a lot! It has been a wonderful conversation, and the readers will definitely learn a lot from your thoughts.