Stressed to the nines

Stressed to the nines
With more than 6,000 startups having their base in the city, it is no wonder that Bengaluru is called the startup capital of the country and India’s answer to Silicon Valley. But the bubble surrounding this hyped-about field is slowly fading and the signs are visible in the entrepreneurial community as more and more CEOs and founders show symptoms of stress and fatigue.

Says Rahm Shastry, CEO and founder, DriveU “Starting a company is one of the most difficult jobs right now because 90-95% of startups fail. There is a tendency in our culture to lionise all the successes and this leads to a built-in pressure to prove yourself. We need to talk about how startups are more likely to fail than succeed and set realistic expectations from your youngsters.”

The pressure often sets in after the first round of funding is received, Rahm points out. “When the scale expands, then as a CEO you are now responsible for the life of all your employees. Running low on cash and other problems are normal but you are alone at the top and can’t disclose all this to anyone. So entrepreneurs usually keep everything to themselves and the pressure builds up. Somebody might start taking drugs to forget about these things. And in extreme cases, they resort to taking their own life.”

Such is the strain associated with this profession that anxiety is a common syndrome among the youngsters in this field. Says Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant psychiatrist at Sakra Hospital, “Almost 90 percent of my clients are IT professionals and a good portion of them are startup founders. Now everybody wants to become an entrepreneur, it has become a trend. But everybody does not have a clear idea about what they are getting into. People have told me that they have to work 15-18 hours per day. Sleepless nights and lack of entertainment coupled with the usual anxieties of a business is taking a toll on this community.”

Dr Naveen gives an example of a young couple who visited him recently. They had set up a startup but the husband, unable to cope with the pressures, had slipped into depression. The wife couldn’t manage things on her own and this compounded their problems.

But people who are getting into this field should know the kind of crazy scenario they are putting themselves into, says Shishir Shetty, Business Head, South India, ‘ReachAll’. “Stress is there in all professions, it is not something new or exclusive to the startup community. That is the price you pay if you want to call yourself a startup founder.”

Rahm has a word of advice on how to tackle this problem that is fast snowballing into a major health concern. “Most of the new entrants into this field are young kids with limited experience. They need to have a mentor, someone who has gone through this before. Also they have to be told that failure is an option. You need to know when to hold and when to fold. If you have tried everything to get the company going and you still can’t get it to run, it is better to let go.”
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