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Downsized

His simpler life

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When Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mukund Mohan decided to make his life simpler in 2001, he started by getting rid of the television. In fact, his four children - an 11-year-old daughter, seven-year-old twin girls and nine-year-old son - have practically grown up without a television in the house. The next year, Mukund, as he likes to be called, stopped wearing suits. In the following two years, he gave up wearing formal shirts and shoes. "I just took that whole process of deciding what to wear out of my morning routine. Life became much simpler when I owned a few T-shirts, pants and one pair of chappals, " says Mukund, who works as the CEO-in-residence at the Microsoft Accelerator in Bangalore (the Accelerator is a startup-mentoring programme run by Microsoft).

In 2008, when Mukund and his family moved from the US to Bangalore, he had already sold two Silicon Valley startups in the Internet and enterprise software markets, besides having worked in companies like Hewlett Packard, Ariba, Inc and CiscoSystems. In Bangalore, he founded and sold BuzzGain, a social media tracking service, to Meltwater in January 2010. By any standards, Mukund was a wealthy man.

But the move to India only "accelerated" the process of living simply with few possessions and fewer needs. In the US, Mukund was driving an Audi and a BMW;after moving to India, he bought a Maruti Alto. Even that is used sparingly and Mukund prefers to travel on the city bus. "It is possible to do things this way in India. In the US, it's tougher to walk down somewhere in the neighbourhood or use public transport as a family, " he says.

Mukund takes the bus every day from his house in north Bangalore to his office at the heart of the city - a distance of about 20 km. He laughs when you ask him why. "I like riding on the bus. I like watching people, talking to them. You can read on a bus. " While the small car they own is used to ferry the kids around at times, the family often takes bus rides together as well. "Waiting for the bus teaches you patience. Walking to catch a bus - not to mention running after it - is great exercise, " he adds.
Achieving a simple lifestyle has become something of a mantra for him. He likes the challenges and the discipline it imposes on him and his children. For years now, he has been having only one of three things for breakfast - oatmeal, bread or idlis (and the bread could go soon).

The time saved in thinking of what to eat, planning the meal and shopping for it can be put to better use, he feels. "Almost 90 per cent of the time, dinner for us is daal and chapati. The kids may want pizza once in a while, and that's okay, " he says. "If you think about it, almost everything is an acquired need. Except for things like water, what do we really need? Basic food, basic living... it makes things so much less complicated, " he says. The area of Bangalore where he lives sees frequent power cuts. When that happens in Mukund's house, it's candlelight time. "We did have an inverter, but it stopped working a few years ago and we never replaced it. Now when the power goes, we just light candles. It's really not that tough, you know. And the kids actually enjoy it. They even do their homework by candlelight, " he says.

When Mukund sold his last company two years ago, initially he didn't really want to do anything by way of earning a living (he was even featured in a TOICrest story on early retirees). He didn't really need to work, and he wanted to spend time with his father, play with the kids and generally lead a retired life. But a few months later, he got involved with some start-ups he was advising and ended up heading the Accelerator, Microsoft's start-up incubator for its Azure cloud platform.
"To be honest, we are very well-todo, " says Mukund. "I draw a salary, and my wife takes care of our investments, for which we use fairly simple mechanisms. We have two money managers - one here and one in the US. Practically speaking, we don't need the money, " he says. The family doesn't spend more than 15-20 per cent of its income - and most of that goes into the children's education. They do live in a biggish fourbedroom villa, but there are six people to accommodate, and plus, "it would be too much trouble to move somewhere, says Mukund, "This is simpler. "

What was the easiest thing to scale back on when you downsized? Easiest thing to scale back on was food, especially chocolates. I used to love dark chocolate, but it wasn't tough to give it up What was the toughest/what did you miss the most? My gadgets. Now I have a rule. If my kids get a new toy, they have to give away something they already have. That way, not more than 20 toys are at home. I loved my gadgets, especially new cell phones. I would buy a new gadget each month What kept you from slipping back into the old lifestyle? Discipline and my kids since I have to be a role model for them. They keep me honest and ensure that I don't slip back into old habits

Reader's opinion (2)

Brijmohan SinghMay 23rd, 2013 at 18:10 PM

Practically, (i may be wrong) Sir Mukund has actually had a taste of everything (BMW's, AUdi's , Gaint MNC's , US - which we all just dream of)and he knows whts best for him.. so, this is human tendency , not sure how this could be inspirational.

Nitz19arg May 21st, 2013 at 13:56 PM

great thinking....I aspire to follow it one day in future.

 
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