Updated: Apr 13, 2020
It was not too long ago - the start of February. Life was...stable.
The Mrs. was on maternity leave, and our 2-month old Arjun was hale and hearty. We took a trip to Bombay. The plan was, I'd return to Vancouver in a couple of weeks to resume my job, and Prachi and Arjun would stay back for a few months so that our extended (and very extended) family would get some time to spend with the new baby.
Then, COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It was a concern when we flew to Bombay. On Air China, of all airlines. It was a growing concern when I flew back to resume work - mask worthy. And that's when the drama started.
I self-quarantined for two weeks, only to be laid off when I returned to office. Now, I've only worked for my family business, or run my own startup. Working for someone else was new to me. Being laid off was VERY new to me.
Sure, I took my day or two to mope around. But then once my head cleared, I went about my usual hyper-rational thought process. What's in my zone of control, my zone of influence, and beyond that?
My situation was - unemployed, away from family, at the worst time to look for a new job - especially for someone with a niche job role. So what were my options?
One, I could be bitter and blame the world. Two, I could be worried and fearful. Or three, I could take all of this head on. I chose to sit down with a 6-pack of BC craft beer (33 Acres of Sunshine) and think rationally. Was it in my control to expedite the job search? No. Was it in my control to get my wife and son here ASAP? No. So then, what was in my control? - It was to stay positive and productive during these testing times.
So I thought to myself - what is it that I love doing, that can help others, that can potentially become a workable business model, and - lastly - doesn't need a ton of capital?
What do I love doing? I'm a hyper-networker. I love meeting and talking to new people. I'm good at forming meaningful connections. My friends routinely wonder how I know so many people in such a short span of time in this country. I also love building things from scratch and watching them evolve. Like my previous three startups.
What can help others? I had been observing during my two years in Vancouver how large numbers of Indians were moving to Canada. There were many skilled professionals coming - a different demographic from those who moved in the past few decades. I always felt that students and blue-collar workers had existing social networks to plug into - their college campus and people from their hometown respectively. But this crop of skilled professionals did not. They were often living abroad for the first time. The existing support systems did not completely meet their requirements from a community.
A workable business model - I felt that if one was able to meet this need for relevant social and professional networks, provide guidance in a structured manner and connect these new immigrants to verified service partners, there was a business model possible. Everything doesn't have to be a world-disrupting idea. Often it is good enough to meet an unmet need and do a great job at it. In this case, all it needed is my time and expertise. Not too much capital.
So that's how Diasporaa was born. It's been less than 8 weeks and we are already a family of over 400 members across 4 communities. I am truly excited for the days ahead and am grateful that in the midst of this unprecedented global situation, I was able to remain optimistic and channel it into something that made a positive difference to others.