The End of 13 Llama Studio – and What I Learnt From It

It has been a year and a half since the transition started, and it just got over around last week.

Prasad’s and my labour of love, 13 Llama Studio, has officially ceased to exist. As you were aware that we had started on our journey of entrepreneurship around five years ago, with an agency named 13 Llama Studio. In the summer of 2016, I decided to end my stint with it, and Prasad decided to pivot to a pure digital marketing agency called 13 Llama Interactive.

Things weren’t looking really rosy for the development part of our business for a few months then. There were a few things we could have and should have done differently. Some time in the spring that year, we took a call that our friendship is more important than a business partnership, and we decided to streamline projects and teams under either of us. Some time around June, I took stock of the situation and realised that I was bleeding at a rate higher than all of our billings combined were able to sustain. If I had deeper pockets, I would have tried to restart everything and take another shot at the kind of company I had dreamt of making.

Sadly, that was not the case. Soon after deciding to shut down the development business, and putting away the name 13 Llama Studio, I was out in the job market looking for openings. Friends were contacted, headhunters I had not spoken in half a decade got calls from me, and resumes on online sites were dusted and preened.

Thanks to many friends, I had interviews soon after, and after converting three of them, I decided to join ICICI Securities Private Wealth Management as the marketing guy. It’s been seventeen months here, and I’m loving every bit of it. The transition was a bit difficult, but owing to the way this place is set up, it wasn’t that difficult. How I have fared here, and what plans I have over here may be the subject of some other post in the future.

Today I would like to share what I learnt from this entrepreneurship stint:

  1. Vision: Every business needs to have clarity of vision — where you want to be in a year, in 5 years, in a decade, and a clear plan of how you plan to get there, not just an industry and a product/service you are going to offer. You can’t wing this.
  2. Being on the same page: No matter how strong your friendship is, your business wouldn’t survive unless all founders/partners agree on the vision and ways of doing business. And constantly communicating with each other about this and whatever you think is important for the business. Skip this step, and you risk your friendship.
  3. Hiring: I had read in the book Ogilvy on Advertising, that if everyone in a company hired people smaller than themselves, it becomes a company of dwarves, while if everyone hired people bigger than themselves, it would become a company of giants. We could not adhere to this principle, despite seeing the merit of it and being awed by the simplicity of it. But to be fair to us, we weren’t spoilt for choice when we first began operations — though I believe that had we acted right back then, it’d have become easier for us progressively.
  4. Hiring the right clients: A small company is eager to survive, to grow, and to thrive. And for each progressive stage, one has to get progressively selective with the kind of projects one onboards and the kind of clientelle one associates with. Through our journey we had a handful of amazing clients, who, no surprises there, are now at the peak of their respective businesses, and are overall happy in life – because they operate out of a sense of fairness and abundance. On the other hand, we had quite a few clients we should have said no to, or should have been careful with while laying down the rules of engagement – these clients operated out of a incessant drive for extracting maximum bang for buck combined with disrespect for what we did for them.
  5. Valuing ourselves: For too long both of us worked at the company with meagre salaries. Either of us still drew more pay than any of the rest of the staff, but that doesn’t say much. This led us to believe for long that we were profitable. We were growing no doubt, in billings, in the size of office we could hire, in getting a coffee machine, and somewhat respectable furniture, but we weren’t valuing ourselves, the founders, at our full cost. The only saving grace was that we began with very little capital, so the return-on-investment seemed respectable optically. But given our backgrounds, and the kind of opportunity costs we both incurred, it was criminal the way we ignored it while doing a health check of the company.

Having run that company we both loved for around three and a half years has left us only wiser. And our friendship remains strong. Whatever we do now is guided by experience and wisdom.

Here’s to the future!

Mono Italia

An angel in Rome

It was a dream. A recurring one.
I am on a cobbled street. I enter a big stone archway, the other side is a little bit darker. There’s a little water body on the “inside”. It’s very quiet, even during the day, no people around, but it feels safe. I feel calm. It’s lovely.
I have had this dream a few times.

I don’t anymore. Because I think I lived the dream. While walking in the alleys of Rome, I felt like I was where the dream used to take me. Deserted lanes lead to deserted lanes lead to lanes where people are shopping, merrymaking, performing, having their aperitif, and generally walking, lead to piazzas where more of the same happens, around a beautiful fountain, or a cathedral, or some statues. At every turn of every lane, I half-expected my dream to turn real, just as I remember it. That didn’t happen, however, the dream stayed at arm’s length throughout my journey in Italy.

Now let’s turn the dream to black and white. Because dreams are black and white? Or because like Vittorio De Sica’s films, I had loved Italy in black and white the most. The idea to go monochrome isn’t really my own though — Master of None did it with their first episode of the second season — which was the starting point of this idea of a post. They in fact paid a tribute to many Italian neorealist films, the most prominent one being the classic Bicycle Thief — they even named the episode The Thief. I didn’t get anything stolen, not at least in Italy. Yet there’s something in the air of Italy that forces me to relook at everything in black and white. Because black and white is pure, it’s romantic, and it goes deeper than just colours. Much like how Italy is.

On Culling

The last few days have been about culling, processing, processing and culling, stitching panos, and then some more culling. And a few celeb reposts (yaay!) on Instagram while that happened.

Culling for me is definitely a more difficult job than processing, you don’t want to miss some shot that could have looked good after a bit of dusting, and therefore you do a bit of processing during culling, a bit of r, a tap of v, move the sliders a bit, whither goes the curve. And, hey I shot so many shots in succession – I need to see how they look after stitching… and while that happens, let me go brew a cup of coffee.

Sigh, culling life. New post coming up on the weekend, promise!

Mullickghat, Kolkata

I have lived in Kolkata for 20+ years, most of it when it was still Calcutta. The photography bug caught me while I was still living there, but I never got a chance to shoot the city’s markets, which are a favourite subject for photographers, especially street photographers coming to Calcutta.

This changed in 2013, when Abhishek, with his new DSLR, planned a trip to the flower market at Mullickghat. He had been there a couple of times, and thought I’d enjoy it too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the early morning trip, the bustle of the market, the burst of colours, the various facets of everyday life, the cliched, the interesting, the faces, the crowds, the merchandise, the congestion, the energy, and our typical Calcutta breakfast after the shoot – hing kachori at one of the sweet shops.

So here it is, finally, the photo set from Mullickghat, Kolkata, 2013. ~ ~ ~


I dream of this place often. I have been there, and I haven’t really been there. Was it the desert planet of Tatooine, or was it closer home, on our very own planet? I remember the Sun shining mercilessly and the winds chilling our bones, especially in the shade, and the magnificent clouds dotting the impossibly blue skies.

This was the day my trip ended, of Ladakh.