‘I was insecure about my friends going to college’: Nikhil Kamath on dropping out from school

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Nikhil Kamath, the co-founder of Zerodha, apparently felt a pang of insecurity when his friends went on to college and he dropped out from school. “My friends didn’t drop out and I felt insecure about them going to college,”Kamath said in an interview with The Print’s Editor-In-Chief Shekhar Gupta.

Kamath shed light on the financial freedom that comes with dropping out of college early on. He explained it as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s a certain thrill of having your own income at a young age. Kamath himself highlights this, mentioning his Rs 8,000 paycheck at his first call center job. This financial independence can be a real confidence booster, especially at 17.

“I feel the psychology behind that is very interesting. I used to earn Rs 8,000 in my first job at the call centre in Bengaluru, selling accidental health insurance for a company called Stone Bridge. So at the age of 17, I was feeling really good about myself as I could earn a bit of money. You start feeling unnerved when your friends graduate from college and get their first job.”

However, Kamath acknowledges the flip side. As friends graduate and land “respectable” jobs, often in prestigious fields like medicine or engineering, that initial confidence can be shaken.  Social norms and societal expectations can create a feeling of being left behind, even if you’re financially stable.

“There is a societal stigma for a job and it could be any job. So when my friends graduated and became doctors or engineers, then it impacted me in a certain way,” he added.

Downplaying his billionaire status, Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath took a jab at Bengaluru’s startup scene. He called the wealth there “paper rich,” meaning it’s inflated by stock value rather than actual cash. Kamath explained that many tech companies, which fueled Bengaluru’s boom, hold limited cash reserves.  

In his view, this creates a situation where wealth looks bigger than it is, like a fancy piece of paper instead of cold, hard cash.

When asked about becoming India’s youngest billionaire, he told ThePrint, “It’s not real money.” “Bengaluru has the most paper wealth and very little expendable wealth. The paper rich from here made money in tech companies and tech companies have no cash…Paper money gives you the appearance of wealth,” Kamath added.

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