Business Standard has a story (in The Strategist, by Prerna Raturi) on what some of the former dotcommers in India are currently doing and the lessons they have learnt. It features me, too [need to scroll down to the bottom of the page]. Some of my quotes are paraphrased from my earlier writings on the blog (on Entrepreneurship).
Rajesh Jain, managing director, Netcore Solutions Pvt Ltd, launched Indiaworld.com in 1995, which was acquired by Sify in November 1999 for $115 million. With his focus back to Netcore Solutions, which creates innovations to bridge the digital divide in small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as the rural populace in developing countries, Jain is still working with technology and the Internet space.
I am an entrepreneur to the core and understand the risks involved with anything new. I know that sometimes, things work, sometimes, they dont. If things fail, it is back to the drawing board. I also believe that entrepreneurs (including me) work not with maps, but with compasses you know the direction, but do not have the territory charted out.
Indiaworld was launched with a vision to bridge the gap between Indians worldwide and grew to be one of the largest collection of India-centric websites Samachar (news), newsASIA, Khel (cricket), Khoj (search engine), Man Pasand (favourites), Dhan (personal finance), Bawarchi (food), Itihaas (history) and Indialine (Internet).
The sale to Sify was not because of a financial crunch. It was because we felt that, in order to grow our Indiaworld business, we needed a bigger partner and more funds.
Setting up a business in India is non-trivial. There is little help from VCs or banks. Being small is almost a bane. So, it is very important for a business to be profitable at an early stage. Being acquired is not a long-term strategy (or for that matter, even a short-term one).
The challenge, of course, is to ensure that short-term profit motives are balanced by long-term strategic decisions. In our case, the home pages business generated the short-term revenues, while the investment in a network of websites offered a longer-term opportunity for building up page views so as to target advertisers.
Entrepreneurs have a vision of how tomorrow can be different and better, something that is not so obvious to others. In doing so, they have to convince non-believers and naysayers. They have to build a team and get customers, battling odds at every stage. Envisioning how tomorrow can be different is the starting point of the dream. For this, look beyond the immediate area of interest to other areas that can impact it. No business is a 100-metre sprint. To win the marathon, entrepreneurs need to first ensure that they can last the distance. Look beyond the near-term. A new business must not be pressured by time at the start. But it also becomes harder to look further ahead. That is the challenge: this ability to build a framework a mental map of the landscape in the future is what can help create the right foundation for the business. While the natural instinct on starting up may be to go and raise capital so you can build a business top down (with money and a strong management team), the best way to build a lasting business is by being profitable as quickly as possible. Running a start-up is a life-and-death business. An entrepreneur is perhaps no more than two or three mistakes away from business death.