The last year has seen a wave of entrepreneurship unleashed in India. This was fuelled partly by the dotcom frenzy and partly by the dramatic increase in venture capital money available in India (investments up 7 fold to USD 700 million in 2000, expected to at least double this year). Yet, knowledge-driven entrepreneurship is relatively new in India and in its first wave. It is not something may have been through, and there aren’t many associations (formal or informal) one can turn to.
Entrepreneurship is a lot more than just getting an idea and starting a company. It is the tougher choice, not the easier one. It requires a great deal of sacrifice. The odds of failure are incredibly high (9 out of 10 startups will fail within the first two years). To succeed, one needs an incredible amount of dedication and a generous degree of luck. But this is one journey where the joy is as much in the ride as in reaching the destination.
In this week’s series of TechTalks, I will draw upon my experiences in having been an entrepreneur (more failures than successes!) and present some of my learnings. What is presented here is applicable not just if you are starting or running your own company but also where you are working, so you can make the project you are doing more entrepreneurial to be benefit of yourself and your employer.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being an entrepreneur is developing a vision for the future. You need to build an understanding of the business you are in, a mental map of the players, the companies and the trends in the marketplace. This is not something which will happen overnight, but requires an immense amount of reading and thinking.
Very few people actually take the trouble of understanding the industry they are part of. You need to develop this thinking as if your life depends on it (doesn’t it?) so you can place developments as they happen in this map, and even anticipate what is going to happen. This envisioning of the future also lets you paint a picture of tomorrow’s world to your employees and customers, and enables you to see trends in the industry faster. Write CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel in “Competing for the Future”:
Competition for the future is competition to create and dominate emerging opportunities – to stake out new competitive space. Creating the future is more challenging than playing catch up, in that you have to create your own road map. The goal isto develop an independent point of view about tomorrow’s opportunities and how to exploit them. Pathbreaking is a lot more rewarding than benchmarking. One doesn’t get to the future first by letting someone else blaze the trail.
There is not one future but hundreds. Getting to the future first is not just about outrunning competitors bent on reaching the same prize. It is also about having one’s view of what the prize is. There can be as many prizes as runners; imagination is the only limiting factor.In business, as in art, what distinguishes leaders from laggards, and greatness from mediocrity, is the ability to uniquely imagine what could be.
Other people and companies may have more resources, more money, more everything, but what you have as an entrepreneur is your vision, your imagination, your passion. Define what will be, define tomorrow, envision the future. And then make others play according to the rules you set.