It is the dream of every entrepreneur to build a company that is Built to Last. Yet, it is that rare exception of an enterprise that makes the transition from Good to Great. Like an unprotected fawn in the big and dangerous forest, a new business must navigate difficult and challenging terrain as it grows from its early days to maturity. One small mistake can sound the death-knell for the fledgling business. So, how can a business grow?
There are plenty of business books and entrepreneurial success stories which can provide insights into how interesting ideas became big hits. Like many of you, I too have read some of these. And I have a problem. Years later, these stories read like they were sanitised and glorified. Few capture the daily struggle that defines the life of most small and new businesses. Fewer still point a way forward in a world that needs to be navigated not with maps but with compasses.
I too face a similar challenge. For the past few years, I have shared some of my experiences and thinking (somewhat obliquely at times) through these columns and my weblog. It has been a long journey already as I have sought to build a roadmap for the future. Now, I face my next challenge. How do I assemble the various different parts of the puzzle as I seek to build out the Emergic vision and reinvent computing for the next billion users, who are primarily in the world’s emerging markets.
Through a lot of thinking, erring and talking, I am trying to build a model for growth for my business. This week, I will share some of my experiences and learnings. This is just one chapter in a continuing story which I hope to document on an ongoing basis. Hopefully, this will capture some of the struggles that an entrepreneur goes through and provide some insights in his mind.
Like every entrepreneur filled with optimism, I believe that I will succeed! But, I cannot ignore statistics that show that fewer than one in a hundred new ventures succeed. Worse than failure is a condition I call the living dead. If a business fails, at least one can start afresh. In the twilight zone between success and failure is where one sees little hope of significant success or growth, and at the same time all is not lost. One can continue in this state for a very long time, and slowly the zest and enthusiasm ebbs away. Each new day becomes like the previous one. This is a state that I dread to reach.
So, a lot of what I seek to do will entail risks. At the same time, each day that I come in to work, I seek to reduce the risk of failure. Even as one seeks to implement the long-term vision, one cannot ignore the short-term. There are many other such inherent contradictions as a new business grows.
In my case, we were about 30 people until a few months ago, primarily focused around offering Linux-based messaging and security solutions to Indian corporates. In parallel, I have been thinking for the past couple years on how to build an affordable computing ecosystem for emerging markets like India. Many ideas have come, we have done some work, and then withdrawn as things haven’t quite shaped up the way I would have liked them to. Now, however, I believe the vision is in place. We are already up to 50 people, and seeking to grow. What does tomorrow hold for us? We are ready to compete for the future, and that’s the growth challenge that I face and will describe in the next four parts of this series.