I have been an entrepreneur now for over twelve years in India. This period has seen many ups and downs, and successes and failures. What is still alive for me is the passion to make a difference, to build tomorrows world. I have used many of my Tech Talk columns to share my experiences and learnings.
The Company (May 2004): If there is one thing common to most of us, it is that we are part of a Company. Be it a startup or an established one, be it small or big, be it a local one or a global multinational, the Company is where we spend the better part of our adult lives. It is the mechanism through which we effect change (or get changed), where we build relationships (friends and business), and through which we generate income. The Company is a unique institution that binds us all together In my first Company, the goal was to prove that I could build and manage a successful business. In my second Company, the goal is bigger and bolder I want to build something that will last and make a difference, and to do well and do good. Perhaps, they are all the same. Only time will tell. For me, the Company is an all-consuming love affair. It is an instrument of innovation, of bringing forth new ideas and revolutions into the world.
Crucicle Experiences (May 2004): A crucible experience [is] something which transforms us, and shakes and shapes our lives. We have all gone through these experiences in our life some of these experiences last a short time, others much longer. Either way, they help change us in some way. More often than not, these are intense and deeply personal experiences, which we would rather not talk about. Even thinking about these experiences makes us want to purge them from our memories. But whatever happens, they leave an indelible mark on us for the rest of our life As I think back on my life, there are at least three experiences which I can think helped change me. One was a brief incident at school, the second was my first semester at IIT, and the third was a two-year period of business failure after my return to India in 1992. Each incident, in its own way, made an impact. While time can diminish memories of the period, it cannot take away the reality of the occurrence.
A Tale of Two Summers (Aug 2004): My thinking this summer was very similar to what I had been thinking in 1994, when I wanted a new way to reach Indians worldwide. Then, I used the Internet as a distribution platform. Now, I needed to do the same. Then, I focused on delivering news and information to an audience with their own computers and connectivity. Now, I was seeking to deliver the basic utility of computing to an audience which had no computers and no connectivity In 1994, I was an entrepreneurial child. In the summer of 2004, I have grown. As I see the world ahead, these two summers ten years apart are uncannily joined together as I think about both the opportunities ahead. The moment in time that I stand today, linked by the rainbow of revolutions, makes the heart of an entrepreneur leap.
From Employee to Entrepreneur (Aug 2004): The decision to be or not be an entrepreneur is an intensely personal one. It is one which needs to be discussed and debated with family and friends. It depends on each one’s appetite for risk. There is never a right or wrong answer, just as there is never a right or wrong time. The fundamental decision has to come from withinI also believe that once the decision is made to leave the world of employment and move to the world of entrepreneurship, the parachute needs to be cut. If we know that there are always the options of going back to the safety and security of the other world, it will be much harder making the entrepreneurial option work. In a sense, as we close one door, other doors will open. But we have to close doors. We have to believe that making the new venture succeed must be akin to a life-and-death battle. One has to fight knowing that there is no looking or going back The most important thing for an entrepreneur is to build a mental model of the industry under consideration. The mental model takes time to form. It is more about internalising the external views, developments and trends. It is the mental model which creates the foundation for the business. Understanding the bigger picture takes time, but is extremely important because of the challenges we will face on a regular basis as we seek to build out our business. Change is continuous and constant. It is the mental model or the latticework of mental models that will help us navigate the terrain, not with maps but with a compass.
An Entrepreneur’s Growth Challenge (Sep 2004): 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?
My Life as an Entrepreneur (Nov 2004): Based on my experiences, there are three things that Id like to tell people starting their own businesses: Dream Big, Use Failure as a Teacher, Combine Optimism with Realism.
Black Swans (Aug 2004): Close your eyes. Imagine a swan. White in colour. Imagine another swan. White in colour. Imagine one more swan. It is also white in colour. Go on. Imagine more swans. There is no colour other than white that we can think of. Now, paint one of the swans black. Something doesnt seem right. A black swan? Hard to imagine. Hard to contemplate. Its almost unreal. Whoever in the world has seen a black swan? This column is about the unthinkable and the unimaginable. It is also about the possible. It is about black swans I believe that the next technological black swan the next Google will come not from the developed markets but from the emerging markets.
Wish you all a Very Happy New Year.
Best of Tech Talk 2004+T