One question which people ask me is: how do you know it is the right idea? What makes a failed entrepreneur confident that the next idea has the potential to be successful? In my case, how did I realise that IndiaWorld would work better than Image WorkBench?
There are two answers to these questions. The first relates to a gut feel which an entrepreneur just knows like a mother who is always magically aware of the babys needs. The second is that an entrepreneur doesnt really know and just does what needs to be done hoping for different results. In my case in 1994, probably both were true in equal parts.
Gut feel is hard to explain but it cannot be ignored. At times, one gets into businesses not by some pre-ordained plan, but through a series of happy accidents. That was the case for me too during 1992-94. Yes, I knew I wanted to do something different, interesting and big. But image processing solutions was not something I had planned on when I returned to India in 1992. It emerged out of a project we had done and a sense of opportunities in the space. There were no unique experiences of my own that I was getting at that time.
At the same time, as I thought through the ideas for IndiaWorld, there was an inner connection. I had spent a few years in the US and the service I was planning to create was targeted at this set of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). So, I had a better sense of what the needs and pain points were. This is where the gut feel comes in. At times, there is a sixth sense which tells the entrepreneur that this is the path one needs to be walking on.
Paulo Coelhos book The Alchemist makes a similar point through the fable of the shepherd. If one decides to do something, events around us will help us provided we are looking. So it was in my case. Even though I had little experience of setting up a media property, my passion and belief in what we were doing helped to get the venture off to a good start. And then, things start slowly falling into place. For others to help us knowingly or unknowingly, we need to create the right environment and framework to accept that external assistance.
Did I know that IndiaWorld was the right thing and one day it will become big? No. When we started, the dreams were there as in every venture. But I had no idea of the future. At that stage, coming from a series of failures, I wasnt thinking too far ahead. I just wanted to prove to myself and others that I could build a profitable business. Yes, I was hoping that this would be big I had thought enough about the fundamentals of the business. But for that to succeed, we would have to do everything right and others would have to make a few mistakes along the way. Luckily, that is what happened!
In his comment, Krishna Iyer highlighted two key factors which can help entrepreneurs succeed: passion, and an eye for detail. Passion is one hell of a must-have quality. If that shakes up then the whole venture loses the thrill and charm of pursuing the goals. But as you have highlighted, it could be a misguided belief as well or maybe executing those ideas flawed along the path. The ability of the entrepreneur to keep track of details is extremely important. Be it finance, sales, marketing, admin.. When we start small it is pretty much resting on one/two individuals. But subsequently, these can be delegated as well. While being passionate about the concept, often details related to funding, profitability, fixed costs, marginal costs, time to deliver, understanding of the depth and breadth of the market, are some factors that either get overlooked or under-attended to. An entrepreneur has to get just the right balance.
In my case, it was some part vision and some part luck on the execution front which helped me get out of the first failure. While I cannot still say what will get me out of the present failure, I think I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Tomorrow: The Present Situation
TECH TALK When Things Go Wrong+T