TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2006: Blue Oceans and Black Swans

Blue Oceans (think uncontested marketspaces) are an important theme for the ventures that I am involved in. A Tech Talk series in May discussed Blue Ocean Strategy and my take:

There are many other blue oceans when one looks around in India. Given this new digital infrastructure that will get created, how can one rethink different verticals like retail, healthcare, education. How does one look at marketing when everyone in the world has access to a two-way interactive device which they carry with them? This is where the big opportunities of the future lie.

As an entrepreneur, I have always favoured blue oceans over red oceans. It may be the riskier strategy when one begins because one is going where others arent. I tend to like creating new things. There are times when one may be too early, in which case one fails. But if one can think through the future and have the ability to stick it out, blue oceans are the place to be.

In a May Tech Talk series, I linked the blue oceans theme with another idea that of black swans. Taken together, they provide a window to the way how I look at ventures. I wrote: Just like Nassim Taleb, who bets on extreme events as part of his investment strategy, I am betting on extreme ventures. These ventures are not about incremental change, they are about disruptive innovation. And as we were told again and again, most new ventures and products fail. But a few do succeed. Just because many new initiatives may have failed in the past, it does not mean that the next initiative will also meet the same fate. This is similar to seeing white swans. Just because one has not seen a black swan, one cannot conclude that it does not exist.

In the last column in that series, I discussed failure something which I have seen plenty of in my life as an entrepreneur.

We were not really taught to handle failure as part of our formal education. Even our professional lives, it is mostly about incremental successes. We work in groups, and the buck does not necessarily stop with us. There are always external factors and other people one can partially be held responsible if things go wrong. But as an entrepreneur, there is no passing the buck. The entrepreneur is completely responsible for the things that go wrong. That increases the pressure. Every day is a challenge. Many daily decisions have ramifications beyond just the immediate future. One cannot keep looking in the rear view mirror and play the what-if game.

Many times, we are quite content with the status quo and we let time pass. We do not want to do things differently because we are afraid of failure. We are hesitant to make big bold bets because we worry about what could happen if things go wrong. Failure is par for the course if we want to play for success. The bigger the bets we want to make, the greater the failures we will experience.

So, think blue oceans and black swans. Imagine the world of tomorrow and build it. In the context of India today, this is even more important we have to make up for many decades of lost time. Technology can provide leapfrog opportunities. They are there in every area. We have do it is to be willing to think different.

Tomorrow: Video and Social Networks

Best of Tech Talk 2006+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.