As we step into the new decade, we asked a spectrum of entrepreneurs, bankers, VCs and marketing consultants on how they think India can improve its entrepreneurship quotient. Here is a blue print for developing the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and pave way for a brave new world Dream, adventure, determination. This sums up the secret trait of a successful entrepreneur. Is there a system which will help nurture this in our young? When we talk of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, we do not think about this aspect.
We talk of building better access to funds and mentors for instance or writing better policies for equal opportunity. But we do not build necessary social infrastructure for people to be adventurous, fail yet not go down. We forget Emerson’s words, “If you can make a bundle of all your successes and throw it behind your back and move on to start anew then you are a man. ” Why is it that people who have walked through adversity has a better chance of success? Take the case of K Dinesh, one of the founders of Infosys Technologies. Very little is known about this gentleman.
He was a mail sorter in Railway Mail Service (RMS) in Bangalore. He then passed a competitive exam and moved to Department of Posts and Telegraph (then) as a Phone Inspector. He wasn’t happy doing that. He passed the Banking services Recruitment Board (BSRB) exam ad joined Uco Bank. Yet the hunger in him was insatiated. He applied for a job with Patni Computers in Pune, where N. R. Narayana Murthy was incidentally working. His persistence in getting out of a cushy government job and get into a sunrise industry apparently intrigued Murthy.
When Murthy decided to set up Infosys, he invited Dinesh to be part of the founding team. Rest is history. We have not institutionalized this ability to walk through adversity or seek deliberately an adventure. This is not about organizing hikes and mountaineering tours, though they teach vital life skills. This is more deeper than that. This is about setting free our young from our own personal prejudices. As parents are we brave enough to allow our children to pursue their dream irrespective of the result? As angels, are we ready to put good money behind those who demonstrate the three traits of entrepreneurship.
As a society, how many of us encourage our children, younger nephews and cousins or friends to take risks in their lives. How many of us look with appreciation when someone comes up with an idea, however crazy it may be, and egg them to go on and implement it. The moment someone brings an idea, we become the wise men from Hammurabi’s court and start sermonizing on why exactly the idea wouldn’t work, or start narrating recycled pieces of history on how Steve Jobs got it right while some other lesser fortunate soul did not. Every entrepreneur has to look at our own version of Richard Branson.
Do you recall the mighty effort by a military officer turned farmer in starting an airline which drove an entire industry upside down? Captain Gopinath threw all conventional wisdom to the winds, took his army tent, pitched it in the middle of a barren field belonging to his family and became a farmer. People thought he was mad. However, his army upbringing and his sense of adventure enabled Captain Gopinath to discover new abilities inside him at every point. The Zen of mentoring What people seek in mentors when they come for advice is not a step-by-step manual on how to startup.
They are seeking an approving nod. A little little nudge in the right direction. They don’t want mentors to draw up the whole map nor implement the idea for them. And most of all they don’t want mentors to tell them what to do and what not to do. They want an assurance that when they want support they can fall back on their mentors. Can we be ‘that’ unconditionally and without prejudice. Recently, I happened to witness a session where a mentor was presiding over a presentation made by two students. The moment the students started their presentation, the mentor went on blowing holes.
This continued at every level. He severely criticized the students for mistakes they made. The negative barrage went on till the end of the presentation. I could not bear to see the heart-broken presenters; they were a pathetic sight. The right way for the mentor to handle this could have been to listen to the presentation and point out “corrections” to the presentation where required and pat them on the back and say, “go figure out. ” It was a grim reminder of how our society itself is organized: a parochial model. Here elders take a lion’s share in determining how the young live their lives.
Even though we have moved away from joint-families to nuclear families, the parochial nature of our society still holds its sway. The young lose the ability to make decisions. They lose the heart to learn from their mistakes. Thus any hopes for entrepreneurship is nipped in its bud. If our mentorship programs fall into the traditional parochial approach then we are not headed the right way. We aren’t building a program if our mentors do not encourage people to experiment, help their mentees analyse their mistakes and improve the experiments. There is no science here.
We are talking about creating an environment, an ecology for entrepreneurs to experiment without fear and grow unbounded. Playing in a team and winning is a culture In the movie, Extraordinary Measures, John Crowley embarks upon getting a researcher, Robert Stonehill, to cure his children suffering from Pompe, a rare disease. The two end up starting a company to find the miracle medicine. Crowley is a MBA graduate and a marketer who is driven by extremely personal reason and Stonehill is a highly talented reseacher who is passionate about his work.
The two join hands to give the medical world a wonder drug. Crowley is a marketing man and Stonehill a researcher. They are very different from each other in thought and in action yet they team up for their dreams. Stonehill realizes that Crowley is the only hope if he has to get his research into field and Crowley is wholly dependent on Stonehill succeeding in his research. How many Crawley’s and Stonehills do we see coming together in India. Our children are taught about individual excellence in sports, in performing arts and in academic exams. However, they are not taught to work in a team arly enough. How can we teach our youngsters in India to work in teams? Here is an agenda in front of us: Build the right social infrastructure so that our young can take advantage of the wonderful entrepreneurial ecosystem that is taking shape. 1. Encourage and nurture young entrepreneurs 2. Public-private partnership is the way to go 3. Create a breeding ground for entrepreneurs 4. Believe in the power of youth 5. Mindsets must change for enterprise to bloom 6. Build entrepreneurship as a culture 7. The importance of good mentoring 8. Play it right to reap good 9. Wanted: A “daring” India