Saturday, April 1, 2017

Wading through the infinite forests. An unending journey called Entrepreneurship. 04-01

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

                                 Robert Frost. 

This is what an entrepreneur keeps reminding himself every night. And this is ‘Mantra’ that
energizes him and recharges him, to fight fresh battle for survivor every day.

Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

I wrote this article for my friend and follower on social media. She is an intrapreneur in one of the IITs. She was starting an e-zine on Entrepreneurship and wanted me to write an article for it. I wrote the article in January 2017. I wanted her magazine to have an exclusive exposure to this article for at least for a month, hence I did not publish it on my blog. Now that it is more than two months I am publishing it on my blog.

The article....

It is always a great feeling to write an article on entrepreneurship. At the same time, it is equally a big drag to read one on it.

"Oh, one more on this, no, no, not again," is the helpless yelp, you hear from the readers, whenever they come across one on this subject.

I have been lucky in this respect. My articles, my lectures and my Key note addresses on this subject have been received well by my audience. My contributions to Harvard, MIT and Mckinsey have been greatly valued by them, and I continue to contribute even after almost five years of association. I am immensely grateful to them all for their patience through these years. It is a greatly humbling experience beyond words

Having completed this short ice breaking exercise with my audience, let me now get to work, and write on entrepreneurship.

India’s contribution to Global Entrepreneurship

India’s and Indian’s contribution to towards the global growth in entrepreneurship is phenomenal, but has been hugely under valued and under rated. They have worked under heavy constraints and discrimination. Not much is known or said about the contributors of the early adaptors of technology and management.

In one of my lectures at IIT Kharagpur’s School of Management (VGsom), on Business Models, I started the lecture with India as a viable Business Model and dwelt on the Indians who contributed to the growth of technology in USA and the world and transition of the country’s image as country of snake charmers and bullock carts to country with vibrant and technically endowed vast human capital. India owes its current image as a viable destination for investment and outsourcing to the great efforts and sacrifices put in by the people mentioned below and those, I haven’t mentioned.

There are many who not only distinguished themselves but also contributed to India being a hub for outsourcing and talent acquisition. People like Vinod Dham, Vinod Chopra, Vinod Gupta, Deepak Chopra, Ajay Bhatt, Vivek Wadhwa, Sabeer Bhatia, the list is endless.

( Indian Students: Please search these names in Google, you will know how important their contribution has been. The fact that, you now have a highly empowered and enabled pathway for studies abroad is mostly because of the firm foundation bricks laid by them. )  This, by no means is a small achievement. It is for you to strengthen the structure of the pathway by your efforts and extraordinary achievements. Make posterity remember you with gratitude.)

These people were brilliant but they always faced the hurdles. They reached the glass ceiling, but never got through it because of their Indian origin. There is famous quote from Joy Cherian which explains the situation of that time more aptly. Joy Cherian went to US in 1960s

"I am there to strike at the glass ceiling. Please give me a strong hammer and hold my ladder steady." Joy Cherian EEOC

Even after almost half century in USA. Joy Cherian still cherishes his Indian origin and connection. A small part of his office is used to grow curry leaves. This gives him a feel of his Indian and Kerala origin.

And Now, they have broken the glass ceiling, Indians have slithered past it.

Now Indians or American Indians are heading many technology giants. You already know the names; I will not tell you what you already know. However, the magnitude of their contribution and its importance can be gauged from the fact that Indian component of US population which was just Sixteen thousand in the sixties is now more than Two millions now. We are the third largest populated Diaspora in United States.

Entrepreneurship in India

Entrepreneurship is all about building a bright idea into a successful business, and if you have one, you will not find a more opportune time and opportunity than now in India.

If you have ever dreamt of quitting that day job to make actual progress on that dream idea, or if you want to take your family business to a global level and compete with the best players in the world, there has never been a better time. Entrepreneurship in India today is a phenomenon that is absolutely unstoppable and this is definitely the time to go out and achieve what you have always wanted to.

We have seen a constant rise in Entrepreneurship efforts. There has been a substantial increase in the number of entrepreneurs in the recent past. More than 4,100 startups were registered in India in 2014 alone. 2015 was the biggest year for Indian startups with capital worth $9 billion being invested in them. The government’s startup India, standup India campaign has been one of the most successful government trade and commerce related programs in recent memory.

The increase in the number of IITs, IIMs, have significantly contributed to it. There are incubators in these institutions, which nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship, ignite the latent creativity in them. They also Collaborate with them on innovative projects, which undergo a process of metamorphosis to end up as start-ups with promise. The initial seeding and working capital facilitation is also done by these institutions. In course of time, we will see them emerge as Indian unicorns delivering robust technology products globally.

Entrepreneurship for a cause

These are ‘For Profit’ organization, whose products and processes help fulfill a social need or a social cause. Sometimes they promote or protect environment. Often we see waste being recycled into purposeful products.

It is wrong to assume social entrepreneurship is an activity for charitable purpose. It is business as usual. But it is a fruitful marriage between Capitalism and All Truism. For the purpose of better understanding, I will quote from my key note address to the young entrepreneurs at the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University at Hyderabad.

“Social Entrepreneurship is an entrepreneurial effort like any other business. Only difference is, it is wholly or partially cause driven and more often than not, it complements in terms of increased brand equity to the brand that supports it.

The debate about the capitalism and “All Truism” is eternal and will continue till eternity. We are now looking at a model that is a combination of the two. “All truisms” is a noble concept, but it is too noble a concept to sustain. What is an ideal combination, depends on geographic, demographic and other factors. However, there has to be a flexibility and scalability in action & approach as per the need and situation.”

It is time, we remove the misconception that social business is responsible in the erosion of business ethics. Social business understands, respects and follow the tenets of business ethics. Most of the times social business supports and complements the main business.

We have many global giants in FMCG and other sectors having social businesses. What they do in promoting social causes gets them so much publicity and attention, it adds substantially to the equity of the organization and brands that support. It is an unintentional values addition to the organization and its product mix.

There are three factors as critical for building sustainable and world class not-for-profit organizations.

They are:

1. Strong emphasis on governance,

2. Finding scalable solutions and relentless focus on quality and excellence.

3. Constant Leadership Development.

In business one talks of leadership development all the time. We need to do the same in social development, too. We need to aggressively recruit top talent and then invest in their development. Social organizations, also need to build global networks. the secret sauce is having a strong purpose. Constantly understanding, the purpose of as to, why I do the work? Does the work I do, help me to navigate the ups and downs of the journey? It is also important to believe that change is possible and that I can make a difference today.

Essential pre-requisites of Entrepreneurship

Opportunity Identification

You need to do an intense research about the market size of the product you intend to manufacture or market. Leading players, established brands, the threats from the unorganized sector, their market share, their growth. At what stage of the life cycle the product presently is, how long will it take for the product to reach its peak, and when the decline starts. Depending on the research data, finalization of the product mix, Vison and Mission for the venture takes place..

Finalization of the Business Model

After finalization of the product mix, you need to work on the Business Model that suits best for the business and seamlessly aligns with the vision and mission of the organization. The Business Model should have inbuilt components of flexibility and amenability to change with the change in business environment.

Finalization of the Business Plan.

This gives you and people who would fund your venture, an entire insight into What are the products or services you plan to market, the manufacturing process, the supply chain process, the business process, the distribution and the marketing supply chain process. The financial supply chain processes, The vendor and procurement processes. The manpower recruitment, development and retention process. The plan should speak for itself, clearly and loudly about the alignment of the different processes with the goals and objectives of the organization. The plan should give the funding agency a complete ‘look-in’ into the success and the failure factors of the project. More often than not it is the funding agencies with their vast experience, that suggest the course correction in the business plan that could increase the success rate of the venture. Once the business plan is through and the funding arranged, the entrepreneur needs to acquire the needed infrastructure, source the material and process requirement and recruit the manpower.

Strategy formulation and Strategic management

It is not only worthwhile, but also imperative for the Organization to spend time and effort developing and communicating their strategies to ensure they are understood by all. But first of all, it should be clear to you the entrepreneur. You have to constantly ask yourself, how clear is your company’s strategy to you? To your team? Does it align with your Business Plan? is it compliant with your Business Model?

Many organizations struggle with executing their strategy in a manner that achieves its intended results. When you consider that high-performing organizations are twice as likely to have alignment of projects with organizational strategy, it is clear that strategy execution, the translation of smart strategies into effective results is crucial.

How do you do the course correction in case of misalignment of the strategy

Misalignment of strategy is a common place happening with almost all the organizations of different structure hues and culture. It is the timely course correction that keeps them from straying too far from goals and objectives.

The most important thing to do for an entrepreneur in these circumstances is to understand the reasons for the misalignment, and identifying the function responsible for it, like planning or execution or both. Explore how successful organizations have overcome this problem. Based on that, create a correction model, that aligns with the size and structure of your organization. Since the nature and cause of misalignment is different every time, you need to do this exercise every time you have a crisis of this type.

Strategic Management for an entrepreneur is all about understanding their own resources, their strengths and constraints and amicability with the internal and eternal environments (which keep changing constantly). Ingraining this flexibility in the manpower is a constant process and an integral part of the leadership development programs, which should be conducted frequently as per the need. It is imperative, that all the employees to work in the same direction towards achieving a common goal. This is the essence of Strategic Management

Strategic Management clearly defines the goals of an organization. It defines realistic goals and objectives, while aligning the same with the vision of the company. The organization’s progress can be measured on the basis of these objectives. Practicing strategic management makes you more proactive, therefore enabling you to foresee incidents, and take precautionary measures to safeguard the interests of the organization.

In conclusion, I would like to state that, What I have covered is a small, albeit important aspect of entrepreneurship. What is not covered is huge, you will learn more, and learn new things every day, as you keep wading through the unknown and infinite forests, and encounter problems at every step.
The road to success is bumpy and journey is rollercoaster. But you already know it, when you decide to be an entrepreneur. You strengthen your resolve and develop resilience as you progress in your journey.

Best of Luck in your efforts to succeed.

Best wishes,


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