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Happy as an employee, not an entrepreneur

  • Not everyone is mesmerized by the notion of being one’s own boss. Four millennials tell us why they are happier being ‘intrapreneurs’ at their companies
  • These days employees can share their views and thoughts, and companies are supporting this

Wilma D’Souza Mohapatra calls herself a ‘intrapreneur’
Wilma D’Souza Mohapatra calls herself a ‘intrapreneur’

At a time when entrepreneurship is coveted, Wilma D’Souza Mohapatra, 32, finds value in continuing to work as an employee. Unlike the popular sentiment of being self-employed, Mohapatra, who is a senior project manager at Great Place to Work, a company that works on employee engagement, believes that she gets to innovate and reinvent herself despite working for an employer.

Mohapatra is part of the tribe known as ‘intrapreneur’, who believe that one can carve out a path within an organization to satisfy their entrepreneurial urge. “Employment for me is a business transaction between the employer and the employee. At the end, both parties should get their fair deal," says Tausif Rahmathullah, director, sales, ValueLabs, an IT solutions company.

But it’s not just that; one’s personality also comes to play. For instance, Mohapatra describes herself as creative and innovative, “But I am not, at this stage, keen on taking the financial risk when it comes to entrepreneurship," she says. The personality disposition that Mohapatra alludes to is having a big role in decision-making process. “I don’t have the patience and guts required to be an entrepreneur," says Sanchita Ganguly, 38, a senior marketing professional in the building and construction industry. Thankfully, she says, she has worked with organizations that have given a feeling of the startup environment, with the safety of a monthly pay cheque. “The most critical thing is your learning curve, which is always steep in the first six months of either getting promoted or shifting a job. In one of the previous companies, despite a set environment, my profile changed every two-three years either with added responsibilities or moving to a completely new role," says Ganguly.

Mohapatra adds that these days employees can share their views and thoughts, and companies are supporting this. She, in fact, has significantly contributed to the launch of two products for Great Place to Work in her three-year stint.

Intrapreneurial attraction

Taking cognizance of the needs of today’s workforce, companies too are taking effort to retain talent by channelling people’s entrepreneurial spirit. Dubai-based Rahmathullah, 29, was exploring an idea in EduTech sector and even had investors showing interest in becoming co-founders. What made him chuck the plan was an offer the company made that he couldn’t resist accepting. “ValueLabs presented me with an opportunity that changed my career and my life, entirely. I had two years of experience as Java developer in Hyderabad. As a fresher, my senior management took note of my capabilities in business development and offered me a sales executive role in Dubai. Every time I achieved more than what I was tasked with, I was offered larger responsibilities and pushed my limits. Four years later, I am now managing some of the largest customers for ValueLabs in the Middle East region," says Rahmathullah. Although he joined the company seven years ago as a fresher, his responsibilities have been changing almost on annual basis and that keeps him happy and motivated as an employee.

Even Mohapatra toyed with the idea of entrepreneurship but rather than creating something from scratch, she chose to support someone’s vision of building something. “Not everything about the entrepreneur’s life appeals to me but I do love the freedom, and if I find a company that gives me that, I would much rather find a way to contribute. It plays to my strength," she says. While leading the team that launched two new products, Mohapatra says, “It felt like pitching to investors (in this case, the management) as we were expected to come up with a business plan and explain why it’s going to create the returns. Once approved, I had to even come up with a business development plan," she says.

Insights drawn

Jitesh Gautam, 38, head of marketing, V Trans, a cargo management and logistics provider company, too doesn’t feel he’s missing the buzz by trying to set up his own venture. “There is a thin line between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur. The biggest benefits for me have been firstly, resource availability. When you plan something big, which is different from the routine things, you have resources available for that. Secondly, you get mentorship. The managing director and other senior management, mentor you, share their experience," says Gautam, who feels entrepreneurship is too glamourized. Also, venture capitalism and funding have spoilt this term as entrepreneurship means building something that is sustainable and lasts for a long time.

For Ganguly, intrapreneurship is more about soft skills development, humility and character building rather than, technical knowledge as the latter will develop both ways if you are an employee or entrepreneur. In fact, the job of an intrapreneur is not that different from an entrepreneur, as the former is challenging the status quo of the corporate structure from within. Having said that, Ganguly has great admiration for entrepreneurs and leans towards hiring people who are “attempted" entrepreneurs.

Not for everyone

All of them unanimously admit that entrepreneurship is not everyone’s cup of tea, and that they find being an employee rewarding to a great degree.

Kaustav Majumdar, head of startup and incubation centre at Mumbai’s management institute SPJIMR, believes that entrepreneurship is indeed romanticized. “Entrepreneurship is not an exact science, and yes, it’s not for everyone," he says. Entrepreneurship, he points out, is a state of mind, a character trait and anybody can potentially be an entrepreneur even if he or she is not running a business of their own. “You can learn to be entrepreneurial and not be self-employed. In fact, strategic agility is the buzzword doing the rounds abroad. A lot of large companies abroad are beginning to now dabble with small, agile teams, who will innovate within their organization. They are finding it highly rewarding to create intrapreneurs, who come out with amazing strategies. It also satiates people’s interest of building something new, doing something revolutionary," he says

Jitesh Gautam feels entrepreneurship is too glamourized. 
Jitesh Gautam feels entrepreneurship is too glamourized. 

But then again, if everyone in a large company is perceptually innovative, they will never make money because you make money by setting up processes. So, it’s double edged sword, Majumdar cautions.

Shreyasi Singh, author of The Wealth Wallahs and an entrepreneur herself, says having observed and interacted with a lot of entrepreneurs and now being on her own journey of being an entrepreneur, deep introspection is required before choosing to create one’s own path. “Not every smart person needs to be an entrepreneur; it’s just overstated. And I have seen enough and more people make the mistake that they should do (be an entrepreneur) this. We should also realize that great entrepreneurs need great employees. In fact, great employees, who are entrepreneurial, are fantastic fits for entrepreneurs to work with," she says.

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