India’s entrepreneurs need to look at solving problems at scale for true impact
Having a great idea or wanting to earn more money cannot be a reason to become an entrepreneur
In a country with a million entrepreneurial dreams, I often wonder what the future hold for us? What is the right kind of entrepreneurship that will take the country forward and how can we nurture these dreams for success?
While there are many long definitions to the term entrepreneur, the qualities that resonate with me most are: problem solver at scale, trend spotter, strong communicator, a risk taker and a fighter. This is almost a wish list, not as much a definition of entrepreneurship, based on what, I believe, we need now versus where we are headed.
Today, we need entrepreneurs who work with a broad canvas, implement mass-scale ideas to solve real problems, create an environment that brings opportunities to thousands of people. We need more people saying “I am solving a problem" rather than saying “I have a great idea"; more of those who ask, “How do I create a sustainable business?"as opposed to those who ask “How do I build a unicorn?".
“It (entrepreneurship) is never one idea, or one product, or one big accomplishment. Leading a business is about developing a 360 degree understanding of things, and one has to have the patience and perseverance to deal with it," says Kishore Biyani, founder of the Future Group.
In other words, it’s a tough, unforgiving, multifaceted journey that demands perseverance, adaptability and survival skills. Which is why, I believe, one must have a concrete reason for turning into an entrepreneur for life. But how many people really ask themselves, “Why do I so badly want to be an entrepreneur for life?" (Yes, it is for life). Without it, you will not be able to adapt to changing situations or push through when nothing seems to be working. A successful entrepreneur is the one who survived, and without a good “why" you may never be able to do it.
Vishal Gondal, founder of GOQii, a health and lifestyle portal, gives a great reality check: “Being an entrepreneur is like being struck by lightning every day. But, the next morning no matter what, you need to get up and get to work as usual." Your “why" will push you to do it.
Having a great idea or wanting to earn more money cannot be the reason to become an entrepreneur.
When I decided to be an entrepreneur in my early 20s, I was convinced that I would excel at something I created and built on my own rather than, working for an organization or someone else. I just did not think I could execute someone else’s vision. At the time, I had no idea about what business I would be in. Yet, I think, clarity of “why", my belief and self-confidence in myself held me in good stead through all my many, many failures.
Entrepreneurs should stay away from the “herd mentality". When you follow the herd, the only thing you can see is the backside of the person in front of you! Five e-commerce companies got funded or a model that’s wildly successful in the US can be cloned in India are false perceptions that have a way of taking root in the collective conscious. As a result, too many people are aping models that are fundamentally flawed in the Indian context.
A real entrepreneur should be able to look at sectors that have not yet received attention and create solutions for them. Let’s take the example of waste management—a global crisis and a largely overlooked problem in India. One would wonder, with all the inventions, why isn’t anyone looking at it in a big way? The answer is that partly, it’s not glamorous and partly, because that’s not where the pop culture is. But the truth is, companies that are looking into it are doing a fantastic job and will be much higher value creators than nine out of 10 e-commerce or new media or Internet of Everything companies.
As the co-founder and CEO of Niki.ai, a chatbot for online transactions, Sachin Jaiswal puts it, “The best opportunity for an entrepreneur is when he/she has identified a problem and has a solution that people will pay him/ her for."
As an entrepreneur, think beyond the obvious and tap into real world issues. Create a need instead of going after discretionary spends. Dig deep into your homes, families and cultural ethos. The answer is right in front of you, and don’t forget to ask “why" at every crossroad of your choices.
Entrepreneur 4.0 is a column where successful Indian entrepreneurs discuss various aspects of startups.
Ronnie Screwvala is a first generation entrepreneur and chairman and co-founder of upGrad, an online educational platform.