Friday, January 6, 2017

Talk On Entrepreneurship - Tirumala Engineering College

Tirumala Engineering College, Ghatkesar, invited me to speak at the 3 day Entrepreneurship Awareness Camp they organised under the aegis of the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India. The audience consisted of about 100 students of the Computer Science Department who listened patiently to what I had to say. Dr. Dayanand, Principal, Dr. Parimala, HoD, Prof Senthil, Dean, Dr. Manikandan listened to the talk.
A welcome bouquet, Dr. Parimala, HoD and a bright young student 
One thing I was most impressed with was that they all prepared enough to get my name right. They even prepared a lovely AV introducing me and my achievements and it made me a bit nostalgic about the journey. After the lamp lighting ceremony and the welcome addresses, I spoke.

What do you think business is about? I opened.
The students said it was about profit and loss, risk, employment to others.

What comes to mind when you think of a business man? I asked again.
Money man said one young lady which was spot on. Freedom, master of my own time, one who can provide employment to others were other answers.
Lamp lighting
I asked them if they would like to be entrepreneurs themselves. They said it seemed like a good idea to have money, freedom etc but...

Then why don't you pursue the business route?
They felt that it was fraught with risk, losses, financial and of reputation.
Listening to a prayer song - Dr. Parimala, HoD, CSE and Dr. Dayanand, Principal

So we decided to tackle the bull by its horns.
What scares us about doing a business? I asked.
Risk. Fear of failure. Loss of money. Dealing with people. You have to do jugaad. Responsibility. Learn new things.

But the plus sides of business look good. So all we have to do is to understand the parts that are not clear and see how we can cope with them.
Senthil, Dean and Prof Manikandan

The Idea of Failure
The idea that everyone will fail at anything they try for the first time was stressed upon. We all fall while we are learning to walk - no one gets up and walks and runs right the first time. Everyone fails. But that does not make them a failure. We fail only when we give up. Until then there is always another way. Always. First accept that it is okay to fail and that if we do we will get up and find our way again.

The greatest have failed so we can also fail. The Aussie selectors used to have a system where they picked those who failed and came back. Why one likes people who have failed is for this reason - if you failed it means that you tried something, which means you learned something. Failure is good. If you haven't failed ever, you never tried anything. So wear it like a badge, a medal. You are growing.

Failure is part of the deal so let's strike that off. The key is not to fail at the same thing again and again. That means you are not learning from your mistakes. Try not to make the same mistakes again. Make new mistakes.
Into the talk

There are no full insurances. The higher the risk, the higher the reward, so if you want high rewards be prepared fro high risks. With information and analysis, you can manage risk, and that's where your education comes in. Low risk will fetch low reward. No risk will fetch no reward. So learn to understand and play with calculated risk. You will learn by practice.

How many of you have handled money? Start understanding the nature of money. Your relationship with money. Do you make money earn or do you simple spend money? Find ways to make your money earn. When you get some money don't spend it all away, see if you can do something with it and make it grow. Invest it. Be comfortable asking for money, dealing, giving and handling money. Money is not something to be scared of - its merely a means of exchange. How much money can you handle right now? What will you do if someone gives you a chunk of money to invest? Will you take it or will you run? Think.
A stylish moment - holding on to the dais for support

Handling situations and people 
Our ego comes in the way and that is what we are worried about mainly when we speak of losses, jugaad, managing etc. Management requires a lot of adaptability simply because situations and people are different. Each time you meet people, can you see how you can manage that relationship better. Practice. As a businessperson you will have to ask, you will have to face rejection, you will have to seek help - all of which needs you to put your ego aside. That business-like attitude is nothing but your adaptability, your way of finding new paths to achieve your end. Get comfortable with asking, with putting your ego aside. It's good for you, for business.
The whole nine yards - Dr. Dayanand presenting me with a shawl and a memento

What is business really?
It is about an idea that fulfills an unsatisfied gap, that corrects a wrong. By satisfying that need you produce value - that can incidentally be exchanged for money. Think of gaps that are all round you. Think of current gaps, or envision future gaps. Every time you feel the lack of something in your life, a gap is showing up to you. Make a note of that. Think of how the gap can be satisfied. Whatever the business you think of, you can always bring in technology to make it more efficient. A Swiggy, Uber, Grofers are examples of seemingly low tech services with high tech support.

How does it work?
Now let's see how the process unfolds. You have an idea, an idea that works. What happens next. Do you need all the capital to invest in that project. If you need 1 crore to start a business do you give up? All you need is a well thought out idea that shows potential to earn and the conviction that it will work. Once you have your plan thought out and ready, go and pitch it to investors. Angel investors. Pitch it to 50-100 potential investors. All you need is one. See what makes most sense to your model. Once you raise the money, deploy it wisely in resources so you generate a return.

Think of Microsoft. Google. Apple. All of them built huge businesses out of these needs that society had in a span of less than 20 - 30 years. Just pick one need and go after it. But businesses are not always about high technology, about money and value. Some businesses are just about passion.

Sulabh Souchalay is today a 300 crore social venture. It liberated some 60,000 manual scavengers. Think of Dosa Plaza which is a 10 crore industry with 25 outlets. Think of Su Kam which is 1000 crore built from almost nowhere in a single lifetime. Think of Goonj, which provides clothing etc from urban waste and how it started one cold winter night in Delhi. Pick a cause and pursue it with all your heart and you will still make money, make a difference.
Me and the staff - was boxed in so I folded my hands

How do you prepare for entrepreneurship?
Practice ownership - take responsibility for yourself and others
Start using money and investing it
Identify unmet needs every day and develop plans
Develop a solution orientated mindset
Run a small business
Get comfortable with money

How do I handle money?
By using it, by practice

How do I handle people?
By practice, by being adaptable, listen, patience

In the end business is all about meeting that unmet need. Understand that as long as you understand the unmet need of the customer he will come back to you. The moment you lose your connect with the customer and his need, you have lost the market. Which is why customer focus is important
A sample of the students - there were about a 100 I guess but we got as many as we could, I like this
Where do I start?
Develop domain expertise. Meet people. Almost every other day you must meet new people. In their space. Intern. Go to T Hub. Research on the web.

If there is one core thing about entrepreneurship, it is that its about ownership. Ownership is 100% responsibility. Not in the way that burdens you but in a way that makes things happen easily. To do that you must learn every day to put your ego aside and be adaptable, be a learner, be solution oriented, try to get the best out of every moment, every relationship. Its a fun and growing process. Ownership is an attitude that you can carry to your work, your job, your business and your life. So start working on it. And you will make loads of money on the way.

It's a fascinating journey. Go for it. All of you have the capability to build businesses worth 100 of crores. Believe in yourself and take the plunge.

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