Had prepared it for Student Alumni Interaction Event, but its format got changed from what it was supposed to be earlier. So, the talk there became more impromptu. I got an on-the-spot request to give a talk in the e-summit that was going on in the campus. So, I used it there.
Probably few of you sitting here are dead sure that entrepreneurship is your ultimate calling in life, but from what I remember of my student life and from what I see many students struggling with even today, most are confused about their career options at this stage. In my four years at IIT Kanpur I had considered everything from civil services to entrepreneurship to pure sciences to writing to politics. In case you are wondering, I was a Computer Science student. Even after struggling with this question for four years, at the end of that period, the choice was made by elimination. Had a call from IIM Lucknow, and the other option was a programming job. I figured I didn’t want to become a programmer. MBA could buy me more time. So, I went for it.
And I wasn’t the only one struggling with this confusion. Most people around me were similarly confused. Probably not many of them were considering as wide range of options as I was – so the extent of confusion might be less. But it was there. There were some who appeared to be dead sure of what they wanted to do in life. I really envied such people. Some of such people went for higher studies with the full determination to solve the most challenging academic problems. Only to leave in two years and join i-banks.
It is not a joke on them, it is not a joke on me either. The reason I am telling you this story is that I want to assure you that it’s okay if you are confused. Almost everybody is at this stage of life. Or at any stage of life, but that is another story.
But if you try a bit, you can break down your unsolvable confusion regarding career into some manageable questions. For all the options you are considering, you can ask questions like, whether this is a good option, whether you can do this well, whether this will get you name, fame, money or whatever it is that you want.
Since, you all are sitting here for this session and unlike Business schools I hope that you have not been forced to sit here with a threat of a fine or a ban from placements, I am assuming you are asking similar questions about entrepreneurship.
Plus I am sure, you do not need a lecture on the basics of entrepreneurship and we need not get into the definition of entrepreneurship and all that. You have probably been reading about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. You would have your own opinions and questions. I’d like to explore all of this in a Q&A format.
But to start the discussion, I will still give a small gyaan session. And here I will talk about a few notions I see in people who are thinking of or planning to start up on their own.
The first one
Entrepreneurship is superior to being in a job
I have a big, huge warning to give here.
If this is why you want to be an entrepreneur, you cannot find a worse reason. Many of us are fed with those witty one liners, big visions and pompous speeches, that project doing a job as a futile thing to do, whereas being an entrepreneur is like being in a superior level of existence. Don’t fall for that. Otherwise you would be repeating the same mistake that many of us make at the time we come here at IITK. In the school good students study Science, those good in Maths go for engineering, those with good ranks do Computer Science. The right things are determined externally. We are not taught to assess where our interests and aptitude lie.
If after IITK, you again let someone else’s judgement of what is better, guide you decisions, it is a bad idea.
What really matters is what makes you happy. Doing a job that pays you well, where you can still spend time with family and dear ones on the weekends and gives you resources to pursue your hobbies and interests, is a perfect thing to do. If that is what makes you happy. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur because it is a superior thing to do.
Please, please do keep it in mind. Your undergraduate or any other programme is a well-defined system. So, even if you decision to come here was not the best one for you, there is a way to get through the system. Entrepreneurial life is never well defined. If you get into it, because someone else thinks it is a better thing to do, it may be disastrous for you.
So, opt for entrepreneurship, only if, for the other reasons, this is what will make you happy.
There are many loose ends in what I have said right now, but let me not try to tie them all up myself. I hope you have questions and opinions on this and we can discuss.
Before I talk about the next notion, let me ask a few question
When you think of a good entrepreneur, what comes to your mind?
Humble or arrogant?
Reasonable or aggressive?
Well educated or dropouts?
Street Smartness or Basic Intelligence?
High CPI or Low CPI?
Young or middle age professionals?
I am sorry if you were a expecting and magical or controversial answer. What I have seen is that most of the gyaan about personality traits of a good entrepreneurs is quite rubbish.
It’s pointless to judge your entrepreneurial capabilities on these parameters.
I have seen successful entrepreneurs, who are very down to earth and others who are too much of a jerk. There are dropouts who have been successful; there are Ph. Ds who have been successful too. Youngsters who have broken records and middle age professionals who have built great companies.
So, don’t bother about these things. Again, many lose ends, but I will wait for questions.
And the last notion I will quickly mention is that you need to think about VCs and funding as soon as you think of starting on your own.
That is not necessary at all. Institutional investment works only for certain types of businesses and that too only in certain stages of the growth. So, one should first determine if they need the funding in the very beginning or even at all.
I am not sure, if funding is a big question on your minds right now. So, again I will explore further only if there are questions.
Okay – so till now I have talked of entrepreneurship only by negating things. Entrepreneurship is not this, not that, you don’t need to bother about xyz and so on.
Let’s me end my talk by mentioning something that I think entrepreneurs must have. It is related to the second notion I talked about – personality traits. While I do believe that a lot of personality traits that are talked about are irrelevant, I think that “Self Discipline” is something that is very important for entrepreneurs. If something needs to be done, you should be able to do it. You should not be put down by your laziness or weaknesses. Self Discipline is always good in life, but it becomes particularly important for entrepreneurs because there are no immediate external elements forcing you to do things. No teacher waiting to punish if you miss classes, no boss waiting to give you a negative performance appraisal, if you don’t do you work properly. So, you must be able to push yourself.
That was all I had to say and I hope you have questions with which we can continue the discussions.