Saturday, July 08, 2006

Entrepreneurship: Interaction with INSEAD students

Yesterday I was speaking at a session on 'Business in India' at Taj President at Mumbai. This was a group of students from INSEAD (Singapore and France) campuses, interacting with new age entrepreneurs from India.

Other speakers included founder of shadi.com, Mr. Anupam Mittal, founder of the chain Yo-China and Siddarth Runwal (from Mumbai's Real Estate business family). They spoke about usual issues in starting a business in India i.e. from family issues to role of traditional hierarchies in business to more than 39 licenses needed to run a restaurant to myths about cheap labour (because less productive labour turns out to be twice as costly) etc.

My case was different. Speaking about 'design entreprenurship' in India, I realised that we at Onio, faced a rather typical 'entreprenuerial problems' more than 'India problems'. A field called 'design' which was not recognised by industry, government and the society at large even after 35 years of presence in the local soil, had different challenges than setting a traditional business lines.

Two people just out of a design school with lot of zeal and determination...that is all we had (yes, all the entrepreneurs state this in their interviews). But what we didn't have was any 'reference' or benchmark against which we could compare and improve. Should we be a partnership firm or a private limited company? Should we try to show 'losses' in the very first year to escape taxes or should be show highest profits possible in order to get credit-worthiness? Should we recruit low-salaried 'doers' , who would work like a soldier for us or 'high-salaried thinkers' as well, in the team, who would tackle the clinents on our behalf and add value in the discussions. From very simple queries to very complex issues like how much equity to dilute for first round of funding, Prakash and myself have just used the calculated gut feel and gone ahead. Contrary to my earlier beliefs MBA degree or a 'must have' partner with finance background, really wasn;t required at this stage. Natural ability to 'survive' or the 'survival instinct' shapes an entreprenurial mind in such a way that it senses in 360 degrees all the time. Whether it is about learning a new trade or learning the legalities or handling an angry customer, the survival instinct comes to the rescue and emboldens the endeavours further.

to be continued...