Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Dhirubhai Ambani, Azim Premji, JRD Tata and many more have been iconic entrepreneurs who have inspired generations and would continue to do so. The spirit of listening to one’s heart, being driven by one’s passion and building an entity that creates value for multiple stakeholders are fundamental to entrepreneurship. The paths these great people charted for themselves are often reminisced fondly and exemplified. However, one must carefully decide if all those paths and formulae lead to success in our current environment.
Do we need to be fast and furious?
Technology has changed the way people lead their lives. Period! We have loads of information and that makes individuals as well as enterprises discover numerous opportunities to make progress. As a result, competition among people and organisations, alike has grown manifold.
Resources such as time, money, land, air, water, minerals and people continue to remain limited. Hence, there is a vigorous race to get ahead of the others. This is not a new phenomenon, but the pace, intensity and ruthlessness is way higher than what we used to witness earlier. We want to achieve results quickly; our goal posts have become many and we need to reach them as fast as possible.
Sometimes, we end up chasing impossible targets where failure is imminent. The solution does not lie in slowing down or lowering the ambition. One has to be pragmatic!
How do we draw the line?
Financial institutions have been lending money, governments are looking for ways of increasing commercial activities and their revenues and all the citizens are looking to improve their personal worth. Investors want quick returns and there is a need to move faster than the others else the predator will eat us up.
Most successful entrepreneurs in India have to deliver industry-leading growth figures. Else, their enterprise is not attractive for investors and employees. They tend to borrow heavily like many developing countries of the world and hope to generate adequate returns on the capital deployed.
We see some of them wooing customers off their old habits by offering attractive pricing, blitzkrieg marketing efforts and thus, gain market share. Some combine this with innovative offerings that appeal to segments of market. They tend to hire the best minds laterally from the other players in the industry; this heats up the market a bit, but helps the entrepreneur fulfil the growth ambitions. Therefore, the progress is a function of one’s ability to envision, plan and organize the resources.
The business bears the load of these ambitions and thus, the associated decisions. We have seen many cases of success and blossoming enterprises. At the same time, examples of failures are many as well. We have to draw a line wisely to keep a good balance between our ambitions and the ability of the business to bear the load.
Are there lessons from the recent times?
Amazon has turned positive globally, large global enterprises have huge cash reserves and are growing their strength to explore opportunities in emerging economies like India. The largest Indian ecommerce player has been acquired by a large multinational. Many popular new-age brands need to grow if they have to survive and hence are raising funds to keep their operations going. Many large Indian businesses are in the midst of several mergers and acquisitions. We see allegations against some entrepreneurs of mismanaging the finances and some wilting under the pressures of regulatory bodies. Many officials in government offices consider the entrepreneurs to be well-heeled and ill-intentioned. What do all these teach us?
I think, it is important for the entrepreneur to have a mentor who s/he respects as a person for the experience and trusts his or her views without any reservation. The mentor should be able to establish a deep connect with the mentee so that one is able to relate to what the mentee is going through. Further, the mentor has to handhold when needed, act as a sounding board and might help avert errors of judgement.
Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”