The subconscious factor

The subconscious factor

Poornima Kavlekar decodes why she’s not an entrepreneur. Atleast, not yet! 

POORNIMA KAVLEKAR

For someone who is not an entrepreneur, interacting with at least five to six of them in a month is surely an eye-opener and the word passion assumes a different meaning altogether – perseverance and commitment. Sure enough, all of us display this passion in our own way in our own areas of interest. In my case, writing, family, travel and music get top billing. For many others who are professionals, it could be work, family and travel. Most entrepreneurs start off as professionals and specialists in their respective fields but there is a spark, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them take their passion to the next level. For these individuals, the journey of life begins when they turn business owners.

In The Smart CEO, we have spoken to over 300 entrepreneurs in the last three years and all of them have displayed distinct characteristics. However, there is one common underlying factor which connects all entrepreneurs –their conviction in an idea and their determination to make it work, against all odds.

This reminds me of a story we did with Dr. Matt Barney, director, Infosys Leadership Institute. Among the many insights he shared with us, what stands out is this: “Not everyone is suited to be an entrepreneur. It is tough and risky as hell. You have to have a level of stress tolerance, a level of self-confidence to bring the future to the present and create something out of nothing.”  I’m certain all entrepreneurs will have an anecdote to share on the risks they have taken and the sleepless nights they have gone through. The story of how Kiran Mazumdar Shaw set up Biocon in 1978 in a garage in her rented house in Bengaluru is awe inspiring. Overcoming many hurdles, she has led the company to become a Rs. 2,000 crore biotechnology player in the country. Apart from the usual challenges that entrepreneurs go through, she had one more – that of being a woman, as women were considered high risk in the business world during that time.

When Krishnan Ganesh, a serial entrepreneur who successfully founded and exited four companies, set out to build his enterprises, the one thing that drove him continuously was the passion for his ideas. The ideas for his various ventures stemmed from his experience of identifying the challenges and opportunities in each sector. And what made each of these ventures work was the belief that Ganesh had in himself that transcended all else.

To be perfectly honest, I too have had many ideas, some that arise out of interest and some others that come from facing daily frustrations, both professional and personal. I discuss them with my friend, a journalist herself, who carefully hears me out only to say, “I’m not sure we are cut out for this.

To be perfectly honest, I too have had many ideas, some that arise out of interest and some others that come from facing daily frustrations, both professional and personal. I discuss them with my friend, a journalist herself, who carefully hears me out only to say, “I’m not sure we are cut out for this.” But I want to take that extra step and say I would like to be cut out for this. I’m passionate about what I do; I’m hardworking and committed; then why am I not able to implement my ideas? Quite simply, I’m not a risk taker.

There is a change in attitude and eagerness to break away from the fear of risk, which is a main hurdle that one needs to overcome, to bring an idea to life. The success of many first generation entrepreneurs is a testimony to this.

Oh, and I like being accountable as much as the next person; accountable to my employer, my family and most importantly, myself. But the added responsibility of being accountable to two other groups –investors and employees – is something I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about! With all this being said, and written, I doff my hat to all the entrepreneurs out there who challenge themselves and others around them by doing what they do.

The hidden experiences

While not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, today, there has been a surge of many first generation entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas. So, what gives?

No, I’m not changing my stance; I’m still risk-averse and unwilling to take the leap of faith. But I wonder how my attitude towards entrepreneurship would have been had my young adulthood been different. Every condition exposes you to some learning which gets ingrained in the subconscious mind. For me, it was stocks and stock market behaviour. Becoming familiar with it seemed a natural thing to do as I have always heard my father talk about stocks and shared his insights with me right from my teenage days. And it was no surprise then, to him, or to the rest of my family and friends, that I started my career writing about stocks and later recommending them for investment purposes. So, as you can see, my upbringing defined who I am today, as it does with everyone else.

In a roundtable organised by The Smart CEO, we met with many entrepreneurs who discussed about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. What struck me as interesting, in the context of our current discussion, was the profile of a few companies and their founding teams. ChargeBee’s founding team consists of professionals who understood the nuances of building a product on the web and started the company with the idea of improving customer experience in the subscription business model. Three out of the five team members were ex-employees of Zoho, a software product company, which has a very open atmosphere that encourages innovators and thinkers. The same evening, I met ReportBee’s (a company that wants to create smart report cards for schools) founder. He is an erstwhile employee of HeyMath!, again, a very innovative organisation run by first generation entrepreneurs that encourages its people to think out-of-the-box. What you read, hear, talk, discuss – be it with your family, colleagues or friends becomes a natural extension of your thinking process. In one of our cover stories, Vinod Dham, who is acknowledged as ‘Father of the Intel Pentium’ and who founded Indo U.S. Venture Partners makes a very interesting statement – “If you live in Silicon Valley and have not experienced life as an entrepreneur in a world of startups, you have missed out on a very exciting learning experience.”

Another interesting observation made by Vishal Mehta, founder and CEO of Infibeam, an Indian e-commerce retailer, is that for most Indians who have gone abroad, there is always this question about whether you will move back or not. For him, the India growth story, created by several entrepreneurs before him, was too attractive to pass up and he decided to moved back in 2007 and start Infibeam.

An entrepreneur recently told me that not everyone can be an entrepreneur just like how not everyone can be a musician or a sportsperson. They are born and not made. I agree, at least to some extent. With the passage of time and the breakdown of many difficulties faced in the past, there is a lot of evidence of an increasing keenness for entrepreneurship amongst Indians. There is a change in attitude and eagerness to break away from the fear of risk, which is a main hurdle that one needs to overcome, to bring an idea to life. The success of many first generation entrepreneurs is a testimony to this.

The circumstances in our country are changing and even if you have the faintest of inclination of doing something on your own, you are not entirely alone. You have seed funds, angel investors, venture capitals and incubators to help you get there. Entrepreneurship education also plays an important role. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to have a great idea and a proper vision, and plan to implement it.

As for me, I’m not yet ready to turn entrepreneur. My first brush with entrepreneurship was three years ago, when I joined The Smart CEO and started writing about the entrepreneurial ecosystem. My learning has been tremendous. And I believe there’s a lot more to learn. In time, there might be another young journalist writing about my entrepreneurial journey. Until then.

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.