Is Entrepreneurship Hard?

I am writing this note one day after the 2nd edition of The Smart CEO-Startup50 Conference & Awards, which turned out to be a wonderful event with over 200 founders of India’s Top 50 startups attending the awards night at Taj West End, in Bengaluru. Not to forget the Conference preceding it, which had a line-up of some very successful entrepreneurs and investors from across the country, sharing valuable lessons on building a business for the long term.

Looking back, while each talk had some unique entrepreneurial wisdom to share, what caught my attention was the keynote on “Business Strategies” by the Chief Guest for the evening, Ashok Soota, founder and executive chairman of Happiest Minds and co-author of the recently launched book Entrepreneurship Simplified. Targeted at the Startup50 companies, which are already on a rapid growth path, his talk answered the question; what next from there?

He answered it with five key strategic approaches:
○ Startup strategy
○ Scale-up strategy
○ Competing against the gorillas
○ Risk minimization strategy
○ Pivoting strategy

In this, there was one aspect that Ashok touched upon, that really intrigued me; one of the founders from the audience asked him a question about the difficulties of being an entrepreneur, doing the hard things and dealing with stressful times. To that, Ashok gave a very simple, yet powerful answer; he advised entrepreneurs not get into this journey thinking it is going to be hard. Of course, he assured that while it may not be easy, it is crucial to think of one’s entrepreneurial journey in a simplified fashion.

It’s this same line of thought he pens down in the preface of his book as well, where he writes; “It is the aim of this book to show that while entrepreneurship can be hard, it need not always be so.”

In other words, he is convinced that if you can address, in a simple way, the various challenges and dilemmas that come up during one’s journey, there is no reason why it should be very difficult. Of course, such insight and conviction comes from his experience of having spearheaded, very successfully, the scaling up of several companies; DCM Shriram and Wipro as a professional; Mindtree and Happiest Minds as an entrepreneur.

For over 40 minutes that evening, Ashok held the founders of the Startup50 companies and rest of the audience in rapt attention. During his talk, I even remember glancing around to observe people carefully paying attention, even taking notes at times.

Overall, it was a pleasure to hear him deliver this Keynote Address at the awards night.

And, for us younger entrepreneurs, who may sometimes think, entrepreneurship is hard, it may make sense to give his book a read and look at the problems at hand, from a different viewpoint.

Last but not the least, I would like to thank our sponsors – IDA Ireland, Indian Terrain, Giant Starkenn, CoWrks, TechIndia, Veda Corp, Frederique Constant, PN Rao, Tata Docomo, Grover Zampa and Ballantine’s – for believing in Brand Startup50 and supporting our efforts in identifying India’s 50 most exciting startups, every single year.

Coming to our current edition, this time, we’ve featured on the cover, the stories of how three entrepreneurs took their companies – Equitas, HCG and Quess Corp – from Idea to IPO. Maybe, we should have asked them if the journey so far has been hard?

And don’t forget; our next edition is the Startup50 special, covering the event and featuring stories of the 50 winning companies. If you’d like to buy a copy, write to us at

Prem Sivakumaran is co-founder & CEO of Growth Mechanics, a leadership and entrepreneurship-focused business content company in India. Growth Mechanics publishes The Smart CEO, a publication focused on enabling peer-to-peer knowledge exchange among C-level executives and board members. The platform reaches over 1.2 lakh CXOs across its website, app, print publication & CEO Round Tables, and has featured on the cover India’s leading business leaders/founders from Infosys, Mindtree, Tata Sons, ICICI Bank, Biocon, Yes Bank and several others. In addition of Smart CEO, Growth Mechanics also organises the Startup50 Conference & Awards, an annual event to recognize India’s top 50 startups every year. Startup50 Alumni include Freshdesk, Oyo Rooms, Urban Ladder, Capital Float, Paperboat Beverages, among others. Growth Mechanics’ primary business model revolves around linking CXOs and Brands around engaging content and has worked with India’s leading companies including Mahindra Group, Godrej & Boyce, BASF, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Fiat, IDA Ireland, Yes Bank, Prestige Estates, Frederique Constant, Indian Terrain

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