‘Sense of purpose key to be a successful entrepreneur’
New Delhi: A sense of purpose, believing you are Superman, and the ability to juggle “ticking time bombs”. These are some of the qualities that help make a successful entrepreneur, the founders of three successful Indian start-ups said.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, India’s largest mobile payments platform; Ashwini Asokan, founder of artificial intelligence solutions firm MAD Street Den; and Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder of Hector Beverages (maker of Paper Boat drinks), discussed entrepreneurship at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Thursday.
Talking to CNBC managing editor Shereen Bhan, Sharma said a sense of purpose is what drives an entrepreneur. “In the end, all of us humans have an urge to leave an impact on the world,” he said.
It is the belief that you are a “superhero, almost a Superman” that gave the Paper Boat team the audacity to take on fizzy drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, according to Kakkar. “We see ourselves as protectors of these national, traditional recipes. No one has given us this role; we have taken this on by ourselves,” he added.
For Asokan, the only woman on the panel, it was the urge to take AI out of the labs and make it mainstream that fuelled her entrepreneurial instincts. That, and the scepticism that confronts a woman in tech. “I love being told that I don’t belong, I can’t do something, because nothing drives me more than a challenge,” she said.
Largely, Asokan said, the experience of being a woman in tech has been “awful”.
“Entrepreneurship is a lot like juggling, except you’re juggling ticking time bombs. At any point in time, you get to hold only two. Question is, what do you do when one of those bombs explodes,” Asokan said, explaining the firefighting role that comes with being a start-up leader.
The challenge to entrepreneurship in India lies not in starting up, but scaling up, Sharma said. He made no bones about the fact that demonetization helped Paytm’s growth as a payments platform.
“India’s market got built in the last two or three years. What happened with demonetisation, Reliance Jio (Infocomm Ltd), and GST (goods and services tax), made India’s market, made digitization mainstream,” he said.
All three said they had moments when they found the going especially tough. For Sharma, it was his parents’ worry that he would never find a wife if he didn’t get a regular job. For Asokan, it’s multi-tasking—balancing work with family commitments, kids and in-laws.
But for Kakkar, becoming an entrepreneur is its own reward. “It’s an extremely selfish decision,” he said. “You are happy, you’re doing what you want. Your family is unhappy, you don’t have time or money for them.”