There might be some truth to the stereotypical view of Indians being more emotional and passionate, at least as far as businesses are concerned. Discussing the “Indian way of entrepreneurship”, Rajiv Deep Bajaj, vice-chairman and managing director of Bajaj Capital, and communications chairman of the Delhi chapter of the US-based Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), says training entrepreneurs is essential in India. He believes that drawing from Western models won’t help much given the differences. EO is a global network of more than 7,500 business owners from 40-odd countries, which provides learning opportunities across countries and enables entrepreneurs to solve business challenges, learn in different ways, network locally or globally, and much more. Edited excerpts from a phone interview:
What do you mean by the Indian way of entrepreneurship? How would you say it compares with the West?
There is a difference. While our business objectives are the same, which is add value to society and create profit-making ventures in turn, our way of doing it is different because of our cultural differences from the world. The West is an “I” society, they are more individualistic. We are a “we” society; we live for the family; in rural India, we live for the community. Most entrepreneurial ventures in India are family run and not professionally run as in the West; in the West, they segregate ownership from management whereas here there’s a strong alignment between the two. Given the vast difference in both styles, our attitude and way of working is different and has to be different—if we simply copy Western entrepreneurial models, it simply won’t work.
Business basics: Simply copying Western models won’t work.
How do the diverse backgrounds of entrepreneurs make them different? For instance, how would a first-generation entrepreneur be different from a fourth-generation one?
Your background plays a huge role in business: The mindset that you bring to your business is essentially a product of your background. If you are a first-generation entrepreneur, for instance, studies and general observation tell us that they will be more hands-on. On the other hand, a fourth-generation entrepreneur has been brought up in such an environment that he would be acclimatized to play a supporting role, and leave the day-to-day running to the professional staff.
Do you feel that India lacks training facilities for its entrepreneurs?
I absolutely agree. Our strength is also our weakness. The fact that we’re so high on emotions in our management is ultimately the reason we ignore processes. We do not go into details of understanding the process of management, and hence we make mistakes in our respective ventures. There are few platforms where entrepreneurs can learn from each other and share experience, and our organization, EO, attempts to change that.
Can anyone be groomed into becoming an entrepreneur, or do you need some inherent qualities?
You need the attitude of an entrepreneur, which is the mindset of risk; you need to understand the risk-reward equation, and that for high risk there is high reward. If you belong to a conservative school of thought, and are used to a fixed-return mode, then an entrepreneurial venture is perhaps not for you.
What is the kind of training EO can equip budding entrepreneurs with?
Training is essentially making someone aware of the issues an entrepreneur should be aware of while running a business, such as HR, tech, operations, processes, marketing, sales, areas that are part of any business. As an entrepreneur, another essential aspect—that they miss out on—is peer-to-peer learning, which is the real learning for entrepreneurs as opposed to classroom learning. They need to share their experiences because whether they have a Rs1 crore business or a Rs1,000 crore business, the generic management issues and challenges are the same.
Research shows that people learn best from experience sharing. The registration and application of that learning is much better. At EO, we provide such platforms for students. EO Delhi has 100 members, and this breaks up in sub-groups called forums, which then meet periodically and meet the informal board of directors to get feedback about their business. This board consists of experts in every field: HR, finance, marketing, and so on.