I finally realized I don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur when I spoke to Saurabh Srivastava earlier this week.
In my 15 years as a journalist I’ve often gone through phases when I’ve wanted to break free and BMOB (be my own boss). Sometime last year I decided I was fed up of my job. It could have been because I was just back from a three-month round-the-world trip (Dadar is a serious comedown after Machu Picchu), but I was convinced that life was passing me by. I was spending the best years of my life in a sterile space drinking multiple cups of undrinkable coffee. Worrying about everyone else’s growth and needs with no time to think of my own dreams. Getting o-l-d-e-r. Not doing anything s-i-g-n-i-f-i-c-a-n-t. You get the drift.
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“I’ve decided to do my own thing. But I need an idea that will make me some money,” I SOSed two colleagues.
We brainstormed over the aforementioned coffee.
You could start a magazine.
Nope, it’s too tedious to set up a distribution and circulation system in India.
Why not become a boutique travel planner?
Zillions already exist.
Import wine, cheese, coffee, whatever is the next “it” food item.
Too much state government interference and I’m not good at paperwork.
The husband already nixed that plan when he realized we would need to work late nights, weekends and all holidays.
Eventually I switched cities, the coffee improved and the mood passed.
Srivastava, who has been living off his ideas for two decades now, knows that entrepreneurship is about passion, not whimsy. People who want to become entrepreneurs to make money are not the people who get anywhere, he says. A real entrepreneur, according to Srivastava, is one who makes an impact, changes the way people do things.
Workplace: In 2007 and 2008, we ID’ed cool jobs. This year, we feel entrepreneurs are cooler than jobs
A recent wealth study commissioned by Standard Chartered private bank found that people living in the UK and in India are mostly likely to regard entrepreneurship as a future source of wealth. One in five Indians believes the sale of a business will be a source of significant wealth in the future. Not bad for a country where imagination has never been given its due, especially in the corporate world.
Srivastava’s been there, done that. Ten years ago he sold the IT company he had created and made his money. But he couldn’t let go the high of being an entrepreneur. In the past decade he has had a hand in creating/financing several firms. Along the way he co-founded the Indian Angel Network, was a chairman of Nasscom and is currently in the process of launching yet another angel fund. “If you can create something in a way that outlasts you, then you create lasting value,” he says.
Hemu Ramiah did just that, though some of her fans may argue that the quality of titles at Landmark stores across the country has fallen since last year when she exited the bookstore chain she had built so lovingly.
When she set up her first Landmark store in 1987, Ramiah implemented all the lessons that she had learnt at the Taj Coromandel’s bookstore where she worked for around eight years after she graduated. Now she runs a consultancy focused on consumer retail and interacts with all kinds of Indian entrepreneurs. “They’re a very hardy lot, quite happy to take risks,” she says. Ramiah believes that adaptability is the one quality all Indian entrepreneurs must have. “Everything is not quite what you want it to be. You have to adapt quickly,” she says.
In this week’s Lounge, we didn’t shortlist the country’s best or biggest entrepreneurs—we focused instead on entrepreneurs with a seriously high CQ (cool quotient). Even now, as The Economist pointed out recently, most venture capital funding goes only into certain industries. “The money for the vast majority comes from personal debt or from the ‘three fs’—friends, fools and families,” the magazine said. Many of our entrepreneurs raised their money from these fs too. Read their stories and find out if you have what it takes to join the club.
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