Kanaiya Vasani spent a large part of his professional career in the networking and telecommunication sector and has seen the industry evolve over two decades.Being a senior executive around the corporate side of the industry, Vasani shares his experience and his insights on the lines of entrepreneurship and beyond, "I was involved in developing one of the first IP routers in the industry back in the early 90's, at Network Systems Corp in Minneapolis when CISCO was still a start up."
On career choices
Vasani says, "You will often be at cross-roads in your career faced with two choices â€“ one's going to be a safe bet while the other is going to be a stretch bet pushing you outside your comfort zone. Go for the stretch bet, follow your heart, you will learn a lot and have fun doing something different." In every career transition, he has always gravitated toward the more challenging choice, typically preferring the smaller company to the larger, the challenger as opposed to the incumbent. Vasani adds "if you find yourself in a comfortable situation, thatâ€™s the time you need to push yourself and say I can do a lot more".
Being an Entrepreneur
Vasani says, today there is a lot of venture money flowing into the market, creating the temptation to go chase the 'next me too' idea, which is resulting in too many startups with too little differentiation.
As an entrepreneur, one needs to look at the market, 5+ years out, grasp the overall trend in the market and work their way back from that. They should assess the fundamental problem(s)that the market will grapple with over this horizon and how they would go about solving that problem. What is the product or solution they can bring to market to uniquely solve that problem.
Next, look at the feasibility and financials and assess if the product brings enough value where a business can be built around it. If yes, then go ahead and invest in that idea. Now you are not at the mercy of whims and fancies of investors or the vagaries of how much money is flowing in or out of a particular segment because you are firmly grounded in an idea. An idea that you are convinced is tied to a fundamental problem and offers a solution that is uniquely differentiated in the market.
There are typically two phases in a startup's life-cycle. The initial exploratory phase is all about understanding market trends, finding the right problem to solve, figuring out the value proposition and what actually sells. The second is all about execution, execution and execution. It is crucial to strike a balance between the two phases and be competent at both.
Running an organization
The leadership of the organization needs to be willing to listen. When leaders come into an organization with a strong voice and opinion, people who report to them typically start to tow their line. If the leader is too forceful about his/her view point that could end up stifling the bubbling up of innovative ideas as well as problems and issues. So being in a listen-to mode and soaking in the incumbent culture of the organization is very critical for any leader. It gives employees confidence to voice ideas without being shot down. This holds true whether one is building a new organization or coming into a new organization.
This, however, needs to be balanced out with the need for action and execution. In many organizations teams tend to get into analysis-paralysis, where an idea is taken and is looked at from every possible angle but decisions keep getting delayed. At some point you have to pull the trigger and drive execution. The leader and the team must put all their weight behind the decision and execute forward. A good leader can strike the right balance between the inclusive/exploratory leadership style and an execution focused leadership style and knows when to pivot from one to the other.
"For the Indian entrepreneurial community, there is no shortage of leadership examples. I would strongly encourage them to go back to our roots and get inspiration from the literature and the life stories of leaders who have graced our country. It's all in there," concludes Vasani.(Based on an interview with Kanaiya Vasani)