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Re-invent Yourself for a Successful Business

Ajit Balakrishnan
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Ajit Balakrishnan
With mobile phones experiencing a phenomenal growth in India, I see it as an emerging device for Internet access that will grow in the future. For a country of a billion population, the number of internet subscribers, 35 million of which only 7 million are on broadband, is far too low. At nearly a million new subscribers a month, mobile could be the next big thing.

How will this happen?

I believe that one of the key difference between being an entrepreneur as opposed to being CEO of an established company is the need to re-invent one self every 2-3 years as the business environment changes. With every stage of evolution of technology, an entrepreneur need to ask what should I do next, where do I go next. But one must also remember that if you move too fast the consumer may not be ready for such fast change.

For example look at this picture. This is a picture of a motor car from 1885 and was then called not a "car" but was known as a "horseless carriage". It was a horse carriage with a petrol engine fitted on it at its rear... This design for a "car" remained a market leader for nearly twenty years because users were not prepared to accept any other design- the preferred a familiar horse carriage look. . It was only in the early 1900's that Henry Ford and others were able to substitute this design with that of the "car" that we are now familiar with. Today, a 100 years later, the look and feel of a car is almost the same as what was designed by Ford with the exception of engine being in the front rather than back. This shows that how reluctant consumers are to adapt to something new.

Similarly,when a new industry emerges such as today's Internet, it takes 10 - 15 some times 20 years to for people to leave the old and adapt to the new. Before I started Rediff.com, I was managing a media company, Rediffusion and also making and selling UNIX boxes. Rediff.com was born as a combination of the two — bringing media on to Internet. In the beginning there was only a text based browser available so all we could play around with was 'text content' and connecting it to other relevant 'text content' by hyper linking with the URLs. A little later came the Mosaic Browser from the University of Illinois which enabled multimedia content like graphics, audio, and video. And we immediately began work shifting the entire website on the new browser so that people could enjoy something more than just text based information. But throughout those years, users pushed us to continue to mimic the format of a daily newspaper with the homepage crammed with multiple boxes and news slots. Just as early motor car users would not accept anything other than a horseless carriage design.

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