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Entrepreneurship – a DNA in all Indians
Ashish Gupta
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Over the past few years, India has been witnessing a steady inflow of venture funding and almost everyday there are numerous startups sprouting and as Indians; we must consider entrepreneurship because of where we live. We have chosen to live in a country which itself is a startup. Day after day, we deal with situations around us that are similar to what one would face if one had a new venture. Hence we don’t have a choice but to be entrepreneurs.

Let’s see some parallels—startups possess extremely high energy and optimism. Growth or loss, everyone is constantly betting on the future. Whatever be the setbacks for today, the future is promising. This is India’s story today. Startups deal with small numbers but have large growth rates. A first contract of $50,000 will be an occasion of immense celebration because it heralds a $5 million contract. In a large company the $50,000 contract would be noise. India is similar—most markets are relatively small in size but we are all betting on the growth rates. An entrepreneur has to be a little overconfident and yet pragmatic to believe that they can take on a large established company and at the same time execute to prove it. India too is characterized by such a dichotomy where overconfidence and pragmatism coexist.

Another striking characteristic of a startup is that there is always very little infrastructure and process. The HR manager does not know where the forms are. If one has a grievance then he will just have to either take it home or do something about it. Also there is a perpetual shortage of talent in startups. One has to make do with whatever one has. These hold true for India too. Lastly, startups have to constantly innovate to survive. According to me, anyone who survives in India is very innovative; starting from getting the work done from the house help; to getting the refrigerator repair person who is always a mere 10 minutes from your home. It is the same in startups where the customer is always one day away from contract and there is need to continuously innovate to survive.

Thus, living in India is already like running a startup and one must realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is an opportunity where lots of boats are rising and moving in a single direction. Despite this, one can be in a boat that is anchored too low. Not taking a risk at this juncture in a countries growth is a bigger risk than being entrepreneurial.

Compared to many people in the U.S., who do not have jobs in the IT industry or the financial services industry, we have a reason to rejoice because we have a lot of these jobs. But this is not going to last—because in a few years time we may find ourselves in a similar situation. What has happened due to globalization is going to happen to cities like Bangalore too. The jobs will move away from Bangalore to elsewhere (tier B cities) because of price pressure. Whatever can be made efficient will be made efficient. Because money can move, information can move, and people can move; so work will move too. By the end of it only those with creativity will be the ones to survive this spiral of efficiency. Given this reality of life, entrepreneurship is one very clear choice to carve a niche in this ever growing and changing world of technology.
The author is Managing Director, Helion Venture Partners
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