Archive for October, 2009

Does an Entrepreneur need prior work experience?

I was asked this question by Suhani who is with YourStory.in. While, she will publish an excerpt of my interview with her I could not stop my thought process from rumbling on and most of that does end up in this space…so here goes (my take, the unabridged version…). Hope it triggers a good discussion and thought process on this.

The truth is, if you are asking yourself this question, you probably do need the experience. On the other hand, the young somethings that go startup on their own don’t ask themselves this question, they are the “doers” who go get things done. Occassionally, they might reflect on the sub-optimal use of their time/efforts due to lack of “proper” training/experience, but largely, that wouldn’t deter them from pursuing their entrepreneurial dream.

Now, defering your dreams to go get some corporate experience under your belt is not bad, if you are not using that as a bait to go down the least effort path. Instead keep your eye on the end goal and keep working towards it, relentlessly. What do I mean by relentlessly? Be on the lookout for potential partners and employees who can help you achieve those entrepreneurial (Gosh! I think they made this word hard on purpose) dream, try and get relevant experience in terms of implementation, marketing, sales, technical exposure, management – anything related to your idea(s) that will help you understand the market better (enough to uncover pain points, at least!) or understand the execution aspects better or make you better at hiring people, give you better networks to rely upon once you are on your own etc. etc…

Can you be really taught entrepreneurship? Short answer is – Yes, if you were to go out and build something on your own, you might end up hours trying to figure something out that with a good training might be a cakewalk. However, Do you need prior experience before taking the plunge? Hell, No! Look at what the young entrepreneurs of the world ranging from Gates, Jobs, Yang/Filo, Bezos, Dell, Brin/Page, Zuckerberg etc. etc. have achieved. While, it might teach you how worthwhile your cause is and how underutilized you are in your job at spur you towards taking the plunge, for others it might build a comfort zone or a cushion beyond which their dreams might cease to exist.  In fact, they might even get loaded with the “large corporate” baggage so much so that they when it comes to it, they can’t operate in a startup anymore!

So, the question remains – is MBA an answer, then? Can one learn to become an entrepreneur at an MBA school. My take on that is – No. As much as a manager needs to grasp a lot of theory to get on top of the world’s learnings on management, each company, each entrepreneur is different, how they learn and what they want to learn is different. No standard school curriculum can teach you that. At best, it can help you with resources, mentorship and networks (which is great, by the way and still rare to get all the three together in one place at the same time). So, what do you do? The only way you can learn entrepreneurship is by doing it and if you can attempt it on your own through your own networks and building your own safety net, great! Else, incubators are the place to be for you…

All the best and hope it helped answer the questions of at least some of you and do ping with your share of stories…looking forward to hearing from all of you!

Tie-ISB Connect 2009 – Part 1:Incubators

I attended the Tie-ISB Connect 2009 this year and to say the least, it was one of the most inspiring sessions I have attended in the recent past. Let me go over some of the highlights for those of you who missed and for the rest of us to keep pointers in mind, as we move on…(with the “rodent-sized memory” of ours – courtesy Siddharth of Rang De Basanti fame, during the panel discussion on Taking India Forward)

I will cover Incubators in this session. This was the first panel on JumpStart that was organized by Sanjoy Sanyal and had as panelists Nandini Vaidyanathan (Founder ForStartups), Sunil Maheshwari (Founder Mango Technologies) and Deepam Mishra (i2 India Ventures). All the three had incubators in common, where Nandini helps setup & run incubators in Engineering Colleges, Sunil was incubated in IIM-B and Deepam is trying to commercialize the technology present in our top-notch IIT labs.

The broad takeaways from startup perspective were –

1. Be ready to fail

2. Focus, Focus, Focus

3. Think big, thing different, think you – when you are solving a problem

4. And, last not the least, realize that incubators are good for money and the relationships  – everything else you need to do on your own.

Nandini went on to describe the ideal incubator as one that believes, funds, mentors and bridges (helps with networks) but the fact that no incubator perfectly does all of these shows that there is a lot of room for improvement. At the same time, her own efforst in this area and increasing awareness to spur entrepreneurship in the community has helped create incubators in engineering colleges that can help young startups attain success. You can read more about these efforst at her blog.

Next few sessions were around funding, growth, partnerships, next 800 Million Opportunities and taking India forward…that I shall cover in the next few parts of this blog series. In the meanwhile, please feel free to share your experiences, if you are looking to engage with incubators, please feel free to ping me.

PS: There is a 5 -day workshop on entrepreneurship being held from Nov 16-20th 2009 in PES School of Engineering by Prof Nandini Vaidyanathan and interested people should register before Nov 5th 2009.  Knowing Nandini, I would strongly urge anyone interested in entrepreneurship and startups to register and gain from the experience.

The Kite Runner – Movie Review

I watched Kite Runner, the movie directed by Marc Foster and based on Khaled Hosseini’s book by the same title, recently. It had such a raw quality to it that it set me thinking about fate, honor and circumstances, as perceived by the characters as well as us, in general.

The interesting part of the movie is that it keeps the scenes, the characters and the emotions very real, no overdramatization. The truth and the unrevealed circumstances are so overwhelming that underplaying it was the best tactic could have been used, while taking the story forward.

In the backdrop of the talibanization of Afganistan, the story unfolds – the strange friendship between the protagonist and the servant’s son; the reality of the father of the protagonist who has an illicit affair, and his attempt to keep his honor by ensuring the child grew up as his servants’, in his own backyard; their journey across the seas seeking refuge in America and going from being a landlord to a gas station owner; the servant and his son are left behind to fend the family house; the protagonist and his wife not having a child; the protagonist’s trek back to Afganistan to reclaim the lost friendship, only to realize that the servant’s son was in fact his own half-brother and that all that is left of their relationship is his nephew in an orphanage; his genuine attempt to take the child back home – and ends where it all began, flying kites!

Worth a watch, I must say…

Job Postings and Inadequacy

Most job postings I come across look too good to be true. The requirements make the ideal person seem like a the job requires you to be a “versatile demi-god” with excellent communication, good team player, leader, many years of domain expertise, no travel compunctions, no work hour issues (read as work 24×7) and the list doesn’t end here…

This is the easy way to go about the process, put all the tangible and intangible best case requirements for the role in a piece of paper and hope to get a good fit on as many dimensions as possible. But, is there a better way to recruit without intimidating the worthy? I’ve seen some companies going to the other extreme, put out the company details and the basic minimum requirements and then trust the weeding process to bring out the best fit. Both these cases, when the job posting seems too good to be true and when the base case requirements are put out, the company can get inundated with tons of resumes and the weeding process cannot be efficient, to say the least.

 So, is there a more effective way? I was wondering if inbound marketing has a good answer to this. I’m referring to the process, where the company can use digital medium to communicate its stratgey, role requirements, a couple of interviews with people on the job (something real and tangible for the applicants). This will not only weed out the “not-so-fit” resumes, it will encourage the “best fits” to apply, n confident in the knowledge that there is a chance. It does force the company to do more work than usual for a job posting, but, seriously I don’t want to just see the postings that say- how great the company is and how great everybody is but rather how real the opportunity is and how excited (or not?) someone should be about it.

How about reaching out to potential recruits based on their activities in and around social media? How about creating the competitions where they can showcase what they can do? Some companies do it, most don’t. What do you think? Effective recruitment techniques, anyone? How do you get your job requirements across without overdoing it or underplaying it? Has anyone have success stories of recruiting via social media?

Twitter n Me

I started using twitter a few days ago and one of the major things that has kept me on it (aside from the real-time effect) is the fact that there are certain thoughts you don’t want to expand into a complete blog article. They neatly fits into 140 characters and convey the point succinctly enough which, in turn then, lets me move on….instead of haunting me with expansion possibilities and an attempt to stuff them with words in order to grow them into full blow blog articles.

As many have felt before, I too feel a strong urge to just tweet interesting thoughts that pop up in my head (as and when they do), instead of thinking about whether it is a “blog worthy” thought and whether I should work on expanding it further or just leave it in the twitter jungle (along with all the other hashtags for my followers to figure out whether it is important enough or not). But, I’m resisting it better than I expected. I want to spend time expanding interesting ideas. Only that, now I have decided not to backlog non-expansible ideas/thoughts/comments/opinions etc. but to publish it on my twitter account. How do I decide which ones are in which category? Ah! that is a topic for another blog. So wait and watch…this space. Yeah, of course, before I forget you can follow me on twitter @sreejaiyer.

Gtalk Feature Request

I know when you hear this, you will go, duh! But the fact is that, it not being there makes managing people on my gtalk list a little difficult.

Ok, first the request – need a “category” feature on gtalk, where (if I want to, that is), I can classify my friends into different categories and hence, manage the ones I interact with more vs. the others, a little better.

This feature already exists on most other chat engines and hence, it is annoying when I have to wade through “n” number of contacts on gtalk to get to the one I’m looking for, especially, when the order of the list varies based on who is online vs. not. One of the solutions a friend suggested is to delete a contact you don’t interact with on a regular basis from the chat list. Well, I for one, don’t get the point of adding someone on your chat list if the only way to prune it is by deleting the contact when you want to manage it better!!!

Dancing With The Elephants

I went on a vacation recently to Thailand and wandering through a new city (Patong and Bangkok) famous for its night life, “massage parlors”, cheap shopping and fleecing tuk-tuk’s, we couldn’t help but wonder…how at home we felt thanks to the extremely friendly nature of the Thai people.

Not to mention the strange but true facts – that the people in Phuket spoke much more fluent English than the people in Bangkok itself,  that no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get lost, every single price was negotiable right from a handbag at the street store to the foot massage at a suave-looking parlor!!!

The Patong beach itself was not very attractive and moreover it was “too busy” for our taste…so we found a quiet corner in the Kata beach further south of Patong and had a whale of a time. On the third day, we even ventured out on a rented motorbike and drove up and down the entire stretch ranging from Patong to Kata beach 4 times, looking for food, fun and souvenirs…and not to mention baby elephants that were swaying their way to glory, as they ate their meal!

Food was costly and there were very few options to get a decent meal without paying up at least 100Bhat/person, going upward with addition of a beverage and any interesting experimentation with the dishes :). One can have a pancake snack with interesting combinations like banana and nutella for 50Bhat. Comparatively the massages were cheaper. One can get a good foot massage for 200Bhat and a good Thai massage for  300Bhat (and these are mid-range prices), they can get really low in cheap parlors that have girls sitting outside and shouting “Helloooooooooo! Massaaaaaaaage” to very high in well…high-end massage parlors.

While Phuket was a seaside and wandering experience, Bangkok was more of a shopping spree, for us. We went from one kind of market to another – night market (Pat Pong), street-side markets (near some subway stations), day time markets (Pratunam) and some of the larger airconditioned markets in full fledged buildings (Big C, Platinum Fashion Market) – comparing prices, haggling over 50Bhat price differences, snacking on fresh cut fruit on the street stalls and wading our way through the never ending shipping list – was a vacation well worth the price!


Blog Stats

  • 27,257 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,280 other followers


%d bloggers like this: