Shri Yogesh Agarwal, President, EDI
Members of the Governing Council
Ladies & Gentlemen:
I am thankful to Shri Yogesh Agarwal, President, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India and members of its Governing Council, for having invited me to be the Chief Guest at the 10th Annual Convocation for the award of its unique Post-Graduate diplomas. I am truly delighted at this opportunity to speak to a cross-section of the budding entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
First, my best wishes to all you who plan to embark on your journey as entrepreneurs. Let me assure you that this is the best of times to strike out on your own. There is no dearth of business opportunities in today's world. Especially in India which is a land of vast business opportunities.
In the last 4-5 years, the Indian economy has been growing at an average rate of 8% plus. More importantly, Indian economic growth is more sustainable than that of most emerging economies, including China. This is because while most emerging economies are export-led, the Indian economy is driven to a large extent by domestic consumption that accounts for a significant proportion -- 64% -- of our GDP.
Moreover, the demographics are also in our favour. Currently, 54% of Indian population of a billion plus is under 25 years of age. This will ensure that India will continue to have a strong labour force as well as a large consumer base.
And, if I am asked where the prime business opportunity in today's context for budding entrepreneurs lay, I would unhesitatingly point to "Little India" -- by "Little India" I mean the over 600,000 towns and villages of India.
This said, I'd now like to share some of my thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Let me begin by addressing the question: Who is an entrepreneur? Rather, what are some of the traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Well, first and foremost, an entrepreneur is an "opportunist" in the best sense of the term. Let me explain.
Entrepreneurs are good at spotting and creating opportunities where none exist before. As they say, entrepreneurs see what everyone sees, but DO what no one else has done before!
Opportunities come with risks. There are no opportunities without attendant risks and vice versa. Opportunity and risk, so to say, are two sides of the same coin. What separates the entrepreneurs from the rest is their divergent attitudes -- while the former are excited by the opportunity element and focus their 100% on it, the latter are deterred by the risk element embedded in any opportunity.
Another important attribute you cannot fail to notice about a successful entrepreneur is his passion for the business. Not only is he good at his work, he enjoys his work immensely.
Also, since an entrepreneur does not work in a vacuum, his enthusiasm and passion for the business is infectious. It infects all those around him ? those who work with him and those who work for him. Which, in turn, contributes significantly to the success of his enterprise.
The real challenge of any enterprise lies basically in the journey from idea to execution. An entrepreneur is more like the conductor of an orchestra he leads, while his team delivers! So it's essential that your team buys into your ideas ? both in terms of the objectives and the means employed to achieve them, and has immense confidence in your leadership. A successful enterprise therefore calls for leadership of a tall order.
A successful entrepreneur is good at dealing with ambiguity and is generally quick at taking decisions -- even in uncertain conditions. He does not wait for all related data to be available to him to make up his mind, he relies for the most part on his gut feeling or intuition. For, he's only too aware that opportunity seldom comes visiting the second time and that business is fundamentally about deciding in real time with imperfect data. So he will not let the decision moment to pass waiting for perfect data.
Also, a true-blue entrepreneur is aware that he's not a know-all and therefore never shies away from seeking inputs -- no matter what the source -- for the success of his venture. Take it from me. A successful entrepreneur spends the better part of his time gently coaxing the best out of the people around him ? which precisely is the main function of a leader. As the legendary former CEO of General Motors Lee Iococca said, "Management is nothing more than motivating other people".
Coupled with the awareness that he is entering an uncharted area, a successful entrepreneur is never afraid to experiment and fail. He's not bothered by the fear of failure -- the fear that deters most would-be entrepreneurs from striking out on their own. Every 'failure' becomes, in fact, a great learning experience for him. And not -- as others would perceive it ? a loss of face. This, in my understanding, is the essence of the entrepreneurial mindset.
However, let me confess that there are few universal recipes for entrepreneurial success. In fact, when asked about the secrets of his success, the 20th century American oil billionaire Paul Getty said it all: "Strike oil".
Well, even so, I'd like to suggest a few lasting mantras that could prove helpful.
- As someone said, "Change is the only constant, and hanging on, the only sin". I would strongly urge that any entrepreneur worth his salt should click the ?Refresh? button and reinvent himself -- in terms of strategies, goals, et al, from time to time, especially in a fast globalizing world.
- The world is neither flat nor evenly round; it is and will always be, tilted. What I mean is that the world over there has been never been a level playing field. And you would be better off learning to compete on "unlevel" playing fields and prove your mettle.
- Keep playing your part to the full and be patient. Never ever give up.
- Life throws a number of opportunities your way. Make the most of them. And as the punch line in the popular Shah Rukh Khan-M S Dhoni Videocon TVC says : Whatever role life gives you, play it big.