A salute to an Indian entrepreneur

Before you read further let me put a disclaimer. This article highlights the topsy turvy ride an entrepreneur goes through and how challenging is an entrepreneurial life. I have no intention of drawing comparison between an entrepreneur and those working in settled corporate jobs. Any resemblance (facts, scenarios) is purely coincidental.

After putting in over 30 years (corporate jobs with MNCs/large companies), I decided to pursue an entrepreneurial career. My journey has just started but I can see the stark differences between the two roles. It will be unfair to say that the two paths are different – its an understatement – the two belong to different planets. For the lack of a better term, I will keep using the word “different”.

Differences:

  1. A settled job is like driving on a super highway – there are clearly defined milestones, clearly marked lanes, you decide when and how many times to take a break (vacation), you start with a given compensation which is not going to change, at least for a year. OKRs/KRAs are defined (and revised in a predictable way). Entrepreneur starts every day, every month with nothing defined, things change quickly, new milestones get created, plans made, scrapped every week and shelf life of milestones/goals at times is just a day.
  2. We work on long term, mid term, tactical plans in our jobs – there is a method behind madness. On the other hand “Long term” in the life of an entrepreneur is a day or at best a week or in rare situations a month. I have started to learn how useless its to draw 3 year business plans – something which looked so convincing yesterday, appears useless. One email or phone call from my customer can change my business plan completely.
  3. I need to have tons and tons of patience. A small facial expression of dissent could make me lose business. Its like cricketer losing 50% of match fee, at the instance of showing slightest of dissent (we are humans not robots). A small outburst can cause you lose an order or put you in a spot – so better watch out – you can punch a wall later rather than showing dissent. Customer is a king and will always remain so. You are blessed if you get an understanding customer. And let us understand, customer is not one person – customer means different people in an organisation (good, bad, ugly).
  4. I feel guilty when I watch a cricket match (even on a weekend). I thoroughly enjoyed watching cricket matches earlier on TV (weekdays/weekends). Now I choose to watch at best last 2-3 overs – the moment I spend more time, I start telling myself “Why are you wasting time – go and complete that work”. Stupid thoughts – but that’s the way it is.
  5. I have plenty of freedom (big plus for an entrepreneur). I also learnt while studying organisation behaviour in B-school (32 years earlier) that achievement is a function of freedom and standards of excellence. So I have to set (as an entrepreneur) very high standards for my team and myself – whether its technical innovation or new product development, cost optimisation or winning new accounts. Freedom alone won’t take me far – standards of excellence will.
  6. I dream and dream big. I heard a highly successful entrepreneur and founder of a Unicorn saying on TV that your dream has to be so big that you should be scared to share it with others. I am too scared to share my dreams – these are big and will keep getting bigger. I will always be scared to share it with my friends, ex colleagues – they won’t take me seriously or laugh. Dream has to be big, may look silly, unrealistic – but an entrepreneur is born for “extra ordinary” dreams.
  7. Lastly there is nothing big or small for an entrepreneur. If a small thing impacts my business, I will do it promptly (won’t think that its not a CEO job). Speed is the key, if some process helps me gain speed, I will institutionalize it, else would throw it out of the window. Processes exist for my business growth – I don’t exist for processes.

Few weeks earlier, I asked a young Indian entrepreneur (who left a settled job to start a digital company) – “How do you feel having taken the plunge”. He promptly replied “Depends which day you ask me”.

His comment sums up my story – and this is a story of millions of young & old Indian entrepreneurs.

Your thoughts please !

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