Starting a Start-Up.

startupHow many of you, I wonder, would be leaving the portals of your B-School and be ready to start your own venture?

How many of you see yourselves as a pioneering entrepreneur, with a novel business proposition and rewriting the rules of the game?

How many of you would forgo the security of a steady income, a comfy job at a renowned company and enter into the uncharted and uncertain waters of entrepreneurship?

There is ample evidence to show that not even one percent of those passing out from the various management schools or engineering institutes in the country take that crucial step into self-employment.

Self-employed doesn’t sound so good, right? It sounds like you are sitting at home, doing some freelance work. Entrepreneur sounds better. Job creator is even better!

There are many reasons why young people in India do not want to strike on their own. For one, parental pressure. Fond parents who have invested a lot in your education and have made considerable sacrifices to put you through a prestigious institution are looking for returns in the form of a nice, stable job at a leading Indian or multinational company. They are entitled to their bragging rights.

There is also peer pressure. When you see your friends bagging nice, comfortable jobs and being offered mouthwatering annual salary packages, nobody would blame you if you wanted the same for yourself. After all, that’s why you’ve worked so hard, isn’t it?

For an average Indian, job safety and financial security is very important. Your own inclinations will lead you to a safe job and all the attendant perks that a management degree brings. Why shouldn’t you take it?

However, try to think of all those people who trod and tread a different path. The promoters of Ola Cabs and Taxi for Sure. Think of Pete Cash more who created Mash able at the age of 19 – he sat at home in his mother’s bedroom blogging on technology. He created a multi-million dollar media enterprise out of his passion.

The truth is that India needs more entrepreneurs; more people who can offer jobs; more employers. We have to change from an employee mindset to an employer mindset.

So what is the kind of attitude and other attributes that you need in order to be an entrepreneur?

The Temperament

An entrepreneur has to be a non-conformist and have a disregard for the opinions of others. This might sound revolutionary but you have to remember that there will be a lot of pressure on you to follow the conventional path. An ability to take risks and be very sure of what you want to do, are some of the traits that you need as an entrepreneur. Confidence in your abilities and a determination to go your own way are also needed.

The Business Idea

You may or may not have an idea – but you will certainly have a passion. Maybe you are mechanically minded; maybe you are a whiz at creating music; buildings and architecture fascinate you. Whatever it is, entrepreneurs always have something on their minds which they want to do above all else – and they want to do it on their own. It is this passion, which gets translated into a business idea. It may not even seem like a business idea at first.

The Value Proposition

Entrepreneurs are very hard-headed people. Once they have the idea,they look for ways to commercialize it. Entrepreneurs may be dreamers or visionaries but they are also practical. They want to sell their idea to the world. Look at Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet – all with unique and far-reaching ideas but profitable too.

Getting the Support Structure

If you are determined to be an entrepreneur, you have to get the support structure right. Get your friends and family to help you. It took playwright George Bernard Shaw 15 years to get recognition, during which time his mother supported him by teaching music. Or, if you do not have a supportive family, you should be prepared to support yourself, doing part-time or freelance work. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, funded his venture and himself by doing freelance work in the evenings.

A word about funding here. The media is rife with stories about million dollar funding deals and fantastic valuations for start-ups, but these are all exceptions. For every venture that is funded, there are about a hundred others, which do not get funding and still manage to make a success of it. Funding usually comes from your family members, friends, good Samaritans and charitable patrons. Loan from a bank is an absolute no-no at this stage, unless you are sure of generating cash flows every month.

Open-minded and Flexible

People often have the notion that entrepreneurs stick to one idea and become a success with that. That is a total myth. Most entrepreneurs try various permutations and combinations before they strike the right formula. Kishore Biyani tried ten different things before he found success with Pantaloon. Your core idea is of course the seed for your future enterprise. But you have to be open-minded about how you get your idea to become an established business. If one strategy is not working, be prepared to backtrack and try a different tactic. Dedicated entrepreneurs are rarely deterred by failures. In fact, they do not even view it as failures but just as lessons to be learnt.

A certain amount of agility, flexibility and quick thinking is necessary if you want to be a successful entrepreneur.

Listen to Others and Take Help

Entrepreneurs may go their own way, but that does not mean that they are not listening to others. They are also keen observers of their surrounding environment. See what others are saying; watch what they are doing. Take your cues from what’s happening around you. Finally, you have to sell your products and services to the people around you and if you do not know what they think and feel – how will you know what to do? The external environment always influences an artist or a painter.

Do not be shy of taking help from others – whether it is in the form of ideas, advice or any other resources. Some people may offer you rent-free accommodation. Some may offer to do work for you for a nominal sum. Some may tell you where to find things that you want.

Its not easy being an entrepreneur but the rewards when you finally make it are so large that it is worth going to all that trouble.

Contributed By : Janaki Krishnan , An entrepreneur in the education and skills sector. Prior to this she was a business journalist. Writing continues to be her abiding passion.

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