Scratch An Itch — Quotidian — 028

(Transcript of video originally posted on 28 Jan 2021)


We have already encountered the story of The Jungle Book. A book authored by Sir Rudyard Kipling. There is a scene like this in that movie. In the original movie, the animated version from Disney. Baloo the Bear would ask for Mowgli’s help. Scratch my back please, it would ask… The boy is not doing too good a job... Realising that it is not going to be enough, … Baloo uses a tree… That isn’t good enough, so he uproots the tree! And, finally, when all is done, that is when he rests!

So, according to me, if you want to really build something new, if you want to get into a market, one of the most frequently given pieces of advice is:- “Scratch your own itch!” The problem that YOU want to get a solution, forget about the others, think about YOURSELF. Personal need. Try and fulfil that, they would say.

I wondered why they say this — and arrived at three possible reasons. The first one is, “Nobody else is going to solve it for you”. Even asking somebody to scratch your back sounds odd and inappropriate..! And, why would he do that? Why would she do that? You have to scratch your own itch! Point number one!

The second? Well, “You would do ANYTHING to solve it!” I had an aunt, who would take a knife to her back! Unable to reach all the way with her hand, she would use a KNIFE! We would be afraid that she might BLEED! That serious! Because, that was how bad the itch she had was! If you remember the Three Idiots movie, there is a scene… well, wait.. I don’t want to recall that moment now!

And, finally, the third reason it works for you is, “You won’t STOP until it is solved”. If it is for money, if it is for marks, if it is for a project, if it is for a degree, you would stop when that is done, not when the PROJECT is done! But, when the project is for you, when you are scratching a personal itch, you will continue to do it past all other demands from outside. And stop ONLY when that work is finished, and that itch is gone.

There are many examples… The Virgin Airlines group itself was born when… Richard Branson.. the one seated far left, he was stranded in an island, he had to go to the mainland, the flight was cancelled, so, what did he do? He went out, he chartered a plane, sold tickets among the others, and that was Flight Number One.. the story goes. Scratching a personal itch!

Consider the Linux operating system. Torvalds wanted, Linus Torvalds wanted a printer driver, nobody had written it, he wrote it, he put it up, and it became popular, and Linux was born! Scratching a personal itch!

How about Facebook? Did you really think Zuckerberg’s oh-so-noble intention was to connect all the people in all the world?? He wanted to write a game that would help him keep track of which girl in the hostel opposite to where he lived was hot, and which one was not! It was the near-futile attempt to hook a girlfriend. That was Facebook!

AirBnB — wherever you turn, there seem to be rooms available for a low cost because of this startup… Once upon a time, two college students, unable to pay the rent for their accommodation, and at the same time, there is a shortage of hotel rooms in the town because of an art exhibition event happening around that time, and they sub-rent their rental space. Their own room, with an air-bed and breakfast — that was how it got started! That was AirBnB.

But, hang on. Let me give you a small warning too! Don’t overdo it! If there were a dense jungle, and you were the first person to go through it, … it would be very difficult to make a path.

But, the person who is following behind you, … when he follows the path you took, if he adopts the Fast Follow Pattern, he may even be able to overtake. So, in your attempt to scratch an itch, in your attempt to find a solution that nobody has found yet, don’t make it too easy for anybody to follow you. That is the primary warning.

The second problem? If you end up liking the problem too much, you will think.. you will bring it too close to your eyes, and you will think the whole world has that problem. It is NOT true. If you bring a small thing close enough to your eyes, it may cover your whole scope of vision, but that does not mean it is looming large, world-size! So, it could be just that only ten, fifteen, people in the whole world has your problem. Then? Can we monetise that problem? Can we do business with that solution?

So, do enough number of people search for a solution to that problem? Are they ready to pay for it? We need to consider those too!

Go ahead! What’s the itch that you are going to scratch?!



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