When A Start-Up Entrepreneur Abandoned The Perfect Product

Thanks to lessons from a farmer.

In the decade before the internet became mainstream, one early Sunday morning, a young farmer from my granddad’s native village in South India visited us in the city. Within minutes of figuring out where he is from, he had freshly brewed filter coffee in his hand.

All actions in the minutes in between arriving and the coffee were reminiscent of typical South Indian hospitality and charm.

There is always a big warm welcome smile from all members of the family, best seat at the table, and a glass of water without having to ask. There will be genuine enquires about the well-being of folks in his village and finally — how many teaspoons of sugar he would like in his coffee.

My father patiently heard this young man’s plan to rebuild the temple in the village. The guest shared it with great enthusiasm and conviction. Yet my father sent him home with due respects but empty handed.

I was quite puzzled as I had liked his pitch and the cause was noble. The incident stayed in my memory.

About two months later, this young farmer was back. The hospitality was an action replay — with the small difference — at the end, this young farmer- guest walked away with a check from my father.

He had a new spring in his step, a happiness, and a lot bigger smile.

“What changed?” I asked my father.

My father said it simply — “the first time he came, he had a great noble idea. The second time, he showed me photos of the progress of work on the side temple -- he had a photographer visit the village every week to get progress pictures.”

“I liked what I saw and then he also showed the master plan for the big temple. It was easy for me to pull out the check book as I always felt good about the temple being rebuilt, just this time, I could sense that the odds of getting it done was good.”

We did visit the inauguration of the new temple. My father was a very happy man.

I leave a gratitude here before bringing this article back to the theme.
In this day and age of busy life, Pepsico CEO Indira Nooyi writes personal notes to parents of her top employees.
At my end, I like to salute Mr. Amirthalingam — the farmer who made a top line difference in my life.
To sell is human, how to market and sell better is a lifelong endeavor and I had the privilege of kick starting it early in life by observing the very best using simplicity at his core.

Every time, I hear words like prototype, minimum viable product and content marketing, I chuckle. I close my eyes and recall my visit to the temple in recent years .

Mr Amithalingam, with more locks of gray wisdom, drives his bike towards the temple, through the narrow road in the middle of the lush green paddy fields. He parks his bike and gently nods his head — acknowledging my big smile.

The man, who introduced me to prototypes (side temple), minimum viable product (side temple) and content marketing (photographs) without ever saying so, was a simple farmer in his trademark white dhoti and shirt.

The start-up connection

During a recent one-on-one session with a start-up entrepreneur in Houston, I sensed that his team was toiling hard for their version of a perfect product- without realizing it.

When I shared this story with him, he was connecting the dots on his own on MVP.

The lessons from this humble farmer has paid me rich dividends — many times over. I could sense it had the same impact on this young man as well.

Truly, no date stamps — just evergreen content.

Karthik Rajan.

You are welcome to sign up for my “connect the dots” short story-letter at this link. If you would like to scan my blogs — link here.