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Startup India but Log kyaa kahenge

Job nahi mili kya ? (Couldn’t you get a real job?)
Yeh to bakwaas idea hai! (This idea is not going to work)
News padke dimaag kharab hogaya?(Are you just fascinated and brain-washed by reading startup news?)
MBA ke bina kaise karoge business ? (How are you going to run a business without an MBA?)
Work experience hi nahi hai iske pass! (You don’t have any work experience!)

Hasan Minhaj (Photo by Mandee Johnson, courtesy of Instagram: Mandee Johnson)

These and countless others things you will hear as you launch yourself into the world of Entrepreneurship. At Ycenter, having taught thousands of students in Africa, USA and India courses on Innovation, Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship, I have found some interesting pattern in the life of an Indian Entrepreneur.

Who is the most important person in an Indian’s life?
Every time I ask this question, I hear parents. But in reality, they are your neighbors and relatives. Because “log kya kahenge” when you quit your job, “log kya kahenge” when you make less than your mother’s friend’s daughter-in-law, “log kya kahenge” when you make less than your spouse and “log kya kahenge” when you fail after having spent 3 years with trying to realize a dream. And even if your parents will support you, even they are scared of facing the relatives in the next Diwali party because (you know)….

Startup is a passing trend and a facade!
Many believe, that startups are just a passing trend in India, blown out of proportion by excessive media coverage and elsewhere on the internet. Forget the word, a startup is basically taking a huge risk and delivering a greater value for a customer by solving a certain problem they are facing. That’s it. We have been doing these for hundreds of years, I mean literally since the first industrial revolution. The world has evolved and the semantics have changed. And motor powered machine making is replaced algorithm powered shopping websites. If we didn’t have startups then we wouldn’t have Amul and your Pav Bhaaji or your Dosas would not taste the same!

The failure rate is very high!
Absolutely right. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it or even try to do it. With a country of 1.2 Billion and population with the average of 29 by 2020, where do you think the jobs are coming from? We need a generation of people to start moving from being mere job seekers to job creators.

The probability of failure cannot outweigh the possibilities of creating new jobs.

Get corporate experience first!
There is no denying in the fact that “Experience is the best teacher” for anything you do in your life. But most startups, including the successful ones, had founders who figured out how to run a company on-the-go. And that indeed is historically one of the best ways to do it. Because startups do not follow a linear path in first few months/years. Your business plans will change, your product will evolve to a point where it might be completely different than how you first started out and your team will leave. No business school or corporate experience can prepare you enough to handle these uncontrollable and the unknowns. What helps is the perseverance and the grit of the founder.

Women Entrepreneurship in India
While I would like to believe that the playing ground is equal for men and women in India and elsewhere, unfortunately, it is the not the case. Having worked with women Entrepreneurs, they find it more difficult to raise investment from traditional VC firms and other institutions. I do not have exact data to support this for India but you can find similar datasets for relatively matured ecosystems like Silicon Valley in the USA and extrapolate them to get a sense of this picture. India has a chance to not make the same mistakes. Women Leaders turned Entrepreneurs are known to have a naturally Empathic leadership style, something that helps every Entrepreneur to connect with their potential users/customers.

Check out my article on Problem Solving for Entrepreneurs in HuffPost

There are many thing other hackneyed comments that one will face. Starting up something is difficult as is, but when you are also facing social opposition from doing something different, it gets more difficult.

Elon Musk shares tips for Entrepreneurs starting out. Summing up his talk — “The goal of an Entrepreneur is to be less wrong. ”

But when Experienced Entrepreneurs say that it is tough, they don’t always mean tough in the sense of Raising Capital and Finding Customers (yes that’s tough too) but they imply all these baggage that one has to handle in the face of running a company and staying cool.

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