The Tipping Point for the Indian Entrepreneurs…!

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

 -LaoTzu 

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”-William Shedd. Entrepreneurs are like ships...fronting rough ocean and blustery weather in their voyage to realizing dreams.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”-William Shedd.
Entrepreneurs are like ships…fronting rough ocean and blustery weather in their journey to realize dreams…!

I do not think there will be anyone who would strike down the obvious fact that we are almost at the gateway of the Asian Century.The dawn of a new era of global power and energy hustled by emerging Asian middle class is eventually likely to polarize the world.

Yet, in some senses, the voyage for India is going to be bewildering.  India has not come out of the economic rubbles of last few years of indolent regime.

Although for this fiscal year, our GDP may brush little plus of 5.5% but other economic parameters, like, government and corporate debts, inflation, pitiable infrastructural support, daunting energy famine, hysterical inflation, and massive sleazy scandals, are still lecherously ogling at us. The only hope possibly is the decisive victory of the new government. At least, government has a comprehensive mandate to legislate pervasive reforms.

The obvious evidences are the opening up of foreign direct investment (FDI) in several sectors, Standard & Poor’s raised credit rating, unprecedented support of hoi polloi to Mr. Modi, and anticipated administrative, economic, and fiscal reforms. I am sure India is going to be the most dazzling investment destination for many. While government appears to be constructively disposed towards strengthening Indian business milieu, it is equally inclined to encourage foreign investments in a big way.We are definitely picking up the momentum.

Things are changing rapidly…But, we are still not out of the mess.

Whereas, global business community is much more animated after stewing few very demanding lessons from the market turbulence in the past few years. Besides, unexpected ease of global connectivity through internet and sophisticated technologies has precipitously transported customers to the center stage. There is an upsurge of innovative and unconventional boutique companies across geographies. Underlying volatility in currency and commodities is still a serious apprehension. Just a decade back, business disruption was an uncommon phenomenon, now it is an actuality that companies face on regular basis. The rapid change in the global business environment is confronting organizations to disrobe the outmoded business practices.

In good conscience, today Indian entrepreneurs are the victims of the management practices that are wide of the mark for its time. The 20th Century practices which gave us rich dividends up to now are becoming significantly dysfunctional for today’s sustainability.

Lot is already published on this topic in various articles, books, and periodicals. I have tried here to very briefly express the obvious emerging trends in the ‘leadership & management practices’ to encounter the radical vicissitudes at the market place:

  • Customer is becoming the champion of the market. He has knowledge (information) and options. The focus of new class of organizations is shifting form improving shareholders value to enhancing customer’s profitability. Every team member in every role need to think “what am I doing that customers will value?”
  • Unceasing innovation and transformation are no longer likely to be a matter of choices. Iterative learning and Innovations are going to be inexorable ingredients for the business sustenance. It is obligatory that Product or service must be meticulously aligned with the expectations of the customer.
  • New generation is very liberal, confident, and vibrant. An approach of “Plan-Control-Review” will not work with them. Flexibility at work, empowerment, and collaborative work environment, are going to be ultimate engagement tools.
  • Very soon hierarchical bureaucracy will have no place.
  • In addition to economic values, the best strategy to captivate customers will be to demonstratively offer: Transparency, Quality, and Sustainability.
  • The caste system in the organization, the Decision Maker (senior management) and the Implementer (Rest of the organization), will evaporate. The work culture of shared purpose, well-organized and highly networked empowered teams, and collaborative co-creation, will substitute the traditional top-down unidirectional controls.  Leadership focus will shift from ‘retaining talent’ to ‘enhancing passion’ at work.

 It is a paradigm shift…!  

Do we have any choice? The answer is “NO”. Because, things don’t stop changing just because we choose to stand still.

Indian firms are likely to encounter unbendable competition from the new wave of highly flexible, competent, extraordinarily profitable, and enlightened enterprises in the future. Sounds goofy? May be, but Indian entrepreneurs have to quickly engage in transforming the traditional middle-class mind-set (what they have internalized and “used to” for so long) to successfully qualify for the sweeping transformation in the business environment. No more superficial and episodic reactions. No more repair work. It is high time to cerebrally migrate from the typical “bargaining tendency” of adopting transitory patchy part time corrections to reconstruct the entire cultural fabric of the organization. It is a shift from classical linear approach to designing a multidimensional, interactive elastic organization (Refer my post: Amoeboid organizations/March 27, 2014). 

I believe my post is more relatable to Middle & Small Scale business firms.

A great deal of such transformation will come by changing the way Indian entrepreneurs think and conduct their business. No doubt, our Indian entrepreneurs are very spirited and ingenious. They have enormous potentials to get to the top, provided they keep on overpowering their temptations of pampering the opportunities from the window of immediate returns.

Fortunately, during my passage of career, I was blessed to associate with few very successful entrepreneurs. I have tried to decode certain qualities which have kept them away from such typical enticements:

    Not just Dream but a Tangible Vision

It is the ‘dream’ that galvanizes an entrepreneur to create and build. To be a successful entrepreneur, one must have rock-solid conviction, courage, and that one big dream. But, to disentangle that dream, it is essential to have a tangible unpretentious solid business plan with measurable milestones. There is an elusive difference between an idea and an opportunity. All ideas do not have an inherent potential to be a business prospect. Entrepreneurs must learn to balance a “restless creative child” within and a “realist” adult on the ground. They need to equipoise a reinforcing sequence between pragmatism and business appetite.

 Measured Risk but not Gambling

An entrepreneur is a daredevil. A man with a plan and purpose. Risk taking is part of his DNA. But, not the crazy ones. Entrepreneurs would like to challenge all the odds by smearing their focus and energy on the opportunities. Yet, doing a business means taking calculated risks, not being impulsive or speculative. The risk has to be palatable. There are examples of entrepreneurs who behaved like an over confident gambler and damaged their businesses for ever. They deliberately created an unprovoked risk on the hope of gains and lost it at the end. Often, in such situations, the seductive greed for immediate returns tends to subordinate the long term vision. When an entrepreneur decides to make a big bet that consumes large company resources, he inclines to contemplate only about the “huge numbers” as profits, rather than how breakdown will cruelly affect the bottom-line. For any successful business, risk needs to be judicious. Starting a business is often an easy task, the challenge is in sustaining and surviving.

 Decision but not a Reaction

An entrepreneur cannot be fatalistic in his decision making style. Business decisions are not taken without serious forethought. A decision, just on gut reflection or on rough estimation of the consequences, is likely to fall flat on the face with multiple open issues. But, there is no one to stop an entrepreneur from getting in his own way. The successful entrepreneurs do take quick decisions in the interest of business. It is very natural. There is no room for lingering on options. However, there is a fine line between taking ‘quick’ decisions and ‘hasty’ decisions or “reactive” decisions.Rushed and reactive decisions do not reflect a well thought response. Such episodic and mercurial decisions are destined to be tomorrow’s problems.

 The Promoter and the Professional

Entrepreneurship is all about multi-tasking and organisational skills. Often, they believe that the business is running only because of them and they are the only decisive element in the realization of the business. They, psychologically, start competing with professionals. Many top notch professionals from established companies are lured and hired for sheer “ornamental value” (the trophies), but later, they are squandered on mundane and routine work. Regrettably, the same attitude also puts a ceiling to the future growth. One cannot build entire organization on his shoulders. Entrepreneurs need professionals and a team of experts to take business forward. On the other hand, professionals associated with an over-interfering entrepreneur, find it excruciatingly demanding to relate with his way of native intelligence. Professionals are good at their domain knowledge. It is difficult for a professional to apprehend what is going on in an entrepreneur’s mind. They remain confused. The very incongruity of mutual expectation seeds conflicts, leading to compromised relationships. As a patron of the organization, an entrepreneur should give more then enough space to his team members. An empowered space for learning and coming up to the speed in their own way. All potentially successful entrepreneurs invest sensible time in building engaged teams to shape the future of the organization.

 Quality of courage

A leader is lonely at top. Every entrepreneur, by default, takes the path less traveled. He has an uncompromising determination. He takes bold but reasoned decisions. The most overbearing quality of a successful entrepreneur is the ‘never-say-die’ attitude even when things don’t work according to the plan. Giving up is a luxury that no entrepreneur can afford. A business may disintegrate, but an entrepreneur will never crumble. At the same time, quality of courage does not mandate alluring unjustified risks. Though, successful and confident entrepreneurs will never easily lose sight of the realities.

 Learning is Inevitable

A successful entrepreneur will always listen to others and remains open to change. By and large, entrepreneurs are favorably predisposed to learning and corrections. There is no reason for him to believe that his approach is always right. However, few entrepreneurs have very little endurance for creative alternatives. They do things their way. They turn out to be very poor listener with very little respect for others’ assessments. One must have the innate conviction that every individual has his strengths and limitations. Playing to the strengths of individuals and complementing the inadequacies with a support system will only leads to the lasting growth. Learning is eternal. A successful entrepreneur is humble and flexible enough to embrace any productive change without hesitation.

  Compromised Work-life Balance

Working long days and working on weekends or on a pre-declared holiday is typical of many successful entrepreneurs. They are generally workaholic. Unfortunately, they consciously fail to recognize that a professional who is working with him has his own personal life and priorities. Furthermore, a sadistic tendency to quantify the commitment level of a professional by accounting “how much personal time he has surrendered”, is an archetypal trait of an entrepreneur. One important question concerns whether appetite for quality work actually diminishes as people put in longer hours? The answer is “Yes”. Eventually, such indirect impositions will incubate negativity and derelictions in the system.

 Temperamental Outbursts

Generally entrepreneurs enjoy their work. They love their accomplishments. You will not find any entrepreneur interested in retiring from his work irrespective of age and health issues. The same “possessive passion to succeed” makes him highly temperamental. Entrepreneurs are perfectionists and are never satisfied with the work of others. They are obstinate about their thoughts. There are always people who get their kicks by distressing someone else. They do not realize that the pain caused by such behavior is truly just a warning sign of a far more serious consequence later. Unexpectedly, the basic sensitivity towards human dignity is not a preferred asset even for many evolved entrepreneurs. Escalated emotional outburst during a meeting is quite a routine feature in many organizations. Any open constructive dissent which is so vital for the growth and sustainability of an organisation gets miscomprehended as disparagement and viewed with suspicion, leading to other penalties and instability.

Impoverished trust level

Trust is a complex issue with entrepreneurs. They withhold trust until they are absolutely sure the person deserves it. Unrealistic, unexpressed, and imprecise expectations are a primary cause for low trust in their relationships. Somewhere, deep inside they are trapped in a “victim mentality”; hence they are bit shaky about the intentions of the people. They are comfortable in being transparent only with their own confidants (irrespective of hierarchy).  They are incapable to trust to give “complete charge” of any assignment to their employees. For them, it is like a jugglery of “plug and play”. Somehow, giving up control becomes a constant struggle for them. However, to cultivate a successfully thriving organization, an entrepreneur must trust the talents and attributes of his employees. Trusting others is also a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you try trusting others you will find they frequently pay off that trust.

All said and done, we are transiting through an interesting time zone.

I am obviously referring this to the Indian entrepreneurs.  There is a golden opportunity for the leaders to proactively and painstakingly articulate prerequisites of 21st century management practices. Most particularly, the way our Indian entrepreneurs are susceptible to the “conformist hierarchical money making” model of business despite having an ingenious capability of enriching the business experiences much differently.

Unfortunately, such impassioned attitude is omnipresent even in large and evolved corporations. Certain organizations do appear to commence the transformational initiatives for a while but always relapses to the timeworn ways.

Transformation demands innovative reinforcements, attitudes, values, and internalizing new capabilities. I am confident, organizations that can embrace the dynamic mode of management will certainly excel …much beyond just surviving the competition.

As the stratagem for growth, these are the most low-hanging fruits…!

 *Please, feel unreserved to share your thoughts here for everyone’s learning.

10 thoughts on “The Tipping Point for the Indian Entrepreneurs…!

  1. Dear Bhagwat, I have personally found this article very useful as it has come at a time when I have ventured out to test my entrepreneurial capabilities, after leaving the job. I am hopeful it will benefit equally to others also.

    I think apart from management skills, hard work and planning, it is most important to follow your dreams, to follow what you like the most and you are passionate about. This gives purpose to what you follow, and then you follow your purpose.

    • Dear Dr. Thaper, Congratulations! I am happy that you are moving on your path. Generally, a start-up venture appears like a modest idea. No issues, if you could not launch it as a formal big business. It is fine. It is the journey which is important. Keep dreaming higher. See what you can improve every day. Thanks for your valuable comments.

  2. As always, you have hit the nail on the head. Additionally, the entrepreneurs should consider the professionals as their partners in business. Most of the promoters intend to squeeze the professionals not sharing the largesse with them and paying them significantly low salary.

    • Achieving entrepreneurial success requires more than just an idea, financial resources, systems and market (customer). One of the important ingredients to success is to ensure effective performance across hierarchy by empowering people. It takes time for an entrepreneur to appreciate the simple fact that – only propel can create the success he truly wants. Thanks for inputs.

  3. Quite a neat piece of work I would say. However one thing which has always been bugging me is – is FDI a panacea to all our problems? Will ‘Make-in-India’ really solve all our challenges? The fundamental premise behind these two policy initiatives is – ‘We are a cheap nation’. Our manpower is inexpensive given the quality talent they possess. But for how long? China became the manufacturing hub because of this reason, but this cost advantage will vanish in due course as other countries enter the fray. The larger challenge is ‘sustained growth’.

    How about providing a massive boost to our SME sector? Helping in their capability building? Making them set up shop abroad – say forging alliance with other third world countries and leveraging our frugal innovations. Large organizations might have the advantage of scale, but as rightly mentioned by you what is required today is ‘nimbleness’ of an organization. Our SME, given the right impetus can rise to the occasion.

    Another challenge that we face is the skewed industrialization in our vast country. At a time when Indian industrialists are massively investing abroad in their manufacturing capability, why aren’t they attracted to lesser industrial states within the country? Will this question not cross the mind of the foreign investors when they plan to invest in India? You rightly said that this government has to bloody well succeed in breaking the shackles of bureaucracy and red-tape if they want to create a ‘business friendly’ environment.

    • Dear Mr. Bhattacharya, you have made few very meaningful observations. Just few days back, our PM Modi emphasized on ‘collective responsibility’. He said, “We must stress on two FDIs – First Develop India and Foreign Direct Investment.” “For Indians FDI is a responsibility, it means to First Develop India, for global investors FDI is an opportunity in the form of investments .We can’t ignore MSMEs. The country’s 1.3 million (approx.) SMEs account for 40% of India’s total exports. SMEs have been the backbone of the Indian economy. It is believed that SMEs engage 40% of India’s workforce and contribute 45% to India’s manufacturing output.But, unfortunately their contribution to GDP is just 17% (if I am not wrong). It calls for economic introspection. So you are absolutely right in your observations.

  4. Hi Yagnik,
    As always, very well written. Tangible vision, quality of courage and innovation are critical success factors. Unfortunately, Indian entrepreneurs are more like businessman.

  5. Dear Bhagwat
    There are many interlinked concepts to the earnest mind. Delinquent if the objective is to ridicule, but incisive if the objective is to search for the Tipping Point. In my own journey of over 3 decades till date, I find that, often the leadership paradigm barring a few have left a lot to be desired. There is a sense of megalomaniacal tendencies which prevent the human mind to explore its depths of capabilities and often caught in the trap of “do it because I say so” syndrome. I would recommend those caught on the throes of disappointment in learning to do a serious soul searching through the net of traits that you have put above. Foremost of them is “LEARNING IS INEVITABLE” I would substantiate this to put a rider to the concept that as long as learning is enjoyable, then the fruits that it bears are enormous thus we need to inculcate the inevitability of learning tool to enjoy as the epicentre of the tipping point. I enjoy your blogs and do hope they keep coming to challenge the mindsets.

    Cheers
    Vijay

    • Dear Vijayendran, you are absolutely right in your commentary. Our entire early growing phase is focused on “learn and develop”. Most of us are active learner till adulthood as unfilled pots hungry for the knowledge. At some stage in life we stop being a student. We repel natural process of learning. Because we start assuming that now we “KNOW” everything. Our mind-set of “knowing” perpetually interferes with our little left over desire for “learning”. We proudly introduce ourselves as subject matter experts. It becomes more intense when we start believing that others also perceive us as experts. The fact is, at every stage in our life, we need “learnings” irrespective of how much we know. Thanks for your encouraging words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *