26th October 2009
One of the reasons entrepreneurship sounds so romantic and glamorous is because of the freedom, randomness and equality attached to it. You don’t have to be from a B-school to do business nor need an IQ of over 140 to be certified a successful entrepreneur. India is a place where entrepreneurs have blossomed from the most modest backgrounds having ordinary academic credentials. Most of them lacked sophistication and even lacked the structure as prescribed by the business environment at that time. They all bucked the trend and came out trumps. However, entrepreneurs in India may be at a risk of losing this freedom away.
In the era of Venture Capitalists and Business Plan competitions we are doing again what we did to all art forms and creativity: Giving structure and institutionalising it. So, we have prescribed formats, things like ‘10 Must Not Dos for a budding entrepreneur’; arm-chair seminars and conferences that focus on ideas but not execution etc. Increasingly, a lot of entrepreneurs are losing their own identity, their own unique trait falling prey to structuring themselves and their Business plans for a Venture Capitalist or a fund. A serious question needs to be asked by the entrepreneur whether he/she is losing himself/herself in this new trend where one is constantly tailoring oneself in the desperation to kickoff a business.
Recently, we had a workshop on entrepreneurship here at IIM. Half-way through the workshop I switched off. The speaker started giving models and Porter’s theories to evaluate businesses. This is slowly turning into another major problem. If entrepreneurship could be taught like this then only the MBAs of the world would conquer the world of business. As soon as you try formalising a concept, you say it has rules. There are no rules for entrepreneurship. It can be as great an equaliser as the internet. Even the Juicemaker can rise up to be the market leader in selling music cassettes (Gulshan Kumar) or a college dropout can amaze the world with products like the Mac and iPod (Steve Jobs). No one can prevent their success. Neither the people who won’t give you a job because you don’t know a particular language nor the people who will refuse to admit you in their institution because you either lack money, influence or luck.
The ironic thing is that they are now trying to make money by teaching entrepreneurship and giving gyaan on it. The modus operandi is simple like many other ways of making money. Complicate a simple thing first. Then extract money to give an illusion of simplifying something that does not need any simplification.
Entrepreneurship is the transformation of subdued energy into something meaningful, a vent for the creativity of the human mind, a process where raw talent finds its rightful place. It’s the single biggest reason for the progress of mankind and the change we all experience over time. Do not kill it by adulterating it with formal structures.
Given the institutionalised mumbo-jumbo being propagated a lot of entrepreneurs are making the mistake of trying to fit themselves in the metal frame rather than building their own frame. Making your own frame sounds difficult but is remarkably easy.