OUR STARTUPS NEED NOT FADE INTO THE SUNSET!

MOST START-UPS DON’T TAKE OFF-BUT WHY?

The 2008 global recession (which badly mauled most of the developed economies of the world with global exporting tradition)   didn’t bruise Indian economy to a significant extent thanks to the 45 million small scale industries we have herein, all with strong demand for their products and services inside the country!

This even when our experts slid downward!

These small scale and mid-scale industries had started as individual enterprises or startups years ago and grew into behemoths that even a global recession couldn’t dent!

IT’S IN OUR MINDSET! :

I had a funny experience some time ago at a local agri-industrial product exhibition, and to be precise at a CSIR-Regional Lab-managed stall. I noticed many useful objects designed and produced in the laboratory by those highly qualified and creative scientists there, and especially I loved to handle a food plate, discovered three years ago,  made with coconut husk impregnated with thermo resistant resin. I wished to buy a few of the same but I couldn’t because the Regional lab never sold anything they told me.

To my simple inquiry why these products had never found their way into the market through some start up enterprise  or corporate firm, the young man standing in the stall said,

”Sir, We are out and out scientists dedicated to research for its own sake! As such we have no in-house reach-out mechanism for taking these products to whoever wishes to manufacture them. They need to first know about our services, and then come to us and we shall be happy to train them in how to make these!”

Thus it was that I stumbled —like Ali Baba upon that “Open Sesame” magic expression—upon a great truth applicable to India—the Humongous Systemic Disconnect between the inventor/creative men (cooped up in R&D wings of firms, in colleges and universities and laboratories) and those that wish to –and have the business skill to–make the inventions benefit the people at large!

It’s in reality like the two faces of the Roman deity Janus, facing opposite directions!

To get fully convinced of this just watch how few of the inventions brought out and displayed by our school level geniuses –either at Master Mind contests sponsored by a reputed newspaper group here in Kerala or at youth festivals- have found their way into the open market! Or the horrible disconnect between the highly promising research findings buried in dissertations at all Indian universities and the academic institutions here.

Personally I recall having designed a 22 hour remedial gap filling course in English for whoever is weak in English at a school; once administered the boy or girl is sure to secure >90% marks! Unluckily no school in Kerala has heard of this research product to be found any day in my EFLU M.Litt dissertation at the EFLU Library, Hyderabad!

India has never lacked individual citizen level enterprising spirit but if anyone starts out on his own with a startup, he finds himself eyeless in the Gaza desert—with all the others in the country —his family, his alma mater faculty, other scientists and technologists with expertise, financing institutions, and even the local motor mouth people representative–looking on with Egyptian mummies at him like an oddball of sorts and never extending even a little finger to help him succeed.

Some shy away on account of his caste, and some others due to his “odd idea”, and still some others for NOT taking up a salaried position instead! For a young man or a young woman to have pluck and spunk enough to be the boss of his own or her own brain baby enterprise looks and sounds like an extra-terrestrial notion to most grownups “happily retired” from a menial job somewhere and depending solely on “monthly pension”!!

Financing institutions frustrate the youth by remaining abominably unhelpful even with creative suggestions of how to conquer the local market in the light of their observation.{Islamic Banking principle, is for the bank manager to actively support the budding entrepreneur succeed first before he seeks to recover the loan he had advanced to the young person!]

If you wish to see India as a great nation with a million more successful; startups, small scale , and middle scale industries someday , you need to change this negative dampening mindset first of all!

IT’S ALL IN THE STARTUP’S NAME!

I read somewhere that the term “Anthropocene”-Literally meaning “Recent Age of Man” — first envisaged as applicable to our own times by two Nobel Laureates viz. Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, encompasses the many things the human race involved itself in to bring about the vast unwholesome climatic changes we are passing through these days globally!

This small period falls within the Holocene Period, which, hallmarked by the beginning of agriculture, the earliest settlements in Asia and ,mass migrations to distant continents, began 12000 years ago.

An age 65 million years ago behind you and me today was named by International Commission on Stratigraphy(ICS) as  “Jurassic” —from the Jura mountains of Europe– to suggest a period when huge mountain like animals –the dinosaurs-roamed the Earth!

A startup must have a good, easily memorable, spirited name—like SUPREME for water pipes or ACME for exercising gadgets– to begin with. Infosys is thoroughly ordinary but it carries the two components its focused on-information and systems. LIJJAT evokes memories of taste buds with a popad and so it can expand along that line. PHILIPS invokes a company head’s image, and Samsung brings references to a chaebol.

So dream up a name that is linked in some manner to what you seek to do in your offer, and which will stick in everyone’s memory BEFORE you think of setting something up on your own!

AMBITION OR VISION?

Your dream project is your brain baby. So think of its growth too over the years, the probable challenges it shall have to encounter and survive, and the intrinsic threats and opportunities present in the startup scenario! At bottom it’s NOT money that is the real jinx, but the mindset and the ambition of the man or woman behind it. If it’s only an individual ambition to ensure an easy life for one’s own family the startup can’t get ahead; the same will be the prospect if it doesn’t seek external assistance an d doesn’t establish a supportive network with the others in the same field of activity!

One can distinguish between a person’s ambition to make money per se and the vision that drives him to places to get things done in record time. Here are the wise words of Sadhguru Vasudev in this connection:

“Instead of working with (individual ambition, if a group of people work for a vision of their own, a deeper vision of life for themselves and for everything around them, their enterprise is sure to benefit a lot of common people….Anyway you want wellbeing. All I am saying is, why are you stingy about your desires? Why don’t you be magnanimous? It’s not just about “I want to be well, but about “I want the whole world to be well” ”.

VENTURE CAPITALISTS? ANGEL INVESTORS?

I haven’t heard hitherto about any start up in Kerala that actively went out to seek help from venture capitalists or angel investors for implementing their projects.

A young man or woman fired with a strong electric idea or project must go out of his way to get financial assistance from such persons flush with surplus money as angel investors abroad or venture capitalists right here at home.

It takes a few power point presentations and ongoing explanations to convince such cool headed persons about the viability and winsome nature of the dream project.

Once an investment is obtained, the project implementation can start but periodic correspondence with the investor is needed to keep him informed. The annual balance sheet also has to be submitted for his perusal.

ON THE LOOKOUT FOR INNOVATION OR NOT?

It’s imperative that a Start Up has its ears to the ground when it comes to accepting innovation in all its routine activities. And innovation can come from the most unlikely corners too.

Here is a good example for you.

Sometime ago a bunch of boffins in London tried to teach bumblebees how to play football. It was seen that the there was nothing bumbling about those bees; given the necessity they moved an orb half their own body size into a designated goal area.

Thus the scientists proved that bees could be trained to do things not innate and intrinsic to their nature such as, say sting operations!

Think about these points and learn your lessons as needed from them!

Much ground needs to be covered and we shall revert to all that later in our Part II!

Bye!

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