Are you Dreaming Success or Solutions – Entrepreneurial Ideas From Suresh Kabra
Entrepreneurship is an extremely interesting journey. It is almost like a Bollywood masala flick with all the excitement & action for the hero (you – the entrepreneur) to do the unthinkable. Likewise, it has its own set of lows, disappointments and frequent bouts of despair when things don’t work out the way you thought they will. The only difference is while in a Bollywood movie, you can be certain that the hero will win over the villain – poetic justice… However, in the life of an entrepreneur – there is no such guarantee!! Actually, the odds are stacked against the founders as the established market ‘villains’ have an upper hand in almost all aspects – funding, market reach, brand recall and so on and so forth.
The success of a new venture is largely dependent on “dreaming about solutions” to resolve the next challenge faced instead of “dreaming about a big success”.
So, what is that magic mantra for a founder which will make him succeed against the Goliaths of the trade? Is it his innate desire to succeed? Yes – for sure. But then does dreaming about success ensure the success of the startup as well? The answer is a clear no.
The success of a new venture is largely dependent on “dreaming about solutions” to resolve the next challenge faced instead of “dreaming about a big success”. When hitting the bed after a long day of hard work, if your thoughts are around when will you become the next unicorn with all the PR attention and get a celebrity status, you will be walking towards a dead end. And sooner than you think. On the other hand, if you are getting a hard time getting good sleep because you fail to understand why the customer is behaving in this not-so-predictable manner and what needs to be done to make them use the product in the manner you had planned for, you are getting one step closer to that “coveted” celebrity status.
The real challenge for an entrepreneur in staying focused on the “solutions” is to filter the noise generated by the media. The media has a huge appetite for the ‘big’ success stories that grabs eyeballs. The media loves celebrities, simply because of their huge fan following that generates readership in multiples. However, rarely do they go into the details of zillions of meandering and innovations the founding team does to arrive at where they are today.
Let me share an example:
Flipkart is definitely one of the most talked about success stories of our times. I can’t recall any week in the near past where Flipkart, or its founders, have not been covered in leading ‘pinkies’ for financial numbers and market share, eye-popping losses or multitudes of angel investments made by the founders themselves. This is all great and they do deserve this ‘unicornly’ attention.However, what is missing from the news is all the pains the founding team must have gone through and innovations they did to arrive at where they are today.
I am sure that at a fairly early stage in their entrepreneurship journey, the Flipkart team discovered that people in India can’t shop online simply because a majority of them to not have credit cards. How to make them shop online? They innovated and adopted cash-on-delivery. Come to think of it, cash management at such a large scale and from so many corners of the country is a humungous task. But they did it successfully. Then, at some stage they would have figured out that they were stocking & selling directly or via a subsidiary, and because of that they were possibly on the wrong side of the law (as Indian laws don’t permit a majority FDI share in multi-brand B2C retail) ! Again, the team innovated and solved the problem by moving to a market place model, wherein they evolved into a platform to connect buyers & sellers. I am sure this transition would have come with its own baggage of huge internal challenges (seller audits, no-questions-asked return policy, financial jugglery etc etc). But they overcame all of this successfully.
And then, even after brilliantly tackling all the issues on COD, market place dynamics and hundreds of other changes, they discovered that old habits die hard and that the Indian consumer is too used to ‘touching & feeling’ products before buying and are extremely reluctant to buy from an unknown entity selling online!! So, what do you do? Drop the venture? Not at all. You raise huge funds from VCs, and actually pay the consumer to change his habit, offer him deep discounts…The team innovated yet again and solved the problem to move one step closer to success.
Does the Flipkart model make business sense? Is the marketplace model really not a multibrand B2C retail channel? Is it legal? Or is it surviving just because our law-making and enforcement agencies moved at slower-than-the snail pace? These are all debatable questions and in trying to resolve them I will only digress from the point I am trying to make: what matters most is that the Flipkart team stayed focused on solutions and innovations and finally success followed…
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