Mighty impressed by this piece, I requested Mr. Chetan Gosalia whether I could carry this in my blog under the Guest Column. And he pronto, without fuss, said, “Yes”. Pattabhi Ram
There comes a time in life of every professional when he has to make a choice. The irony of the situation is that more qualified you are, more difficult is the choice. This is because there are so many options available to a highly qualified person that unless he is absolutely clear on the path he wants to lead his life, he can fall prey to the easy option and deviate from his destined path. For example, a young aspirant pursuing Chartered Accountancy, may have a dream – and a BIG dream, that if there are four names currently which dominate this profession in the world why can’t he be the fifth name? But the moment he passes with flying colours, there could be offers with obscene money coming from Banks and industry which could put him in a golden cage by enticing him. An executive gained- but an entrepreneur lost.
It seems ages now, but I clearly remember my personal dilemma after passing engineering exams from a very reputed institute in Mumbai way back in 1973. I was at a crossroads then. One option was to join a reputed company as a trainee engineer. Second option was to study further for management degree in India or at the US. Very lucky! Some well wishers would say. However, there was a third option, although the most difficult one. That was to be an entrepreneur. Deep down somewhere in my heart, I always felt that I was born on the earth to create something new which could not only earn me sustenance but help me give back something to the nation. I was afraid that taking up a plush job would possibly blunt my creativity and risk taking abilities. Little did I realise then how true this fear was, until I witnessed the career of a few of my brilliant friends in multinational corporations.
The purpose of this mailer is to share in the ensuing paragraphs, the learnings of life that have enriched me by being an entrepreneur. Though professionally, I am an engineer running a midsized engineering company, I believe these learnings would help across any form of entrepreneurship. It will also give an idea to those at crossroads to make the right choice.
Let me share my learnings.
1. Core Competence: In order to be successful in achieving your dream of becoming an entrepreneur it is important to identify the core strength/conviction that you possess and weave your plans around that strength. There is a strange phenomenon which then occurs that starts pushing you towards its fruition. God may test your resolve by creating challenges but somehow you will find your way if your conviction is strong.
2. Faith: A very strong characteristic that keeps the entrepreneur going is the faith in almighty and himself. There are thousands of reasons why to the world you were foolish to choose the hard way but there is only ONE reason why you were wise to choose path to create your own destiny. That is FAITH in yourself and the almighty. In my dark days I have come across so many people who wrote me off as failure but I refused their offering by simply having faith in myself, my goal and the almighty.
3. Patience: Successful entrepreneurs are not made overnight. It takes years, sometimes lifetime of sweat and labour to achieve what is visible to the outside world as success. Ask any entrepreneur whether there came a time when he thought it was all over and without an exception you would find the answer in affirmative. However, by some divine intervention hope and patience would prevail and they continued their perseverance to become successful. At a personal level, I have starred at empty coffers, huge liabilities and demands of family responsibility with hopelessness in my life only to be pacified by the feeling that there is no option but to keep patience and hope. It was a sink or swim situation. However, I decided to swim till my breath ran out. And… I reached the shore. When you reach that situation honestly pursing your goal, something happens in the cosmic world and you get saved.
4. Logic v/s Intuition: The most important learning of being an entrepreneur is that whenever there is a conflict between your logic and intuition, listen to what your intuition says. As a professional engineer this was too hard for me to accept and I have lost considerably in this conflict. However, strange are the ways of cosmic powers to help you with the success. They give you intuition generally in the early hours of day to take a particular course when you have a conflict. Howsoever illogical it may seem it turns out to be correct in hindsight. Hence, it is important for an entrepreneur to learn to listen to that divine inner voice completely surrendering his ego and acquired knowledge to succeed on his chosen path.
5. World is not Perfect: As an entrepreneur I felt many times that the whole world was conspiring to make me a failure. Anger, frustration and negative feelings I carried only aggravated my failures. It was only when I realized one day that the world we live in is not perfect and can’t be expected to act as per our wish. Only God is perfect. If I were to be successful in pursuing my chosen goal I will have to learn to accept it “AS IT IS” and work positively to find ways around. It is possible that the choice available may not always be between the better and the best but could be between the bad and the worse. It may make sense to choose the least damaging option rather than complaining why you were not given the best. This acceptance suddenly changes the paradigm and starts facilitating you, is what my experience says.
6. Open-mindedness: One of the most wonderful things that entrepreneurship teaches you is to become open-minded. Those who are not will perish. It teaches you that there is no ONE WAY of doing things. If one door does not open try another, look for a window, find a secret trapdoor, look around. It would be there. Do not conclude and become judgmental. My greatest learning out of business is that each person, every situation that you encounter is a divine creation and comes in life for teaching a lesson to you. Try to find a good aspect of the encounter and use that learning in future. They happen to you only because they would be useful to you in future.
While I fully appreciate that not everybody will have inclination to become an entrepreneur, there will be a few who may be willing but may be undecided due to the fear of unknown. Idea of my sharing is to encourage them on pursuing their dream by having faith in themselves. An entrepreneur does not only build himself but helps the country. For instance, developing country like India creates and teaches engineering at greatly subsidised costs. If the country cannot get in return their outputs of engineering and manufacturing, who gets the monetary advantage of this situation? The multinationals will make considerable profits, and take major portion back to their respective countries. Where will the dreamers be? It is well known that first we will have to dream, dream big and then work hard for fulfilling the same. Let us once again promote the creativity bug in our fresh technocrats/professionals. Let us recreate the clusters of small and medium enterprises, which will get converted to large enterprises one day. This also will result in more decentralising and thereby creating opportunities in developing the infrastructure and more spread out geographically and even development across the geographical spectrum. Let us reduce the rural/urban divide and use our natural resources more evenly and inclusively.
One may find in this write-up, a definite bias towards technology and entrepreneurship, for which I beg to be excused. However, the underlying theme is domain neutral. There is no intention to look down on those opting to choose an executive career. This article is to guide those who have a dilemma on choices available but have a strong ambition to be on their own.