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To somebody who is starting off right now, what would be your advice?
First of all, he or she must have an idea whose value to the market can be expressed in a simple sense. Not a complex sentence, not a compound sentence. In other words, it has to be something like reduce cost or reduce cycle time or improve productivity or improve customer comfort or improve customer base, etc. That is the first requirement.
Second, the market must be ready for the idea, which means, you have to do some test marketing. Or at least hold some dialogue with the relevant community. I know several ideas which were wonderful but the market was not ready and they did not succeed.
The third is—you need to put together a team of people that have complementary strengths. You need people who understand technology, marketing, sales, finance, human resources, etc. Generally what happens is that technology people come together, or marketing people come together or finance people only. Such projects generally don’t succeed.
Fourth, you need a good common value system. In the journey of entrepreneurship, the initial years are always going to be very tough. Pradeep (publisher of DARE) knows it, I have gone through it… You have to sacrifice a lot, you have to be away from your family; the monetary benefits are very very low; the friction in the business is high. So you need a common good value system. The team should have the same, wonderful common value system. And, I would say, finally finance. Finance generally comes if you have the first four that I talked about.
For somebody who is starting today, which sectors would you recommend that they look at? Which are the hot sectors in your opinion?
See, in a country like India, there is an opportunity in every area. For example, how to consume less water? How to consume less petrol? How to keep your vegetables and fruits fresh for a longer period? How to deliver healthcare at a lower cost? So you look around, there are zillions of areas where a difference can be made.
However, what is needed is – you have to pick up such ideas, which are aimed at people with reasonable disposable income, in the beginning. If the idea is aimed at people who have no money, it is no value, however good your idea is. So it is very important in India that the ideas are focused on the market segment which has reasonably good disposable income. It could be nanotechnology, it could be biotechnology… for example, there is a lot that we could do to improve our agricultural productivity. There is a lot that we could do to improve our healthcare systems.
You said, “reasonable disposable income…”
Yes. The important thing is you should come out with such products and services that people with a reasonable disposable income in India should be able to use it. It cannot be a disposable income in the US. That cannot be the benchmark. It has to be Indian.
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