Home > Young Achievers > Passing Fad or New Fashion?

Passing Fad or New Fashion?

Happy Diwali, Friends!!

There is a new virus in the Kerala air – or is it a pandemic sweeping across India, nay the World? For this article I shall limit the discussion to my recent experiences in Kerala.

The disease is called Entrepreneurship and it’s pretty infectious!

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4709465137/eorg

On Saturday I was in Trivandrum, attending the 2nd StartUp Coffee meeting, which is conducted for entrepreneurially inclined folks by the “My Next Big Idea” (MNBI) Team. It was a mixed bag of attendees – looked like an assortment of stuff one could expect at a Garage Sale. There were couple of suit-clad guys lending a patina of respectability to the gathering, but otherwise it was jeans and T-shirt affair.

The ball was set rolling by a garrulous young Brit named Alexie who shared his experiences as an entrepreneur – his trousers rolled-up to the knees like he was expecting 2 feet of water in the room at any moment; or was he just taking precautions against the flood of ideas expected from the enthusiasts gathered there.

Alexie went on for so long that another participant (also an expat) quipped – “If anyone is planning a long journey by Indian Railways please take him with you. He can keep you entertained.”

However, bulk of the attendees were Keralites, in the 25-35 age band, working on IT projects. Two ideas were presented during the meeting:

– An electronic device that would help the Police to track and penalise drivers who exceed the speed limit – the device would interact with the car’s electronics and with devices located on the road to make decisions. The idea sounded similar to the Salik system deployed on Dubai roads, but the technology this man intends to use is different.

– A web-based application that helps you decide whether the Samsung S3 is better that iPhone 5 or whether you should stick to your neighbourhood McDonalds instead of heading for the recently opened Sushi Restaurant. The young entrepreneur explained that the software running in the background picked up relevant information from discussions within your peer group on Social Media and then used complex algorithms to arrive at the decision.

Both were quizzed by the audience during and after the presentation and the attendees offered suggestions which they thought would make the offerings more robust and acceptable. I felt that the first presentation lacked depth and conviction and that this wannabe entrepreneur will be doing himself a disfavor by taking it in the current form to the investors. Or was I writing off a movie by just seeing the early rushes?

The 2nd presenter made a slick presentation; his product is online already for people to use. Currently the decisions users could ask for  were focused on popular items such as college-to-study-at, electronic goods and restaurants.

My friends at MNBI are searching for robust investment opportunities. In the first meeting held two weeks back another entrepreneur had presented a next gen Business Networking site which, he avers, would take the fight to LinkedIn’s front-door.

Many times during the meeting, and afterwards, I wondered whether the cynicism I felt was on account of my age – did I belong to a different era? This bunch seemed so gung-ho and upbeat. They were daring enough to jump blindly into the deep-end of the pool without worrying about consequences.

Do they know something that I don’t? I am a Keralite too but these youngsters seemed so differently wired and I am happy for them.

My home state seems to be shaking of its staid and safe ways – the new generation believes that they can step outside tested and risk-free avenues provided by mainstream jobs and are heading for the horizon-less terrain of big dreams.

The Government Agencies and Venture Capitalists too are queuing up with big-bucks and support measures. Petro Dollars, Seafood Exports, Tourism and a little bit of IT have been our contribution so far – but all that is changing.

Are the youngsters aware of the flip side – are they blinded by the valuations of Google, Facebook and Twitter and weird prices at which web-based applications like Instagram were being gobbled up by these giants.

How many will hit pay-dirt and how many will fizzle out unnoticed in the fathomless realm of the worldwide web?

Books like Jugaad seem to fuel this bunch to think “radically” – but don’t many of them end up being mere copycats? The line between poorly hashed-up imitations and customised adaptations of popular products / ideas is pretty hazy.

But this bunch and many of the young set I saw and heard at TiECon Cochin 2012 didn’t seem to think there is a downside. They were riding the crest of a new wave and for them it is just up and up. I wish them all success.

I am not against this new trend among youngsters to start a business instead of seeking a steady job – in fact there are very few steady jobs left in the world. I too quit a regular job five years back and took the plunge. There is much more to Entrepreneurship than recognition and revenues. It’s not a turf meant for everyone and very few actually make it to the big league. Are these youngsters aware of the challenges and the pain involved in the process. Kerala is traditionally risk-averse and middle-of-the-road; this behaviour by youngsters is radically different. It is liberating, but will it go the distance?

All I am asking them to do are the following:

–          Have they confirmed the motives and the key drivers?

–          Is their product differentiated and robust?

–          Will they be able to persist sufficiently long?

–          Have they weighed the financial implications?

–          Has the market been studied thoroughly?

–          Do they have a realistic & professionally prepared  plan?

Many of them are just taking the plunge with half-baked products and poor understanding of the market. Most of them dream of selling their big idea to a industry leader and riding off into the sunset with the megabucks they pocket from the deal. May their stock keep growing!

I see huge opportunities for Business Consultants in this segment in grooming and shaping the paths of these daredevils – right now many of them resemble loose cannons.

I also had some concerns about the success of this StartUp gathering in the format I saw that day and privately offered some inputs on how it can be turned into a meaningful interface between established entrepreneurs, investors and bright-eyed newbies who dreamt of unleashing the next wave.

Is this a case of “Fools dare where Angel Investors don’t fear to tread?”

Is it a new Kerala on the ascendant? Will this virus thrive?

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  1. Ramesh
    November 13, 2012 at 5:24 am

    WOW………..Its music to ears to hear about this wonderful attitude. Wishing them all a very best.Hail the spirit!!!

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Amen to that!

  2. Raji Sumanth
    November 13, 2012 at 5:29 am

    You’ve asked some meaningful questions, J. Entrepreunership isn’t for everyone…some just have a better instinct for it. I would advise young beginners to garner some experience working as an employee and learning how businesses function before taking the plunge! Most importantly these tech based start ups need to be driven by a great idea and not by the thought of the big bucks that can be made….

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Hi Raji

      Spot on … you hit the nail on the head.

      “First validate your Purpose and then your Project!”

      Your suggestion of “work first and venture later” says how old you are. Was my mindset too. 🙂

      I would have seconded that till a few months back – but with advice available ubiquitously that “waste” of time can be avoided and the entrepreneur can take the plunge with the support of experienced coaches and mentors. Today WWW can provide a lot of illustrations, case studies and peer experiences.

      Taking risks is easier when you are young and free of encumbrances – and investors are available within easy reach if your idea is good.

      Thank you for the support!

  3. November 13, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Over-confidence? Well, I too hail from Kerala, a state which I visit once a year. I have noticed the upbeat confidence level of the youth there – with some alacrity, the kind that you seem to imply.

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 7:03 am

      Hi

      Yes, that is the question, Are they brash and overconfident or do they see it differently? Only time will tell.

      But they definitely intend to take a new and previously unexplored route.

      Let us wish them luck!

      Thank you for reading and for sharing a thought.

  4. Raji Sumanth
    November 13, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I guess we do need to change our way of thinking ….”A brave new world” with the might of WWW behind 🙂 I do appreciate these youngsters who dare to dream and chase it with determination.

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 7:21 am

      You said it …. brave New World it is!!

      I am desperately trying to suppress the “If only ….” and “Wish I were ….” kind of thought trains and working instead on “I can ….”.

  5. November 13, 2012 at 8:10 am

    The answer lies in the perception and how a situation occurs to us…
    Evolution (including that of the human brain 😉 ) will take it’s course, Jayadev.. We took similar actions when we were younger, and they will only take it forward from there 🙂
    In our educating our youngsters we have contributed to this shift as well.. We brought in a higher level of inquiry, willingness to step out of traditional careers, a willingness to explore and experiment with new thinking and ideas…

    Everything is happening earlier than it did during our times 😉
    If you look back at the time when you left your job, I am sure people older than you had the questions similar to what our generation has when these youngsters take a course not completely known or with perceived risks..

    Take a look at this link: https://www.facebook.com/SemesteratSea?ref=ts&fref=ts and
    https://www.facebook.com/modibhu

    An example that demonstrates the shift in the thought process of the younger generation.. I am rooting for a young entrepreneur (Abhishek Modi) going on the next semester who is willing to do all it takes on his part to develop a new technology and make it a success all because he is committed to technology that is sustainable.. and he is clear he is a part of the change that needs to come in..

    I think what comes up for us is our own fear of the unknown and uncharted.. and as you said – with age the willingness does become less to take risks (or what occur as risks) and to give up the comfort zone.

    I see this across happening across states, and not limited in it’s nature .. I for one am very happy with this willingness to experiment.. And our generation’s role as mentors, coaches, guides continues to be critical in providing the support needed, in both the successes and failures…

    It is time for a new beginning and creation… 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Hi Ritu

      You have covered a lot in that response. Yes, it is a sociological change we are witnessing.

      I marked my article to a lot of parents – a message that their kids are thinking differently and they can be a partner, instead of becoming a hindrance, to those ventures.

      Each new generation has the push the envelope further. I would be glad if I am able to be a partner in some of those ventures.

      But, there is very little hair on my head – shouldn’t I be hanging onto what’s left instead of thinking of losing them. Ha! Ha! Ha!

      Another friend said it is a “brave new world” and I agree.

      I wish young entrepreneur Abhishek all success.

      P.S: My son is dreaming about his own venture too! I listened, remained positive and approved those thoughts. But, I didn’t tell him to push ahead. It’s best that such things happen from within.

  6. The Commander
    November 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Jayadev I remember reading somewhere 99% of start ups are likely to fail…the odds are stacked very high against a entrepreneurs all the way. It is important for Somebody who wants to pull a Sabeer Bhatia or an Instagram that before a big company even sniffs at you or your company your company should have a good and solid business model which is robust and sustainable and has projections for future growth. The exception for this rule is the technology you are using or deploying is of some exceptional value which will translate into something mighty for the company sniffing you for it.
    In my opinion if a young gun thinks he will start this company with the aim of selling it on to some big gun who will pay the big bucks has his head up his arse and is doomed from the time go.
    entrepreneurship is all about building a sustainable and growing business with the aim of wealth creation, there are no short cuts in it. It is all sweat, blood and toil…if your business model is good there will be a million who will be snapping at your ankles to imitate you and cut you down with lower pricing. A few question an entrepreneur should ask himself.
    (A) How is your business model different from the existing bunch already in market, is it better priced or cheaper, better quality, better service, what is the USP ?
    (B) is your technology geared to give any or all of the above mentioned points in (A) ?
    (C) Do you have the financial and mental stamina to sustain in the long haul ?
    (D) Do you have any existing customers base who are looking for services offered by companies like you at prices sustainable by you ?

    Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread and they perish in the blink of an eye…

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      Agree, Srikanth! Your suggestions make a lot of sense.

      We discussed this on FB.

      As stated earlier let us permit some blundering and some extra risk – let’s accept some failure and mistakes. I think creativity has been stifled in our country for too long and now the young set have decided to break those chains.

      Let them dream big and let them fall flat … it’s better than not trying at all.

      Let us hope a new (smarter and stronger) India emerges from all this.

      Thank you for reading and for sharing those inputs.

  7. November 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    i guess we Keralites are changing too…at least daring to make a change…a breaking free from the usual goverment jobs and set professions.While i applaud the change in attitudes and the willingness in them to take risks i am not sure how many have a total understanding of what they are plunging into.Like you had mentioned a lot many of them jump in from the knowledge they learn on the internet rather than having experienced an on hand training about the same.I have been wanting to move into something different for quite a while now but have not gathered enough courage to do so though ideas are many…:)..But sometimes i feel its worth the risk because after all thats what life is all about.You have inspired me enough to go ahead with my plans…..

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      Hi Kathy,

      Yes, our kochu Keralam is changing rapidly – not all is good; but then we have to take the rough with the smooth.

      As for your dream … Go for it.

      If you have got it 75% right plunge in … work the remaining 25% as you go.

      I wish you the very best!

  8. Clifford.
    November 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Nice article JM. Well written as usual and some good points to ponder on.
    Bellamy brothers once made a big hit number called ” Old hippie” Which said ” Should he hang on to the old, should he grab on to the new”. My view is that you gotta venture out to the new. Why not? A business mans family speaks business at the dinner table everday and therefore their kids grow up to become successful business men, whereas the salaried class kids are only trained to think conservatively.
    The question to ask yourself is ” The amount of time and energy you will invest working as a salaried person v/s spending the same towards your own business” . The young generation have a bigger risk appetite. Hopefully they will take the right call and end up successful 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      Well said, Clifford!

      Yes, we become what we constantly think and say.

      Thank for the insights and the support

  9. Ramesh
    November 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    the world is waiting for such spirit… the staid approach of success is getting redefined…guys unleash…and be yourself…THINK OUT OF THE BOX!!! After all only the deaf frogs succeed…

    • JayadevM
      November 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      Ha! Ha!

      That’s right.

  10. November 14, 2012 at 12:42 am

    This is probably the result of the ‘outsourcing’ wave that has hit India. All corporates even in public sector now want to outsource functions. This has obviously put a squeeze on the ‘regular jobs’ and give a fillip to entrepreneurship. But yes as you pointed out it has to be properly channeled to be successful!
    Very well analysed.

    • JayadevM
      November 14, 2012 at 3:58 am

      Hi Magiceye

      That is a thought that needs further study – lack of regular opportunities prompting the entrepreneurial turn. Interesting.

      Thank you for reading.

  11. Kailash
    November 14, 2012 at 7:54 am

    “Fools dare where Angel Investors don’t fear to tread?”
    your punch line says the all.
    Nicely put article J,

    We really need such spirits and fearless thoughts to bring india ahead but as you mentioned all facts needs to be taken care. But J the instincts and same fearless spirit played a major role in the making of greats like Dhirubhai and TATA’s. And same is working for many young minds who are creating mobile apps like Talking Tom, Angry Bird and many more to name.
    But yes if you are failing in preparation you are prepared to fail.

    • JayadevM
      November 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Kailash,

      Glad you liked that punchline.

      Yes, we can see a few more Dhirubhais and Jamshedjis in the days ahead – it is a brave new India.

      Glad you found it in resonance with your thoughts.

  12. Vijay
    November 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

    As long as they are able to handle failures, this spirit is welcome, most businesses wind down because of the inability to handle failures and rejections.

    • JayadevM
      November 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Absolutely!

  13. November 14, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Great article Jayadev, some really valuable insights in your article. We would be the first to support the comments you post about the minimum criteria that every entrepreneur should evaluate prior to taking the covers off their idea. If they fall short here, we agree that their chances of later success are extremely remote.

    We also agree we should conduct a more disciplined structural approach to our get togethers and be rigid with the time afforded to individual speakers.

    With regards to the reference to dress codes being mostly more akin to people at a garage sale ;-), we remind you how the world’s largest company by market cap (Apple) and the company synonomous with Search (Google) were both conceived in garages in a part of the country where dress codes were so very ’90s 🙂

    Best Wishes
    Team MNBI

    • JayadevM
      November 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Team-MNBI,

      First of all, your Technology Incubator is a great idea – I am sure a lot of ideas will get to see the light of day thanks to your support.

      I am glad that my suggestions are in line with your thoughts.

      Make the StartUp Coffee meetings more effective and result-oriented. I am willing to help in that area.

      As for the dress code you mentioned – I am fully aware of the starts made by those awesome entrepreneurs. The world has changed since then and so we keep pace or get ahead. Entrepreneurs today don’t have the privilege of brashness and hippie behaviour. The Angel Investors can take on a devilish form when the Start-up goes off track.

      However, I only likened that the assortment of people in the room with the variety of material available at a Garage Sale.

      I have become used to wearing formal attire – have to force myself to wear Jeans & Tees to a business meeting. The youngsters can do it without pretending.

      But MNBI is more about what is inside (the head), not that much about external appearances. So go ahead … Change the world!

      You guys have begun well.

  14. November 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Nice Article Jaydev!

    Yes, like you’ve rightly pointed out, Kerala and its youth are witnessing ‘Winds of Change’. The steady jobs are limited and the global influence has set in. When I took the plunge into the entrepreneurial world, I did so after I gained some corporate exposure.

    I think it is crucial to assess the market, the idea and the plan before one jumps into it. There’s really no dearth of ideas these days, its the execution that really counts. The challenge that we will face in the days to come is to sieve out the good ideas backed by ‘true entrepreneurs’. The way I’d define them is those who have true passion and conviction to solve a problem.

    I wish all the future entrepreneurs success and hope to see some great ideas coming out. The team at MNBI will support and help turn viable ideas into successful businesses.

    • JayadevM
      November 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Thank you, Shameer!

      I wish your project loads of success.

      Let those ‘Winds of Change’ stay on in our state.

  15. Sunil Menon
    November 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    The other side of the table’an entrepreneur’s view’

    Success is possible, without capital,business plans, or even without any idea……..but not without this key element

    ‘Irrational optimism’
    Why? To succeed you will have to embrace belief and push aside self doubt.
    feelings that you are not capable enough, adaptable enough.
    Each respondent think that getting several years experience is essential for you to get the maturity to be on your own.They got Michael Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’totally wrong.
    Friends and family don’t help,they shoot holes into your plans, not because they want you to fail, but they care for you and don’t want you to fail.
    Rarely people will say “hey that’s a great idea, go for it”,
    Think of sports, a sport is an ultimate zero sum game,only one individual or team can win, yet all great athletes or team participate believing that they will win, because if they don’t believe, then they have lost before they have started.
    If you listen to nay sayers, then you will never start,never work and overcome…and never succeed.
    Although no amount of self-belief is enough to succeed but smallest grain of doubt can ruin your chances.
    Mathew Syed quotes the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, one of the most successful coach in the English Premiere League

    To perform to your maximum you have to teach yourself with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification.
    The same goes for entrepreneur .be smart, be logical,, be rational, keep improving your skills,but most importantly be “irrationally optimistic” otherwise Kerala will have only supermarkets or furniture shops or real estate brokers not to forget the Jewellery shops and textile showroom started by gulf returnees in the name of entrepreneurship.

  16. JayadevM
    November 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Sunil

    Good to get the Entrepreneur’s view.

    I believe in the need for irrational optimism …. it’s kept me alive these last 5 years and would keep my dream alive for years to come.

    The entrepreneur is usually a loner – s/he finds very few supporters.

    But I have another theory – entrepreneurs who have found great success have always teamed up with one or more people. Take Apple, Microsoft Reliance, Infosys, Google … I can go on. Although one person becomes the visible face of the organisation there is a “significant other” who helped, supported, partnered and helped shape the project. What do you think?

    And I am sure you were going when you said that we can start even without an idea …. what comes to mind is this quote: If you don’t know which way to go any direction is okay.

    Kerala is changing and it has to see much more of it – it has to change from Net Consumer to Producer of ideas, products and services.

    People like you are abetting that process.

  17. Jamy
    November 20, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Cool article Jay! Something to think about for sure as the next generation is trying to create their own Star Wars…. the successful ones would be those who stick to the basics with a bit of guidance from the right mentors and some luck!!

    • JayadevM
      November 20, 2012 at 4:54 am

      You said it, Jamy!

      It’s important to remain grounded even as you permit your dreams to soar .. and get good advice!

      Thanks for reading.

  18. November 28, 2012 at 4:25 am

    Well, an excellent post early in the day keeps boredom at bay! Apparently, no one ever learns from history -there was something called Dotcom Burst; it can happen to any kind of Hotcom thirst. It is truly easy to start like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs but how many have even one percent of the mettle? They need to slowdown (or take a ‘chillpill’, as the generation is fond of emoting). It is like fishing in one day sea. And although it may be quite out out of context, it does remind me of my favourite lines from Shakespeare:

    Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

    • JayadevM
      November 28, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Hi Umashankar

      AM glad you found my article interesting. Yes, those are famous, and humbling, lines from the bard.

      As for the youngsters – I salute their enterprise and courage; but they have to keep it real – the intent should not be the lure of lucre.

      A good idea, proper execution and well-thought out scaling up can take them to their goal.

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