Batch of 2005

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The world of business talks fondly of the batch of 1989 from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. This is due to the fact that a lot of participants in this class turned towards entrepreneurship and launched successful ventures of their own. The likes of Sanjeev Bhikchandani of Naukri.com, Rashesh Shah of Edelweiss Capital and many more.

Yesterday I was talking to some of my seniors, and suddenly there has been a tipping point in almost 30% of their careers. These 30% have left their well paying cushy jobs and started on the road to entrepreneurship. Some of them have already made a name for themselves, some of them are in the making.

I wish them all the best and hope that the batch of 2005, IIM-I is someday as famous (if not more) as the batch of 1989, IIM-A!

Social Entrepreneurs

imageWhen it comes to work, ours is a curious lot. Always willing to check new things (as long as it takes us away from our work ;-)).

So it was no surprise when on our way to lunch we noticed a simple sign at a hall … it said “Youth Venture Workshops”. Since we are in the career space and passionate about entrepreneurship, off we went. The workshop was having their lunch break and we took that opportunity to talk to some of the organizers. Their idea was simple, they talk to individuals who have a burning desire to change something in the society, and help them achieve it through guidance, team building, and funding. They identify potential social entrepreneurs who have the drive to change the society and help them.

The organizers were kind enough to invite us to stick around and watch some of their sessions. The teaming sessions were simple, and involved a lot of play … just the right thing needed to build a team of young and energetic people.

The workshop turned out to be a subscription based program, for which one has to enroll in the month of June. So we gathered took information about their site and went back to work. After coming home, I decided to check up on their site, and read about the youth venture. Turns out that Ashoka Partnership is one of the largest association of social entrepreneurs!!

At the program, we talked to some of the participants who were volunteering, and it was a good experience to see people take charge of the desire to change something in society and act upon it. The next time you blame society for something, remember it can be fixed :-)

Job is War!!

At a friend’s wedding, I heard about this new approach to one’s job. The man was talking that his employee’s are peace time soldiers, “eh?!?” I went. The idea is that many employees approach their job in a fashion like peace time soldiers … they assemble in formations, they do their drills, they salute to their seniors and when no one is looking, they relax and goof around. Having done this myself, I could not disagree … so what does one do to get out of this rut? The answer is simple … go to war!!

During war, soldiers are willing to give their lives (in this case their jobs) for a particular purpose. Employees should identify the purpose for which they will strive hard and achieve or else give their jobs. That gives them the true drive at work, an achievable goal and also a reality check. If an employee cannot come up with any such purpose, then you can be rest assured that he/she is already looking out for different opportunities and is not really pulling his/her weight around.

I tried this tactic with myself at my office, with wonderful results. Not only am I making goals clearer for myself, but also I am sending out a message to everyone else whom I am working with as to what drives me and what is my top priority.

So what are you willing to die for?

Learnings from start-ups

j0387194During my brief stint with eYantra, our foundation team did some cool stuff. We also made more than our fair share of blunders. I am just putting it down in one place, so that oth ers can benefit from our experience. On reflecting back, I am glad this happened because it was an eye opener in more senses than one. It was also a stint which significantly boosted my confidence.

I worked there for a span of two years, and had to come back to Mumbai because of personal reasons. What happened after that I only came to know through small and infrequent chats with the employees there. Enough to realize that I need to share this with everyone to benefit from the collective’s insights.

The Do’s

  • Have high levels of energy. It’s your baby, only you can make it happen and no one else. If this requires sacrificing lazy Saturdays and Sundays, then so be it.
  • Your core team can make the difference between a failed idea and a successful venture. Their group dynamics is very important for your venture to succeed.
  • Weekly meetings to keep everyone upto par on different tracks. I think this becomes more important with increasing members in the team.
  • Show a sense of direction, and be integral to your vision. If you falter, your team looses faith in you. Soul searching (if any) should be done with as small a team as possible.
  • When in doubt, discuss. Come to a common agreement with the team to move ahead.
  • Be starkly honest to the first set of your employees. Treat them like family. If you are a product oriented firm, then your product development team is to be treated with the utmost respect.
  • Get some market traction before your product is ready. That way you will already have a ready buyer for the product.
  • (appended) Find differentiators and expound them in the market
  • (appended) Believe in your idea. If you don’t believe in it, then no one else will

The Dont’s

  • In an e-commerce setup, all the divisions are important. One cannot run without the other. Treat them likewise.
  • Under-commit but don’t over-commit. Your reputation is at stake e.g. if you promise someone biryani and deliver daal then it won’t be appreciated, but the other way round, you will have a satisfied customer
  • Don’t expect your employee to show the same amount of commitment that you have. You have equity, they don’t.
  • Confounding your employees with that variable performance bonus … it’s more of a disabler (suggestions welcome here). (amended) If you still want to have that variable, then have complete transparency in how it is calculated, and give your employees a chance to perform by including it in the next round of appraisal.

The list will be re-visited upon and your comments will be integrated into this. Thanks in advance.

Manish Saini writes –

Don’t reduce the pay of your urrent employees in the pretext of the variable, rather introduce as a part of your next round of appraisal.

Ranjith Boyanapalli writes –

DOs would be to “find a valid differentiator” and have your “goto market strategy well in place”.

Mayur Pathak writes –

Every idea needs its own time and grooming. It is important to be persistent enough. Take suggestions though, but dont rely on them. Dont give up just because you lost patience or because some one said so. Come to the office every morning thinking this is going to be the best day ever.

don’t reduce the pay of your urrent employees in the pretext of the variable, rather introduce as a part of your next round of appraisal

Do you want a free t-shirt?

btplogo A classmate of mine has jumped and launched his enterprise with some of his friends. MyZingo is in the e-commerce space, and has launched their first online B2C initiative known as buytheprice.com. As part of their launch, they are planning to give out free t-shirts to the prime registrants.

So if you do want a t-shirt, then head off to their launch portal and register.

PS – If you have a gmail id and if you know how to use it wisely, then you can win a free t-shirt for sure!!

A VC who nurtures entrepreneurs

Just read this on the Wall Street journal, that there is a venture fund by the name of Pacific Lake Partners who actively seek out young entrepreneurs, give them enough money to scout around for the right organization to takeover. Then help them acquire that organization for a healthy return.

You can read the rest of the article here. An excerpt –

Pacific Lake will provide between $300,000 and $500,000 to entrepreneurs to cover living and travel expenses for two years while they search for a business opportunity – generally an established business with revenue between $10 million and $30 million. There’s no sector focus; it all depends on the opportunity the entrepreneur finds.

It feels good to know that there is a venture fund who values someone who can not only boot strap an organization but take on an already running organization and turn it around. This is the stuff of what legends are made up of. All of the awe-inspiring case studies that we used read in our b-schools have suddenly come real. I wonder if any VC or angel investor follows a similar policy in India. As a developing economy, we need increasing number of such folks.