After coming back to India, I joined one of the top-20 b-schools for part-time executive MBA. I continued two sessions, and then I dropped off. My friends are about to complete their MBA in 2014, so they are a bit more than 60% thru already.
I have been asked many a times the reasons behind it. Few days back someone suggested to blog on it, and I thought it was a great idea.
The not-so important reasons:
1. Many successful entrepreneurs are drop-outs. I was sad I was not able to dropout of my engg college.
2. I could not manage time. Having started out, time was something which I did not have. As I was trying to do 20 things at one time, I just could not give time to the classes and the studies.
3. The tuition fees was better spent in my startup. MBA classes are expensive. For every sem, the expenses was coming to a bit more than 1 lac. There were 9 such sems. Having done with 2, I thought the money is better used at my startup.
And now the important reasons:
1. I was the lone entrepreneur in the batch of 60 odd. B-schools should be places where an idea can grow and become better with passing days. Lone entrepreneur, non-functional e-cell, and a few profs who said they will talk after the sem. This is not what I expected from my b-school.
2. Almost everyone else was there for the degree and the marks. I was starting to feel suffocated in this environment. I do not believe in the grading system used in colleges. But everyone else was. Students started telling the profs to give less work, cover less course, and asking for area which they should study for exams.
3. Even some profs were looking to just cover the curriculum. After few years of teaching such students, anyone would start teaching in this manner, i.e.: for completing his curriculum. Hence, they were less prepared. Any indirect or related questions was not welcome. Surprisingly, even in marketing.
The education culture of India really needs a change. The mindset, of doing a course to get a degree and hence a better paying job, is faulty and needs to be changed.
When most people are doing studies, for higher salary, and not really to gain knowledge, we are looking at producing factory workers, not thought leaders.
As an entrepreneur, as every entrepreneurs, we need early adopters, loads of them. However, if you are an Indian Tech Entrepreneur, you might have this question, where do I find these early adopters?
Not long back, I was also having this question. That is when I asked, am I an early adopter? In every country, entrepreneurs are among the first in the list of early adopters.
However, most of us (including me) are guilty of being a critic first, than being a customer/user. More often than not, we start questioning a product or a startup and pass opinions. Ohh that is not going to work! There are already too many players in the market! What is the usp of the product! There is hardly any difference in them and xyz.
All this is fine. But the problem is, we do not use the product at all. Maybe, as we start using it, we might find the usp or the difference better. Maybe, based on our usage, the startup will be able to find its sweet spot. Maybe, …..
There are many maybes, but then again, as an entrepreneur, we are not strangers to maybe.
So, here is my pledge. I will strive to become an early adopter. I will try every tech product that comes my way, and also write and blog about it. I will not write about the negative opinions that may come to me.
Coz, the risk I take with being an early adopter, is far smaller(maybe insignificant) when compared to the risk taken by the entrepreneur.
Coz, every entrepreneur needs that small encouragement and every early adopter to succeed.
It has been a little over an year since I have started working seriously on my startup idea. I have been going at it pretty hard. However, one thing which I have been lacking all these time has been discipline.
Yes, I have been working hard, and in the best interest of the company, however without the required discipline, it is always not enough. I am not the smartest or the best hacker around. What I may lack in skill or smartness, I would like to get it done with discipline.
Hence, starting from Monday, I have decided to put a discipline in myself and the entire team. These are few of the things I have learned from Mukund, and I would be putting that into action.
1. Set targets (small or big) for product, customer and feedback: Every week, I will be setting myself and the company three goals.
- For the product. In terms of feature, or UI, or UX, etc. There has to be progress in the product.
- For the customer. In terms of acquiring customers. Every week, there has to be progress when it comes to acquiring new customers.
- For the feedback. Every week, we will have to get feedback on the product and complete the build-measure-learn loop. Long loops are not helping for the startup. 1 week looks like the ideal time frame.
2. Setting target for self. What happens to an axe, if you keep on using it to cut trees, without sharping it? The same thing happens to your brain. This has been something I have been neglecting completely. So, every week, I am setting myself 3 goals.
- Read one book.
- Code a module myself (learn and apply)
- Exercise at least 3 days a week
3. Lastly, switch off and push away all the distractions and focus 100% on the job on hand. So what does it mean? I will not be available on chat, or call for most part of the day. Late responses to social media, messages, and personal emails etc. No attending most events. I will check phone calls, social media, messages, personal emails, etc only 3 times a day. I am leaving out email from these loop, as most of my work happens over email. However, I am going to be doing strictly work only emails.
- Morning: 8am to 9am
- Afternoon: 1:00 pm to 2:00pm
- Evening: 7:00pm to 8:00pm
These are not going to be easy. I have been leading a lifestyle, completely opposite of what I am setting myself to do. So, wish me luck.
Almost every entrepreneur and startup I meet, at one stage or other, talks about patenting and protecting their IP. Earlier, even I was in that domain, trying to find out how can I patent some of my methods and implementations. Some may or may not be patentable, but still I was looking for it.
Only recently, I have started thinking that ‘patent’ mostly is anti-innovation and anti-progress. Especially, in the US and Western countries. Many people, just think of something, do a bit of research and apply for a patent. Companies encourage their employees to apply for new patents as much as possible. While there is nothing harm in asking to think of new ways, it is harmful to the society and the world to patent it. Why? Well, if you do not intent to use it, or implement it, why hinder anyone else to try it and do good. Just because you thought of an idea or method first does not mean you own it. Many might have thought before you, but choose not to patent it or implement it.
In the field of technology, I believe, more and more innovation will see the light of the day, if these small and incremental innovations and practices are actually made open. Open for people to use it, progress on it and even better implement it. This way, we might see a lot more innovation coming out in the public.
VCs and investors might not support it, but the people will money should not be making all the decisions. The world will not be a good place to live, if it is left to them to dictate how things need to be done.
I believe, I might have done some incremental innovation, on the stuff that we are working with. However, I would not like to patent it, but I would like to publish it and contribute towards “open innovation”. I tried to find a platform where I can publish these details, but I could not find any.
Can you help me find where I can publish and contribute towards open innovation? Is there a platform, where these are extended to the public for greater use or help? If not, I would like to build one such, with the help of few people.
The most common understanding is that you should pivot when you see something is not working.
I differ from that belief.
Small market: Most often when we start, wr believe it is a big market and a big opportunity. However, more often than not, we find that the total addressable market (TAM) is actually small. You may be selling very well in this small market, and if you pivot, there are chances that you might have to let go of all existing clients and start from scratch again. Even then, have the courage and pivot. Coz if you don’t, some one else will create a product and target that big market at your cost.
Low margin: Again, you might be doing very good numbers but you realize that you can not make profits with the current model, coz of low margins. Pivot.
Tough operations: Some business models are tough when it comes to operations. Pivot if possible.
Not fundable: If the goal is to become big and not just run a lifestyle business, then raising money is a must. Some models are not fundable. They may be falling short in one or more aspects. Pivot.
Non scalable: At times scaling a business can be tough. To make it scalable, you might have to pivot.
Lastly, pivot if no one is buying your product.
This is just my point of view. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Okay. You may consider this a rant or experience, either ways, I know this is right.
Firstly, what is the difference between a startup and a lifestyle business?
I asked a similar question at a recent event. I was told, lifestyle business gives money or salary to the founders every month, Startups do not make money for the founders for a couple of years, and only make money during the exit.
My take, this is a complete American way of doing business. Or should I say, a thought driven by investors?
While most VCs take salary or management fees, they expect founders to take lower salary, or even better no salary. The argument is, founders are working to create value for the company and so sacrifice.
While it may work in the west, for India, I would suggest building a company thinking both like a startup (big market) and a lifestyle business (income every month ).
Tech business is the new kid in the block. Other businesses like retail, real estate, restaurants, spas, etc have been there for many many years. Tech is only about 20 years old. More so in India. It is a fairly new business.
Hence, it will take some time to reach the level where USA is now. Till then it is almost not possible to find money to run the business. Hence, think of survival, think of making money from the business. Once you find the right fit, scale up by taking outside funds.
Another way is to do business focusing on the western market or global market. The dynamics changes once your focus is on the western market.
After having viewed a similar episode on Aamir Khan’s “Satyamev Jayate”, facing something actually was something I had not foreseen.
In an unfortunate incident, one of my close relatives had some severe health issues. Initially, we thought it was a Heart Attack. However, thankfully, later it was cleared and it was found to be gall bladder stones, which had gone acute. I will spare the details and will go directly to the experience we had at the Apollo Hospital.
She was having jaundice, gall bladder stone and one of the doctor referred us to a doctor in Apollo Hospital. She was prescribed some medicines to get the jaundice cured, and asked to come back after a week. When she went back, that was when all the drama started.
First, she was asked to do a bunch of tests. Even when the tests were done in other labs earlier, she was said to redo the tests as they do not recognize the other labs. The most common trick to force her do the test were refusal and fear. She was refused to continue the treatment further if the tests are not done, and scared that she may end up with serious issues if not done. Then she was asked to come back the next day to collect the results. Next day she was again asked to make a few more tests, including Angiogram. (Angiogram is used to check blockage in arteries and veins.)
Almost immediately after the test, she was said, she is having 90% blockage in one of the main arteries and she risks a heart attack any time. They kept on repeating the statement getting heart attack repeatedly, and asked her to sign some documents and they would conduct the operation immediately. The next thing you know, is they have started discussing the packages and giving an option which one to choose.
Scared with the thought that they have to undertake a heart surgery, they called a close relative for consultation. Aware of their tricks, he went to the hospital, and said he will take them home and asked for the CD for a second opinion, outside Apollo. Their first reaction, “if you take them home now, it would be on your own risk.” As if it will be there risk if we do not take them back. Next up, was their trick to delay giving the CD. They said it is going to take 2 days.
She was then taken back to home, and she was anxious for the entire period of 2 days. After 2 days, when we went back to ask for the CD, they started to refuse to give the CD, stating many things. After paying an extra 1k over all the charges that they had already levied, we were given the CD.
We took, the CD to a different doctor, in the city and another family friend in Chennai. Both of them said, there is a 30% blockage in a side artery, and it is nothing too serious. This can be cured with medicines only.
What these greedy hospitals and doctors do not realize it, with their greed to extract more money from the patients, they are not just impacting the patient, but a whole set of relatives and friends as well. The anxious moments spent by all, including her children in different cities in the country and entire family, can not be mentioned. Luckily for us, we had someone who knew their true colors and could save us from all the troubles. I am only imagine the plight the less fortunate patients would be going through.
If this is what we can expect from a well known hospital chain, Apollo, where are the patients safe? Where are the doctors actually doing their duty of saving patients and giving them an assurance and good feeling? When will they stand accountable for all the grief and anxiety they give to millions of people every day?