The New New Thing

Saurabh Garg rants on The New New Thing

Why choose entrepreneurship

with 2 comments

I wrote this for my Alumni Magazine – Footprints. A lot of things might be out of context for few people but the essence would hold true. I would love to have feedback on this. Please do write in if you feel strongly about something.

Why choose entrepreneurship

How do you define entrepreneurship? For me, an entrepreneur is a person who takes some initiative, hoping to change things around him (and in process change things for himself). An entrepreneur is a person who has a risk appetite. An entrepreneur is someone who does not mind venturing into the unknown territory (and in process feed his insatiable hunger). And finally an entrepreneur is someone who wants to stand out, and values his thought and independence of actions (more than straddling with the mediocrity in routine tasks).

With this broad a definition, every around us could be an entrepreneur. From a vegetable seller to a professor to doctor to a home-tutor to a student to a parent to a toddler to an oldie, everyone is an entrepreneur. From a time when you were a kid, you took initiative by trying to walk. When you went to the school for the first time, you showed exemplary courage (some kids do cry when they first goto school). When you first drove that vehicle, you knew that you might get hurt but still wanted to do it. When you decided to take CAT and choose a business school, you were experimenting with your career (lets be honest, we dint do MBA because we always felt like becoming managers – we did because there were no other options or everyone else around us was doing it).

So why is it that when it comes to real life businesses, we loose this innate initiative taking ability and the spirit just fizzles out? Why do we get comfortable in work and seek solace in regular jobs and we don’t want to take risks? Is it because of our traditional outlook of having a secure government job that we keep on till retirement? Or is it because everyone around us seems satisfied and happy with their jobs and we simply want to live life like them? Content and happy. What else could it be?

Lets change track and for the sake of simplicity and clarity I will talk about three phases of life (“inspired” from the movie Pursuit of Happyness). These are

  1. The Rats in Blindfold Race
  2. Sundials in Shades
  3. Round Pegs in Square Holes

Flashback to end of 2005 and beginning of 2006. The entire campus was abuzz with placement talks. Everyone was making their personal placement strategies in their secret hideouts. Some people were working alone. Some worked in pairs. Some found comfort in groups. You could spot flurry of activity outside library, computer center and rooms of academic toppers. Suddenly, new friendships were being forged. All enmities were forgotten. All broken walls were mended. All gaps were bridged. Everyone wanted to be friends with placement committee guys. Everyone wanted to master the art of cracking interviews and getting placed on that magic Slot 0 on Day 0.

Some people decided to revise whatever they had studied in 4 semesters so far (read as going over the notes made by the likes of Mansi, Supreeta, Manushree that have been painstakingly photocopied during these last 4 semesters, some people decided to study hard henceforth (this essentially meant mugging Kotler. Again), some people decided to start reading newspaper (and finally avail the facilities at the library), some people decided to polish their GD and PI skills (this essentially meant doing nothing at all), some people were oblivious to placement were busy partying and playing CS (these people were amongst the lower rungs of the CGPA ladder and were assured of Day 3 placement).

All of us were sure of one thing and one thing only. We wanted a placement with a prestigious company on a package of not less than 7 lakhs (this was the ACTUAL average salary when my batch was passing out). And that is all that mattered at that point in time. There were people who were very clear in their minds and thoughts about what kind of jobs they wanted and where did they see themselves in five years. They had all answers to all the questions that an interviewer could have had. Even the clueless ones wanted to make their careers in big corporations, rising to the top of ladder. All of us wanted to work hard for rest of our lives. For someone else. For peanuts. Doing the same thing for rest of our lives. Boring. Mundane. Regular. And still worse, trying to justify that whatever we are doing is fun.

There is nothing wrong with doing what the entire world is doing. After all we have interesting jobs that pay well, that makes families and friends proud, that elevates social status, that puts career on a fast-track path to that corner office on top floor, that gives a security of a pension post retirement. It’s a perfectly understandable that one chases dreams like second and third homes in suburbs, cars and membership to executive clubs. After all life is supposed to be enjoyed to the fullest. Work hard and party harder should be the mantra to live life by. We were doing what everyone was doing. We were like Rats in Blindfold Race running because everyone else is running and never for a single instant thinking why the race.

And this is where the problem is. We get so comfortable in our cocoons that we can’t imagine a life outside that. We become so comfortable doing our jobs that we simply don’t want to challenge the status quo. We become so myopic with our visions that we cant see what can be done. We become pragmatic and logical and hence we refute things even before we try.

Imagine if everyone in world became like that. There would be no new innovations and businesses, no Internet, no communication equipment, no electric bulb, no wheel, no fire, no evolution and no us. We would be in sleeping in caves or hanging from trees if the few daring ones dint venture out.

It was an entrepreneur who first decided to step out in the dark and for some reason decided to rub two dried wooden sticks against each other to discover fire. It was his curiosity that drove him to use two sticks. It was an entrepreneur who thought that a round object might be easier to move. He worked hard on making it round. It was an entrepreneur who first wondered why is that apples fall on the ground and not rise to the sky. It was use of common sense coupled with clarity of thought. It was an entrepreneur trying to solve a problem who invented the telephone and the Internet. It was an entrepreneur who thought a PC on everyone’s desk could make lives much more simple and better. It was vision and a belief in that vision.

We, proud mandevians have all that it takes – curiosity, hard-working attitude, bag full of common sense, vision, conviction and finally problem solving skills. In fact we label ourselves as change masters. And thus wondering why is that we have very few entrepreneurs amongst us? What is stopping us? Arent we being what Benjamin Franklin called Sundials in Shade?

More I think about it, more I realize that it’s because of two things. Foremost is the avoidance of risk and second is pure laziness.

Most of the ones reading this would have reached a stage where they would be married, possibly with a kid, a home loan to pay off, a very stable routine job where we would be yelling on our subordinates and would be on receiving end of our bosses whims. Life would be really rosy. No major worries on any front and everything going on as planned. Probably we guys look at entrepreneurship as something that would shake things up. Make things unpredictable. Add a lot of unnecessary work, effort and emotions in life. And other such factors. And since we are MBAs, we will do a cost-benefit analysis. The analysis would prove that leaving a comfortable job is not required at all. And thus many interesting minds remain hidden in the layers of hierarchy.

Coming to the end and, a very famous advertisement from Apple Computers sums it very well. It says

“Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.”

And as this ad says, its about a choice between mediocrity and expertise, a regular guy and an exceptional talent, working for someone else and working for yourself. We need to choose. We need to choose life. We need to choose sides. Which side would you choose?

Saurabh Garg is from batch of 2006. He is an aspiring entrepreneur working on couple of ideas around computer gaming and communities. He updates his thoughts at http://saurabhgarg.com/thoughts when he is not thinking of ways to take over the world.

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Written by Saurabh Garg

August 23, 2008 at 8:51 am

2 Responses

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  1. “All of us wanted to work hard for rest of our lives. For someone else. For peanuts. Doing the same thing for rest of our lives. Boring. Mundane. Regular. And still worse, trying to justify that whatever we are doing is fun.”

    Every single day. I really need to change my enthusiasm level and do what I want to do instead of just following everyone. When I graduated, I was determined to change the industry…its been a year and I haven’t even changed my cubicle! Sigh

    Great write up. Will put it on my work wall!

    Mansi

    August 26, 2008 at 1:51 pm

  2. [...] wrote this piece for my alumni magazine and posted on this blog in August. I thought I would share with a larger audience and hence a repost… How do you define [...]


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