“Just start ……… Don’t give up”

by our correspondent, Ahmedabad, 27 January 2013

So in one line what you would like to tell to the students about entrepreneurship? Sanjeev Bhikhchandani asked the panelists who started their career as entrepreneur

Nikesh Sinha(MD, APCA Power) replied, “don’t give up.”

Rajesh Nair (President, Indegene) replied, “Just start”.

Nirmal Jain (Chairman, IndiaInfoline) replied, “I will complete it in two-three lines. If you try, it’s good, but if you don’t become entrepreneur it’s neither a crime, nor a sin. You can still have better life in corporate job. People ask me, whether I am able to sleep after having 20,000 people as employees, and I reply that I sleep like a baby, I wake up every hour.”

The stage was IIM Ahmedabad’s RJMCI auditorium and the event was IIMA Maverick 2013 organized by IIMA’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE).

On Sunday morning, it was a very frank discussion on almost all aspects of entrepreneurship. Naukri.Com’s founder Sanjeev Bhikhchandani conducted the session very well. Whenever there was a dull moment in the discussion, he intervened to replace it with something interesting.

Entrepreneur Rajesh Nair first told his story. He completed his medical education and started practice as a doctor. While treating the ill visitors, he thought that being a doctor he would be able to impact very few people. He could do something larger to impact more people. He went to IIMA and later thought that something should be made out of nothing to add surplus. With to other doctors he started his pharma consultancy service firm ‘Indegene’.

“When I started, I had no idea about the market. I just jumped in the market to explore and find out true opportunity. In first four month I earned only that much to march my one week income as a doctor. But in first twelve month I earned enough to pay salary to self and others. First four years were still difficult, and we did many mistakes but surviving was important. If you survive, good time pays a visit. Today we have 1,000 employees,” Rajesh said sharing his experiences as entrepreneur.

“Is past experience is important for entrepreneurs?,” Sanjeev asked Nirmal Jain, to which Jain replied, “In general businesses there are examples of Nirma or Balaji wafers who have just observed the consumers and have started the business, but in specialized domains like Finance or IT, the background plays its role. Then there are examples like Dilip Sanghavi who is CA but runs one of the most successful pharma company called Sun pharma.”

On his journey in early days Jain said, “I started working in Hindustan Lever Limited. Our family business was handled by my father, but contrary to that HLL was run by somebody sitting in London through his managers. And I observed that the managers were working day and night. This was a learning lesson.”

Jain said he then started advising subscribers on broking by setting up a firm Inquirer, but later he changed the model and decided to give advise for free online. And one advertisement campaign did wonder. He said he spent 5% of net worth for that big advertisement declaring that his firm would now offer free tips, and that campaign brought 2,50,000 requests. The website generated more traffic, and later funding came. Many friends and relatives invested in the company with sums like two lakh, five lakh…. it was like donation raised for some temple. A 15 people company in 1999 is now 20,000 strong in 2013. The journey that started with research and broking later traveled into insurance and mutual fund streets and today only 20% work is associated with broking, while major work is now concentrated over Capital finance and Wealth management.

Nirmal Jain said, when the organization involves a dozen or so people, you know everyone’s family and background, when it grows to around fifty persons, you know their names, but when it grows to the size of 15000-20000 persons, then for you it’s just a number. And at such time you need to maintain the culture of the organization, and it is very important because in the absence of culture, the organization may disintegrate during slightest crisis. The organization should grow like a tree, the branches would be many, but basic culture would not be forgotten and it would remain same.

Speaking very frankly about his journey, Nikesh Sinha(MD, APCA Power) said his journey as an entrepreneur started by an accident. He said, “two accidents and one phone call played a role in my career. My mom and grand ma died and therefore I left Mumbai and went to my native place in Bihar, where ultimately I started working in the Times of India. My job there was about modernization of editorial, later the company called me to Mumbai. One day Dileep Padgaonkar called me that he will be leaving the job with three others and I should join him as manager. Dileep had no business plan and my salary figure was also not fixed, but I just joined him. We started with the idea of serving newspaper on TV. Later Business India fame Ashok Advani wanted to start a business television. It was 1994 and Rangarajan Kumarmangalam who had just left Congress had space on Russian satellite. Ranga was a friend and he wanted us to talk to Ashok Advani on his behalf. We fixed the deal. The money we earned through this negotiation job was invested to get a contract on Doordarshan. But eventually DD canceled the contract. When Stuart Goldpharm offered us money to start a business channel, we replied that we are people expert in political news, and they should approach Raghav Behl with the business channel’s idea. They went to Raghav Behal who started CNBC.”

Sanjeev Bhikhchandani pointed out that Nikesh had once rejected a girl in an interview. The girl who wanted to become an anchor was rejected by Nikesh because according to Nikesh her accent was not good and she needed improvement in that skill. Sanjeev went ahead and said the girl later adopted a new name and became a film actress. She was Mallika Sheravat.

To this Nikesh quickly gave a justification, “she had Haryanvi accent.”

In the beginning of the session IIMA professor Jajoo told a short story to the students. He said, “there was one gentleman who wanted to live long and someone suggested him to do Ramdev baba’s pranayam. That gentleman followed the advise and had good life. He died at 75. He reached heaven where on the first gate, one Apsara welcomed him with flowers and he felt very nice about it and he went ahead, at another door, another apsara was standing with welcom drink, and at the third door the third apsara welcomed him with dance. Now that gentleman thought, was it a mistake to do Ramdev’s pranayam in an attempt to live longer, or was it better to die early. So the story tells that you are taking professional job, but don’t repent later on in the life that why you didn’t try entrepreneurship!”

At the end of the session, Sanjeev recalled a question asked to the students by Prof Vora in IIMA during the last term of the last year of PGP studies. He said the professor asked students, “what is management”, and there was a complete silence in a class room. No one had answer. Then the professor himself delivered an answer, “it is purposeful action.”

About the event:CIIE to hold two-day IIMA Mavericks meet on entrepreneurship

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