Spirit of Entrepreneurship

I will briefly stress on three aspects of Entrepreneurship that does NOT get emphasized sufficiently
1. Entrepreneurship is beyond “quick money” – While no one can underplay the importance of wealth creation, job creation, market capitalization etc., too often the spirit of entrepreneurship is lost in the cacophony of business plans, term sheets, sweat equity, share of equity, loans, deals with venture capitalists and angel investors etc., All of them are important, but just because we have Incubation Parks (into which Crores of Rupees are being sunk), Entrepreneurship Cells in every Institute (NSR Cell in IIMB, Wadhwani Center at IIT Bombay, Vinod Gupta Center at IIT KGP, SIDBI Center at IITK etc.,) let us not get into “straight jacketing” Entrepreneurship with 101, 201 Courses, and fancy buildings. It is all about “fire in the belly”, passion, hard work (often toil), earth-shaking ideas, world-changing products.. “Honey, it is all money” is too shallow a prescription for Entrepreneurship!

2. The second point is that entrepreneurship is not limited to business alone. It was Swami Vivekananda who suggested to Jamshetji Tata to start an Institute that is today the celebrated Indian Institute of Science. Swamiji had re-interpreted Hinduism in contemporary context and boldly articulated it in his famous address at the “Parliament of Religions” at Chicago in 1893. To me, it is no different in spirit than the re-writing of Unix into Linux (in 90’s) using two decades of growth in software engineering (from 70’s). CV Raman’s discovery of “Raman Effect” using equipment that cost less than Rs 100, and in the process challenging the idea that to do great Science you need Laboratories that cost Crores of Rupees, is another instance of Entrepreneurship. Shri Ramanujacharya sharing the “mantra” with thousands of common folk (even at the cost of he going to Hell for breaking the tradition of secrecy of “mantra”), to me is no different than Mark Andreessen joyfully sharing his “Mosaic” browser with thousands of other users (Mark started the Internet revolution later thru Netscape).

3. Finally today’s entrepreneurs should study the intense days of successful entrepreneurs in their early days. Not many study in depth the struggles of the pioneers (Infosys Founders or Google Founders) in their early years. Such a study will teach tomorrow’s entrepreneurs many lessons (watching their interviews today in CNN or CNBC or the BMW’s they drive or the golf matches they play). How many know that Microsoft created the notion of “Developer Network”, that is today’s MSDN. Every IT vendor (Intel, Oracle, SAP, IBM, HP, and Sun) has a Developer Network, but it was Microsoft that started it; in fact Bill Gates’ father used to “organize” the events in early days! Many ideas such as “Daily Build”, “Program Management” came out of early days of Microsoft. How many IIT K Alumni know that IITK created many innovations (they may not have been “sold”) – Grading System, Semester System, Subject-based Pass etc. In fact the first “payroll” program in India was written at IITK. “Managing Data Center” – a big idea today was actually implemented at IITK in early 70’s by Pawan Kumar at IITK Computer Center (the same person who went to TCS, started IBM Global Services in India and vMoksha three years back!)

In short the spirit of Entrepreneurship goes beyond money, beyond prescriptive details of Venture financing and not limited to business alone. It is worthwhile studying the early struggles of successful entrepreneurs.

(My talk at IIT Kanpur Alumni Association in Bangalore on May 20, 2005)

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