of the week!!
India has grown as a market and economists believe that we have a long way to go. Indian Ecommerce story is not new to anyone. We surely believed that we have the capabilities as well as the strength to produce our own Amazon or Alibaba from India. Flipkart became the poster boy of Indian Ecommerce and many followed the route. However, we are still to see the actual business being built from India. A lot of investments have been done in India Inc, but almost all of them are yet to show any results.
Please don’t take me wrong, I am not saying that businesses are not doing good in India or investments made so far were wrong. All I am saying is that we are yet to see any signs of the next billion dollar company coming out of India Inc. There can be many reasons that can be attributed to this, however, I have my own inferences and observations. I have been a part of the India startup story for last 5 years now. Have worked with a few startups, from well funded to bootstrapped, almost all types of startups.
At least 4 different startups at different stages have been shut down in front of my eyes. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been witness to their lives and I can say positively that money or funds is not the only reason for the failures.
I think there are some common links which stops us Indians from growing and until we start working on those, it will be very difficult for us to grow and beat silicon valley startups. I am putting down my observations and would like to get your point of view on the same.
- Our Selfish Nature : I think we Indians are very selfish and until we stop this behaviour of ours, it will be very difficult for us to grow. When I say selfish, I don’t really mean in literal terms, but all I want to say is that we think of ourselves, our profits first and customers later. No matter what you are doing or which team you are in, we are always told to think about WIFM – What’s In It For ME. This ideology or this kind of thought process is very dangerous for a startup. When you are working on a technology of future, when you are working on a product/service that can change the way people think, then there’s no question of what’s in it for me, the actual question that you and your team should be asking is What’s in it for the CONSUMER. But unfortunately, nobody is asking this question today, at least in Indian startup ecosystem, I find very few companies thinking from that perspective.
Let me share an example with you: Think about mobile technology. There has been an emergence of a lot of Chinese brands in India, why? Because, there is no home grown brand from India which is interested in becoming a differentiator in terms of Technology. All they are interested in is getting cheap hardware from China. Why do you think Xiomi or LeEco are doing so great in India? Because no Indian brand has been able to match the technological advances of these Chinese or Korean companies. Do you think we don’t have money or brains for that? No, it’s because we Indians think about our gains first. Nobody bothers to think about consumers. We don’t want to spend on R&D departments or Customer Service, we would rather spend on Marketing, where we could see returns on investments almost immediately.
2. We are Hungry – Yes, we Indians are hungry and that’s why we are not able to innovate and behave selfishly. Let me try and explain. Since, we are a developing nation and poor to a certain extent, it’s very difficult for an Indian middle class household to maintain a standard of living forget about investing in a startup. While a normal Indian middle class youth keeps struggling to get ends meet, how can you expect him to bootstrap or to live without a salary? Most of the Indian youths start working very early to help and support their family. Those who continue their studies, also do so with a promise to bring prosperity to the household as soon as they get a job.
So essentially, we are hungry people, and for a hungry person, bringing food to the table becomes most essential than solving the problems of the consumer. Therefore, our first attempt to any business is to earn money. And when the only thing on mind is to earn money, then rest of the things go for a toss.
This is the only reason, why you will find very few Indian companies giving free trials, or free for life products. Actually, we like receiving free, but we don’t believe in giving anything for free. It’s another topic which we can discuss later 🙂
3. We are very Impatient – See, everything is interlinked, since we are very selfish and we are hungry, we can’t give anything for free. This makes us Impatient. Impatient for results, impatient to get new customers, impatient to try new things and impatient to pivot. Impatience of Indian Entrepreneurs to try new things or to acquire new customers, is also one of the reasons for the failure.
I remember, I was once working as a consultant with a fashion brand. It was a 20 years old offline brand, they had about 13 EBO and MBO outlets in Delhi. It was my first month as an online consultant, and in a meeting I was asked very seriously by the owner, “So, when will I see our first order, and I am hoping we will have at least 20-30 other orders from Amazon, Snapdeal, etc by end of this month” . I just could not hold my smile and asked him if he is serious. I mean, it took him 20 years to reach this level, and he expects an online consultant to start delivering in 20 days!
I hear similar conversations across the industry with digital marketing teams and other online startup companies. We don’t believe in building a brand, we don’t believe in building consumers, we don’t believe in providing value. The only thing that we believe in is Revenues. Wasn’t it evident with all the Ecommerce companies running towards GMV like mad till few days back and now most of the CEOs are changing course. Most of them are now saying that they want to build an efficient operations and a sustainable business. Look at Ola, they should now seriously look at having their own search engine or an aggregator app, with so many options to search from. They pivoted their business from a Taxi booking app to a bike taxi to a food delivery to an auto booking to what not…
4. Value: For most Indians, the only thing that has Value in our eyes is Money, nothing else. We don’t value advice, neither do we value time. We don’t value relationships, neither do we value the idea.
Let me share something with you. Long back I started a small business with 2 friends. I was a little hesitant because I had already burnt my fingers once. But one of my friends was very excited and optimistic about the business. It was his idea, and he really wanted to do that at any cost. Well, after a lot of compelling, I agreed. But I made one thing clear that I don’t have money to invest, which was agreed upon by the other two.
We ran the show for 3 months, and I had left my well paying job by then. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and I had to go back looking for a job again. I ran into this friend after a long time, and he kept talking about the MONEY he had spent in registering the company. I was shocked to know that he had no value for the time me and the other guy had spent on his project, he had no value of the lessons we learnt in that time, and he really had no value about the emotions and friendship that was involved. All he valued was the money and that too such a small amount. I am sure you would have seen such stories around you as well.
A lot of times, we miss out on the opportunity because we value money more than the exposure or the learning associated with it. We don’t value the advice which can actually change the course of our business. We don’t value the experience and exposure that is involved. Isn’t that what happens with consultants? Those who have done consulting projects in the past would agree with me. Just because you are a freelancer or a consultant, your time has no value. People expect you to spend days and nights on their projects and when it comes to paying, you hear answers like, oh it was just a 2 minutes job… it was just a few lines that you wrote… it didn’t give us any returns actually. Until we start valuing relationships, time and other non tangible things in life, we won’t be able to grow.
5. Structure : Yes, another drawback is that we don’t believe in structures or hierarchies. Rather, I would say, we do believe in structures when we are employees, but when we become the boss (Entrepreneur), we stop believing in that. It seems that there is a feeling that nobody can be a better boss than me, which causes this. We want to be on top of everything and we can’t really hire professional CEOs, COOs or CFOs. And when we do end up hiring some, we will start micro managing them.
Who says that if it’s your idea, you have to execute it as well? If you are a great executor, doesn’t mean that you will be a great strategist as well or vice versa.
The point I am trying to make here is that organisations thrive on structures. If it would not have been the case, how do you think companies like IBM, GE, Apple, Microsoft and many more became so great? These companies take pride in the fact, that they gave so many leaders to the industry. As a company or a startup, it is our duty to build leaders of tomorrow. Until and unless we start believing in the importance of having right leadership structures, we won’t be able to build teams that will take our companies to new heights.
I have full faith in the future of Indian Inc and Indian Entrepreneurs. But, if we want to compete with Silicon Valley and if we want to take it to the next level, then I guess, we should look at these smaller aspects of doing business as well along with bigger aspects like Projections, Sales, etc.
Do let me know what do you think about it or if you can add something to it.
I can be reached on Twitter @kamalkalra84