I’m an entrepreneur, but unlike most with lots of degrees, qualifications, work experience, etc. I started my journey with little or none of the above. Im a commerce graduate and through-out my 5 years in college I toyed (only in my head) with the idea of entrepreneurship. My family was in textiles and I was sure I didn’t want to do that. The idea of entrepreneurship was scary or maybe more than scary I found myself lazy and couldn’t imagine myself do all the toil to setup a company and all the risks that go with it, specially the risk of failure.
Having said that as soon as I completed my graduation, something drove me to starting a web-design company way back in 1998 when Internet was a relatively new phenomenon and a website was something everyone had heard of but most (specially middle aged business-men) had never even seen! Something told me this seems to be the right place to be (the web/internet domain) as it seemed to me that the Web will be one of the most important aspects of the future for the people and businesses in India and across the World.
So without much contemplation or planning I started K Webmaker as a web-design company from my bedroom using my single 386 PC (I’m assuming most reading this might have never used the 386 generation pc). Back in 1998 I had to explain prospect clients the concept of internet or what the world-wide-web is and the how their business could use a website (most would be silently telling me to shut-up as they’ve run their businesses very successfully without ever using this ‘web’ thing). I did cold-calls (got hung-up on mostly), attended meetings, did sales, persuaded and sometimes almost pleaded for companies to give me business, do the actual design as well as coding, follow up on payments and even go to pick up the checks and deposit them in the bank. It was a crazy start but something I started ‘enjoying‘ soon and Id wake up excited day after day, looking forward to it!
Cut-to 2014 – today K Webmaker is a mid-sized Digital Agency panning verticals of Web, Mobile, Search and Social Media with 3 offices across the globe (India, USA, Denmark) and a reasonable sized team. We’ve been fortunate to serve some major Clients, Brands, Corporations and made a small name for ourselves in the Indian Digital industry.
Why am I sharing this? Since this is mainly a forum for Entrepreneurs or To-Be Entrepreneurs, I thought Id share my learnings (for whatever its worth) and this is what Ive concluded it takes to be an entrepreneur and to make a successful business venture:
Passion – Passion is most important and should be the ‘seed‘ of your entrepreneurship If its just about making money or the idea or hope to ‘make it big’, forget it and stick to your job or whatever it is you do. If you are not genuinely and from the gut passionate and driven to your business idea, drop it. If you are passionate – go for it! And remember – Passion comes from within.
Focus – Its important for you and your business to keep ‘focus’. You need to decide on the core of your business and stick to it. Example, as a web-design co. and later a digital-agency we had clients asking us to do things we didn’t do or didn’t know, e.g. traditional advertising, brochure designs, software development for erp or crms, etc. Many a times we were asked why don’t we have our own dot-com business, suggesting dot-com business is similar if not the same as web-development (believe me, dot-com is a very different ball game). We stayed focused and we were always clear about what we wanted to be and wanted to do. We stuck to our forte. Don’t get distracted and focus on what you know best.
People – I’m of the opinion that its the people who make the company and not the company that makes the people. People are the real assets. Beyond a point you need to delegate and to do that you need good people. If you wish to grow, find the right people. People who share your passion, people whose thoughts are aligned with yours, people who are willing to put in extra hours without whining, people who are dependable and trustworthy. Sounds impossible? Well, it is difficult. But if you are noble and genuinely passionate at heart, you will find them. Trust them, delegate to them, treat them right and they will perform. The more trustworthy hands and minds you have the more free you will be to grow your business and enjoy your business. (a note of caution – no matter how much you trust your people, never trust anyone blindly. At times even the key team members can get demotivated or distracted and you need to get them back on track with a shot of motivation and direction).
Money – Money makes the world go round. It really does! Let passion be the seed but money ‘has’ to be the outcome. Your business HAS to be profitable. A few pointers: Don’t be in a rush to make money as quick or easy money is a myth. Money is a potion made with equal amounts of hardwork, talent and luck. Make sure your business is profitable but have the patience to wait for it. For the first 5 years I didn’t make any money. I was lucky to break even, but never real profits. Be passionate about your business, make sure you know what you are doing and be bloody good at it. If you are a product business, make sure you create a unique product and if in service, provide a service / solution that is so quality driven that your clients are compelled to work with you and not your competition. If you are good at what you do and keep at it consistently, you WILL eventually make Money.
Goals – you have to set goals for yourself and your business. Short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. You need to know where you are starting and where you wish to go and the path or direction you need to take to achieve your goals. You may not always meet or achieve your goals and thats ok, don’t be too hard on yourself but make sure to set goals and try your best to achieve them.
Evolve – You or your business can never afford to stagnate. Maybe your business takes off, maybe you are doing well but you need to keep evolving, keep expanding and most importantly keep ‘adapting’ to new business changes and demands. This may seem a bit contradictory to my idea of ‘focus’ but evolution within your focus is important. As I mentioned we started as a web-design company, but with the evolution of the digital domain we had to evolve and we today are a full-service Digital Agency. Our clients expected us to give them solutions like Mobile Apps, Social media, Online media buying, etc. and we had to learn and evolve with the changing times and trends. Keep evolving, keep learning, never think that ‘i know it all’ and to end in the words of the great Steve Jobs – ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’.
Here’s a Picture of me with my Mumbai team (partial since the pic couldn’t possibly accommodate all) –