As you may not know, on the 16th of January, the Indian PM is organizing a massive “Entrepreneur Ka Kumbh Mela” with the who’s who of the world attending. PS – I assume you don’t know because you are still reading this and not catching a plane to Delhi. Okay, just kidding!
As a true Marwari who has been working since the age of 16 (I am 46 now), I’ve seen a lot happen and the one belief of mine that remains unshaken is that History repeats itself. Sure, it does get created also.
So… first a fog check (we are going to Delhi, remember?). Now let’s check what all happened on the 16th of January in the past. Lots of things:
Tragedy: U.S.A. Space Shuttle Columbia January 16, 2003: Space Shuttle Columbia is launched on its final mission featuring more than 80 experiments from around the world. Just a short time later (Feb.1), Columbia explodes on re-entry killing all on board.
Innovation: January 16, 1953: For the first time, the Corvette is brought to New York. The first Corvette is presented at a car show that took place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The body of these sports cars were made from fiberglass, giving this car a unique look.
End of Evil: January 16, 1945: Following a number of defeats and allied forces approaching Berlin, Adolf Hitler with his companion, Eva Braun takes to his underground bunker, where he remains for 105 days until he commits suicide.
Boost to Trade: January 16, 1942: The United States takes two steps towards the defense of the Panama Canal and Central America on this day. One of the actions that the United States took to help the Panama and Central America area was that of lending them $20,000,000. The purpose of the money loaned to Central America/Panama was to help speed up the process of the Pan-American Highway that had been started.
Look up more if you are interested, and indulge me in my forecasting of what can be achieved on the 16th of January 2016:
Recognition: This is the first time the Prime Minister of India is indulging in something called Entrepreneurship! So far, I have never heard any Delhiwala Lal Batti car owner even utter that word. This glorifies the concept of Entrepreneurship and Starting Up! For the past many years, parents of freshly minted Indian graduates have dissuaded their children from joining ‘dot coms’.
I’ve had parents not let their kids join us because the company was involved in making mobile games. I hope the 16th of January event changes that perception since the PM is taking lead. This will also impact government agencies that have no concept of the digital world!
In 1999, while I was registering my first startup contests2win.com India Pvt. Ltd, the ‘Registrar of Companies’ said, “Get lost. We can’t have silly sounding names for serious companies and especially with numbers in them”. I persisted and won.
Shark Attack: If you read the agenda carefully, the Uber Boss seems to be the VIP and keynote. Now, that’s a big message in the wind for me. Uber is the biggest car-on-call service in the world and its CEO is the Chief Guest of the Indian PM’s event. This is indicative of the global competition that exists in the digital world and the fact that Amazon, Uber and their likes are going to shark attack the Indian startup waters with an aggression that would make the ‘Jaws’ shark look like a grumpy Dadi Ma.
Think of it – Indigo Airlines does not have Southwest Airlines (my favourite) to compete with in the local India skies, but every time I hail an app, Uber invades my decision and competes with the Kaali Peeli and Ola!
The End of Innocence: Just look at the headlines of this week. Oil has crashed. The Indian Stock Market is swimming towards Kanyakumari. Startups (foodtech) are closing down in sequences that resemble a Fibonacci series! This portends that January is the month of pain and realization that all fun things (easy money, killer valuations, spray & pray advertising) in the startup world of 2015 must end.
I believe that most startups that started with a silly hypothesis (I am an IIT guy and it’s my birthright to get funded and to insult people) will join the 350 sunsets remaining this year. The rest will really grow up and it would be nice if they paid serious attention to what is spoken at the event by people who have survived and thrived beyond doubt.
Sharing: While Namo will be bear hugging everyone (don’t break their ribs please), therodinhoods (an online community of entrepreneurs I founded) will be conducting its biggest, free, Open House (a mini kumbh mela) for all people interested in enterprise in the belly of the Bombay Stock Exchange.
This event and the one in Delhi, all point to the MOST important theme of ‘Sharing’ that I hope becomes a cultural movement in India. We are reticent to share, tell and reveal all; probably given our struggle-laced past. But that is behind us now. As entrepreneurs in Mumbai, Delhi and other places take center stages and share, I hope this unleashes a tsunami of knowledge that deserves to bathe (not flood) our young Indian demographic that is the future of the world!