A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak with a few aspiring entrepreneurs from my alma mater in Mumbai. The event was on the lines of Startup Weekend and was organised by a bunch of bright students from VJTI, Mumbai. Here’s their website. Now, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of other entrepreneurs. This occasion, however, was special because it combined three things which hold an important place in my heart – entrepreneurship, starting early and VESIT.
Since what I had to say that day is what I feel strongly about, I decided to sum up the key points here. It would be interesting to know your views about this, so feel free to comment.
There are a few questions that keep popping up when I discuss startups and entrepreneurship with students. There are some ‘Whys’ and some ‘Hows’. Today, I will try to put forth my answers to these questions.
On two different levels, entrepreneurship is extremely important. On a macro level, entrepreneurs are the growth engines of a nation’s economy. Without enterprising businessmen, who dared to dream, huge industries like construction and shipping might not have been in existence. And without today’s startups, industries of the new economy would not be taking shape as you read this.
On a personal level, it has the potential to generate immense wealth for you and enable you to have a huge impact on the ecosystem – in terms of taxes, infrastructure and jobs. A huge payoff and creating lasting wealth in the long term is what every entrepreneur has the chance of achieving.
It has to be you – because you are brilliantly positioned to make a mark in the world of startups. You belong to a fabulous educational institution with teachers who can be good mentors, peers who can be amazing sounding boards and alumni who can be your stepping stones as you venture out. You have access to resources that others would give an arm and a leg for. You are also part of the age bracket where most of today’s early adopters and tommorrow’s highest spenders come from. You think and live like them and are thus best placed to design products and services that would appeal to them. In short, you have a crucial connect with the market.
As students, your brain is currently in a phase of discovery and innovation. Devoid of conditioning by a job routine, you can think up creative solutions to problems and needs. With time to spare after classes are over and a ready pool of talent and test customers, you can launch and iterate your startup quickly. And is there a downside? What if your startup fails? I can assure you that having the experience of launching and running your own startup will be an amazing addition to your resume.
There are some reasons why you should NOT pursue entrepreneurship. Do not launch a startup because it is ‘cool’ to do so. Do not do it because your friends are doing it and do not do it because you think you can do a better job of running a company than your next-door neighbour. The main reasons you should ‘do a startup’ is if you have the passion, ambition and drive to pursue a dream.
I have listed 6 steps that form the crux of how a startup should be launched and run. These are by no means the only steps involved nor does it mean that each startup has to pass through each step. Consider it a short checklist for your entrepreneurial journey.
- Ideate – An idea can be an epiphany or may be born out of a personal need or brainstorming. Think through your idea and be very clear about each aspect of it.
- Plan – Once your idea is in place, create a business plan. Your B-plan can be an elaborate 50-page document or a simple two-pager listing your significant objectives, strategies and milestones. The plan will help keep you focussed.
- Validate – You need to validate your idea and your plan. Do some market research through personal conversations and surveys; carry out test runs on small groups of users. Solicit feedback and really listen to what they have to say.
- Execute – Don’t get stuck in a vicious cycle of reading and planning. You need to get out and test the waters. Unless you execute and bring your idea to life, you will never know whether it will work or fail.
- Evaluate – Look at your plan periodically and check if your startup is meeting expectations. This will tell you if you are losing the way and need to re-focus your energies.
- Refine or Pivot – If your evaluation tells you that you are falling behind on your milestones, you have to work smarter and harder to make up for it. If, however, it keeps happening frequently, it might be time for your team to pivot to an idea more suited to you.
So, if you are a student who want to start up but is unsure, take a deep breath and go out and startup.
The author is Director, Virtual Ladder HR Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Founder – Jobs In A Jiffy. Views expressed are personal.