For all the fables of legendary business acumen and leadership vision built around successful founders, an absolute must-have quality for entrepreneurs is frugality . “I have been used, abused, tried out and torn. But my biggest strength is that I can live on very little and in lot of ambiguity,“ said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of digital payments and mobile commerce firm Paytm, which raised $575 million (`3,670 crore) in January from China’s Alibaba Group.Sharma, who hails from Harduaganj, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, recounts when he desperately needed `8 lakh to repay a costly loan.“I started giving internet training sessions, setting up local networks for companies and did a lot of mundane small jobs to make my ends meet,“ he said, adding adaptability as a key requisite quality for entrepreneurs.
Another essential is emotional fitness, which in the startup world translates to undying faith. “Even when your employees start doubting your business along with your family , it’s you who has to keep faith.It’s irrational but that’s what has saved companies from the brink,“ said Sudarshan Motwani, CEO at online foreign exchange buying venture BookMyForex. “Copycats, thus, rarely work as they don’t go through the pain of building the road,“ said Motwani, 60, who started his venture in 2013. Entrepreneurship, in essence, is nothing short of a crash course in survival in ambiguity , which makes intuitive decisionmaking indispensable. “People who can’t live in ambiguity , are rigid, don’t possess intuitive decisionmaking and can’t inspire others should never take to entrepreneurship,“ said Deepak Menaria, cofounder at Lemon School of Entrepreneurship, which coaches aspiring entrepreneurs on the lifecycle of a business.
Finally , success is rarely about college grades or a high IQ. “If just smarts were enough to be successful, we’d have a lot more successes. It’s probably more of grit and relentlessness,“ said Kunal Shah, cofounder of Freecharge that he sold to Snapdeal for about `2,800 crore in April in the largest acquisition deal in India’s consumer internet industry . “I’ve seen so many entrepreneurs, including myself -our IQ is not that big,“ said Phanindra Sama, cofounder of bus ticketing firm redBus.in that was sold to South Africa’s Naspers for about $100 million in 2013.
Paytm’s Sharma, schooled in a Hindi medium, struggled with entrance exams and then at the English-medium Delhi College of Engineering, renamed Delhi Technological University . But bit by the internet bug during the dotcom boom of 1997, Sharma has emerged as one of India’s most suc cessful internet en trepreneurs.
A large number of young Indians are hopping aboard the startup bandwagon because it has become the `cool’ thing to do. Investors advise them to be prepared for a rough ride and stay harnessed if they plan to take the plunge. “Even if you get funded, at seed stage investors won’t let you withdraw a salary until Series-A round, which may take 2-3 years,“ said Abhijeet Kumar, cofounder at deal-making platform Ah! Ventures, which has invested in online coaching firm Harness Touch and crowd-funding platforms Ketto and Catapooolt. “Many people call it quits midway when they get exciting job offers and see their peers buying cars and houses.“
So how do you assess if you are ready to start a venture? According to Sama, the redBus.in cofounder, “Entrepreneurship doesn’t need any special skills, just hard work.“
If you are up to it, then you probably have your answer.