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Salary is Like Opium

There is an India which is confident and wants to move forward but then there is Bharat which is still stuck in the past.’ – Kanwal Rekhi, MD, Inventus Capital Partners

According to me, entrepreneurs are born with some capabilities and traits. There is an entrepreneurial gene; 2-3 percent of the population has it and it’s randomly distributed. Somehow you do not seem to get it from your parents.

While 2-3 percent of the population is entrepreneurial, the environment does not allow you to become entrepreneurs. They want you to settle down, study well, and get a good job. No parent would say, “Son, be an entrepreneur.

”When we started in Silicon Valley and looked back at our past, we realized that nobody, including our families, believed in us. We had the reputation of being very good techies who could make the software but did not want to sell, market and manage people because there was no precedent. It was a very lonely journey for us and at every step we had to prove ourselves. Around 1992, we decided it does not have to be this way and decided to become mentors and that is when we started The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). Salary is like opium where you need your monthly fix. The phenomenon of finding a way to step out of the comfort zone and take the journey into the unknown needs to be undertaken. This is also where a mentor can tell you if you are on the right track. When you start you always have doubts and talking to mentors helps to provide you the steadiness.

This phenomenon of role models has moved to India very successfully and once role models emerge, it puts pressure on you. If someone else can do it, why can’t you? No one can take the step for you, you have to do it yourself and gather courage to add to that 2-3 percent of the entrepreneurial population. Our aim is to encourage everyone because we never know who would succeed. Large numbers of people should try so that the real winners emerge. I will not say the ecosystem in India has become very friendly but it is conducive. You do not need permits, venture capital is allowed to function in India and tax systems are good. Government policies are not as bad as they use to be but there are miles to go for entrepreneurs to really succeed.

There is something, however, which is a tragedy. In a marketplace, you have labor and capital that are interchangeable. In a populous country like India where you liberalize capital and do not liberalize labor, you will have business houses substituting labor for capital.India is on the path to becoming one of the most automated manufacturing countries rather than giving jobs to labor. Rather than helping labor, we are killing jobs. The government, for some reason, has not given attention to manufacturing while China is creating millions of jobs.

What you need today is honest, competitive entrepreneurs. The days of screwdriver entrepreneurs exploiting the inefficiencies of the system are over. If two percent of the population are entrepreneurs, they are like locomotives, where each employs about 25 people; about 50 percent of the population can then find employment.

Tips for aspiring entrepreneurs: Give yourself a chance because you would never know what you could achieve and succeed unless you take the chance. You should not be ashamed that you failed; rather, you should be ashamed when you do not even try. Failures are great teachers. You need to step out of the comfort zone to become an entrepreneur. KANWAL REKHI is the MD of Inventus Capital Partners. He also co-founded and served as the CEO of Excelan, the company that pioneered Ethernet networking technology


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