IntroductionThe five most important qualities of successful entrepreneurs are a)Risk-taking ability b) Ability to see the big picture c) Ability on getting all basics right d) Keeping a tight leash on finances and e) Building an entrepreneurial culture throughout the organization.
Risk-taking abilityNothing succeeds like success. But success in entrepreneurship never comes without risk-taking. In the simplest of words, risk can be associated with any bold decision taken by the entrepreneur in any set of conditions that are either unclear or the market itself has not been defined and well set or the variables associated with the particular business are complicated. Irrespective of whether it is the smallest entrepreneur who sells vegetables on a retail basis or a corporate chief executive who is having the mandate of entering a new business in the Gulf countries, the world is full of entrepreneurs who have always taken the risks. Sometimes, the gamble looks daunting. But they take it.
When Suzuki tried to arm-twist TVS Motors to give it the majority stake in the two-wheeler company, a professional-quality consultant called Prof. Tsuda advised the owner CEO of TVS Motors, Mr. Venu Srinivasan to simply buy up the stake of Suzuki. That was the tipping point of India's third-largest Indian company. The FMCG company called Cavinkare deliberately took a big risk in entering the North Indian market with its own brand of shampoo called Nyle. It worked. Nyle has created a niche for itself in the highly competitive market.
The risk-taking ability of the late Dhirubhai Ambani when he went global is even today, a case study in many B schools. Years later, Jio is just about turning to be profitable but Reliance Industries is now saddled with a debt of over two lakh crores, and most part of this can be attributed to the calculated risk taken by Mukesh Ambani to enter the cell phone industry, where the profit margins are still very less. Such examples abound. However, the ultimate success can always be attributed to the risks taken at some stage or the other.
Ability to see the big pictureThis ability pertains to visualizing the scope of the particular business or envisioning the future, some ten or fifteen years into the future. Many big entrepreneurs are now becoming experts at seeing the big picture. The entire world is now becoming an age of specialization where the Core Competencies built over a number of years make a big difference to the organization. Infosys Technologies is today such a highly successful company only because it's founder, Shri Narayanamurthy was able to build formidable core competencies in a comprehensive manner.
The ability of Mr.K.V.Kamath to systematically build a financial supermarket called "Team ICICI" is something magical. Case-studies in many B schools teach MBA students the various decisions he took to build the giant that ICICI is today. Suresh Krishna clearly saw the benefits of building a global company with the best of skills related to quality and supply chain management. Professional management of both has enabled his company called Sundaram Fasteners to develop into a global company today.
Ability on getting all basics rightThe small entrepreneurs who run businesses like grocery shops can teach us many lessons. For one, the never offer credit to casual buyers. However, if their shop is near a gated community, they do offer some credit to bulk customers. This is often done to customers who end up buying their entire monthly groceries from them. Gradually they develop a relationship and go deeper. They start customizing the products to the specific needs of customers and since they also do home deliveries at odd times, the relationship with specific customers keeps on giving them regular cash flow and income that keeps growing at any point in time. To overcome the cash flow problem, they tend to get one month's credit from the wholesalers as well. Trust is built on the basis of integrity. They often take working capital loans from banks through jewel loans. This is exactly what we call getting all basics right.
Mahindra Finance is a good success only because it has been able to build relationships with thousands of farmers. It is customization at its best. Bajaj Finance is another example. Sundram Finance has gone the extra mile in getting deposits from hundreds of retired employees and the secret is excellent service. The organization has several thousands of crores in fixed deposits. It lends only to those in the lorry business. It has relationships with thousands of customers as the TVS group has always been market leaders in transporting goods by road. One leads to another and all dots are joined in a very coordinated fashion. Amazon.com has now tied up all ends in India. It is able to service even villages through its nodal centers. The business is growing by leaps and bounds. Specific to the business domain of a particular organization are several variables that need to be controlled. Once this is ensured success follows. The most important point in any business is integrity. The way the Nadar community-run most of the grocery shops on a giant scale is one lesson for the best of MBAs.
On a smaller level, it is even quite interesting to understand the chemistry of the success of those involved in the business of stitching the ready-made blouses for women. Unlike the olden days, today, there are sleeveless blouses, blouses with sleeves of different sizes, blouses with just a knot on the backside and so on. Customization is the order of the day. The market has penetrated small villages too.
Keeping a tight leash on financesIt is impossible to become a successful entrepreneur if your debt is not kept under control. For example, hundreds of cheap products from China have flooded and captured the market for computer spare parts. The keyboard, for example, sells for just Rs400/-. The very small entrepreneurs who run the xerox shops have also entered the business of sales and service of computers and laptops and all spares of all types of computers including making the old computers work. The resale value of old computers and laptops is big business in most parts of rural India. The trick is that there is no credit at all. Regular cash flow enables the small entrepreneur to be happy. This is all the more so when he or she has some income from their farms. Agricultural activities are not insignificant in rural and semi-urban India. The marketing for garlands is a business worth one crore rupees on a single marriage day. The marriage is not complete without worship in the nearest temple. No credit at all. The guys involved know how to make money. Examples of this kind abound in various parts of India. Management of finances is thus an important variable for successful entrepreneurship.
Building an entrepreneurial culture throughout the organizationThe freedom to innovate and produce results is person-specific in manufacturing units of the Mukesh Ambani group. Even a junior executive who is effective is given resources to innovate. Similarly, Marico Industries has a good policy of job rotation across functions. Those in HR were also given responsibilities in Sales and Marketing. The trick is to build an entrepreneurial culture within the same organization. Those selling electronic goods like televisions and washing machines among other products always build a culture where the salespeople know key aspects of the business. Those with a good family background in the business of some sort, tend to branch out on their own. The secret of success of the main entrepreneur is to build an entrepreneurial culture from scratch. The entrepreneur does not bother if he has fresh competition from his former employees. This goes on and on. Examples of this sort can be found in so many pockets of India. However, one will, however, need to go out there in the field and observe what goes on. The lessons are always interesting.
ConclusionThe five most significant aspects of successful entrepreneurs have been discussed in some detail above. The lessons are only indicative. They are not exhaustive. The most important point is that India is a fertile land for hundreds of entrepreneurs. Most of them are successful. We can keep learning many lessons from most people in most of the country at any point in time. The chemistry of success is always interesting to learn.