Words of experience for aspiring young entrepreneurs
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Words of experience for aspiring young entrepreneurs

October 6, 2022

I believe that one of the important qualities a journalist must have is curiosity. If he is not curious to know Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — five W(ives) and one H(usband) to jest — about an event or a person who is making news, then he is not a good enough journalist. Yes, there is a proverb “Curiosity killed the cat” to warn of the danger that is there in such curiosity. It appears cats go nosing around and get killed as a result. Yes, we do read about journalists being killed for their curiosity.

But then as that famous Voyager Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) said, “The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore.” Absolutely right. If one is not ready to stick his neck out there would be neither a voyager nor a journalist worth his salt! Let it be.

This prelude is to recall my serendipitous attendance, of course, the invite came from a friend, at a programme of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs – TiE). It was like a talk show rather pompously named ‘A Talk on Mysuru to the World.’ The blurb says, ‘TiE Global is a non-profit organisation devoted to entrepreneurs in all industries…’

It has five foundational programmes — Mentoring, Networking, Education, Funding and Incubation. TiE Chapters, one in Mysuru also, assist start-ups with services from sponsors and as partners. Presently, Mr. Sudhanva Dhananjaya, the Founder-CEO of Excelsoft Technologies, Mysuru, is the President. He took over from  outgoing President Mr. Ajit Pai of Vijaya Wires, Mysuru.

There were two young and very articulate speakers who are great achievers in their own field of Business and Industry. One was Mr. Nikhil Ranjan, the successful entrepreneur who established William Penn, a retail store for high-end stationery. It emerged as a leading brand with 25 stores across India. He also ventured into marketing select international brands of writing instruments and men’s accessories.

Recently, he made news when he acquired the world brand among pens, the Sheaffer. Being a Mysuru boy, he indeed has cocked a snook at others who did not dare to venture into marketing and producing this kind of product. Indeed he has made a difference in the world of modern entrepreneurship. He delivered his talk and we listened in admiration but wondering how he could expand with this product that has more of a snob value when our Prime Minister is turning India into a digital world without paper! Well, Nikhil may well be selling status symbols in this world of rich and vain people.

That is where he is different from other play-safe entrepreneurs. Hearing him speak with total knowledge of his products and the market, both the present and the potential, I found him as a businessman bursting at the seams with confidence. Yes, confidence in what one does is the only path to success. I remember Indira Gandhi sharing her thoughts on development with industrialists saying, ‘Your goal should be above your reach. Keep raising the level of the bar and keep working to reach the higher goal.’ Nikhil may well belong to this class of achievers. Best wishes to him. He also fielded some questions with verve and frankly. It was more like an inspirational talk.

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The second speaker was a young lady, Mrs. Supriya Salian, Managing Director of Plansee India High Performance Materials Pvt. Ltd., Hebbal Industrial Area, Mysuru.

She is also the first woman Chairperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mysuru Zone. An Electrical Engineer from SJCE, Mysuru (2001) and later at Harvard Business School and other qualifications. Married to Mr. Manish Salian, owner of BIT, a travel company in Mysuru.

She too spoke well at a roller-coaster speed. Looked she had too much to say and too little time. She had the advantage of starting her career with the family business set up by her father. So it was a case of grabbing the opportunity and achieving the goal. It looks like a typical case of luck. But then what is luck? One wag defines it as the meeting of preparedness with opportunity. One may find an opportunity, but if he is not prepared to grab that opportunity with requisite qualification and merit he will not be lucky. Apparently, Supriya was well prepared with required qualifications and when the opportunity came she simply grabbed it.

The Power-Point presentation that accompanied the talk enhanced audience’ interest in the subjects they spoke.

The Executive Director of  TiE anchored the programme and mentioned of an episode where a customer went to a company to discuss business and then asked the person, a lady, he was discussing with, “Who is the decision maker? I want to talk to him.”

The lady called the General Manager who came immediately. The customer asked, “You are the decision maker?”

The General Manager was flummoxed and said, “But, sir the decision maker is in front of you,” pointing at the lady.

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I don’t blame the customer for wanting to talk to the decision maker. In big companies decision makers are mysterious creatures!

I have read that David Ogilvy, the Advertising Wizard of America was asked to submit an advertising campaign to Ford Company. He went there to present his campaign with drawings, copy text, art works etc. David Ogilvy saw a panel of six red-faced, grumpy executives sitting behind a huge table to see the Ad campaign he would soon present. The Chief of that panel, must be Mr. Ford himself, asked Ogilvy to start. However, Ogilvy hesitated for a moment, surveyed the Committee Members and then asked Mr. Ford, “Yes sir, but before I start may I know who will take the final decision?”

“All of us,” came the reply.

“Well sir, thank you. I withdraw.”

So saying Ogilvy got up, packed his materials and left.

It meant, that when there are too many people to take a decision the customer or vendor finds it very difficult to handle the business. Did you get me Steve?

By the way here are three thoughts on management by Ogilvy which may be useful to our new-age entrepreneurs:

Thoughts on management

“If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company    of dwarfs. If you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become giants.”

“We are opposed to management by intimidation. We abhor ruthlessness. We like people with gentle manners. We don’t like rigid pecking orders. We give our executives an extraordinary degree of independence, in the belief that freedom stimulates initiative. We dislike issuing orders; the best results are produced by men and women who don’t have to be told what to do.”

“There are, however, limits to our tolerance. We have little time for:

1. Office Politicians

2. Bullies

3. Paper Warriors

4. Toadies

5. Pompous Asses

6. Prima Donnas”

Reading David Ogilvy I realised that we at Star of Mysore and Mysuru Mithra could exist as newspapers for over 44 years because we provide reliable information and help build business of our readers and advertisers. That was the management lesson I learnt from that advertising wizard.

Tailpiece: I have heard that many family businesses fail because of conflicting decisions taken by the contesting members who run the business, where sentiments must be accommodated and respected. At the end family members become sentimental fools and the business is either ruined or sold.

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