Friday, March 29, 2013

Hyderabad Entrepreneurship Society

Apologies for being away from this blog for so long. A few valid reasons and many excuses. Truth be told every so often I feel like giving up if not on Entrepreneurship then on the country (my wife works in Hong Kong and I moved here to try and give something back to society by trying to enable entrepreneurship - being alone and unrewarded can be trying). But then again just as I think it is time to move out, I see examples that humble me and make me want to continue. Examples of raw courage by people one would not expect it from and who have everything to lose, examples of high intelligence from quarters you would never normally expect, examples of self-made entrepreneurs who have battled the odds and won, and examples of people drawn by a common objective who are brought together and who then try to resolve their problems.

A specific example of the last type is the Hyderabad Entrepreneurs Society whose meeting I attended on March 16th. They met at a place called LaMakaan. The space they had booked was not free after all so one person found some paper, wrote "HES Meeting" on it, got a foot long twig and pierced the paper through a leaf on a tree. There, we had a signboard, and space to meet under the tree! Some 50 to 60 entrepreneurs, hoping-to-be-entrepreneurs, people who just wanted to "check it out" and people who wanted to help. Every one of the entrepreneurs there were squarely in my target category of the "broad middle". That vast but hapless group who are ignored and whose way is strewn with obstacles and hurdles that seem to only get higher.

I had asked Vivek Anand (the organizer) if I may get a chance to speak and he allowed me to do so after most had introduced themselves briefly. I spoke about my project - why I wanted to do it, and how it was a movement. I also spoke about why it was needed and the importance of responsible and quality businesses (the competition is not in the next 100 meters or even 100 kilometers - but global). I also made some other points but this post is more about HES.

After I spoke a person got up and spoke about the 10 important rules of entrepreneurship. All of them common sense but uncommonly good common sense. The floor then opened up and I was astonished at what I saw.

Here was a group of people (unfortunately just two women) who wanted to succeed for various reasons in various products in various segments who one by one got up, said what they wanted BUT ALSO WHAT THEY COULD OFFER in terms of helping their fellow entrepreneurs!! They needed a hand, but were saying "if I can, I will give you a hand up". Brilliant.

Time and again - about 15 to 20 - I have been told by people to whom I spoke of my idea that my idea would not succeed because it required collaboration and that would not happen ('not in India"). I refused to believe that and now I was seeing with my own eyes that people were saying they would work together and for each other.  A great thing to see.

In no particular order I have reproduced a partial list of their wants and needs. They all go to the very points I have been making in meetings and in my papers.

- we need a support group
- we wanted to see how many crazy people there were (had to do with the notion also, of failure)
- we are here to interact (and learn/share) with others
- to gain knowledge, to learn how to do things
- to help other start-ups with funding
- looking for people to join them (as partners/employers)
- looking for "fresh" minds to join them (i.e. wanted a specific type of person who took the initiative and knew what it may be like to work for a start up).
- to share knowledge
- to find a solution together to solve office space issues
- to find a solution together to solve resource (primarily human) issues

Vivek spoke about an initiative that involved affiliates - which if I have understood it right is specifically something I wrote about in one of my position papers. It had to do with connecting people who had offerings in the various parts of the value chain and helping each other out. Even if fees were involved, and assuming that the underlying notion is that service/product offerings in the affiliate chain ought to be "market competitive" one can see how such a chain would actually help nascent entrepreneurs.

I offered to help these entrepreneurs to the extent I can (in terms of sharing what knowledge I have) for the next 6 months (since I do not know if I can commit beyond that) and asked only for the following: that they allow me to write up their cases for the benefit of others; that they help me think about my objectives if possible; and that they, if and when they are in a position to do so, give a helping hand to someone who needs it.

I have already met 4 of them (3 firms) one on one and have meetings with 3 more lined up. I was invited for a "clean tech huddle" (very similar to my "connect the dots" idea which I will post about if I have not already done so. Unfortunately I could not make that "huddle" but it was to have been over dinner and for people in a similar space to meet and discuss what they could do and to learn from each other.

Will write about them and their issues and the type of help they need in later posts.

Overall, it was like getting fuel into a system that was running low on fuel. I hope it encourages those of you involved in entrepreneurship to re-double your efforts.

Stay well. Stay true.