Friday, March 2, 2007

What every entrepreneur MUST know

What every entrepreneur MUST know
Sunder Ramachandran

After attending the summit for young entrepreneurs at IILM, Gurgaon,
last week, I caught up with venture capitalist Alok Mittal, a
chairperson at the event. Alok works as partner and executive director
with Cannan Partners, which invests in early stage technology

Alok was co-founder of and was instrumental in the
acquisition of JobsAhead by, the global leader in online
recruitment. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and
Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a
Master's degree in Computer Science from the University of California,

After covering lessons shared among entrepreneurs at the summit in my
earlier article, I bring you Alok's views on entrepreneurship and his
advice to young entrepreneurs.

Have a question you want to ask?

How do you know when you are experienced enough to start your own
company? Are there any benchmarks or is it enough to go with your gut
feeling and overall confidence?

I think the origin of many large businesses is the ability to spot
gaps in the solutions that are currently in the market. You must focus
on the ability to build strong teams and your ability to understand
the market well. Given those two things, today is as good as any other
time to start a business for most entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the traits most successful entrepreneurs
have in common?

Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to take feedback from the
market. They also have a high degree of market understanding.

A good entrepreneur has conviction in his/ her plans and is open to
changing strategies based on the market dynamics. He/she also has the
ability to build well rounded teams.

Entrepreneurship: What it takes

What are some of the common mistakes that you have seen young Indian
entrepreneurs make?

I think India has a weaker ecosystem for entrepreneurs right now. One
of the gaps is the lack of advisory bandwidth. Sometimes,
entrepreneurs are internally focused and do not keep a close tab on
the customers' need.

Entrepreneurs tend to focus more on their solutions than the
customer's problems. Sometimes, they lack a broader perspective of the
market. That's where we, as venture capitalists, add value, but we
would rather that start-up teams have that kind of ability and
foresight within the team.

What would you advise existing or aspiring entrepreneurs who feel
stuck due to the lack of investors? How should they go about securing
capital for their business?

I think funding is only one part of building a successful business.
There are many entrepreneurs who did not get funding at the start-up
stage. One in a hundred ideas gets funded by venture capitalists.
Entrepreneurs should be prepared to find alternate ways of
bootstrapping their plans.

You can always get back to venture capitalists once you have
demonstrated that your business plan has value. You must prove to
venture capitalists that your concept is working or that your
execution of the idea is superior.

Which are the sectors in which you see maximum scope for entrepreneurship today?

Given that India is on an accelerated growth path, I see opportunities
widely in all the sectors. The Internet is fairly under-leveraged.
Mobile and telecom technology is a big area. I also see opportunities
in software for the small business segment. Other than technology, the
retails sector is an obvious high potential industry.

What is your advice to the student community who may be toying with
new business ideas? How should they approach entrepreneurship?

Students should go out, spend some time in the real world and explore
real problems and real solutions. Our academic framework does not
provide that to the students. I have seen students just theorising
stuff that may not work in the real market.

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