First Do No Harm
Recently I found myself in an entrepreneur’s meet and quite accidentally too at that. I had come to meet a longtime friend who had shifted to the gulf countries years ago and was working for an angel investing firm. He had come over to India to meet a few prospective clients and as he was busy with his business meeting’s over on the other end of the city, the tech hubs on the east coast roads being a couple of hours at least away from the city and in back braking traffic snarls, the only time I could meet him in comfort was when he headed over to my side of town for this entrepreneurs club meet or something. As I had previously declined his advice to turn entrepreneur or to accept his offer to fund me in building a chain of clinics, I was very reluctant to meet him there as I was sure he would probably be busy somewhere in the milling crowds pressing hands and networking or doing whatever entrepreneurs do when they all get together.
Having reached the hotel lobby, I discreetly parked myself in a corner and tried to message /call my friend by phone but the cellular reception being so poor I just couldn’t reach him to let him know I was there and waiting. Once I felt that I had waited in the lobby for the decent amount of time, I only had two options either to leave without meeting my friend or to surprise him inside the convention hall. So, I decided to brazen it out past security and gate crash the meet to see what really do these entrepreneurs talk about when no one else is looking.
During the course of my evenings hobnobbing with them I can emphatically say, as an independent observer with no axe to grind, entrepreneurs as a class belong to either the criminally sociopaths or the outright psychopaths (my friend exempted). I have of course heard / read of the robber barons of the pre-depression era USA but this was the first time I realized that a whole community of people not only idolized them but also modeled themselves on them in trying to make a fast buck and exiting immediately, no matter the consequences to other people, the economy or even society as a whole. It was eye opening to realize that the very basic edifice of Silicon Valley which all these entrepreneurs in India were aping to emulate was built on the very same concept of looting money by selling dreams of a big day pay and then throwing in the towel saying the idea was just unworkable.
Fail, fail and fail till you at last hit the big venture capital or angel investment buy off success was a mantra being repeated around the room. Well hello, can your failure be restricted to yourself or at the most your immediate family? No. A failure, any failure, especially of a business or a tech company is going to hit multiple persons around, from customers to vendor to the employees working there. You can’t just plan to serially fail and not be responsible for the consequences of beggaring a lot of people around you in a quixotic quest to be the next tech titan.
The people I listened to in that room where without a doubt one of the vilest, social conscience-less people in the city without a doubt. They were absolutely uncaring for the consequences of how their reckless risk mongering or failure would impact on others’ lives. And these were the people who were moaning about the government not helping them with more loans without interest and tax breaks and tax write offs, because they are bringing investors into the economy – the very same investors they were plotting to rip off by running their companies into the ground and going bankrupt because they had abruptly lost interest in their current business idea and wanted to pursue the next unicorn on the hill.
I don’t claim to be more moral than the next person but god forbid I should turn so callous as to turn a blind eye to consequences to others lives in my quest to be the next tech billionaire. I would rather live a simple life and walk or ride a bus to work rather than buy a BMW by beggaring a hundred employees working under me because my current idea doesn’t seem to have an immediate pay off date and I would rather be off hard selling my next idea to venture capitalists to pick up my stake and allow me to exit to an island in the Caribbean.
Money, I now realize, can make people commit the most humongous financial crimes without batting an eyelid and then coolly walk away saying they were just being entrepreneurial. Thank god that I don’t have such ambitions. At least my conscience is clean and I can sleep well at nights. To conclude I remember a song from a prabhu deva film where he goes “unn panam panam yen panam, yen panam unn panam” translated as “your money is my money and also my money is my money”. that seems to be the limit of the ambition of Indian entrepreneur’s and not to build the next amazon or uber or facebook, something which will last years if not decades. All this hogwash about following your passion is code speak for money, preferably others money. It’s all about the money baby.
And I hope the government takes a strict look again at these wannabe business men instead of running after manufacturers and industrialists working in the brick and mortar industries for decades. Finally, if an entrepreneur fails, he or she must be made responsible for the failure and taught that in the real-world failure has consequences and no one can dodge them, be it their first business idea or their hundredth. The playing field should be level for everyone to do business in and not be tilted towards certain fields regardless of how attractive and modern they sound.