Living an entrepreneur’s life over the past few years, I have constantly pushed myself to create a world class, global product and company. But I have always wondered why is it that very few Indian companies make it big globally. Why is it that Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola inspite of timing advantage and market leadership are facing a hard time against the global entrants such as Amazon and Uber. How come no Indian company is among the top innovation giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple?
Interestingly, I happened to travel to San Francisco a few weeks back for the Google Launchpad Accelerator (in which Taskbob got selected) and got a chance to reflect upon the reasons for global success. I spent most of my time there working out of the Google office and met people from Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, etc. It was interesting to observe and learn how people there operate vs. how we Indians operate.
I believe that if we really aspire to build an innovative, developed global India, imbibing some of the below is essential for every Indian!
This is exactly the opposite of how we have grown up in India. All along our childhood, we have been taught to win and master everything we do. Which is excellent by the way. However, the side effect is that we as a community started looking down upon people who don’t succeed or those who try hard but fail.
What is surprising and worth learning from the west is the habit of ‘celebrating failure’. Sounds counter intuitive, isn’t it? After all, how can ‘celebrating failure’ help one succeed?
Well, celebrating failure is very different from celebrating mistakes. Celebrating failure gives the freedom to try and fail. The more you try and fail, the more the chances to learn, discover and innovate. The more the chances to create something big. Another interesting by-product is that you get the liberty to think out of the box, think 10x and be fearless and brave. It really does not matter then, whether you fail or succeed! What matters more is that you keep trying out various things and keep iterating towards a big change.
Trying but failing is much better than not trying at all.
Chalta hai — nahi chalta hai
In India, we are used to “jugaad” & “chalta hai” in everything. From not following rules to not valuing others’ time, sab kuch chalta hai. Ask yourself, how many times out of the last 20 meetings, personal and professional, have you reached 5 minutes before time?
While at Google, our shuttle would pick us up at 8.00 am. It was noticeably embarrassing that most of the people who got late and missed the bus were Indians! Even in meetings, a person would feel offended if any person joining the same meeting got late by more than 5 mins. Adhering to timelines, an eye for top-quality and perfection and an obsession for details are pre-requisites to becoming top class.
Unless we consciously change this ‘chalta hai’ attitude , we won’t really create something big and global. Ever.
We “don’t know it all” attitude
Often, we Indians get into this EGO- trap after small successes, when we start believing that we know everything. We develop strong biases and stop listening well.
Listening is an art which is key to becoming big. Listening to data, listening to users, listening to people around you is important– The more you listen, the more you learn.
Remember, innovation can come from anywhere!
The power of saying NO & the Importance of Focus
Indian Entrepreneurs of this generation believe in solving too many things at the same time. We believe that by taking up too many problems at the same time, we can get to a bigger goal faster. In fact we view all the current big giants and see what they are doing today — but the key to their success is that ALL of them solved only one problem very very well initially. Only that culture can bring about mega outcomes. Facebook never focussed on revenues for 5 years, Amazon did books only, Uber was in one city and only solved ‘instant’ bookings for a long time.
Had Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Whatsapp, etc started with everything — they all would be a failure, a disaster. Culturally, it is an intrinsic difference between how we think and what we see value in versus how people outside think & what they see value in. They see a big value in perfection — and as India grows and moves more from developing to a developed nation — this is going to be more true even for us with each passing day. The key is to be able to say “NO” to so many visibly amazing things initially, to be able to finally solve something even bigger more effectively.
Taking too many things, all at once, to 10x is NOT possible. It is always — always — always better to take one thing to 10x instead of too many things to 3x.
Most people who have travelled and worked abroad, would agree with my learnings. Having said that, often times we talk about these and yet forget about them in our daily lives. Given we live in a society which does not inherit the above four, it is not easy to be a part of that culture and still remember the above points everyday and inherit those.
However, I believe that the above changes are essential for us to make India a top-notch country in innovation.
The choice is ours. Either we inherit these changes, remind ourselves, everyday, to change even when others around us behave differently or to let this go and live the way we have been living so far!