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Chief Optimism Officer: The Golden Cup

Amrutash Misra
9th Sep 2011
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Amrutash Misra

Those who survive drink from the Golden Cup.This is a guest column by Amrutash Misra, the co-founder at Life Online which runs The ilovereadin’ Library. Before that, he worked at Hindustan Unilever. And before that, he was a student at IIT Madras. For Amrut, the glass is never half empty. It’s always half full.

I recently read this and I think it’s worth sharing. I must also add that I can’t remember where I read it. I think I read it in Ladakh. But my wife disagrees and she was with me all along. If I did read it in Ladakh, then it’s probably an ancient Buddhist saying that survived many Ladakhi winters, in a self-referential way.

Ask Google to define survival, and it spurts, “The state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” Survival is a basic corporate instinct. For instance, if a company is forced off the edge, then it’ll put up a fight and get right back. If it is threatened, it’ll back off. Some entrepreneurs argue that survival is the raison d'être for companies. The survival instinct is stronger in some companies (think GE, Ford and Hoshi Ryokan) and weaker in a few. At the end of the day, those who survive, they continue. We respect companies who’ve lived to be healthy at 90 and alive at 110. We forget the ones who die.


Amrutash Mishra

At iloveread.in, we believe that survival is so important that we make it the centre piece of our existence. In past recruitment interviews, we’ve asked applicants to research on what it is about some companies that enables them to survive for so long. One applicant came back with a host of ideas from authors who had written about the GE way. There is much literature you can read in these books – link, link and link. A short summary of that email would be – 100 year old companies like GE focus on strong leadership, adaptability, talent and culture, brand influence and networking.

But this article isn’t about companies like GE. It is about start-ups. What do start-ups need to survive? For starters, start-ups need to survive the first 1000 days. Gujarati traders, for instance, have a saying, that a shop that survives the first 1000 days will survive through. My optimistic cheat sheet of things that must survive the first 1000 days of a start-up --

  1. Money.That’s a sitter. If you’re out of money, then the game is over. If your bank account survived the first 1000 days and your balance sheet shows some current assets, then there is promise, if not something better. For non-entrepreneurs: money in the bank is like the health of your character. Once the health is over, game is over. My recommendation: Count, everyday.
  2. Self-belief.Starting-up can be an assault on your self-belief. There will be clients and customers who reject you, who don’t pay – which is a milder form of saying “NO”. Holding on to one’s self-belief, in all the ups and downs, is probably the biggest test of an entrepreneur. My recommendation: Buy a pair of good sun-glasses. It’ll make it easier in the Sun.
  3. Your moral compass. In business, even in a start-up or a young company, your moral and ethical compass will always be under pressure to give way for profits. My recommendation: Sit straight. Keep your hands above the table.
  4. Your family.A start-up is an entrepreneur’s baby. But many families don’t understand this now, do they? My recommendation: Take the time out and explain it to them.
  5. Your friendships.Where was the time to take out for friends? My recommendation: Involve your friends. While starting up, har ek friend zaroori hota hai.

Ah, so back to the point. Those who survive drink from the Golden Cup. Either literally. Or figuratively. Or monetarily. Oh, and apparently, intelligence has nothing to do with long-term survival.

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