I often get asked the question Why India? and then the follow up question by my fellow startup entrepreneurs as to Why Chennai? I've gone about explaining it in the long form version of it, but lately realized that the answer to it was quite simple - its my molehill, and this is where I am the king of it.
Let me explain.
I see entrepreneurs constantly moving from one city to another hoping to find a place that embraces them with open arms and makes their success as part of the agenda. I also see a part of them disappointed that their new found home hadn’t delivered on its promises, and a journey that takes them back home. If you scour the web, or even take a glance at the news that gets submitted to Hackernews, time and time again there is a theme, Entrepreneur from India moves to NY, and there are entrepreneurs from NY moving to the bay area, and Entrepreneurs from Indiranagar in Bangalore moving to Koramangala. Unless you are moving for the right reasons, moving is not going to solve your problem - no act is going to.
Entrepreneurship and artistry is the act of one or two (or more) people madly in love with a vision that they mobilise the resources of time, people, money and attention of their target audience to make it a reality. The key is to do it in the most efficient way possible, before the world will start backing you like a race horse.
Let me focus back on a decision I am familiar with, my own case. I chose to stay in Chennai and build thisStartup for Startups mean by the family ties, but from the standpoint of business, that more things can be done with less effort. And that makes a huge difference when your bank balance is an indicator of how long you can play.
Anyone who has built something will also tell you that the process also involves doing a lot of work that you really don't want to do. Its crucial to be in a place where you can delegate that to people that you already know can deliver and keep moving. What entrepreneurs don't anticipate is the element of day to day operations - where do you find an electrician, a handyman, having the answers for the simple everyday thing makes a difference. When you are doing your first run, its best to cut off everything that is not worth your time and stay locked on target.
Its also a place that i have called home for a few years now, which keeps my burn rate low. When you are building a startup and want to test the theory that one of your mad ideas has life to it, its best to take out all the other variables off the equation as much as possible.
I believe there are mountains and there are molehills. Sure, there are bigger avenues to play in and over time, once one has attained enough strength to play in their home turf, it makes perfect sense to gear up to play in a bigger arena. Every molehill or mountain also has its own set of culture, rules and influencers, which takes time to get affluent with and the race to the top is a ruthless one.
As my mentor once said, “stop treating life like its a single play, one shot wonder, in reality its a book with many chapters”. Its up to you to decide which arena you want as a backdrop for each chapter.
Someone once asked me in a trip to NY as to whether I would consider moving there. I said, Yes (i love the energy of the place), but not now. The explanation was simple, knowing the rungs of control that exist in every city and the influencers and networkers, moving there at this point of time would mean starting from ground level all over again - with a bit of accomplishment under the belt, you get a halfway pass to the top - and mature ecosystems like the valley, NY, London and be it the upcoming Bangalore are all mountains, not molehills. Everyone is fighting for the same set of resources, attention and the path to the top, which means battles fought are a bit more fierce and you better have some experience fighting in a smaller arena before you get there. (The other way to climb straight off in a mountain is to get a sponsor who already has a view of the top)
Define and know what your molehill is. There is tremendous power in knowing where you stand and why you stand there. And there is no shame taking the time to own your spot, succeed in that sphere and build on that.
Never get emotional to a mountain or a molehill, or in a larger context the sphere of success that defines you at that phase in life - all of it is in passing.
Entrepreneurs and artists never belong anywhere, they belong to a world without boundaries, so don't tie yourself down by invisible walls around you. Big hairy audacious dreams have all come into life, by people who decided to create their own mountains and molehills after all (take Las Vegas as an example, but Yes, there are few who can take on such challenges, and its not for everyone)
Remember though, and always, that success begets success and in turn successful people are successful, where do you start? Start in an arena that would give you your first win - for your own sake, so that you know what victory feels like.
[Originally posted at Vijay Anand's blog]
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