How society discourages an Indian from starting up
I am meeting a lot of people who want to start up, but something is stopping them. It is society. Society is not a single person but it is the collective thought process of all the people around you.
When you say that you want to pursue your graduation in arts and humanities, everyone around probably looks at you like you are a failure in life. If you are among the top ten performers in your class, everyone is shocked to hear that you are considering a career in Arts. “Beta, agar engineering/medicine nahi lena toh commerce he kar lo”. (If you don’t want to opt for engineering or medicine, then at least study commerce).
They can’t see your dreams of becoming a writer like Shakespeare, painter like Pablo or philosopher like Socrates. They want you to be like others: work at a 9-5 job and make good money. They refuse to see the fact that not all engineers, MBA graduates and doctors who are making good money are happy with their jobs.
The same things happen to entrepreneurs, as starting up is a risky career move with 90 per cent probability of failure. When a guy from a middle-class family considers leaving his job to start a company, people think it is career suicide.
When I decided to leave my job to start up, everyone discouraged me. They couldn’t understand why a married person with a baby is leaving his cushy job for a startup. This was an argument that often cropped up when they noticed my startup was not making any profits. But I had to convince only one person: my wife. I did that; she trusted my intuition and I became a full-time startup guy.
Most potential entrepreneurs never start a business because society is very smart.
A fresh graduate from college wants to start up, but his girlfriend or parents are more concerned about a secure future. If the guy gets placed during campus recruitment, they may insist he takes up the offer. They may say, “You have your whole life to try your hand at starting up. First earn some money for a couple of years and save. Then you will have industry experience and initial capital for your startup.”
But guess what happens? This guy will never start a company. His industry experience is useless for his startup because most of the companies provide services to foreign product companies with minimum exposure to innovation or business insights for a fresher. This guy will not save enough to feel confident about leaving the job. He is now caught in a vicious circle of annual raises and promotions until it is too late for him to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams.
Fresh graduates have the least obligation and minimum monthly expense. They have the capability of taking the biggest risk of their life but it is difficult to say no to the first job offer and more difficult to convince family and friends.
A few brave youngsters take the wise decision of starting up just after graduation. They became more successful than their peers in the long run. (If you know such people then introduce me to them in the comments)
“If you are turning 30 and still not married, something is wrong with you.” This is the curse of being happily unmarried in India. Many people get married when they are 27 or 28 just because of the pressure from society. Parents, relatives, friends and relatives of relatives are all concerned about your marriage.
No one wants to understand what you want to achieve in your life. It’s a common response to your startup dream: “Beta, shaadi k baad bhi toh apni company khol sakte ho.” (You can start your company even after the marriage). They pretend like they do not know that expenses will shoot up after marriage. The poor guy may never get the courage to take the risk of starting up.
One of my colleagues got a brilliant idea for a startup when I was still working. I offered him help and asked him to start building the product. He said, “Nahi abhi toh ghar wale ladki dhoond rahe hain shaadi k liye. Abhi job chod doonga toh shaadi nahi ho payegi.” (“I am looking for a girl to get married to. If I quit my job now, the wedding cannot happen”).
He is now married and employed, but still fosters dreams of starting up.
People tend to get obsessed with ‘my dream house’ mentality. It is a hype created by builders and banks. People are willing to take 80 per cent loan from the bank after paying 20 per cent down payment to the builder. They are willing to work for next 15-20 years so that they can pay a big chunk of their salary to banks.
When I was working for a company, owning a flat used to be the topic of discussion at the dinner table. People told me: “Buy a flat now or regret later,” but I was sure of starting up one day. I saved enough money so that I can pay rent for the next 3-4 years. Now I am happily living on the outskirts of Chandigarh paying just Rs 10,000 rent and living in a flat worth more than Rs 60 lakh. It’s a good deal.
Our parents, friends and the financial system force feed the mentality to own a house as soon as possible ignoring the fact that our risk taking capability becomes zero that way. Would you take a risk of leaving your job if you have to pay an EMI of Rs 50,000 every month? Most probably not.
If you are an entrepreneur who is barely making any profit from his startup, then you can understand what happens with startup guys at family gatherings. Everyone wants to know when your company will start making money. They judge you as if you are without employment of any kind and don’t hesitate to offer you advice on joining a company. They even compare you with their sons, daughters, nephews and nieces who have done MBAs and landed high paying jobs. They boast of trips their kids are making to foreign countries on company expense. They even say things like, “Maine to pehle he kaha tha! Yeh software yaha nahi bikega” (I warned you that this software will not sell in this area),
They can’t look at the potential of your innovative idea as they may not know what starting up is all about. People who advice you to join Microsoft forget that that company, too, began as a startup. Their kids will spend their entire life in some consulting or software firm without any big achievement other than a couple of team awards.
Show them your attitude. That’s what an entrepreneur carries with her/him all the time. Speak with confidence and tell them that you will be successful one day. What you want for your life needs to be clear only to you. Do not let others decide your path.
Please comment on anything I can help you with (other than funding!)
Read what I have to say about the dark side of entrepreneurship.