Yesterday, I travelled 10 km in Bangalore at a speed of 10 kmph. While the car I was in continued to compete with a snail, I tried to use the time to make a few calls. The calls kept getting dropped because my network, as always, refused to provide even a basic “no call drop service” – there was simply no reception available for a simple phone call, let alone dazzling 3G speeds for data connectivity. And this in a city that’s India’s tech capital.
Becoming an entrepreneur in India is full of such drama and “dramatic” moments. You never know what bureaucratic tangle or great wall of pain you’ll face next. The biggest of these cribs is often the lack of proper infrastructure because there are just so many of us crammed into country that’s only one-third the size of China but has almost as many people.
Like most people, I sometimes feel very frustrated, anxious and upset. But most of the time, I know this is the best thing that can happen to me every day.
Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story (it’s what I do best!). When I moved to New Delhi from Patna to join the prestigious St Stephen’s College, I applied to be a part of the debating society. I’d won a lot of inter-school debates back home in Patna and I was sure I would be chosen. I wasn’t. Because I didn’t know the rules that had to be followed. There was a certain style of presenting expected, a particular approach to rebuttal and so on. And I wasn’t selected because I didn’t know anything about them. I was crushed, devasted.
When I returned to Patna for the summer, I went to meet my school teacher, Rekha Srivastava, and told her of my experience and my disappointment. I ranted about how sad it was that Notre Dame, one of the best schools in Patna, wasn’t able to prepare its students for what was out there, that we simply didn’t know what was expected. That we lacked basic understanding of debating, etc..
She heard me out, smiling patiently throughout my venting session, and then said:
“Jo tumhe nahi mila, wahi tumhe daudayega.” (What you lack will make you run.)
The fire to succeed will come from things you didn’t get, you didn’t learn, you didn’t have.
This has stayed with me since the summer of 1999. What I lack and what I don’t know drive me to excel every single day.
How can we know happiness, if we don’t experience the pain? How can we know success if we haven’t learnt to fail and fail miserably? How can we truly know abundance if we have not experienced the lack of not having?
And to all of us – entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs in India – I say, what an incredible opportunity we have in India. We have so much to do. The things we lack bring us the biggest opportunities for us as entrepreneurs and as a country. And the drive to get what we want fuels us to go farther.
Imagine what that fire, that drive, can do when it sets out to change the lives of a billion people. We have big problems in India, which also means there is a huge market right here at home for people who want to make a difference. Any solution will have a billion takers. The potential for change – a change for the better – is truly amazing.
Saare jahan se acchaa is the opportunity in Hindustan humara.
Let us celebrate our lack and abundance together.