[TechSparks 2020] Gururaj Deshpande on turning complainers into entrepreneurs, and other tenets of building an innovation ecosystem

On Day 3 of TechSparks 2020, entrepreneur, VC, and philanthropist Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande talks about why the new economy will be about job makers and not job seekers.
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Complaining is draining, they say.

For long, we believed US entrepreneur and author James Altucher’s statement that “complaining only takes away energy from today and never solves the problems for tomorrow”.

But legendary venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande thinks differently. He believes that a complainer can be a problem solver and ultimately a good entrepreneur!

In an hour-long conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at the 11th edition of TechSparks, he said the real gift of life is when “you wake up in the morning and you are excited about the day”. This can happen only if you are a problem solver, he added.

So, who will be these problem solvers?

Desh categorised people into three kinds: people who are oblivious, people who complain, and people who are excited to find a problem.

He believes the middle category is the one to keep an eye on. “We need to slowly start changing complainers to entrepreneurs…because complainers will have problems and can be problem solvers,” he said. 

Image credits: YS Design

Best known for founding the Deshpande Foundation, Sycamore Networks, and the Sparta Group, Gururaj was also former President Barack Obama’s main man at the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the US.  That’s why he often calls himself “an ecosystem builder” instead of an entrepreneur.

He has also set up India’s largest skills development centre and entrepreneurial incubator in Hubbali, and believes innovation will truly happen in our desh, Bharat, when rural transformation takes place. “It's all about making a difference,” he said.

From finding problems to solving them

Returning to the complainers, he said even if they don't succeed,  the path and lessons they learnt will help them move ahead.

Gururaj spoke about how people have ended up destroying their life in the pursuit of entrepreneurship because “they have not been humble enough to go back and do things that they are good at doing”, and “have not moved on to think bigger”.

“Entrepreneurs need to make sure that they are coming up with solutions,” Desh said. He suggested finding solutions for three kinds of people: people with disposable income, people with some disposable income, and those without any disposable income.

Focus on creating jobs

Problem solvers will also create the new economy, which is vital for the millions of people who have lost jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Referring to innovating for Bharat, a term used to describe Tier II, III, and IV cities in India, Gururaj said “all of us have to boost local economies” so they become viable. “The new economy is going to be about job makers, not job seekers,” said the American-Indian billionaire.

Nothing happens overnight

Gururaj says it’s easy to listen to other founders’ funding and valuation announcements and feel that they got it easy, but nothing happens overnight.

“It takes hard work, it's just that it does not feel like hard work,” he said, drawing parallels with raising a child. “You look at a child, and you look at him/her for three months down the road. Nothing much changes for outsiders, but if you are a parent or a grandparent, you notice the change, which is big for you,” he said.

Entrepreneurship: a way of life

The renowned entrepreneur said entrepreneurship should be a way of life.

“When you work methodically and slowly for a long period of time and build something of value, it brings a lot of joy and self-confidence, and provides the ability to actually make a difference,” Gururaj said.

For more information on TechSparks 2020, check out our TechSparks 2020 website. Sign up here to join the event. 


TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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