Ratan Tata’s advice to entrepreneurs: this is the time to innovate

Who better than Ratan Tata to talk about innovation. Under his stewardship, the Tata group grew its profit 50 times and revenue 40 times over the nearly two-and-half-decade period he served as Chairman of Tata Sons.
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It is already two years since the coronavirus came, saw, and conquered the world, changing forever how we live, work, and play.

As we are set to enter the third year of living with coronavirus that has since mutated an equal and more number of times threatening with its continued potent presence, it helps to pause and listen to some sane advice. And who better than Ratan Tata -- the legend and doyen of Indian business.

Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons and Chairman of Tata Trusts Ratan Tata likened the coronavirus crisis as a world war — “it was destructive, cities got bombed, manufacturing industries were disabled, and yet it was in those times that many new technologies were developed.”

He notes that the coronavirus situation is giving us an opportunity to innovate. “Instead of looking at the changes we are faced with, we should look at the situation as the new landscape or a new playing field.”

Thinking aloud what is on everyone’s mind -- What should we do? Where should we go? --- Ratan Tata’s advice on innovation is just what you need as you mull over yet another year gone by so fast.

Ratan Tata in conversation with YourStory's Shradha Sharma.

An opportunity to innovate

“The virus will disappear in a period of time, but the innovativeness that we bring during these difficult times would be something we could look back on and say there was a good part of what we faced and the hardship that we went through, which had its upsides, which we availed of.

“My message to any entrepreneur would be to use this time as an opportunity to innovate more. Not to discourage you, but look at this as a real opportunity to look at having a long-term vision, blue sky, and daydream through the whole technology routine.

There are going to be areas where you can initiate not the same idea that you had in the past but fresh ideas that will sail you through this period.

“The people we're dealing with as young entrepreneurs are people who have found solutions or another way to deal with a problem when it occurs. It's that innovativeness that has enabled some of them to operate in the fields that they seem to be in. The means of finding a spot or a niche and a segment that they can operate in differently than the traditional way, and have young exciting things in that manner.”

Innovative and creative

What he essentially means is that this is the time where entrepreneurs could look at new business models, new products, new services, and new revenue models, which perhaps were not being looked at earlier.

“It is a privilege to have this opportunity to express both hope and credit for what is happening in the tech world in India. We have the largest startup population in the country, and in the world, actually. And we need to recognise that this element, this segment needs, on the one hand, self-contained creativity and innovation, but on the other hand, guidance based on the changing needs of the country as it grows.

“To put it all together, we must ask ourselves, can we make a difference? Can we be innovative and creative? And not just after the money value of what we’ve done, but the contribution it has made to our humanity, our human population in India. So, we should be humble, at the same time, attentive to the needs, looking for opportunities.

“Doing the right thing may be the more difficult option, but it’s still the better option,” he says, advising against being swayed into doing things just for show.

On an optimistic note, he says he looks forward to the Indian startup ecosystem being the “most dynamic segment of India’s future.”

(Editor's note: This story is a compilation of Mr Ratan Tata's quotes and observation on the topic of entrepreneurship through various interviews with YourStory in recent years.)

Edited by Dipti D