Story of Intel is a cautionary tale. You can’t sit on your laurels no matter how large or profitabile you. Ground can shift under you any time. It was the bluest of the blue chips in the valley and had one of the strongest CEO to lead it for a long time. Andy Grove was famous for his quip that only the paranoids survive. For a long time he had a newspaper advice column a la “Dear Abbey”, where he dispensed management advice to all comers. He clearly did not prepare the company for the long haul as it has floundered ever since he left the helm. It had become very insular and developed a strong NIH (not invented here) syndrome. It also lost track of what its core competency was. Was it the chip design or chip manufacturing? It got fat dumb and happy during its monopoly days and missed the whole shift to mobile computing. Its Manufacturing Fabs got lazy as they had assured in-house business and did not have to compete with scrappy players out of Taiwan and China.
Hopefully, Intel will find its Satya Nadella who will steer the ship back from shoals in to deep blue waters.
Poshmark has filed to go public and is probably going to be a public company in near future. A great achiement for any entrepreneur to build a sturdy enough company to withstand the vissitudes of the public markets.
But to many an IPO is an end of a jorney, while in reality it is just a financing event and start of a new phase. Churchillian phraseology is appropriate here: it is not the end of the game, it is not even a beginning of the end but it is merely an end of the beginning.
Many companies stumble after an IPO as many early employees, having gotten rich, suddenly lose motivation to work long hours. They get focused on stock market and stock price. Long suppressed dreams come to surface. Luxury cars and European vacations are to be had. Oh so many distractions, things at office can wait. Newer employees feel left out and jealous of newly rich colleagues.
It is imperative that the entrpreneur does not let an IPO destablize the company. He/she needs to articulate the next goal in very clear and forceful terms. It has to be a goal that is worthy of going for. It can not be financial only goal: going from zero to ten million dollars in wealth is life changing but going from 10 to 50 is not that impactful. Valley is full of stories where the entrepreneurs themselves get destabilized and lose focus and zest. Entrepreneurs also need to take a hard look at their team and see if it needs upgrading; or if it needs supplementing.
It is a rare to have Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates ot Matk Zuckerbergs, who take things in stride and keep growing with out a hitch, at the helm. I have been part of the companies which declined very rapidly after an IPO. Exodus and Cybermedia come to mind. Eagle Computer IPO in 1985 was an extreme case, where CEO after a bit of celebration after the listing went and bought a yatcht and Ferrari. He drove that Ferrari in to Vasona Lake and died. IPO had to pulled back and company went belly-up several months later.
Companies and entrepreneurs are entitled to celebrate for a day or two but need to get back to salt pits quicly.
After a two colorless and ineffectual prime ministers, the rise of Atal Behari Bajpai in 1998 had been a breath of fresh air. He is articulate, forceful and not an effete socialist of the congress ilk. He made a fundamental break from the past when he led India onto the world stage with a nuclear bang. His reaching out to Pakistan with Lahore bus diplomacy and later his leadership during Kargil war made every Indian proud. Though he belongs to the Sangh Parivar and is a leader of BJP which espouses Hindutva as its core philosphy, his leadership by and large has been positive and uplifting. This was so in spite of the occasional mischief by Parivar minions against minorities. Even on the economic front his leadership, though not spectacular, had been good enough to keep country moving forward. Telecom liberalization and accelerated privatization of the public sector units are likely to provide a major boost to the economy soon.
It is under this backdrop, comments made by him in Goa at the party enclave are unfortunate, to say the least. Coming on the heel of riots in Gujarat where over a thousand Muslims have been killed, and over a hundred thousand have been rendered homeless in a retributive vigilante justice, they have sounded a discordant note that is totally out of tune with the need of the time. Also, casting a slur on the whole people because of the acts of a few is very unbecoming for the prime minister of the great nation. It is discouraging to see this happen at this time when Indian democracy is finally beginning to blossom and focus on economic growth. India is finally getting the recognition as a pluralistic democracy that has achieved maturity and confidence and is on its way to achieving the prosperity for its masses within a generation or two. Faltering leadership at this time by the prime minister can only hurt and is likely to take focus away from the economic imperatives. That may prove to be disastrous for the nation and may set us back several years.
India needs to fixate on China. Starting at roughly same place in mid seventies, China has raced ahead. Chinese per capita income is double that of India already. China, moreover, is outgrowing India at about 3% per capita per year. At that rate, an average Chinese will be producing four times as much as an average Indian. That spells disaster for India, as China is not likely to be friendly power. China has already used Pakistan as a low cost way to distract India. Now is not the time for unproductive misadventures. If India is to catch up with China, or at least not fall too far behind, it needs to boost its growth rate to 10%. What is needed is, a leader who provides an even sharper focus on economy and pushes for faster liberalization and not allow unnecessary and unproductive adventures.
Prime minister will do well to remember that partition did not produce a Muslim nation and a Hindu nation. India chose to be a secular democracy. India is too diverse to be any thing else. After 44 years of meandering, India finally set sail in the right direction in 1991. Economic liberalization and emergence of free electronic media in India has invigorated the Indian democracy. Frequent change of power through electoral process in 90’s has shown how deep-rooted democracy has become. Now is not the time to look back and undo the gains in the name of imagined past glories or settle scores for past slights.
Spontaneous rise of a world class IT industry in India has given a great boost to the self-confidence of Indians. The earlier sense of hopelessness has given way to new hope; we can compete with the best and the brightest in the world in a sunrise industries. But it is not enough, we need to get going and build a world class manufacturing industry in India. We need to set a goal of producing 10 million new jobs a year. A lot needs to be done to build the infrastructure. Power sector needs to be reformed. Free markets need to be introduced in agriculture. We need to eliminate illiteracy; we need to build hundred more IIT’s.
We need a steadier hand at the wheel, now is not the time for faltering. Is prime minister up to the challenge? I had assumed he was until recently.
Indian middle-class ethos are pretty clear. There are constant exhortations: Beta Doctor Bano ( Son become a doctor); Beta engineer Bano (son become an engineer). No parent ever says “Beta entrepreneur Bano”. There is further advice to settle down, find a good job, time to get married, become responsible. Not to forget the advice to have discipline, meaning do what is expected of you. A job with a MNC and a marriage with a family picked girl are seen as smart things to do.
The problem is that these are things that steer you away from listening to your heart and do your own thing; like becoming an entrepreneur. Becoming an entrepreneur goes against every thing that is expected of you.
Further, it is a very lonely and hard journey if you chose to go down that path. You should not expect and will not get any sympathy anybody. People will laugh at you for being foolish. So why do people become entrepreneurs anyway? Because they have to prove something, to themselves. You have to sustain that fire from inside. Nobody from outside should encourage you to put yourself through the hardship. Desire to make money is not enough to sustain it, as it will be a while before you get back to make a market salary.
It is for sure not for everybody.