(15 Dec 2019) My wish list for a Pune Knowledge-driven Innovation Cluster

Here is my opinion on what we need to do to build a truly world-class Knowledge-driven Innovation Cluster in Pune:

1) Focus on a few areas where we can synergise Knowledge creation activity, Innovation activity and Industry activity. I would bet on the following:

  • Health: Biopharma |  Medical devices and diagnostics
  • Agro: Farm Inputs & Productivity | Post harvest value addition
  • Energy: Clean energy | Renewable energy | Engineering for Energy Optimisation
  • Computation, modeling, data analytics: Niche services and tools | Analytics, optimisation and control
  • Social and rural innovation: Rural agro | animal | affordable health | assistive tech

(There will be other areas of innovation including B2B SAAS etc where Pune might do well, but I am not sure we will draw upon the city’s knowledge strengths there. Pune wishes to be in IOT/AI/ML etc but again I am not sure we have the new knowledge strength there.)

2) Pune city needs to invest in the following:

  • An institute of engineering and technology to rival IIT-Bombay
  • An institute of business management to rival IIM-Ahmedabad
  • A teaching and research hospital to rival Tata Memorial or AIIMS-Delhi
  • Attract R&D centres of global majors to rival GE-JFWTC that attract high quality talent
  • Attract and nurture technical consulting firms (similar to erstwhile Cambridge Consultants in UK or Arthur D Little in US) that attract high quality talent
  • Attract investors and funders (in complementing domains)  set up base in Pune
  • Ensure that the City can attract, provide adequate options for and retain multiple career families where multiple members of the family (especially spouses) are highly trained.
  • Make sure basic infrastructure, services, supplies and environment of the city are of a high quality (“a big ask?”) even as the City grows
  • A dedicated effort to strengthen Brand Pune and present its identity and potential to the world.

3) The following are key stone elements of the innovation ecosystem and need to be strengthened/nurtured by the City and community:

  • Networking platforms for leaders like Pune International Center or MCCIA or PuneTech.com
  • Innovation ecosystem builders and incubators like Venture Center
  • An intellectually stimulating and vibrant environment — this has always been Pune’s great strength!!!
  • Recognising and welcoming talent from all parts of the world — this also has been a strength of Pune.

(15 Dec 2019) Pune’s Knowledge, Innovation & Industry Clusters

As of 2019, Pune’s strength areas and potential lie in the following  ———–

Potential for knowledge cluster:

  • Astrophysics (IUCAA, NCRA, IISER)
  • Chemicals and soft material (NCL, IISER)
  • Biological sciences (IISER, NCCS, NIV, NCL, ARI, NARI)
  • Archeology and languages (Deccan College, SPPU)

Potential for innovation cluster:

  • IT B2B products
  • Health/ medical products
  • Creative arts and media
  • Agro/ animal
  • (I am intentionally not including those sectors where there is an aspiration and stray cases but not really a cluster)

Industry clusters:

  • Automotive
  • Advanced mechanical engineering /manufacturing
  • Information technology products
  • Information technology services
  • Food and agriculture
  • Biotech – health, industrial and agro
  • Biomed engineering
  • Education
  • Electronics, appliances, mechatronics
  • Clean energy
  • Defense – education, development, manufacturing
  • Non-profit and civil society organisations
  • Religion and spiritual
  • Adventure and sports
  • Scientific/R&D services

One thing that immediately strikes you is that Pune city has not really explored synergies between its different types of clusters. For example, Pune has industry strength in mechanical engineering but not really world class innovation or new knowledge generation strengths in mechanical engineering (It produces world class mechanical engineers, though!) . Why not? We have a chemicals and soft materials research strength, but we have not really build industry strength in the discipline in Pune (it has happened in Mumbai, Gujarat and Hyderabad, courtesy Pune). Why not?

How do we create mechanisms to build these synergies out and leverage it to make the clusters truly world class?

(15 Dec 2019) On innovation clusters

The Office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the PM has been talking about developing so called “Knowledge and Innovation Clusters” in selected cities. The Venture Center and NCL have been party to the discussions. These discussions got me thinking about what and why? I am capturing some brief thoughts here —-

  • When one is talking of clusters, one is thinking of a group of entities that together produce a synergistic and/or an auto-catalytic effect where the total effect is more than the sum of parts.
  • The synergistic effect may have been intentionally created (top-down or bottom-up) or may be a happy unintentional effect. You can imagine that most policy makers would like to think that most are top-down planned and created intentionally — and one has to admit that it is so in some cases. Leading examples could include Singapore or certain Chinese cities.
  • But I would guess that in most cases, Clusters emerge organically or are created by the active bottom-up efforts of a few key players in that cluster. One must note that even in these cases, policy makers and local governments have to often cooperate, match strides and keep up or at the very least not be a hinderance. Leading examples probably include the Boston area or Silicon Valley. Pune and Bangalore are also probably in the same category.
  • What are the key defining features of clusters?  I think clusters feed off a shared ecosystem that attract and aggregate various resources (ingredients)  of relevance to the citizen entities of the cluster. Symbiotic relationships are key. For example, a manufacturing cluster for automobiles may feed off an ecosystem of local parts manufacturers and manufacturing capabilities. A knowledge services company cluster may feed off an ecosystem of academic and research institutions that churn out skilled people. As the cluster grows, various other entities that serve of feed-off the entities of the cluster are also attracted to the cluster and the cluster keeps on growing (an auto-catalytic effect) . For example, once a city develops a reputation for producing many high quality startups, the city starts attracting venture capital investors, other entrepreneurs, other startups etc. In recent years, Bangalore is a good example of such an emerging cluster. It is quite clear that besides the ground realities of the ecosystem available, the reputation/ identity/ image is also important. As the studies by Dr Shai Vyakarnam from Cranfield/ Cambridge  have indicated, a social network of leaders/people who catalyse the ecosystem is also a key element of any cluster — the people who connect the dots, network, champion the the cause of the cluster. Another important role that these people play is of building a culture of trust, cooperation and a shared vision. And because people and organisations  are geographically constrained, invariably clusters are geographically limited and identified. (Similar people aggregate together — because you may have more opportunities aggregating at one place, angel investors like to invest in companies in their neighbourhood, companies locate to places where they can have easy access to their most important resource needs etc etc). Every cluster also seem to have some key nuclei organisations that get the ball rolling. It could be a university or large company or a key investor or a group of people or something else that was an early believer of the potential of the cluster. For example, IISc Bangalore, CSIR-NAL, Texas Instruments, Infosys, Wipro, GE-JFWTC, Biocon and NCBS are probably key nuclei organisations in the Bangalore cluster. I also think that a sufficiently high density of the necessary ingredients in necessary to create clusters. Finally, the cluster must be supported by the right soft and hard infrastructure and basic services (including law and order, ease of doing business, ease of living, roads, houses, transport, airports, pollution control,  etc etc) by the Government. If there is one thing the Government needs to focus on, I would recommend that it be predictability and long-term sustained development.
  • So what could be a recipe for building a cluster? a) nuclei organisations, b) social network of leaders, c) shared ecosystem of key ingredients, d) identity/ brand/ image as “the place to go for XYZ” along with a shared vision, e) basic infrastructure/services and well laid-out, stable development plans, f) high density of necessary resources/ ingredients.
  • Clusters can have different objectives and themes: specific sectors of manufacturing (say, automotive), specific sectors of services (say, education or healthcare), specific sectors of agriculture (say, fruits), research and knowledge creation (say, in AI or biomedical sciences), entrepreneurship (say, in cyber security, e-commerce, medtech etc)
  • So, what would be a knowledge cluster? Perhaps one that focuses on research and new knowledge creation; one that builds synergies between various organisations to produce much higher quality knowledge outputs/ new insights about the world. In that case a knowledge cluster needs to attract and retain the best researchers/ talent, create and maintain unique and leading facilities for research, build creative synergistic partnerships in research and funds to support such research. So, for example, if Pune is to be a top knowledge cluster is say Astrophysics, one needs to find ways to attract the best talent (ex:  build institutions like IUCAA to house them), build unique facilities (ex: LIGO, NCRA),  develop creative partnerships (ex: with IT and engineering companies) and attract adequate levels of funds (ex: from the Government, international organisations etc). The end point may be to “become the go-to place for astrophysics in the world” and produce the top research findings in the field (as seen from quality of publications and global recognitions).
  • Who could be knowledge cluster ingredients? a) Research institutions (academic, government, non-profit, industry), b) academic institutions creating the talent pool, c) funders (government, charities, multi-lateral agencies, industry), d) entities that demand or create the need for new knowledge including hospitals, entrepreneurial ventures and forward looking industrial entities, e) entities that create/ build new tools/ methods etc for exploration.
  • And, what would be an innovation cluster? One that focuses on innovation — coming up with new ideas and effectively converting early stage ideas with foresight into leading products/ services/ business enterprises, and thus value and wealth for society. The cherished goal will be to be identified as the place which gives birth to exciting new ideas and then nurtures them to build great companies, deliver impactful products and services. (For example, the Boston area and its reputation for   inventions and invention-led enterprises.)
  • What could be ingredients of an innovation cluster? This list can be very long and  depends upon the focus area/ theme. The innovation process spans idea creation at one end and delivery of products and services on the other. And innovation can be relevant to all aspects of human endeavour. So, the ecosystem needs for innovation can be very diverse, multi-dimensional and specialised for every sector. (Incidentally, this is what makes like both interesting and challenging for all ecosystem builders like Venture Center.)
  • Will knowledge clusters and innovation clusters always coincide? I do not think that is necessary. It is possible that a knowledge cluster catalyses an innovation cluster but will not happen always. It seems logical to think that since innovation relies on original thought and foresight, one would expect a knowledge cluster to be an asset to an innovation cluster. But what if there is no cross-talk or overlap in pursuits between the knowledge cluster and innovation cluster.

I will stop here for this blog and continue with some thoughts for Pune city in the my next blog.

(26 Oct 2019) What should India’s strategy on indigenous API manufacturing be?

I recently had a chat with Satya Sivaraman (Journalist) on what could be India’s strategy with regards to API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) manufacturing.
First of all, here is a list of the problem at hand.
India is a leader in pharma manufacturing, especially generics. I understand that 1 out of every 3 medicines in the world is made in India.  Many of these manufacturers buy the APIs they need as raw materials from API manufacturers. The so called Drug Product manufacturers focus on formulation, product manufacturing, packaging, regulations, marketing and sales. The pharma companies in India not only represent an important industry and economic sector but also are one of the reasons for low cost of medicines in India (compared to the world).
In recent years, China has been stepping up its industrial activity in the broader pharma space. In particular, it has been producing APIs at unbeatable prices (perhaps due to various subsidies, support etc that their Government provides). India drug product companies are also sourcing a lot of APIs from China (Note: This translates to better profitability for the product companies since raw materials are available cheaper.). Consequently, the Indian API manufacturers are either closing down or suffering considerable losses.
The Government of India has been worried about too much reliance on China for APIs. There is a concern that this can create risks for a) the stability and competitiveness of India pharma industry, b) the the people of the country at large via foreign control (especially of a not so friendly country) on prices of medicines and c) the survival of the API industry. The Government os trying to find ways to mitigate these risks.
More context
One must note here that Indian companies and investors are moving away from API manufacturing because the industry does not seem to be producing the returns comparable to what they are expecting or happy with. Clearly there are better avenues available for investors to make better returns than APIN manufacturing in the current context of China supplying APIs at low prices. I think it will be naive to think that Indian companies lack adequate technology capabilities for API manufacturing; they know how to manufacture APIs, but they just do not find it as attractive as it used to be.
On the other had the product companies are happy getting cheaper raw materials from China and thus increase their profit margins.
Strategy for India:
So, what should India do?
Approach 1: Diversify supply chain.
One can ask the question —- Does India really need to produce every API indigenously? After all, we do rely on so many other imports.  And every country cannot be self-reliant in everything. So, it appears that the real problem is not the import of APIs per se, but the dependance in China in particular.  This immediately suggests that one solution could be to diversity the supply chain out of China. One approach is to have manufacturers in India but if that is not viable, why not manufacturer APIs in other countries  that can beat China’s prices.  My suggestions:
  • Actively build supply networks in other countries around the world. Diversify risk by having multiple sources.
  • Encourage and support Indian companies to become Indian MNCs with supply manufacturing at many different locations.
  • Consider the middle east as an alternative location for API manufacturing by Indian companies by leveraging low raw material cost and possibly investment from gulf countries especially in context of recent efforts by Middle Eastern countries to diversify away from Oil.
Approach 2: Improve IRR for Indian API manufacturers
Indian API manufacturers are not manufacturing APIs in India because their IRRs (Internal Rate of Returns) are not attractive enough. They can get better IRRs in other initiatives.
Why is IRR low? a) Price of the API is low (because of Chinese competition). b) Costs and risks of manufacturing in India are relatively higher.
If we want to improve IRRs for them what can we do?
    • Increase selling prices. How? Tariffs on imports? (I am not for tariffs because lower input prices for drug product companies because of low API cost will be affected)
    • Find ways to reduce costs and risks. What are the costs and risks?
      • Cost of capital. What can we do here?
        • Provide capital at lower cost or subsidised capital or grants
        • Help medium companies source cheaper foreign capital more easily
        • Help Indian companies improve their credit rating and reduce risks
      • Cost of technology. What can we do here?
        • Provide subsidies related to R&D and technology licensed. R&D grants
        • Allow easier import of technology and without any cess
      • Cost of raw materials. What can we do here?
        • I do not know!
      • Cost of regulations. What can we do here?
        • Make regulations very predictable and processes fast
        • Reduce cost of compliance
      • Cost of overheads
        • Can consider shared facilities or rented facilities (like parks) to reduce costs
I would bet on just reducing the cost of regulations, reduce corruption and bureaucratic delays and reduce other overheads.
Approach 3: Innovation and branding
  • Focus on innovative technologies and business models to reduce costs or build a premium (image and track record of quality). For this the GoI can help build technology strength in selected institutions on sleeted topics
    • Ex:  More efficient processes of synthesis
    • Ex: Continuous flow technologies
    • Ex:  Use of IOT, big data etc to ensure data driven process control, optimization and continuous monitoring including for audit and data integrity.
  • File patents in many parts of the world including China and defend it aggressively.
    • Subsidise Indian companies to file and defend patents in China relating to the pharma industry. GoI can pay for patents filed in China by Indian companies.
    • Use patents for tactical negotiations and creating some bargaining chips for negotiations.
  • Create areas when China will feel a pinch if we withdraw our products from China in retaliation to them withdrawing their products from India.
  • Strengthen brand perception of India as a source of high quality products in the US and EU.

The above approaches are all possibilities. The knee-jerk reaction of the Indian Government agencies is to assume that technology development and investment in process development research alone is going to solve the problem. I hope the Govt can think beyond it!

(2 Sep 2019) Disruptive innovation at the interfaces of the drug industry

Guest Editorial: Disruptive innovation at the interfaces of the drug industry
(Journal: Indian Drugs, Aug 2019 issue)

Link: https://www.indiandrugsonline.org/issuesarticle-details?id=OTU5

Dear Reader,

I am delighted to contribute this Guest Editorial for the current issue of Indian Drugs. I was very happy to interact with industry leaders at the Indian Drugs Annual Day 2019 and share some of our learning on innovation and entrepreneurship in medical products. In this Guest Editorial, I wish to focus on how innovation at the interface of the drug industry and other industries serving the healthcare market will shape the drug industry in the future.

The drug industry is a supplier of solutions for the global health market. There are many other industries that serve this health market as well – other therapeutics, devices, diagnostics, nutraceuticals, preventives, sanitation and hygiene, delivery health care and diagnostic services, digital systems in health, healthcare financing etc. In the past, the drug industry could afford to operate in a silo, but it is clear that the future of serving the health market lies in blurring boundaries between various industry sectors and in finding value creation opportunities at the interface of industry sectors rather than operating in silos.

One can already see how IT and mobile computing is transforming the pharmaceuticals marketing, sales and distribution channels. In the last decade, the largest Venture Capital investments in India were reserved for IT enabled platforms in healthcare delivery and pharmaceutical distribution. While the initial focus of these startups is on drugs and medical services, it is clear that their sights are set much higher — on a future of integrated product and service delivery platforms with platform loyalty and patient/ user/ customer data being the key value creators. (This is akin to the early days of Flipkart or Amazon starting with books and expanding to many other domains. Today, the data they own is invaluable.)

The drug industry will be immediately recognize how IOT (Internet of Things), data analytics, cloud computing and mathematical models (including AI/ML) is going to transform production environments (ex: continuous manufacturing), regulatory compliance requirements (ex:  live data and continuous audits) and clinical trials tracking and in-use performance monitoring. Wearable diagnostics and technical textiles promise the change the way health is monitored, medication decisions are taken by clinicians and how drug performance is quantified and observed. Recent advances in novel sensors and diagnostics (such as the ingestible pill sensors) will have a deep influence on formulation design and drug delivery systems.

The interface between diagnostics and therapeutics is again blurring as innovators try to build a closed loop between health parameter measurements and therapy (say, for example, glucose measurements and insulin delivery). Similarly, many innovators are exploring opportunities at the interface of medical devices and therapeutics; for example, implants that also control local infection/ inflammation or drug eluting stents.

Yet another mega-trend is the transition towards precision and personalized medicine. So far, the largest hindrances to personalized medicine were lack of personalized data and data trends, methods to conveniently and accurately capture data, the inability to handle large, varied and fuzzy data sets, and convenient correlational models for multi-parameter population-wide analysis. But this is set to change. Imagine, for example, a population of iWatch (that tracks cardiac performance) users who also allow tracking of data on their physical activities (say, with a FitBit), nutritional information, other medical and diagnostics reports, medication and drugs purchase data etc. This data set could possibly be mined for trends and correlations and captured in the form of a ML algorithm which could then be used predict actual or potential conditions for a given person and may be even suggest personalized guidance and therapy. In such a scenario, the implications for the drug industry are large and extensive.

The drug discovery process (as practiced currently) is just too cumbersome, cost intensive and risky, and therefore has become hegemony of a few who can afford to take such risks.  It is clearly a broken process that is awaiting a disruption. Just as Elon Musk and SpaceX have turned the expensive space industry on its head by demonstrating reusable rockets, the drug industry is waiting for an innovation that will transform the drug discovery process entirely and thus make it more accessible and productive. India has tried new ideas like the Open Source Drug Discovery or Reverse Pharmacology approaches in the past. New ideas like the MANAV-Atlas program of DBT also hold considerable promise for leads. It is my opinion that the advances in biological engineering which aim to apply engineering principles and math modeling to living systems combined with the emerging capabilities in data handling and computing are probably going to increase productivity in drug discovery in significant ways.

In conclusion, it is important for the drug industry to rise above narrow industry boundaries, get comfortable with blurring interfaces and focus on the ultimate goal of address issues of health. It is time that the Indian Drug Manufacturing association organize task forces to discuss, research, foresee and understand how new technologies will impact and transform the drug industry and what actions the industry can take to remain relevant.

V. Premnath, PhD
Head, NCL Innovations & Director, Venture Center
CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune

About the Guest Editor

Dr V. Premnath is currently the Head, NCL Innovations – the group within National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) charged with the responsibility of championing the cause of technology innovation within NCL. Dr Premnath is also the Director of the Venture Center – a technology business incubator on NCL campus. Dr Premnath is also a Scientist, Polymer Science & Engineering Division at NCL with an interest in technology development for medical products.

Dr. V. Premnath holds a B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He has also been a Chevening Technology Enterprise Fellow with the Centre for Scientific Enterprises, London Business School and Cambridge University, UK. Dr Premnath’s experience with medical products development is focused on polymeric implants and has resulted in two families of commercial products and two startups.

(22 May 2019) Lessons from Sweden in Innovation Management

My Linkedin Articles on my Sweden Tour:

Sting and Propel Capital: Example of an angle investment activity coordinated by an incubator
KTH’s Innovation Readiness Levels
Astra Zeneca BioVenture Hub: An example of open innovation by a corporate
Why does Sweden do so well in innovation and entrepreneurship?

(25 Dec 2018) Pune Startups: Review and Outlook

Review for CY 2018

  • This year, investors have shown interest in investing in startups with new ideas rather than just India execution plays. This is a good trend. That said, majority of investments (by value) were in sectors where there is no technology innovation but mostly business process innovation and execution challenges (mainly in IT enabled businesses of various kinds such as food delivery, education, commerce, etc etc).
  • Early stage investments in non-IT enabled sectors are primarily happening in healthcare products, mechatronics/ IOT and certain agro and social innovation sectors. The investment size is not that large because these are early stage startups. However, they are very important to the sectors and make a huge difference in encouraging entrepreneurs. This is being driven by seed funds associated with incubators, Angel investors, early stage venture capital funds and impact investors.
  • Investments in sectors such as energy and environment are happening but using traditional models of financing (not really VC) and in late stage deployment of solutions. Not much investment is happening in early stage tech development. So the startup pipeline for investors is likely to be weak in coming years.

Outlook and emerging opportunities

  • IT enabled services/ sectors (commerce, food delivery, ride hailing, education, agro, finance, payments etc) will continue to draw the largest funding.
  • I think CY 2019 will be a good year for healthcare products startups.
  • I am also hopeful that algorithm intensive areas like cyber security will throw up new opportunities for India.
  • I am not hopeful about early stage funding in energy and environment sectors.
  • I am hopeful that the Government of India will create a vehicle like BIRAC for other sectors. If that happens, a lot of pipeline creation for future investments in knowledge intensive and IP rich startups will take place. This will create good candidates for investment say 3 years hence.
  • This year might see a boom in waste management companies. Since funding in this sector is a problem, large players with strong balance sheets will eventually dominate and probably squeeze out startups and first generation entrepreneurs.
  • The focus on startups will reduce in the election year of 2019. The government will focus more on rural areas and probably de-emphasize startups.
  • As usual, this should be a good year for corporate ventures and family businesses.


  • First generation entrepreneur interest and availability of financing always go hand-in-hand. Lack of early stage financing to spur startup creation and empower first generation entrepreneurs is still limited to only very few sectors in India. That remains the greatest challenge.
  • The funding landscape is not continuous in India and has gaps. Which means that Indian startups will either a) raise money from foreign funders or b) move overseas to raise money. This is especially likely in knowledge intensive areas where the appetite for Indian investors has been low.
  • Again a missed opportunity will be inability of the Indian ecosystem to draw upon academia and R&D institutions for new technical capabilities seamlessly to build new technologies.

(12 Oct 2018) Open Innovation: Excerpts from CII CTO Summit

On 12 Oct 2018, CII ran a CTO Summit at Taj Palace, Mumbai with a focus on Open Innovation. I moderated a session on IP Strategy for Open Innovation. Good to see the CTO Forum of CII come up with such relevant themes.


For those new to the topic, see a short introduction at http://www.openinnovation.eu/open-innovation/

My panel focused on IP strategy for Open Innovation.


Some points from the panel :

Interestingly, the patent system was created when inventors were encouraged by the kings to disclose their ideas (so that society would not loose the invention along with the inventors when they die) in exchange for a period of time when they could prevent others from copying their ideas. The whole idea was to “open” out the invention for larger social good while ensuring that the inventors are given some time to secure some rewards for their creativity.

Open innovation takes “open” to a new extreme. In my view, open innovation may actually reshape the IP profession in entirely new ways by posing the most complex and largest challenges for IP professionals in the coming years. With no single entity being able to fund all aspects of the innovation process or control the entire innovation ecosystem, collaboration is inevitable. More importantly, the complexity of the collaboration process is bound to increase many folds — with multiple partners (such as large companies, startups, academia, individuals etc) all vying for a share of the rewards. The frameworks which will enable such interactions will invariably be open innovation frameworks and the key enablers will be open innovation architects.

IP strategy in open innovation will invariably require greater trust between multiple partners. This will mean that the leadership at the highest levels will have to get involved in initiating open innovation programs. It will be necessary to keep the focus on the larger goals and objectives and not get bogged down by policies, procedures, existing power structures etc. Champions of open innovation programs will have to push for a culture change which understands limitations of closed innovation and encourages open innovation strategically. The anchor entities in any open innovation program will often need to be generous in sharing rewards with smaller partners. Companies will need to think deeply about which innovation programs they wish to pursue in open innovation mode and which innovations in closed innovation mode. Companies will need to do some deep thinking on what is the core of their business and what is the periphery. Companies will need to carry out intense technology foresight exercises to define the roadmap for the future. Companies will need to rethink their policies and strategies on IP ownership and rights. As multiple partners will each jostle for a greater share of rewards, companies will need to creatively rethink their models of risk-reward sharing, rights and responsibilities in collaborations and how they control the advancement of technology towards the market. Companies will need to rethink their philosophies around confidentiality and evolve ways to firewall and insulate open innovation and closed innovation programs.

We can learn more by studying some cases where open innovation seems to work well:

  • Open innovation seems to work well when all partners are working towards a socially important goal. These goals encourage people to put their private interests into the back burner and focus on doing well for society. And this simplifies the complexity in the agreements and understanding between parties. Several open source and open access initiatives fall under this category. An effort to develop drugs for neglected diseases or a diagnostic for reducing misuse of antibiotics or an open source bionic arm project etc will fall under this category.
  • Open innovation seems to work well when a group of entities are collaborating to build a common ecosystem or platform which will be a public good or social good on which they can then build their private goods. This could include base level platform technologies, industry standards etc. An example would be EV companies collaborating on building battery technologies so that advancements in battery technologies could help their own EV businesses to flourish.
  • Open innovation seems to also work well when companies collaborate to build technologies against a common threat. For example, companies at different parts of the plastics value chain collaborating to develop plastic waste management solutions so as to contest possible bans on plastic by governments.

It is clear that companies that can master open innovation strategies and make them work to their advantage will gain tremendously in the future.

(25 June 2018) Selected reports on startups and VC investments in India

A few reports recently being added to Venture Center Library (http://www.vcenterlibrary.org ):

The Fourth Wheel 2018: Private Equity in the Corporate Landscape: http://www.grantthornton.in/globalassets/1.-member-firms/india/assets/pdfs/the_fourth_wheel_march-2018.pdf

Startups India – An Overview: http://www.grantthornton.in/globalassets/1.-member-firms/india/assets/pdfs/grant_thornton-startups_report.pdf

India’s Startup Landscape: https://www.yesbank.in/pdf/indias_startup_landscape.pdf

Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2018: https://startupgenome.com/all-report-thank-you/?file=2018

(25 June 2018) Selected Readings on Incubation and Acceleration

On Venture Center’s site for the Incubation Practice School, I have collected a few reports/ readings for fellow and budding incubation managers: http://practiceschool.venturecenter.co.in/workbooks/

Selected books and reports on incubation for the benefit of other incubation managers:


o  CIIE’s “Handbook for Not-for-Profit Incubation Managers”: http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/Handbook%20for%20Incubator%20Managers.pdf

o  Nesta’s “Startup Support Programmes: What’s the difference?”: https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/whats_the_diff_wv.pdf   (comparison of various startup promotion activities)

o  Nesta’s “Incubation for Growth” report: https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/incubation_for_growth.pdf (Appendix C has some useful reference data)

o  iNBIA’s “Put it in Writing”: https://inbia.org/product/put-writing-ii-guide-incubator-policies-procedures-agreements/ (Available in Venture Center Library; http://www.vcenterlibrary.org/ )


o  Nesta’s “A look inside accelerators”” https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/a_look_inside_accelerators.pdf

o  Selected reports from GALI: https://www.galidata.org/publications/accelerating-startups-in-emerging-markets/ ; https://www.galidata.org/publications/accelerating-the-flow-of-funds-into-early-stage-ventures/  ; https://www.galidata.org/publications/landscape-study-of-accelerators-and-incubators-in-india/ (This landscape is OK for a high level overview but weak in details and perspective. It is a little tilted!)


(22 April 2018) New book on Med Tech Innovation by Prof Ravi, IIT-Bombay


Prof B Ravi of IIT-Bombay has recently published this book “The Essence of Medical Device Innovation”.
This book is an excellent introductory book for aspiring med tech innovators and entrepreneurs.  The book stands out because of the real-world and relatable stories of  med tech innovation that aim to share the deep and practical insights of the BETIC team in medical device design and innovation.  This brief and concise book packs in a lot of concepts, information, inspiration, insights, advise and case studies all inter-woven into an eminently readable text.
This book is being published by Crossword’s publishing arm “The Write Place”.  It should be available soon at Crossword stores online and offline.
It is available in Venture Center Library: http://www.vcenterlibrary.org/

Excerpts from “Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike” by Phil Knight.

Excerpts from “Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike” by Phil Knight.


I have just finished reading the memoir of Phil Knight about his journey as an entrepreneur – the story of creating Nike. The book does a great job of giving a glimpse of an entrepreneurial journey – the genesis, the humble and lonely beginnings, the commitment and persistence, the ups and downs, the surprises etc. In particular, Knight gives the readers a peak into what happens inside the mind of an entrepreneur that I found very interesting and helpful. Essential reading for entrepreneurs and incubator managers!

For those who wish to reflect, I am compiling some excerpts from the book:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”  — Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Knight’s teacher about venturing into the trails in Oregon– “The cowards never started, and the weak dies along the way – that leaves us.” Us. Some rare strain of pioneer spirit was discovered along that trail, my teacher believed, some outsized sense of possibility mixed with a diminished capacity for pessimism – and it was our job as Oregonians to keep that strain alive.

But deep down I was searching for something else, something more. I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all … different. I wanted to leave a mark on the world. I wanted to win. No, that’s not right. I simply didn’t want to lose.

There’s a kind of exuberant clarity in that pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided. I wanted that, whatever that was, to be my life, my daily life.

The world was so overrun with war and pain and misery, the daily grind was so exhausting and often unjust – maybe the only answer, I thought, was to find some prodigious, improbable dream that seemed worthy, that seemed fun, that seemed a good fit, and chase it with an athlete’s single-minded dedication and purpose. Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines, and I didn’t want that. More than anything, that was the thing I did not want.

History is one long processional of crazy ideas. The things I loved most – books, sports, democracy, free enterprise – started as crazy ideas.

For that matter, few ideas are as crazy as my favorite thing, running. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s risky. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself. Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death. So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy … just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” — Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass


But first I’d need to change my whole approach. I was a linear thinker, and according to Zen linear thinking is nothing but a delusion, one of the many that keep us unhappy. Reality is nonlinear, Zen says. No future, no past. All is now.

Self is the bald-faced lie we tell ourselves daily, and happiness requires seeing through the lie, debunking it. “To study the self”, said the thirteenth-century Zen Master Dogen, “is to forget the self.”

In Zen and the Art of Archery, “Perfection in the art of swordsmanship is reached … when the heart is troubled by no more thought of I and You, of the opponent and his sword, of one’s own sword and how to wield it … All is emptiness: your own self, the flashing sword, and the arms that wield it. Even the thought of emptiness is no longer there.

“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path yourself”, said the Buddha.

“Expect nothing, seek nothing, grasp nothing” – Japanese poets

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones” – Confucius.

MacArthur –“You are remembered for the rules you break.”

“All are proud of their craft. God speaks of his work; how much more should man.” – Eleazar ben Azariah, First century rabbi.

“Don’t go to sleep one night. What you most want will come to you then. Warmed by a sun inside you’ll see wonders.” – Rumi, thirteenth-century Persian poet.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” — General Patton.

“You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory …. Without victory, there is no survival.” — Winston Churchill

But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast.

I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.

Life is growth. You grow or you die.

Each of us found pleasure, whenever possible, in focusing on one small task. One task, we often said, clears the mind.

“Because,” Woodell’s mother said, “if you can’t trust the company your son is working for, then who can you trust?”

No news was bad news, no news was good news – but no news was always some sort of news.

Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes. Lifers used the phrase cheerfully to describe other lifers, men and women who had toiled so long and hard in the shoe trade, they thought and talked about nothing else. It was an all-consuming mania, a recognizable psychological disorder, to care so much about insoles and outsoles, linings and welts, rivets and vamps. But I understood. The average person takes seventy-five hundred steps a day, 274 million steps over the course of a long life, the equivalent of six times around the globs – shoe dogs, it seemed to me, simply wanted to be part of the journey. Shoes were their way of connecting with humanity. What better way of connecting, shoe dogs thought, than by refining the hinge that joins each person to the world’s surface?

It was dark as I walked out of the office building, into the crowded Tokyo street. A feeling came over me, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I felt spent, but proud. I felt drained, but exhilarated. I felt everything I ever hoped to feel after a day’s work. I felt like an artist, a creator. I looked back over my shoulder, took one last look at Nissho’s offices. Under my breath I said, “We made this.”

Sometimes I thought the secret to Pre’s appeal was his passion. He didn’t care if he dies crossing the finish line, so long as he crossed first.

When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about.

Pre said as much himself. “A race is a work of art,” he told a reporter, “that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding.”

“No brilliant idea was ever born in a conference room,” he assured the Dane. “But a lot of silly ideas have died there,” said Stahr. — F Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon.

Pre was most famous for saying, “Somebody may beat me – but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.”

Like most companies, we had role models. Sony, for instance. Sony was the Apple of its day. Profitable, innovative, efficient – and it treated its workers well. When pressed, I often said I wanted to be like Sony. At root, however, I still aimed and hoped for something bigger, and vaguer. I would search my mind and heart and the only thing I could come up with was this word –“winning”. It wasn’t much, but it was far, far better than the alternative. Whatever happened, I just didn’t want to lose.

This question of winning and losing. Money wasn’t our aim, we agreed. Money wasn’t our end game. But whatever our aim or end, money was the only means to get there. More money than we had on hand.

If watching Shorter go off in shoes other than mine could affect me so deeply, it was now official: Nike was more than just a shoe. I no longer simply made Nikes; Nikes were making me. If I saw an athlete choose another shoe, if I saw anyone choose another shoe, it wasn’t just a rejection of the brand alone, but of me. I told myself to be reasonable, not everyone in the world was going to wear Nike. And I won’t say that I became upset every time I saw someone walking down the street in a running shoe that wasn’t mine.

“Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending commitment.” – Nike advertisement.

But instead of cherishing how far we’d come, I saw only how far we had to go. My window looked onto a beautiful stand of pines, and I definitely couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I didn’t understand what was happening, in the moment, but now I do. The years of stress were taking their toll. When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly. At just the moment I needed to be my sharpest, I was approaching burnout.

When you hired an accountant, you knew he or she could count. When you hired a lawyer, you knew he or she could talk. When you hired a marketing expert, or product developer, what did you know? Nothing. You couldn’t predict what he or she could do, or if he or she could do anything. And the typical business school graduate? He or she didn’t want to start out with a bag selling shoes. Plus, they all had zero experience, so you were simply rolling the dice based on how well they did in an interview. We didn’t have enough margin for error to roll the dice on anyone.

In time we all agreed to pretend it was no big deal. We’d learned a valuable lesson. Don’t put twelve innovations into one shoe. It asks too much of the shoe, to say nothing of the design tea. We reminded each other that there was honor in saying, “ Back to the drawing board.” We reminded each other of the many waffle irons Bowerman had ruined.

It seems wrong to call it “business.” It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher – and none of us wavered in the belief that “stakes” didn’t mean “money”. For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970s, I did, too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted t, to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is — you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.

In one sense our campus is a topographical map of Nike’s history and growth; in another it’s a diorama of my life. In yet another sense it’s a living, breathing expression of that vital human emotion, maybe the most vital of all, after love. Gratitude.

I thought of that phrase, “It’s just business.” It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.

I keep thinking of one line in The Bucket List. “You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.”

To study the self is to forget the self. Mi casa, su casa. Oneness – in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking.

International trade always, always benefits both trading nations. Another thing I often heard from those same professors was the old maxim: “When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.” Though I’ve been known to call business war without bullets, it’s actually a wonderful bulwark against war. Trade is the path of coexistence, cooperation. Peace feeds on prosperity.

“I was a professor of the jungle.” —General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam.

Mr Hayami nodded. “See those bamboo trees up there? he asked.


“Next year … when you come … they will be one foot higher.”

I stared. I understood.

Phil Knight to students –“ I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the students, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can. Put another way: We must all be the professors of the jungle.”

On a plaque next to the entrance will go an inscription: Because mothers are our first coaches.

God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials or ordeals, might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on, It’s all the same drive. The same dream.

It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.

I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.

And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.

Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.

Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.

Defining technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship!

What is technology?

Technology is solutions to problems and needs. Technology represents human being’s aspiration and desire to control nature and ones own environment and circumstances, and unwillingness to accept and be content with status quo.

What is innovation?

Innovation is a novel solution to a problem that has been implemented successfully.

What is entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a vehicle to deliver innovations in a scalable and sustainable manner.

What is social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is a form of entrepreneurship that focuses on solving the most pressing problems of society and leverages goodwill to ensure scalability and sustainability.

(Copyright) Premnath Venugopalan, 2017

How can startups attract and retain talent?

This is a common question I get from several start-ups. Start-ups feel that they are competing with large companies for talent and that this is a un-winnable battle.

Not true — in my opinion. But it does require a lot of hard work of  entrepreneurs to attract and retain good talent.

Here are some thoughts, suggestions and ideas:

  • In my opinion, monetary compensation is not the only or most important driver for people deciding about which job to take up. Start by not playing-up the role of money beyond reasonable limits. Yes, there is a base level but beyond that most team members will seek something more! It is for you to seek out what those are.
  • Look for people who do not measure their self-worth by the salary they earn or the vehicle they drive or the phone they own. Look for people who value their creative talents and wish to feed and nurture them. Look for people who are not carrying too much “baggage” — “baggage” which forces them to focus only on short term monetary gains. “Baggage” could be heavy loans, a high-cost and aspirational lifestyle, a social network that encourages comparisons with others etc.
  • Start-ups need to communicate a vision and purpose for the organisation as well as future for their team members that is convincing and something with impact that is worth pursuing. Fortunately, there are many people who aspire to contribute to changing the world — the question is if you can help them do that.
  • Start ups must leverage their strengths. One strength is flexibility and ability to act fast. So can you structure an employment arrangement that is customised to suit the employees other life choices? Can you offer flexibility in the job? Are you willing to listen to the employee’s needs and explore ways to tailor the job for them? Can you act fast to close the deal? (Big companies will not be able to do this beyond a point.)
  • Many people leave their jobs because they have a difficult boss. Can you be the best boss in the world?
  • Many people leave jobs because they do not like the work environment and culture. Many will stay on because they like their team and work environment. What kind of a work culture and environment are you building? Is your team getting along together — do they constitute a great peer group?
  • Can you spot talent in young people without track record (and before they are spotted by others) and offer them responsibilities that a big company would never offer?
  • Can you identify certain talents in people to take up a responsibility when they do not have the necessary formal background or experience to do the job?  Big companies will use software, HR consultants and HR managers to screen through applications — and they will typically use key words to screen applications. They will not dig deeper. Can you beat them at it?
  • Especially in India, family members influence the career choices of employees in a big way.  Have you made the effort to communicate to family members what your company does and the great future that awaits you and your team?
  • Are you fair and transparent on matters relating to compensation, recognitions etc? You should not only be so but also appear to be so.
  • Do you take interest in the career growth of your employee? Do you offer them opportunities to grow intellectually or professionally? Are you a good mentor?
  • Many young people will look for safe, clean and happy work places that they can feel good about coming to everyday and also showing off to their friends and family. They should not feel ashamed to show their workplace. They should also feel proud to show off their colleagues. Does your workplace and their team make them proud?
  • Have you taken the trouble to plan their work profile an responsibilities so that it is an appropriate balance of routine work, learning and stretch goals, and opportunity to excel?
  • Can you offer unique learning and networking opportunities? Can you offer an opportunity to enter a new industry segment?
  • Can offer opportunities to people who have had career breaks and are getting back to work?
  • Big companies will often offer narrow jobs with very well defined roles which basically offer them the benefit of  efficiencies that comes from repetitiveness. So, many people people will feel that they are mere “cogs in the wheel”. Can you offer them a bigger role and purpose?
  • Can you leverage your school and college network or alumni network or personal friends circle? These networks typically show greater trust and faith in you.
  • Request people in your personal networks to suggest or refer potential employees. They may suggest or refer people with the right orientation given their deeper knowledge of you and perhaps respect/ support for what you are doing.  The candidate may show deeper interest because of a referral from somebody they know or respect.
  • Can you create a work environment where employees feel that they are growing continuously and not stagnant. Growth can be in terms of intellectual growth, growth in responsibilities, growth in monetary compensation etc.
  • What are you doing to to make the team members own up to the company’s goals? Do they get a chance to represent the company on various internal and external forums? Do they feel they know everything about the company and that the  company is transparent and does not keep them out of certain things?
  • Do they trust that the leadership team will ensure that everybody will get their share of visibility and rewards when the organisation succeeds?
  • What are the things you can do to reduce uncertainty? Are you visibly taking steps to reduce the risk to your team member’s jobs?  Are you working to develop buffers? Are you prioritising that ahead of other risks?

How to choose a company name (in India)?

How to choose the name of your company? Here are some suggestions:

  • Chose a name that would be simple, short and memorable/ recognisable
  • Avoid the names of founders in the name of the company (It is easier for employees, other share holders etc to identify with the company if one person’s name does not stand out)
  • Avoid complex acronyms and abbreviations
  • Avoid narrowly describing scope of activities of the company by inserting text that describes nature of activities. For example, words like “trading”, “travel”, etc in the company name specify the nature of work or industry. What if your focus changes as the business idea evolves?
  • Check to see who else is using such names or has already blocked it. See links below.

Here are sites which new and budding entrepreneurs in India can use to arrive at their company’s name.

Websites to use for checking availability of names:

Update on 23 May 2018: See how Flipkart chose its name.


On choosing the name Flipkart

In 2010, Sachin and Binny spoke about the problem they were solving and why Flipkart was called Flipkart. They shared with YourStory:

“An attractive neutral name is what we looked for. Good domain names were hard to get. We were looking at names that did not just speak of books alone, but one that could suit any category of products that we may add in future. Also, we wanted to have a catchy name with high recall potential. Flipkart could, in simple terms, mean ‘Flipping things into your Kart’.”

On social enterprises

In my view, social enterprises are a class of enterprises which:

  • Have business models that are sustainable (Note: Profits or surpluses are the simplest and cleanest route to sustainability and growth; but other ways exist)
  • Create value for society (or some part of it) by offering products and/or services that address certain problems or unmet needs of society, but in the case of social enterprises also: 1) create significant positive social and/or environmental impact and/or 2) serve marginalized, under-served sections of society; typically those who have limited ability to pay for products and services or have limited access or could represent an unattractive commercial market segment, and/or 3) create significant enhancement in quality of life, productivity, upward mobility of the economically weaker sections of the society.
  • Inspires considerable good-will in society and can thus enlist the support of the government, charitable organisations, employees, customers, suppliers, investors etc.

Social enterprises have to be sustainable initiatives like any other commercial enterprises. The basics of building a social enterprises are the same as for commercial enterprises. The key difference is only in how they arrange to secure their resources.

What constitutes a social enterprise is always contextual and changes with locations, times and specifics in each society.

Examples of social enterprises:

  • A company addressing societies most pressing problems like health, water, food, energy etc with an element of compassion such as a company delivering clean drinking water in rural India, a company building local distributed clean energy solutions in rural India etc
  • A company addressing needs of the disabled and aged.
  • Companies working towards addressing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by offering affordable solutions in the poorest regions of the world.

Examples of enterprises unlikely (note: I am aware that there are exceptions) to be social enterprises:

  • A cigarette company
  • A luxury fashion chain
  • A jewellery chain
  • A sports car company

What is entrepreneurship?

I am often asked about the word entrepreneurship. What does it mean? How is it different from doing business (if at all)? Here is what I have learnt so far.

At the very heart of entrepreneurship is an entrepreneur — a person who is seized of an opportunity to build/deliver a product/ service of value to people and is trying very hard to find and put into practice a sustainable way to build/deliver the product/service for the benefit of society (or some part of the society). Two important features of entrepreneurship are a) the often lonely belief of the entrepreneur in the opportunity (often against the trends and dominant thinking of the times; this grand vision of the entrepreneur is a very important element) and b) pursuit of an opportunity that requires resources (funds, people, infrastructure etc) beyond what is readily available and efforts to put together resources creatively to make the entrepreneurial effort possible. Entrepreneurship is merely the journey of an entrepreneur.

So how is entrepreneurship different from doing business? Entrepreneurship is not focussed on the daily financial transactions but on the grand vision of entrepreneur to create something of value. He/she cannot ignore financial transactions but that is not the heart of the entrepreneurship journey.  The overarching vision of the entrepreneur is the clear driving force and resource planning is done to accommodate that vision (and not vice versa where the available resources determine the goals). Yet another important aspect is to remember is that when the final goal is important, entrepreneurs will find creative ways to build the organisation that will realise the vision of the entrepreneur —- and that need not only be the traditional commercial businesses where the backbone of resource planning is arranging finance/ capital.  So, an entrepreneur will arrange resources whichever way he/she thinks is most conducive to the project….. that could include seeking in-kind contributions, appealing to employers/ suppliers/ customers’ good-will to arrange resources, seeking grants from government agencies and charitable organisations etc. Some entrepreneurs may even choose to work within existing organisations to give shape to their vision.

So, are you an entrepreneur? You can be one. You need to have the following:

  • A vision to build something of value for some part of society
  • Willingness and confidence to walk alone against the wind
  • An infectious ability to transmit your vision and passion
  • A commitment, plan and execution abilities to arrange and manage resources sustainably.

Can anybody be an entrepreneur? Yes, I think so.  First find your passion and purpose, and be convinced that it is worth pursuing against the odds. The rest can be learnt via practice and experience.