January 26, 2012

The Entrepreneurship Bug

Quite a few of my friends recently have started their ventures, and I'm sure many more are planning to, over the next few years. I'm not sure about the reasons behind each of them, but broadly it may have to do with boredom with corporate life, and in some cases a deep desire to do something unique and different. With recession talks almost always grabbing the newspaper headlines, we may just be entering the era of innovation, and this may be the right time to start something. 

I have been thinking along similar lines for some time, but not in terms on any specific ideas. Till now, the thought has been pretty broad, with things like whether to be based in city A or city B, or whether it should be an online service based venture, or things like this. In my view, unless one is Steve Jobs, specific ideas aren't usually the starting point. One can always look at his surroundings, and locate 5 different business opportunities. The key, in my view, is to be able to decide on the macro variable - people, place, medium, capital, etc. Once you have sorted these basic issues, you can always take the plunge. 

Here are some of the interesting ventures by a few of my friends, produced below without their permissions (I hope no one minds some words written about them):

Copper Sky Journeys: This one is my favorite of all the ventures I have come across, and I like both the business idea, as well as the web design part of it. Its a very simplistic design, and still presents almost all the necessary information anyone would need. 

Purple Penguin Realty: This is a relatively new venture, and the website went live just a couple of weeks back. They deal in the real estate business, and though I couldn't understand the whole business plan properly from their website, it nonetheless appears an interesting opportunity given that the sector is completely dominated by unprofessional (to say the least) people. 

Both of these are in sunshine sectors, with both real estate and tourism offering lots of opportunities for growth in future. 

Into Biographies

I'm currently in my reading phase - the phase where in I will be reading 3-4 similar books at one go. And post it, there is usually a lull, where I won't be touching anything for months, if not quarter-years. 

After having read two back to back 'Retail' business biographies (one by Sam Walton, and then another by Kishore Biyani), about which I have ranted earlier, I have now started with 'Open' by Andre Agassi. I have just managed to get through with the first chapter, and I already have pretty high expectations from the book. I have never ever read an autobiography of any sportsman, and hence just wanted to give it a try. If all goes well, may try my hands on the stories of Lance Armstrong or may be even Shoaib Akhtar. 

January 18, 2012

It Happened In India

I recently read the book 'It Happened In India', the life story of Kishore Biyani, and by some length, of organized retail in India. You and Me may not think too much about the Pantaloons and the Big Bazaar stores, which are now almost present in all the big malls, but anyone who has ever applied for any license/passport/registration anywhere in India would know what a feat it is. By some logic, it may be a bigger achievemet than Walmart as well, assuming the US government offices are nowhere like India's.

There are parallels with Walmart, with Biyani being heavily inspired by Sam Walton, and thats reflected even in the way in book is written. Both the biographies follow very similar format, starting with a scenario, and then comments and quotes from related people. However, the book is nowhere near the Sam Walton's, and misses out on a lot of details.

My takeaway from the book is quite simple - if you are good at something, and are adaptive to ideas and changes, you can make it big. You don't need great ideas to be successful, but pure dedication and some risk apetite. Recommended for a casual reading, but if you want a good book on retail, Sam Walton's one is miles ahead.

January 3, 2012

The Pace Of Innovation

I was reading an article on how companies in China are upping their R&D spending, whereas the US companies are cutting on it. May be with the exception of Apple that is. With China growing, it was just a matter of time that they started spending on R&D. But it raises one interesting question along the lines of social development. Is this the outcome we all should strive for?

The occupy wall street protest in US and world over is a protest against the economic divisions. However, I think the fast pace of innovation is one of the reasons for an increase in inequality in recent decade. The few who are at the fore front and well equipped can take advantges of the new technologies, whereas the less privileged ones are left farther and farther behind. Think of the plight of someone who has never been on internet - she wouldn't even understand half the news stories which comprise of who wrote what on which network. Add to it the offers on bookmyshow, groupon etc, which for some reasons aren't available otherwise. Increasingly, the world is getting more and more unfair for the have-nots.

We should all stop for a moment and think about the direction in which we are moving. Is it fine to spend billions on the research of touchscreen technology or other such 'path breaking' ideas when more than half of mankind lives in poverty. When there are greater problems to be solved - both in the field of medical sciences and also towards things like economic housing. I am left wondering about the kind of world we are becoming - apple sells millions of iPad, and not many people actually have a clue what they are buying it for. They all keep buying as if they will be able to connect the dots later.

I'm becoming more and more inclined towards the Chinese model of development - capitalism with some state control. There are obvious issues, but capitalism left to itself may not give the best possible outcome. It lives on the principle of survival of the fittest, and at some point, this becomes a scary thought.

January 2, 2012

Just Another New Year Post

The online world is inundated with messages and posts on new year. Most of them are either wishes or resolutions, and like every year most of them would be forgotten within the first fortnight. And inspite of knowing this, people still want to savor the moment and make some promises to themselves.

I think its more to do with 'closure'. A year ends, and a resolution list makes one think about where they stand, and where they should aim to go. Like everything else in life, we may not end up there, but there is no harm in dreaming and trying. So that leads me to my list of resolutions for the new year.

I don't have a list per se, though I do have a vague idea about where I want to be at the end of 2012.

1. I want to have seen at least some part of the world outside Asia - it could be Europe or Americas or Australia/NZ.

2. I want to be fitter and healthier - not just in terms of weight and shape, but as a lifestyle. I want to be a regular either at gym or with some sport.

3. I want to end the year much better in my profession than I'm now. 

4. I want to have a serious hobby - one in which I can spend my weekend and free time, and which would be productive at the same time. It could be reading lots of books, learning a new language, or photography. Or may be a combination of all of those.

Let me revisit this list sometime during mid year, just like most companies do. Hopefully there would some progress and I wouldn't cross out any of these as unattainable.