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My talk on Entrepreneurship @ RVCE

RV College of Engineering is the top most engineering institution in the state of Karnataka, India. It was also the venue for the very first KDE India Conference. My first visit to RVCE was on the first day of the conference – where I was co-delivering a talk on Qt programming essentials along with my colleague Abhishek Patil. Last week I was invited by the MCA Department of RVCE to give a talk on “Entrepreneurship and FOSS”. In this blog post – I want to share the gist of my talk.

The intent of the talk was to generate an access to Entrepreneurship as opposed to just showcasing examples of it. When I was in my pre-final year of engineering at JNNCE Shimoga, the IEI Student Chapter had organized a seminar series on Entrepreneurship. We had graduates of JNNCE, among others, who had trodden down the path of Entrepreneurship, come over and share their experiences with us. The seminar series was really very inspiring. However, it did not do much of an effect on me in terms of getting me to take a “real actionable step” towards Entrepreneurship myself. If I have to give an analogy – suppose that you attend a talk on “fishing”. The speaker is talking about “fishing” and is also going as far as showing you all the fishes that he caught. While the talk and the display of caught fishes would be impressive – they don’t help you with fishing! Of what good are the speaker’s fishes for you? Similarly talking about Entrepreneurship, enumerating traits/tricks in that domain or even giving examples of it doesn’t create any access for it! Coming from this context – I really wanted my talk to create an access to Entrepreneurship for my audience. So I decided to do away with examples of Entrepreneurship completely. So no stories about Dr. Rajkumar, Murali Krishna, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Narayana Murthy etc.

It is also true that I am no expert on the subject. I don’t claim to know everything about the subject. Nor am I super-successful and exemplary as an entrepreneur. I am, however, at peace with what’s so about my progress in entrepreneurship AND am super-inspired by a lot of entrepreneurs around. My talk was oriented around ideas and concepts (that I learned/gathered from books, talks, wikipedia etc..) that made an impact on me and has nudged me into taking bold steps – steps that I would probably have not taken otherwise.

Many a times we can notice this in ourselves – when we come over to explore a subject, we arrive there with a whole lot of baggage about the subject itself. The baggage is so huge and it is so painfully collected over the past several years that we kind of get hell bent on picking up only those aspects of the subject that will fit our baggage. Put in other words, we mostly listen to confirm what we already know. Jiddu Krishnamurthy, in his book on “Think on These Things” says: “Are you listening to hear something that will confirm, tally with your own thoughts, or are you listening to find out? Do you see the difference? Listening to find out has a different significance from listening merely to hear that which will confirm what you think. If you are listening to find out – then the mind is free, sharp, alive and inquiring because it is not committed to proving something!” With this as the background, I invited the audience to listen to my talk freely – even if it really is worthless! And they all willingly agreed!

My first question to the audience (which consisted of students of MCA and their professors) was – “How many of you want to be an entrepreneur?”. About 20% of the hands went up. The next question was “How many of you are already entrepreneurs?”. None of the hands went up for this! This was really interesting. I then asked – “How many of you listened to my first question as ‘may be he is asking if I am going to start a company in the future’?” Most people said that they listened to an interpretation of my question rather than the question itself. Because for most people Entrepreneurship means “starting a company”, worse “starting a software company”. So, I figured that it would be best to really uncover the meanings and interpretations of Entrepreneurship that people had.

We all interpret the world in terms of the answer to a question – “what does it mean?” Everything has to mean something, otherwise they just dont register. Initially, perhaps, we are conscious of the meaning created for what’s out there in the world. Put in other words, initially we are aware of the fact that the reality is out there – and, for us, it registers in terms of the meaning we conjure up for it. However over a period of time – we constrain ourselves by saying that our “meaning” is actually what’s out there in the world.

I am a big fan of Werner Erhard. In one of his talks he says – “most of us live our lives under the impression that when we feel that there is a bear, there really is a bear!” The funny story is that most of us realize it on some level otherwise we would not have related to the movie Inception all that well. The movie Inception is based on a axiom that an idea drives our motives, thoughts, viewpoints and actions. Because that idea is a model of reality for us, and that what we see out there stems from that model of reality that we hold to be so true. Like L Ron Hubbard says in his book on Dianetics – the human mind is incapable of error. If it has a notion (or model) of reality then thats exactly what it will perceive and create!

So, if we have predefined ideas about Entrepreneurship – then that’s what the domain of entrepreneurship will occur to us as. So, in order to really ‘get’ what entrepreneurship is;  it is important to get clear about what Entrepreneurship is not.

  • It is not about starting a company. Infact, if we look around, we can notice that some of the best companies got founded primarily to manage the bells and whistles surrounding an activity; not the other way around.
  • It is not about coming up with an idea.Waiting for a big idea is actually a bad idea.
  • It is not about writing a business plan
  • It is not about raising venture capital investment
  • It is not all about being or becoming rich.
  • It is not about being or becoming the smartest person out there.

Then what is it about? As I asked this question – people started coming up with even more answers. Answers like “making smart decisions”, “having a vision” and “thinking out of the box” started coming up. It was very evident that most of these answers really came from Economic Times, India Today and Business Today! Media has come up with a notion of Entrepreneurship as – “talk”, “talk”, “talk” and “talk”. If not “talk” – it is “management”!  Dont get me wrong. I have nothing against Management, infact it is far too necessary to progress in life. However one should remember that management is always about something. Just like a dam is built to manage the current of flowing water, management is done for an activity. A dam is pretty useless unless there is a good water current! Anyways, I urged the audience to quit borrowing from the media all concepts of entrepreneurship and really dig within themselves to answer the question – “what is it about?”

After a while someone in the audience said – “it is about doing something!”. Bingo!

It is about taking Initiative. It is about taking Action! Taking Initiative/Action really expands our influence and the ability to create realities. Like Stephen R. Covey says in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – Of all the things in the world that can have an effect/influence on us (called circle of concern) – there is a subset of things that we can do something about (circle of influence).

If we focus our energy on the “Circle of Concern” we land up expanding its influence on us – there by becoming less and less influential ourselves. Things like “How I wish…”, “There are not enough product companies in India!..”, “The education system is bad..” – practically every complaint we have about anything or anybody exerts more energy into the circle of concern! Focusing on the circle of concern is dis-empowering.

On the other hand if we focus on what we can do, if we focus on our circle of influence; then we grow our influence. It doesnt matter how small or how big our circle of influence is at first – we simply got to focus on that! Focusing on the circle-of-influence, on what you can do is proactive and empowering.

As we focus more and more on the circle-of-influence, we start experiencing our own power to create realities. Unfortunately, however, most of us dont make an effort to concentrate on the circle of influence to create realities. Why? I believe that it is because we are very unclear about ourselves. Creation, any creation, requires us to use the right kind of raw materials. When you go about creating something new, the most important raw material is YOU! So it is very important to get clear about YOU! I have shared in my previous blogs what I have come to believe about “Who I Am!”.

Given that Entrepreneurship is all about taking action/initiative – one can take initiative to do something NOW! We don’t need any qualification for taking initiative.

I closed my talk with a sincere call to students to graduate as entrepreneurs (enterprising people) and not as workers with skills.

I got to say that I had a great time with the audience. They were a fantastic group of people, really committed to explore new things. It was an awesome experience for me to deliver the talk. Thanks MCA Department, RVCE for inviting me over!

[Related Link: http://www.rediff.com/getahead/report/achievers-had-i-done-mba-i-would-never-be-an-entrepreneur/20110224.htm]

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