What a Pakistani can learn from an Indian entrepreneur

I was reading an article on Techcrunch and it occurred to me that the article had some very concrete lessons to teach anyone willing to either start, maintain or grow his or her enterprise. The article was about a company from India, but I read it like a lesson in the application of simple yet solid principles. (Maybe the principles are solid because they are simple?) So let me put on a different set of glasses than what the author of the article used, and see this in a *ahem* different light.

It is about Learning

The ability and the willingness to learn is possibly the most under-rated ‘quality’ of any successful person. But not so with RedBus, an Indian startup (http://var/web/site/public_html.redbus.in) that sells tickets for – and no, you can’t guess it – buses. Their market share for selling bus tickets is 1% of the total 750,000 or so seats sold in India daily. So what is RedBus ‘really’ doing that got it going and keeps it going?

  • For starters, it serves a very decentralized market. This gives you the opportunity to ‘centralize’ it as it fits you. You become the center in fact, which in most cases, is good.
  • The co-founder and CEO Phanindra Sama met his mentor Sanjay Anandaram, at a ‘networking’ event. Many people I know look down upon such events as being demeaning and too ‘in-your-face’, but they work, now don’t they?  (The meeting was through TiE’s JumpStart Program)
  • The co-founder and CEO Phanindra Sama actually found a mentor. This also means that he possibly was looking for one. Are you ever looking for someone like that? In most cases, you are not. You should be.
  • The CEO actually listened to his mentor. For example, as the article puts it:

    [The CEO] cites Anandaram’s advice. When RedBus was trying to sell software to the bus lines, it was Anandaram who said: Don’t keep trying to sell the same thing, ask what they need and build that. The bus lines needed to sell seats. So RedBus built a site, and bought the inventory itself from the bus lines to list on the site. Once it proved it could move seats, the operators were happy to pay the company a percentage of seats sold.

  • The company learned from the market, rather than teach the market. As is clear from the above para, RedBus relied on a seasoned pro, who in turn did the simplest thing in the world when you think about: he told them to make a product that the market is already asking for, rather than making a product and then convincing the market to buy it from you. This attitude in itself is the major ingredient in any recipe for business success.
  • The CEO kept a level-headed approach towards expectations as well.  He was told by his mentor to tell a bus operator that RedBus can sell one seat for them a month, even if they ‘project’ and ‘expect’ to sell fifty, and if they sell two, they’ll be a hero, not a disappointment. This rock-solid, proven technique of under-promising-over-delivering that I can vouch for was, again, given to the CEO by his mentor, whom he listened to (refer to points above.)
  • The CEO Mr. Sama did not bother about ‘stereotypes’ when he listened to advice and followed it up without letting his ego get in his way (“I am a businessman, I dont need anyone’s advice” attitude is to your business success what gravity is to a meteorite; destructive). Sama’s company operates their call centers from seven different location within India, why? Because of the dialect, and the ability to create rapport of the call operators with the person calling. RedBus also thinks of itself not as an internet company, but a business that has Internet as just one of many channels of and for business. That is solid, simple, straight-forward thinking that is seldom seen implemented in operations.

So, are you looking to start up your own business? What can you learn from the above?

Also, one of the biggest problems you could face is not that of funding, but of the ability to find the right teachers and mentors. You are probably worried about not having money, where the problem might as well be that you don’t end up having the right mentor.

The Eternal Student

You, as an individual, should always be a student. A student of life, for life. Then you’d agree, that a student needs a teacher. Find him, her or it. Learn. Don’t be afraid to implement and test what you have learned. Chances are you will falter, but that increases your chances of success the next time around.

I have only recently stepped up my efforts to find the right teachers for as many facets of my life as I can. Most of these teachers do not know that they are so valuable to me. They think that I am their friend, just a friend. I was only calculating yesterday that I traveled by road, more than 1500 kms in the last 7 days to meet a total of two people, both of them I consider my teachers. Note, I met them for the first time in the last 10 days or so, and I literally had to hunt them down. I was willing to pay them for any trouble of sitting and/or going with me, but they have refused payment of any sort so far. These ‘teachers’ are from and for the specific field of livestock. I think the you can safely assume the presence of God’s Grace in your life if you have many good teachers for different facets of your life.

So go out there, because that is what all really good books are made of.

Happy learning,

This is the student signin’ out,

God bless and good luck to us all.

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