Archive for March, 2010

Die another day

Very interesting post on why “fail fast” philosophy might be ill-founded. I think partly this mantra is open to interpretation – if an idea is not working, do you wish to spend $10M on it and then realize it, or quicker? In the manner that this article refers to it, its valuable to learn and adapt, rather than to give up. In the manner perhaps originally intended, you dont want to dig too deep a hole before you realize you are in it.

Part of this mantra owes its origin to environments where staying alive is expensive – think high burn startups! One of the key levers I believe exists in the Indian market is to survive at very low burn rates, or even turn cash positive while still experimenting with the core idea. Secondly, many times, the key risk being taken is the timing risk – essentially how fast the market adopts a solution – think about all the dotcom startups that rejuvenated 10 years later. In this construct, the ability to survive and wait it out is even more important.

In the kind of opportunities described above, persistence is perhaps the biggest virtue of entrepreneurs. At the same time, the ability to adapt and improvise is the key to making progress. Like many other contradictions of entrepreneurial success, this balance between conviction and flexibility is the key.

That’s when you know a startup has made it!


Naukri Daat Kaam

Rs. 18000 crore broadband push – is this in the right direction?

ToI reports a 18000 crore broadband push by government to improve broadband access to every gram panchayat. While the initiative is welcome, it raises several questions:

  • Investing versus creating an environment to invest: Government spending at such massive scale has been shown to be inefficient over and over again. What are the incentives that the government can create to attract private investment in this sector? The initiative around Common Service Centers is an interesting one – what will it take for that initiative to include backend infrastructure in addition to just the centers?
  • Access versus ownership: The big success story around access is the PCO. That was 20 years back – that story has been substituted by the mobile revolution, which is a story centered around ownership. Ownership creates a level of value that can not be matched by access alone. What are the incentives and policy initiatives to encourage ownership? Incentives on broadband, on ownership of laptops/desktops, applications? Broadband access targets at every district level?
  • Rural versus inclusive: The exclusive focus on rural areas is surprising. The state of broadband access in urban areas is dismal, and perhaps represents the bigger bang for the buck. Why are such initiatives confined to rural areas? What will it take to make these initiatives inclusive?

There are several recommendations that the industry has put out around solving these issues – I am no expert at that. I also welcome this initiative, rather than not doing anything. However, having seen what all of us have in the mobile world, it seems like a huge loss of opportunity to not address this issue with greater force.

IIT Kanpur Golden Jubilee Initiative: The Next50 Global Innovation Challenge

The Next50 Global Innovation Challenge is an IIT Kanpur Golden Jubilee Alumni Initiative to identify 50 early stage innovators in Agriculture, Cleantech, Financial Inclusion, Education and Technology, who can change the way we work and live.

Innovators stand to win awesome cash awards, named prizes and access an exclusive ecosystem of mentoring, business support and funding opportunities.

Participate in the Challenge if you are working on an innovation that could change the world.

Register as a Mentor if you want to share your expertise/wisdom with early stage innovators. Thank you for your support.