Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur : Or a Freelancer?

Are you a freelancer?  If so, are you an entrepreneur?  If you google, you will find some articles, and some I have referred.

But what is important, is that both do what they want.  The idea is to show that freelancing is also entrepreneurship in a particular way.
Am I a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

Now, a simple definition is that, if you rely, use and sell your own skills or services, then it is freelancing.  Now, that means that you will be identified by your skill  - like a painter, architect, artist etc.,

On the other hand entrepreneurship is about creating something, involving others, getting things done which involve multiple risk aspects.

In both cases however, the brand is the 'self', especially in the initial stages of entrepreneurship or in all the stages of freelancing.  The initiative to connect, position and sell, and conclude a contract; the commitment to deliver the promise and then collecting the revenue ( cash in bank); the clear demarcation about the philosopher and the doer; -are all hallmarks of both.

Krishna was a true blue entrepreneur, in the context of running the war-enterprise of Mahabharatha - a visionary, dealt with problems, help create leaders- the second line -the executioners, resolved problems.  And Ram, while took an army to run the Ramayana's war-enterprise, was a doer himself - he wielded the bow and arrow - so he would fit more of the freelancer mold.  

Freelancing limits risks to one self, whereas entrepreneurship pushed risk-taking to another level - involving finance, legal, operational, human resources related risks.   And entrepreneurship identify themselves with the industry rather than their skill.

Now there are the Picassos who are among the most successful freelancers, to the Bill Gates among the most successful entrepreneurs.  Fame is not the measure, scale is.  Entrepreneurship at some time, definitely have to mull with the 'scale' element, whereas, a freelance is limited by, technically, his/her time of the day.

I am a freelancer in some sense - when I act as a sales coach, I sell my time and skills.  I sell, I execute and I collect the payment.   When I author a book, it is the same.  However, when I work as a partner in running an organization, then I am an entrepreneur.  So, even in a person, both can co-exist.
Freelancer = Entrepreneur!!!

When you start up, from college, seeking early entrepreneurship, you should know these differences. Even in freelancing, a business plan would be required - as your skill needs to find a market, then position itself and then get a customer to serve.  In that regard, our 'early entrepreneurship' services can help you even if you are a freelancer.

If you are an entrepreneur - the entire portfolio is there anyways.  You can read the entire series of early entrepreneurs in ashok-speaks,   And if you are interested in this topic or the services, you can write to me at

- Ashok Speaks

Earlier, on Early Entrepreneur series:

It takes two to tango!

Better sorry than safe!
Garage Gangs!
The Dropout Kid!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: It takes two to tango!

I stayed awake.  God knows what I do in these wee hours.  Trying to talk to zombies.  And the occasional brainwave.  Insomnia, may be.  Mind is blank.  But now, I have to pick up my pieces, in my house, in my one-seater office in Mumbai. 

I had planned to write this blog about two weeks back - and  few days back, I came across this article.  Was somebody playing the 'listener' aka, reading my mind.   Somehow, my new endeavors have consumed my time.   So, again, as discretionary as my schedule gets, here it goes.

Now I realize this - that it takes more than me to be me, out in the field.   There are my silent partners, and they are the one who compliment me, to become what I am.   I really wish I had THAT person to tango, about a decade back.

How do success stories read?  Just an example, as In Economic Times - this article talks about the stories of the executioner and the visionary,  the wizard and the workhorses.   The best example of the visionary and executioner, the complementing pair, is from the Mahabharata.  Both were related, as in second cousins.  At the same time, both carried mutual respect for each other's talent.   Both were friends.   But both had definite roles - one the visionary and the dispassionate guide, another the passionate executioner.
The visionary and the executioner, two to tango!

There are examples of Hewlett - Packard, Microsoft, Apple and other large organizations that vouch for this 'two to tango' concept.  However, there are also sole proprietorships that have succeeded, but the scale ( in pure size terms) is different.   Hence, the idea is not to contest the 'whole and sole' theory - which we will visit in subsequent articles.

The most important factor is that this relationship between the 'two in tango' is nearly lifetime.  The relationship normally transcends mere friendship or a professional relationship, but has a strong fundamental of both - being the friend, the pillar in the hour of support, at the same time, maintaining the boundaries at the 'roles and responsibilities' level.  

Once a scale is achieved, this 'tango pair', can always delegate managment responsibilities to professionals.   But still the bond remains in tact.   The debate of the next phase of growth is governed market dynamics, the organizational politics and several other factors.   There are many cases of such legendary pairs splitting and moving on, but such 'divorces' are more rare than common.

So, how do you find your 'partner' in the 'entrepreneurship tango'?  Most friendships form during early years.  The bond is natural - like the one in Mahabharatha.   The 'liking' and the 'connect' happens, and then the 'idea' and 'mission' flows later.   That is also driven by a compelling passion to do something different
Like me, find a tango partner from your college!

I have been talking to many of them, one of them an entrepreneur for more than a decade now, and we somehow found a simple fit.   He is the visionary, and I believe I am a co-visionary.

We might be in courtship phase, but the belief is that we complement each other.  He, the tight fist, and I am the one with the 'thirst'.   He is the balance, I am the impatience.   He is the canvass, I am the paint brush.   He speaks less, I speak a lot.  We are like chalk and cheese - I don't know, who is what.   The trust, here goes back 2 decades, from college.   So, technically, I again regret, that I missed two decades of entrepreneurship.

If you are at college, look within - if you are the wannabe entrepreneur in spirit, and then look around - for your partner, i.e., - first look for the 'mate' and then the 'mission'.   Sometimes, you might have to talk to few of the prospects, for, sometimes the 'mission' gives birth to a 'mate'.

This is a lesson for life. As I stay awake,  I just think of this new partnership.  It just got to work, and am sure it will.  With hopes, I wind up my wee hours, and shut eye.

If you are young, at college and with an idea - search for your partner.  Tango starts early, my friends!  If you are interested in this idea or series, please write to me at

- Ashok Speaks

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: Better be sorry than safe

You might have read the earlier article on evolving early entrepreneurship and why India needs it.   Here it is, in case you have not been able to.


Let's look at the profile of that early entrepreneur.  He would be about 20-23, past adolescence, learning or discovering the early part of adulthood.   This discovery or learning is what we want to tap into.  The recklessness as they may call, is what we want to leverage, the try and try.  As Mark Twain says ' “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Better sorry, than safe. 
Be reckless, take risks -coz you are young!

As this quote says '“Start a business while you are young. You have few commitments and are used to living off Ramen Noodles.” —Dr. Sebora.  And as we have discovered the lesser the commitments, the more risk one can take.

So, the best age for risk taking ( because of less commitments and the recklessness of the age) is why this is the time to become an entrepreneur.

Another aspect is how the ideas spring.  In India, we have seen a great growth in services sector.  We employ more than hundred of thousands of young graduates, especially in the IT and BPO sector - a phenomenon of the last two decades .  We have delivered these services, first leveraging cost arbitrage, then defining processes, that is a structured way of doing services.  It has helped build a value system that deliver these services more efficiently and effectively.  The growth of Indian IT sector, for example, has created more jobs than any other industry in the last decade.  However, services tend become auxiliary, meaning, it is always an augmenting aspect and never addressing the 'core' of the issue.  To make things work, you need tools and tackles - meaning products.
Ideas... products than services!

Look at how IBM and Accenture work.  Broadly, IBM has a consulting arm, which has domain experts, who understand business problems - but IBM also has products or solutions, that can address them.  Accenture or any other consulting- services organization, on the other hand can render a solution, but the tools and tackles are still borrowed.  My personal opinion, therefore is that a customer is more likely to look at IBM for a complete solution - from concept to commissioning.

The Indian IT services companies, even though they have products like Finacle by Infosys or Bancs by TCS, still have not ventured into the product-solution space.   They have the capability to integrate systems, but the center piece is still that of somebody else's.   Products provide tangible solution to a business problem.  That is why every product is patented, as a tangible Intellectual Property.   Now, IBM has more patents than entire India has - across the board.  That is why , India does not have organizations of that scale like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle to name of a few, in spite of being a leader in the IT industry.  We have more hands than anybody else in the world, but to make an idea to a product, and then to scale, is very much missing.

In this context, consider the early entrepreneur.  He/ she is more likely to evolve a product idea, which is more tangible than a service idea, which is more abstract.  And that is what we would want to foster, don't we?
Ronnie, an entrepreneurship evangelist

There is increasing focus around creating entrepreneurs out of young India, one such being the revered Ronnie Screwvala, a person I follow since I met him about 18 months back.   This is in spite of the government's lack of support to foster entrepreneurship - especially in sunrise industries.  India is ranked 132nd in terms of ease of doing business index.

But, it is clear, to me at least, more than ever before that this presents a clear and present opportunity.   If you are keen to start and if you have a product idea, we are here to foster them.   Again, if you are young, better be sorry, than be safe. 

If you are interested, please write to

- Ashok Speaks 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: The garage gangs!

It is sad that there are no garages these days.   We have apartments, and open parking lots.  Hence, like all things that change, the garages have disappeared.   So, in India, the legendary stories of start-ups from garage's are not too much - unlike the Silicon valley.  Well, may be, this blog may be incomplete without mentioning Infosys.  I can recall this as the only garage-to-glory startup story.
Infy:  India's most famous garage-to-glory startup

In the Silicon Valley itself, it may be reminisced that HP, Apple, Microsoft and many others, have emerged from the quintessential garage.   What is the garage belief?  Garage is a myth.  Garage is belief.  Garage is a launch pad.  A garage need not be a 'car garage' but a 10x10 room, a kitchen or a dorm.  But it reflects, more than anything else and the logistics of 'making use of what you have'.  This is another important aspect of entrepreneurship.
The Apple Garage, California

Garage also represents the 'first office' or something tangible to kick start your business on.  A place and a name. Also it represents the tools and the tinkerbox - especially reflecting the hardware or software workshop, if we may call that.  Home businesses, consultancies, online businesses all have started from the garage concept.   Even now, my laptop and my datacard, plus my handphone are the tools.   My garage, which opens on today, is in a business center - in Regus Thane.    Before that, cafe coffee day has been my garage for almost last 3 years.

I found this article in California Management review interesting - ( for further reading, please refer below).  One of the associates of the early HP story remarked  “I knew that if Packard’s car was in the garage, it meant they had no orders.'.  Garage, therefore also represents the startup's state of affairs.  It is sometimes a leverage point.   It is the difference between what we call a house and home.   One can either treat the garage as an inanimate work place, or a place where the spirit of entrepreneurship lies.

Another aspect of the garage are the set of early memories and the history itself.  History is literally trapped in that 10x10 sq ft space,    Just as Steve Jobs says, 'I met Woz when I was 13, at a friend's garage. He was about 18. He was, like, the first person I met who knew more electronics than I did at that point. We became good friends, because we shared an interest in computer and we had a sense of humor. We pulled all kinds of pranks together.'
The first Garage success story- Hewlett Packard

Another important aspects of the garage gangs is that they used the garage as the 'seat of innovation'. These places like Steve Wozniak or Steve Jobs tried to solve problems and got their 'flash bulbs' going.   As reflected in a 'Fortune Small Business' article in 2005, the garage “is a state of mind” and “a rejection of the status quo.  In short, they also reflect the romance of a 'rags to riches' story.

Now, our incubation centers, which we are proposing for the early entrepreneurs, will entrap and imbibe this 'garage spirit'.  Our idea is to foster this spirit, and build them big. That is the another essence on this initiative.  For dialogues or contributions, please email to

- Ashok Speaks

  1. CMR  on 'garage myth'.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: The Dropout Kid!

Why start early?  They said ' early to bed, early to rise, makes somebody healthy, wealthy and wise'.  Sage saying, but cannot be more true.

It came through self realization.  I understand that it is about safety vs liberty.  The liberation of entrepreneurship is mind boggling.  I have been a salaried work horse and a consultant, and believe me - I envy entrepreneurs.  It is no point in working on somebody else's idea or through somebody else's way.  For the sake of financial security, we do lot of compromises.   As you grow older, these compromises are surrounded by commitments.  And these commitments eat up one's thirst to excel and innovate. 
The purpose of dropping out of school is to gain time

'Security' is nothing but salary hitting your bank on the first week of the month.  Once you get past that, which is very difficult, especially if you start later - is the sweet fruit of entrepreneurship.   And a small word on this security - there is more than one instance, where a small difference, I have seen, can end a tenure - which seemed to enticing and safe.  In fact, the safety in an job is that you can always 'quit', while in entrepreneurship, you are the most responsible guy around.  So unless you are willing to bear the ultimate responsibility and risks, then entrepreneurship is not your cup of tea.

And, to that, what is the best time? When you have either nil or minimal risks - when you are a student!!!  The greatest entrepreneurs of this world - Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Richard Branson and Walter Disney, to name a few, quit studying to actually doing something about an idea they had.   In fact, an observation in a Forbes article relates to how making an entrepreneurship cut is more exhilarating than a high school sophomore.

   “The dynamic of managing people and being CEO in a company is a lot different than being college roommates with someone.” - Mark Zuckerburg
Mark Z enjoyed the benefits of early entrepreneurship

All of these entrepreneurs had one thing in common- impatience to get an idea to work, and monetizing it.  Innumerable hiccups and goof-ups later, they became of what we know them.  But the most important asset they had, was not only the idea or willing to execute, but was time on their side.  Because, once you get started, the next idea is to see the growth through - each of these early entrepreneurs own companies and have personal wealth worth billions of dollars.  

But the whole point here is not about dropping out - it is how time is the most important asset for an entrepreneur.  Hence the imperative to start early.   The second upside is that of minimal risks.  Now with a fostered environment that we can offer, you get your curriculum done, and also start as entrepreneur.

If you like this article, or wish to comment, and most importantly, wanting to become an early entrepreneur - write to

-Ashok Speaks

Evolving Early Entrepreneurs...

In the 80's, India's population explosion was treated as a curse and programs to curb were unleashed.  From this crush to curb philosophy, we are now facing a unique situation of having a lesser median working age, than countries like china and Japan.

To quote an article from CNBC ' "India has close to ideal demographics. It's in a sweet spot," said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, director, Asian economics research at Credit Suisse. "As the population's working age expands, savings increase — and that turns into a source of funding for investment. This will be beneficial for the country's competitiveness as other countries age,"

India's "demographic dividend" — the window of opportunity that a large workforce creates to strengthen an economy — could add 2 percentage points to the country's annual growth rate over the next two decades, the International Monetary Fund said in 2011.

While growth in India has been slowing this year, the economy has on average grown close to 8 percent annually over the last five years, helped in large part by this demographic dividend.

"A growing workforce is an advantage for both the manufacturing and services sectors in India. Not only do businesses have access to people that are young and physically fit, it means less cost pressures, particularly on the wage front, because of the availability of labor," said Arvind Singhal, chairman of consultancy firm Technopak Advisors.

However this also presents a challenge.  While as above, availability not being the problem, the quality of this human capital is a concern.  Another big problem is creation of jobs. These job opportunities can come only when people with ideas and capital start creating them.

Most educational institutions have tried to get industry connected through their placement cells.  Here an young graduate gets a jumpstart into a job, which the industry offers.  That is one job per graduate.
Evolve ideas to build enterprises

Now consider this- what if this young graduate has a great idea, or ideas which can scale onto an enterprise, creating 100's of jobs.  Admittedly, not all of them can do or stomach the idea, but there will be those few who can, right?

Many leading institutions like IIT's have started incubation cells, connecting infrastructure, funding and other support to such grads.  Now it is the time to take it to other colleges and institutions.

Tell them -
“Start today, not tomorrow. If anything, you should have started yesterday. The earlier you start, the more time you have to mess up.” — Emil Motycka

And such was the coincidence, that two days back this article appeared in the business columns of Times of India. 

MBA students get their risk appetite back

It is time to evolve early entrepreneurs
MUMBAI: As many as 20% of Indian MBA students want to start their own ventures or work with a startup, signalling the growing risk-taking appetite among Indian youngsters and a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. What is even more interesting is that more female students said they wanted to join a startup compared to their male counterparts in a survey conducted by a global employer branding firm among 10,000 Indian undergraduate business students, MBAs and engineering graduates.

The trend is as widespread among undergraduate business students and IT and engineering students, with 26% and 16% respectively wanting to opt for a startup or start their own ventures, said the Universum study, titled 'India's most attractive employer', which was shared with TOI exclusively.

Around 13% of female undergraduate business students said they were willing to join a startup compared to 11% male students. Similarly, 11% of female MBA graduates wanted to join startups against 9% of their male counterparts.

This entrepreneurial spirit among Indian students contrasts the choices being made by their peers in most developed markets who opt for job security and an assured paycheck. In the US, for instance, only 10% business students and 12% IT students chose the entrepreneurial route while among German students 12% in both the categories said they would opt to join a startup or kick-start their own venture.

There is more than one reason that is pulling India's youth to startups. Graduating batches, whether engineers or business students, have working parents who continue to support their children, thus allowing them to take risks, said IIM-Trichy's director Prafulla Agnihotri. "Traditionally, Indian communities like Maharashtrians and Tamilians were categorized as the working classes. Today, even they want to start something of their own. Along with the entrepreneurial spirit - which is on the rise - is the bleak reality that the job market is not as promising as it was a few years ago," Agnihotri said.

Propelling the entrepreneurship bug among Indian students is a vibrant angel funding environment, business plan competition on campuses and interactions with mentors. However, there are a few cautions that we must exercise, said Krishna Tanuku, executive director of the entrepreneurship centre at Indian School of Business. "Young people may have the aspiration, but to make things work one requires a lot of tending to and institutions like colleges and the government must play their part," Tanuku said.

So, dear reader, our opportunity here lies in taking the idea of 'evolving early entrepreneurs' from the average grad school, addresses the nation's clear and present opportunity to generate more jobs, generate more GDP, and therefore a better nation.

To crystallize, we can say our vision is to 'evolve early entrepreneurs' from graduate schools- especially management, technology and engineering institutions.   We are proposing to set up an organization that will foster these ideas, from pre-natal stage, to formation of the company itself, and then offer ongoing post-natal consulting. 

If you are interested and wish to participate in this idea, please write back to 
The business model, and the service details are available to share.

- Ashok Speaks