Why failure is so important ? Tips for a sure-shot Start-up.

If Steve Jobs were born in India, the only Apple he would have had would have been to keep his doctor away. While for many Hindus in India, karma is an essential element of their philosophy, the resurrection of a person who may have failed once is impossible. We fear failure.

What is the world’s biggest industry? Oil? Armaments? Religion? Terrorism? All of these, in one way or another, are subservient to one single industry which since the dawn of civilisation has been humankind’s biggest motivator and money-spinner: fear. It is fear (of hellfire and damnation, or karmic rebirth as a cockroach or a Dalit, whichever is more scarifying) that gave rise to religion, with all its vast booty, from the wealth of the Vatican to the treasure troves of Tirupati. The booming health industry – or, more appropriately disease industry – is also fuelled by fear of failure to healthy living.

Why is fear so endemic to us ? Obviously, in that it promotes self-preservation (don’t go into that dark cave which might contain a sabre-toothed tiger), it has evolutionary value. But with equal validity it could be argued that fear can also be counter-evolutionary: if you resign yourself to fearing dark caves, you’ll never invent fire to light them up; if you fear falling over the edge of the world you’ll never discover that it’s round by sailing across it.

Like any other major industry, the industry of fear (as represented by governments, religion, economists, health and environment experts, and, last but far from least, the media) requires regulation, with periodic cost-benefit analyses. How much should you really be scared of contracting swine flu? How much real risk do you run of being murdered? Does global warming really spell inevitable doom for the planet (it doesn’t; the planet will survive, it’s only we as a species who’ll die out)? In short, we need to figure out just how influenced we are by that final sum of all  fears: the fear of fear itself.  This is where start-ups should venture.

And then there’s our latent submissiveness. It is fair game to kick a man who is down and out but if the same person is in power we won’t even raise an eyebrow, let alone our voices. Remember Gujarat riots and Narendra Modi ? Yes, we are the same people who wrote Rata Tata off when he took over the House of Tata, saying a man who couldn’t manage Nelco would never manage Telco? We are also the greatest writing him-off nation.
Vijay Mallya had a hugely successful liquor business but he wanted to also start a world class airline. So he took his business plans to the banks, borrowed money, leased planes, recruited some of the best talent available and started Kingfisher Airlines. It was a daring plan, fraught with risk. He took a chance. The rest is history.

We have no real solutions for failed enterprise. All we do is get angry and hysterical.There are many businessmen, many enterprises in India that live out the lie of success. They would be far better off shut down. And this includes many public undertakings as well. But no one wants to bell the cat because we are not prepared to accept failure as a part of business. Hey, some of the e-commerce firms may become part of my illustration very soon.

When banks lend money to an enterprise, they must realise they are not the old style village moneylenders whose only objective was to make as much quick profit as possible. Today’s banks must learn to share the risks of enterprise. This is where the government has failed.

Yet, more and more people are abandoning their fancy, top dollar jobs to try and build an enterprise because it’s far more exciting than sitting in the corner room and plotting your next move on the chessboard of corporate politics. It’s not easy to build a business. The work is back breaking. The stress is high. And there are many risks that suddenly emerge from nowhere, without a warning. My advice to all new entrants is to start a venture which is part of the fear industry. Fear sells an awful lot of ancillary products, from climate change to murder.

To live life in fear of failure and rejection is to not live life at all.



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