Entrepreneurial success is a highly collaborative process
India is a land of great opportunities – opportunities that are perhaps incomparable in the world!
You are doubly fortunate to be starting your life, at an exciting time like this – the world’s eyes are on India, new business opportunities are unlimited, and economic reforms have unshackled the chains on creativity and innovation.
We are a very young nation – just over 55 years since independence – setting out on a path of sustained economic growth, for decades to come.
We already have over a billion fellow Indians. Within the next 20 years, we will have 400 million people below the age of 35 years – more than the entire population of the United States! Each person, in this bold new generation, will be in the prime of his or her life,
striving for a better tomorrow – creating, in the process, new growth opportunities,
for budding entrepreneurs like you!
On the most conservative basis, our domestic consumption, in virtually any sector, has the potential to at least double, or treble, from current levels – perhaps, just to catch up with a country like China!
And then, there is the entire global opportunity!
Across diverse sectors internationally, the "Made in India" tag is now an increasingly respected brand, valued for quality, reliability,
Truly, with economic reforms in the country, and with the virtual removal of all trade barriers, the world is now our market – and our opportunity!
The pursuit of these opportunities requires an indomitable spirit of entrepreneurship!
And, to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to identify opportunities, that have either not existed before, or have not been noticed before by others!
It is often said, people, who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the only ones that actually do!
My father, Dhirubhai Ambani, a proud son of this glorious state of Gujarat, and a man with long ties with this wonderful city of Ahmedabad, was the greatest example of this spirit of entrepreneurship!
In a short span of less than 25 years, and without even the benefit of a formal education, Dhirubhai Ambani built Reliance, a first generation enterprise, into one of the world’s 200 most profitable companies!
He started out in life, working as a mere petrol pump attendant in Aden, Yemen. He had no technical knowledge, of any of the businesses he wished to create in India.
He had just five hundred rupees in his pocket, a vision of what he wanted to achieve, an intrinsic faith in the latent demand potential of the Indian markets, a belief in the capabilities of Indian people, and a burning desire to succeed!
The end result?
He created Reliance, a Rs. 75,000 crore enterprise, in a single lifetime!
We must, each one of us, take inspiration from Dhirubhai’s extraordinary life, and challenge ourselves, to build on his achievements, to fulfil his desire, of one day making India an economic superpower.
I would like to now share with you, some of my own thoughts on entrepreneurship – especially, things that do not, normally, form part of the curriculum, at management institutions !
I believe the first, and perhaps most important, requirement for success, as an entrepreneur, is a passion for your work.
To be able to look forward, to every new day of work, with a sense of optimism, with a sense of purpose, with a sense of challenge, and with a view to enjoying the work you are doing!
I have found that the happiness, which comes from this passion, and from the achievement and recognition that follows, is more lasting, and far surpasses anything based on earning a little more wealth, or obtaining greater material comforts.
Of course, it is not enough for just you, as an entrepreneur, to have this sense of romance about your work.
What is important is to get the entire organization seized, with this same sense of passion, and enjoyment, for work.
It is one of the most commonly accepted myths of our times, that entrepreneurial success, is all about entrepreneurial abilities of an individual.
In reality, far from being a solitary pursuit, entrepreneurial success is a highly collaborative process.
A good entrepreneur has to bring out creative ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit from all his people.
This can happen only when the sense of passion, and romance, of building a successful business, is shared by the entire organization.
Our corporate mantra at Reliance is, "We bet on people." We provide the vision, inspiration and resources to accomplish tasks,
but we empower people, and we build new knowledge and new core competencies around people, fostering a spirit of teamwork and performance, across the entire organization.
We believe that we can do with people, who do not have experience in a particular role, but we cannot do with people who do not have basic competence.
Absence of experience can be made up through training and on-the-job performance, but lack of basic competence can never be made up. We encourage – indeed, expect - each one of our people to have a sense of ownership in whatever they are doing.
As a result, Reliance is run by thousands of owner-managers!
We strengthen our organization, every day, bringing in the brightest talent.
We firmly believe the smarter our people, the better our organization will perform.
So, we surround ourselves with high performing people!
We firmly believe – Do not be afraid to recruit people who are 10 times brighter, or more intelligent, than you!
This leads me to another important attribute for success as an entrepreneur – the necessity of dealing with people, in every walk of life, at a very human level, building, and nurturing, relationships, preserving one’s humility, and never losing family and social values.
It may surprise many of you to learn that, despite all my travel and exposure, I remain a vegetarian and a teetotaler, and I am a God-fearing individual.
I often say, that more than my academic education, my biggest education was at home, from my loving mother and father, where I developed an abiding commitment to our traditional value systems.
What is important, is that these lasting value systems, should be extended to the professional and business side of our lives.
I have found, during the last 20 years of my working life, that relationships, both, internal and external, built on the foundations of these value systems, have contributed immensely, to my success as an entrepreneur.
I now move on to the "harder" attributes required, for success as an entrepreneur.
I believe the greatest need is to guard against a sense of complacency – the usual organizational response to any major achievement.
Dhirubhai used to put it in his own way - "Growth has no limit. You have to constantly reshape the boundaries of growth."
I believe successful entrepreneurship demands constant raising of the bar to achieve higher and higher levels of performance, encouraging people to stretch and sweat, to venture where few others would think of stepping out, to take calculated risks to achieve growth on an exponential scale, to never give up, to take every obstacle, or setback, or even outright failure, as a learning experience!
Successful entrepreneurship is a high-octane, high-energy business!
And, it is this constant and infinite flow of energy that differentiates the most successful entrepreneurial organizations, from the rest of the pack!
Of course, successful entrepreneurship is not just based on brilliant and innovative ideas, powered by a constant flow of energy!
What is ultimately required is hard action and results.
Good entrepreneurs have the ability to execute - to effectively marshal resources to achieve end objectives – to ensure that there is no gap, between what the entrepreneur wants to achieve, and the ability of the organization to deliver it.
Entrepreneurship also involves, taking what most people might consider to be big risks – cutting across accepted boundaries, going against the status quo, defying conventional wisdom!
But entrepreneurs approach risk in a different way – they evaluate risks, and then take decisions based on their assessment of risk.
Successful entrepreneurs always focus on goals, not on possible hurdles along the way – and that is why they are not paralysed into immobility, but keep moving ahead.
All entrepreneurs are faced with adversity at some point of time.
The secret is to convert every adversity into opportunity, and keep moving on.
Successful entrepreneurs also learn to take doubts and criticisms in their stride.
Consider critics to be your greatest friends – they show you where you can still improve!
Successful entrepreneurs have all these qualities I spoke of.
But, there are some additional qualities required, especially in the Indian context, which are very significant in building sustainable businesses – and which, incidentally, no institute teaches!
I am sure you have heard the popular joke about MBAs – that MBA stands for Mane Badhu Aavdache?! - people who claim to know everything, but actually know very little!
To be successful, apart from all our academic knowledge, we have to develop an understanding of the business environment.
We have a plethora of laws, rules and regulations, and a high level of government and bureaucratic intervention, that can kill the most ardent entrepreneurial spirit!
Archaic and complex laws and procedures in India, often impede swift decision-making, impairing the ability to exploit new business opportunities.
But, we have to succeed in this very environment.
We have to understand the democratic and parliamentary system in India – how laws are made or altered, what parliamentary committees advise on legislation!
We have to understand the legal and judicial system in the country.
We have to understand the complex direct and indirect tax systems and procedures - customs, excise, sales tax, income tax – all major determinants of success, and profitability, of any business!
Of course, I am not suggesting that each one of you should become a tax expert, but a basic understanding of such matters is important, if you wish to succeed as an entrepreneur in India!
My dear young friends, to meet the challenges of the 21st century, India needs entrepreneurs with a global vision, who believe in change and transformation, who have the ability to take risks and chart out new growth paths!
To guide you in this exciting journey of entrepreneurship, I would like to end my comments today, by sharing with you the guru-mantras for all entrepreneurs:
Relationship and Trust – these are the foundations of success.
If you work with determination and with perfection, success will follow.
Meeting deadlines is not good enough. Beating deadlines is what is required.
Pursue your goals even in the face of difficulties. In every adversity, there is opportunity.
Do not accept defeat. Challenge negative forces. The past will give in. You will certainly succeed. Never give up.
Hope is your most powerful weapon. Self-confidence is your greatest asset.
Ordinary people, when motivated, achieve extraordinary things.
Pedigree is no longer of any significance in modern India. It is performance that is crucial.
Recognition is your greatest reward.
Work till your last breath. Work is worship.
In conclusion, my dear young friends, I sincerely hope, that each one of you will derive inspiration from Dhirubhai’s life and deeds - and accomplish his dream of making India an economic superpower!
That will be a fitting tribute to him - and to the entrepreneurial spirit of which he will remain the undying icon.
Convocation Address by Anil D Ambani at Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India,