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BW Businessworld

Of Ideas And Passion

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One of the perks of this job is that I get to read all the applications submitted for the annual BW Businessworld Young Entrepreneurs contest. The sheer number of new ideas, and the passion of the entrepreneurs that comes through in the applications, never fails to uplift my spirits.
Of course, not every application we receive is great — or even good. There are several that regurgitate old ideas. There are people who want to create a company modelled on Infosys, or Naukri, or MakeMyTrip, or Flipkart. These do not make the shortlist that is presented to the jury. One of the conditions for selection to the final shortlist is that the idea presented should be fresh, the entrepreneur should be trying to create a market where none exists currently, or should be looking at an existing market very differently from the incumbents.
But many of the applications — and I would say the majority — are from people who have actually thought of brand new ways of solving old problems and have also spotted gaps in markets which the incumbents have ignored. These are people who have the potential to completely redefine entire sectors by the power of their ideas. And some of these ideas are so simple that you inevitably wonder why no one thought of them before.
Of course, even great ideas do not always lead to successful businesses. Many of the start-ups we consider and feature may not make it in the long run. Some partnerships may break up. In other cases, the idea may not be scalable — or the management team may not be capable. In still other cases, the entrepreneurs may get a great offer  and may seek to cash out instead of building a lasting institution. And finally, some start-ups may be overtaken by others who have even better ideas.
But even if they fail, they still serve a purpose — they show other aspiring entrepreneurs what mistakes to avoid.
Some trends that came out very strongly from the applications this year were that start-ups and entrepreneurs were cropping up in every part of the country. The other interesting aspect was that a lot of the ideas were for ‘offline’ businesses — and that Internet start-ups were a small part of the total applications received.
It is true that not all entrepreneurs need to be young. There are many people who have had successful careers and are now starting a second innings in a completely new field. In fact, ‘Second Innings’ is the name we have given to a new section that will appear occasionally and will feature prominent business leaders who are starting afresh. The first of this series is on Haresh Chawla, who played a major role in building Network18, before striking out on his own.

Twitter: (at)prosenjitdatta

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 22-04-2013)