Capital Punishment for (Intellectual) Capital Entreprenuers

Thankfully, the ICJ has stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav – an order pronounced by a Kangaroo Court in Pakistan. While justice has rightfully prevailed on one of our fellow brethren, back home, a more virulent form of injustice is being meted out to a bunch of so-called “intellectual entrepreneurs”!

For years, India has grown and shone as a trading economy.  Right down from our Mughal empire heritage through the days of the Colonial Raj, India has been known for ‘Sugar & Spice -, and all things nice”!

The new millennium opened our eyes to a new segment of business – the services sector.  Particularly, the ‘technology boom’ changed our entire domestic landscape and, more importantly, put India on the world map.  A host of start-ups mushroomed, buoyed by the prospect of starting and running a business using OPM (Other People’s Money).  Venture Capital, Angel Investment and Private Equity have become buzzwords in the domestic Indian lexicon.  While this is no doubt enviable, this trend – in my opinion, has spelt the death knell for a dwindling species – what I would like to call the ‘Real Intellectual Entrepreneurs’.

In my considered opinion, a real entrepreneur is the one who is willing to take real financial risk, compromise, at times , even on basic lifestyle (may be, even livelihood!) to chase his/her dream with an obsessive passion.  Realisation of the dream, the building of a reputable institution takes significant precedence over personal wealth.  Real entrepreneurs are those who create enormous value, even if it translates into sub-optimal income.  The list can go on ….

Sadly, this form  of good, old entrepreneurship is dying an accelerated death.  Opportunity cost of employment in the corporate sector today is overwhelmingly attractive vis-à-vis an entrepreneurial attempt using bootstrap capital – from one’s own savings.

Most so-called entrepreneurs/enterprises are those where ‘above-average levels of income’ of the promoters are ‘protected’ by a 3rd party (read VC !).  The moment the funding dries up, the entrepreneurial  ‘passion’ mysteriously disappears and he/she is in the ‘job market’ suddenly !

Suffice it to say that ‘entrepreneurship’ today is more of a fashion statement than a state of mind.

Over the last 15 years of my entrepreneurial journey in a non-funded, purely intellectual capital business, I have gone through the trials and tribulations of a ‘real’ Indian entrepreneur.  Clients have been obsessively focusing only on ‘touch-feel’ products and have often picked my brains and utilised my time for ‘free’ or at best a 3-star lunch !  Banks have refused to give loans even against signed contracts, in the absence of tangible collateral.  And lawyers have shrugged their shoulders when clients have ‘played dirty’ and reneged  on committed payments against legal contracts saying – “Bhai yeh India hai.  We are like this only !  Why don’t you do something different?”

Yet I have soldiered on – thankfully supported by a group of loyal and able colleagues, associates and clients.  A niche tribe yes.  But, all of whom accept the Indian reality and want to stand by their own dreams and values of real entrepreneurship.  All of whom have stood by me ….  through thick and thin.

17 years since inception – Vertebrand soldiers on.  Notwithstanding the humongous challenges of running an intellectual business in India.  Notwithstanding a world where immediate income takes considerable precedence over long-term value.  Where T20 is the buzzword and Test Matches are boring…..

……  All this made possible only due to a few good men …. and women……  the Real Indian Entrepreneurs,  who have defied all odds.  All of you, I thank and salute.  All I can do is quote a famous line ……..

‘ABOU BEN  ADHEM – May your tribe increase”!

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