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4 rules to start a business

K Ganesh, a serial entrepreneur, says that while the start-up buzz is positive, it's important to strike a cautionary note

K Ganesh  |  Bengaluru 

The “cool” quotient associated with entrepreneurship and starting up has increased exponentially over the last couple of years. Newer ventures every day coupled with the growth and fund raising successes of that were once now considered start-ups such as Flipkart and Ola and exits of ZipDial, RedBus, Littleyelabs and others have proved a massive magnet for would-be entrepreneurs planning ventures across sectors. While the buzz is certainly positive, it’s important to strike a cautionary note; for every venture that’s a success there are tens of others that don’t make it and the failure rate of start-ups is 95%.

Entrepreneurship is hard and I believe some of the most successful founders are those that share a few common traits:

  1. Ability to put in tremendous work unceasingly. “Grunt work” comes with the territory;
  2. Have a very thick skin with the ability to face rejection and get up smiling after every fall/failure;
  3. Ability to hustle and get things done. This means being out there in the field, looking for opportunities all the time and “hitting more balls than anyone else”;
  4. Entrepreneurs also need to be dreamers with the ability to envision what can be, focus on the ultimate goal and be the best salesperson in the company. It is important to be able to sell the dream to everyone whether these are co-founders, employees, investors or consumers;
  5. Entrepreneurs also need to be very strong on execution paying attention to details and getting involved in every aspect of the business, not only when the venture is small and as it grows;
The next aspect is in actually planning a venture. There is no glory in running an “also ran” business just to be an entrepreneur. A lot of thought and effort needs to be invested in order to build a venture that is distinctive; the biggest mistake will be not doing justice to an individual’s potential and getting stuck with starting a business and getting carried away with the hype.

There is never one path to entrepreneurial success. There are various approaches and all of them have their challenges and opportunities. But the way I look at it, there are a few things to bear in mind when one is choosing to start-up:

A. Think big and solve big pain points: Solve major problems rather than niche ones or provide for marginally better solutions. Successful start-ups – whether these are Uber, Ola, Flipkart or BigBasket – are solving pertinent problems and are doing real transactions.

B. Think disruption and see how you can change the status quo: How can you bring a new business model to the market? What can you do that is radically different and innovative while trying to solve a big problem? Most of us entrepreneurs are not brilliant or are magicians with a magic wand.

So, it will be very difficult for us to improve the existing business models or processes by doing something better. Trying to outdo existing players is unlikely: For example, one would be hard pressed to do better than Nilgiris/Food World or Reliance in retail grocery, so we came up with BigBasket (eGrocery). We can’t do better than Manipal Hospital or Fortis or Max Healthcare in hospitals - which is why we came up with Portea. So was the case with Dominos or Chillies, which is why we established Freshmenu.

C. Create brands: Indians are hungry for brands and India is underserved in most sectors and segments. The aspiration levels of modern Indians have increased substantially thanks to mass media and globalisation. The opportunity is huge here to create lasting brands that Indians are looking for, willing to relate to and want to spend money on.

D. Look for open spaces where there are no leaders: Being a first mover in a sector and space has many advantages. You have a long rope to make mistakes, learn and pivot if needed. You will also attract higher valuation as a first mover or early entrant. With more investments and investors, you get access to better quality people than being in a sector which already has large players or funded start-ups with a head start. You don’t end up having to play catch up game from day one.

K Ganesh is a serial entrepreneur, Chairman of Portea Medical, and Partner at

First Published: Tue, July 14 2015. 12:46 IST