This Article is From Dec 02, 2015

The Start-Up Generation On What Keeps Them Going

"Luck...well, ummm, luck yes, to a certain extent, maybe about timing the product right, but my success is what I've made of myself. It is my hard work, ideas and team that has delivered, not really a Lady called Luck."

They sit opposite me, in their early to mid 20s, buzzing with ideas and an enthusiasm that was not the norm of my generation - founders and creators of new products and ideas, often fresh and bold, and almost always making me sit up and say "Now why didn't I think of it?" No longer are they coy about taking credit or embarrassed by the spotlight. This is their moment in the sun, and they are going to stand up for the applause and savour the appreciation. Ladies and gentlemen, the Start-Up Generation is here.

Sample this - Samay Kohli, 28 and Akash Gupta, 25, knew 5 years ago that when e-commerce took off, huge warehouses would eventually need to lean on machines to find products and ship them out. So even before they left the BITS Pilani campus, they knew they were going to revolutionize warehouse tech. Today, they rule the market, with a 95% market share. "Do you know," they tell me, eyes shining, "the average warehouse worker walked 13 kms per day searching for products, and we knew that was an issue. So we turned the problem on its head. We decided the rack had to come to people and not the other way around." Yup, I nod, after all, all it takes is one person or make that two, to find a simple solution to a complex problem.

And perhaps why 70% of start-ups are founded by people under 30 years of age is because resolving these issues needs a young, fresh approach - one which isn't burdened by history and doers who won't take no for an answer. Shashank ND started Practo on the NIT campus in Karnataka in 2008. Today it is the world's largest doctor-finding platform, valued at over 3,300 crores. "My dad was unwell and I realized what a nightmare getting a second opinion was, and that's when it struck me I had to simplify this." And there, at that moment, a pair of 20 -year-olds started a new chapter in healthcare tech in India. "If two college boys can do it," he tells me matter of factly, "There is hope." And plenty of it, I agree.

Having said that, every few weeks, someone will say start-ups are losing their lustre, others will have surveys to back them. Are they, I ask this new breed of entrepreneurs? 9 times out of 10, "Who cares?" is the answer I get. "I am doing what I love and there's no time to focus on who's saying what." But what if you stumble, lose big money, have to fire people, what about the dreaded F word - Failure? They shrug, give me half a smile and surprise me yet again. Many have been there, done that. Burnt their fingers, fallen on their faces and got up again. Risk isn't a scary word here. In fact I can't even say with certainty that it's a word familiar to them in the first place. Many of them have mottos that define them and almost all are along these lines - Grow Fast or Die Trying. Failing is not an option, and that's what they claim they've convinced themselves. "We aren't selling a dream, we are selling a solution. We are solving a problem that you don't even know exists, to help you overcome it when it hits you." I am reminded of what a school teacher of mine would quote extensively: "If Plan A doesn't work, there are 25 more letters waiting."

Many offices in fact have everyone from John Lennon to Jack Ma and Steve Jobs posters on their walls - offering tips, their mantras or just ''hanging out''! But does this really help, is there more to this than just creating a ''cool space''? You don't call it an office, mind you. That, I am told, makes a distinction between home and work. "What we create is our life, there's nothing else going on when we are starting out, there's no time to have another focus."

Not surprising then that during shoots, we stumble on mattresses where people have spent the last couple of nights (sometimes more), or find ourselves grinning widely at the sight of a pub in the same building where some start-ups encourage their staff to chill and unwind. Uber cool we all agree instantly! Foosball and snooker tables are the norm, and dance and yoga classes, often over the weekend, are gaining popularity rapidly.  

But is it all style alone? The bubble was also hailed as the next big thing, but we know how that went. Start-ups are in vogue today, banner headline material, but will the buzz last? Pertinent questions which keep coming up each time a Forbes list on top entrepreneurial cities globally has an Indian presence (usually Bangalore, the Mecca of start-ups in India), or a big bang valuation of a top start-up puts its worth at billions of dollars. What about the ease of doing business, or the lack of it, the folks leaving to set up offices in ''friendlier'' countries like Singapore or Malaysia? Are we getting ahead of ourselves when we hail Bangalore as the next Bay Area?

Who's to say if these folks buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm, not to mention determination, will script a new chapter for all of us? Will they be game-changers or just footnotes? Either way, we will know eventually, and I for one will always be glad for their excitement and innovation.

Wish now more than ever that I had a glass ball, and wouldn't it make a great start-up opportunity too! But alas, more proof I wasn't born to be an entrepreneur.

(Natasha Jog is Senior Editor and Senior Anchor with NDTV.)

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