Three budding Indian entrepreneurs start an event management company in Afghanistan with a sole aim of inviting Bollywood stars to perform in Kabul.
Within three months from the formation of their company; the trio pull-off a major concert with a Bollywood singer and his troupe. However, as luck would have it- the show ends with an accident leaving them with a debt of nearly USD 200,000, a court case and an investigation. That year was 2005!
Now, put yourself in the shoes of the three entrepreneurs; all of them in their mid-thirties, with families and children back in India and themselves, stuck in a war-torn country with no source to pay off their debt. What do you think you would have done?
Let me share you what the founder of Third Eye LLC- the company that organized the concert did. First, he made a commitment, to himself, to repay every single penny to local vendors, and only then he leaves Afghanistan.
He was aware it would take a long time – Well! He knew that was the right thing to do.
Then, he convinced his other two co-founders. Within weeks the three founders parted ways and split the debt among themselves- with each acquiring a debt of over USD 60,000.
The founder cleared his debt and went on to build a far bigger company, in Kabul, which employed over 600 people and did a turn-over of USD 300 million in next ten years.
Even after 13 long years, the images of the concert, the moment of disaster and myself surrounded by angry and agitated local Afghan vendors-demanding their payments is still is fresh in my mind’s eye. Yes!
I was the founder of that company that had pulled off the biggest Bollywood event so far in Kabul.
I have been an entrepreneur for over a decade now and have successfully started businesses that have earned millions of dollars working in difficult areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. I learnt three valuable lessons during my entrepreneurial journey;
1. After Failure-What next: It is human to make mistakes that might lead to failure. However, the key is what you do after a failure has brought you down.
Only an obstinate entrepreneur will stand-up after a big crash and jump to the next venture. A case in point is Captain GR Gopinath founder of Deccan 360, a logistic startup that was way ahead of its times.
Within the first year (2009) of its inception, Deccan 360 was on the verge of disrupting the established Indian logistics players.
At that point, Flipkart was delivering CDs and books through Deccan’s network.
Captain knew the next big growth sector in India would be logistics industry and in particular air-logistics.
However, Deccan 360 failed! But that failure didn’t stop Captain Gopinath, an obstinate entrepreneur, recently from taking another entrepreneurial plunge into the UDAN or regional air connectivity scheme launched by the government of India.
That is what stubborn entrepreneurs do- they don’t give up.
2. Integrity-A Fundamental Trait: After the failure of Third-eye, I had an opportunity to run away from Afghanistan.
But, I chose to stay put and fulfil my obligation to my vendors and staff. Because I knew that was the correct thing to do.
As a former soldier, I believe in standing my ground and putting up a fight then running away.
However, on the contrary, the failure of Kingfisher Airlines and subsequent maneuvering of Vijay Mallya proves no amount of past success and good deed will stand by you if you fail the integrity test.
Budding Entrepreneurs should inculcate this fundamental trait if they want to earn the respect of their peer-group, colleagues and subordinates.
3. New Venture-New experience: When you start a new venture your experience can help you in getting a good start.
However, it can never prepare you for all the risks and challenges the new journey is about to throw at you.
So, don’t be complacent. Every time you start a new venture- treat it as your first venture.
Take a look at Reliance Jio-the new kid on the Indian telecom landscape.
One may argue that Jio’s runaway success is attributable to deep pocket of the Reliance group. I would say partially right.
Jio’s success stems from the fact that its promoter was thinking as a young entrepreneur and not necessary as a seasoned businessperson.
It was evident when Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries Chairman & MD, referred to Jio as the “biggest Startup” and not as a company.
Entrepreneurs should understand failure doesn’t bring you down
it is your attitude that does. Entrepreneurship tests your integrity, and finally, persistence pays off.
(The author is a former Indian Army Officer and founder-CEO of AskMentor, a platform for startups. Views expressed are personal)
(Disclosure: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.)