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Indian Startups Stop Playing The Victim Card! It is Time

Entrepreneurship is meant to be competitive, not cosy.
Indian Startups Stop Playing The Victim Card! It is Time
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The dream of a startup is a great one to have.

When you have an innovative idea and you are absolutely sure there is no better time than the one at hand to start out, it fits perfectly into the spirit of entrepreneurship. But once the idea gets into the business world, the founder needs to quickly move away from being a collegiate. This is about living in the real world, with real problems and everyday’s fight for survival. 

If a traditional business or an SME is expected to do it every day, why should startups be any different and more importantly, till when. When does a startup cease being called and looked at as a startup, really? For how long should a startup expect to be cushioned?

Entrepreneurship Was Never Meant To Be Cosy

Anyone who belongs to a middle-class business family will know well how banks and office landlords use extreme methods to retrieve any money the businessman owes to them in times of duress. By a personal account, I can tell the defaulter’s mortgaged assets are put on auction and other assets such as cars snatched away by goons to arm twist him/her into paying pending credit dues.

When was the last time you heard of an SME founder reaching out to the Ministry of MSME and crying to be bailed out? Or better yet, when did the government come out to help a business enterprise? It is a real surprise IT Minister Priyank Kharge decided to intervene in the Stayzilla arrest case. His tweets earlier this week said he has requested for government intervention by the TN IT Pr Secretary Ramchandran on the merits of the case. IT Secretary Aruna Sundarajan & NASSCOM Chairman R Chandrasekhar have also extended their support.

Within my own family circle of SME businessmen, I have seen long legal battles and inappropriate arrests, which in no way got the kind of support that the Stayzilla founder Yogi Vasupal arrest’s in an alleged case of fraud has garnered.

How does a small businessman become any different from a startup when it comes to running or managing a business? Why should startups expect support from anyone and everyone? What gives them the right?

Small businessmen have absolutely no one to go to besides family or connections who they feel can extend a helping hand. Are they harassed, yes? Does the government intervene, no? Why? Is it because a small businessman isn’t a sexy startup or a celebrated startup entrepreneur?

If the government is expected to assist every ailing and failing business’ spillover, then Vijay Mallya must also be offered protection. After all, he has given India the best airline services, the best liquor beverages, why should we not be saving him?

Banks should also let go of all those non-performing assets because, well, it kills the spirit of entrepreneurship. In the guise of the word tossed around casually, how much leeway can companies really take?

Why are Indian Startups Playing the Victim card? Startups Are No ‘Bicharas’

The reaction of the entire startup community on social media and elsewhere relating to the Stayzilla case shows they find it their right to cry foul whenever anything bad happens.

If a startup founder isn’t able to sustain business liabilities, how does he become a ‘bichara’? Flipkart and Ola’s cry for help to the Indian government against competition from international players such as Amazon and Uber is one such classic example.

As entrepreneurs, we need to either have or develop the gut to fight the ups and downs of a business’ cycle? That is what makes them different. There are really no free lunches in the world. If a businessman decides to do business and faces any spillovers, it really is his/her business to set it right and no one else’s.

Entrepreneurship has never been a child’s play. With risks come responsibilities.

Startups are either self-funded or through institutional investors who have an appetite for risk capital and patience of performance, which is a huge plus for startups to build enterprises. But to expect the same of every business around you is foolish and would take the other businesses down and kill the small business sentiment of the country. To build your own business or even shut it down does not mean you take other businesses down with you!

It Is The Worst Kind of Erosion of Capital

In 2014-15, the years that were considered the golden period for startups’ funding, a total funding for Indian VC-backed companies was $12 billion (INR 82,500 crore), according to startup data aggregator Tracxn.

2016 saw a sharp decline of nearly 40 per cent in this funding figure with more than 30 startups hanging up their boots and millions gone down the drain.

With startups entrepreneurial cycle changing so rapidly, can an SME or a small agency doing business with the failed startup afford to lose crores or even lakhs on account of failed startups? Do they have the mettle to raise millions on someone else’s risk and when it burns off call it a day? For a million small businesses, each penny invested is a great deal.

As much as an investor’s money needs to be spent carefully, similar caution has to be shown with smaller businesses who startups deal with.

Till When Should The Startup Dream Be Encouraged? What Could Be The Answer?

Entrepreneurship in almost every part of the world is about survival of the fittest. It must be understood that the Startup Dream should be encouraged by the government as well as the community only till the new business has jumpstarted. The responsibility of sustaining the business or assistance expected in wrapping up spillovers arising cannot be pinned on any of the two.

It is important to build credit scores/ratings and market of the startup businesses just like it happens for other businesses. This will encourage everybody working with them to get real. In the cut throat world of entrepreneurship, there is abundant scope for errands. Errors are really the first steps to perfection. But it sure is grossly unfair for startup founders to hold the world liable to pay the penance for their errands.

I personally think it is time startups in India are no more baby-coddled and left to fight the highs and lows of businesses by themselves. It is high time startups stop playing the victim card, because at the end of the day, it is business as usual.

(Disclaimer: Views expressed here are purely personal)

 
Edition: June 2017

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