AFRICANGLOBE – “October is the cruellest month.” There is irony enough to warrant this near overhaul of “The Waste Land.” Around this time every year, several thousands of students graduate from local institutions with stars in their eyes, springs in their steps and the world in their palms. The picture-perfect graduation ceremony, however, sets the stage for a rude awakening from utopian classes to closed industries in the real world.
Annually, new graduates far and away outnumber situations vacant in the formal sector. Unemployment is probably the most clichéd, yet perpetually significant, problem of the day.
Aside its occasional conversion into political currency worldwide, unemployment looks grounded to remain not just a problem but a procreative one for a long time to come.
Nonetheless, progress in a hostile setting requires meeting resistance with greater force not clichéd complaints.
The dynamic approach against unemployment consists in this: more graduates assuming a radical frame of mind and venturesome disposition which will allow them to innovate and expand the job market.
Entrepreneurship, not baselessly optimistic orisons to CV-whelmed HR offices, is the Holy Grail to empowerment.
The time is high for visionary firebrands to step out of the beaten track and change the rules of industry.
Rashmi Bansal’s book, “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish,” is a stimulus package to this end.
The book is jam-packed with infectious real-life success stories which will propel entrepreneurial aspirants and potential converts to rise up and hustle.
An entrepreneur in her own right, Bansal has previously written “Poor Little Rich Slum,” “I Have a Dream,” “Connect The Dots,” “Follow Every Rainbow” and “Take Me Home .” She is the founding editor of JAM (Just Another Magazine) and a Reddif.com columnist.
Her most famous title is drawn from Steve Jobs’s now famous 2005 Stanford University commencement address: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
The book revolves around 25 Indian graduates who chose to tread paths of their own making, although they were rough, prohibiting, lonely and long-winding ones.
A range of ventures, including internet, education, engineering, agriculture, hospitality, business process outsourcing, investment banking and clinical research, are under discussion to equip aspirants not so much with templates but practical refutations of impossibility.
While the featured entrepreneurs are diverse in age, in outlook and the industries they made a mark in it, they converge around one dynamic: belief in the power of their dreams.
Bansal hauls out of their impetuous struggles for self-actualisation nuggets to inspire young graduates to look beyond placements and salaries and maximise their own potential.
Notwithstanding the African accent that I endeavour for this space, Literature Today will direct painstaking attention to the estimable lessons of this book.
Entrepreneurship is by nature wild and free and much stands to be gained by tapping the greatest value possible from international experience for local application.
In this globalised and “genocractised” era, where information dumpsites surface at the stroke of a touchpad, it is foolhardy to be perennial receptacles of aid and investment instead of the knowledge that empowers.
Emerging nations, notably the BRICS clique, are out to define destiny their own way. The game-changer protocol consists in customising and optimising information to meet their need gaps.
Zimbabwe, being a developing country, is pregnable ground, not just for purely novel but also internationally generated ideas.
Local entrepreneurs must be equal to the challenge. Equal to opportunities and resources; behind the wheel for home-grown development.
“Billion dollar hippy” Steve Jobs remarks that creativity is just connecting things; seeing a bit of this and a bit of that to come up with a novel complex.
The field of ICTs, for example, has vastly underutilised capacity which young Zimbabweans can exploit to their advantage.
Honourable mentions Tafadzwa Makura, whose Mazwi digital bookstore, a miniature of Amazon capable of revitalising local literature is given more exposure.
Takunda Chingonzo, a NUST undergraduate, is poised to streamline public access to Internet through his Neolab and Sai Sai start-ups. He was recently listed among the 100 Most Influential Zimbabweans under 40 by the Goriendemabwe Institute.
“Stay Hungry Stay Foolish,” maps out three divisions for entrepreneurs, being the believers, the opportunists and the alternative visionaries.
The believers know that entrepreneurship is their chosen path. They take the plunge soon after their degrees or a brief working stint and persevere until they make it big.
The opportunists do not plan to take the paths they take but seize an opportunity when it turns up. “Their stories go to show that you don’t have to be ‘born with it,’ you can develop an entrepreneurial bent of mind at any age,” Bansal observes.
The alternative visionaries use entrepreneurship to create social impact and as an outlet for creative expression.
“Of all the questions we leave unanswered the one that comes back to haunt us the most is: ‘What if…” Bansal cautions against indiscriminately deferring risky-looking inclinations.
“What if I’d planned a little less? What if I’d lived a little more? What if I’d chucked it all and started my own company? What ifs’ are never idle fantasy.
“These are our hopes, dreams and desires. Logic and reason are the naphthalene balls we use to pack them away into a sandook called ‘Someday,’” she points out.
The fear of making mistakes keeps many people coy with their dreams, often rendering them irretrievable in the lapse of time.
To this one of the featured entrepreneurs, Sanjeev Bhikchandani, retorts: “Be early. You can make your mistakes while it is cheap to make them, when there is no competition.”
Mistakes are inevitable but useful as experience in unfamiliar terrains generates new knowledge. Amended mistakes position the business for greater competence.
For Shantanu Prakash of Educomp, entrepreneurship is the art and science of creating value.
Once that is made primary, he urges that money and other dainties will fall into place.
Prakash urges young entrepreneurs to follow their interest and passion, “. . . but you have to keep some of those key principles in mind — ‘Is the opportunity big enough, are you able to make a contribution and fundamentally change something that generates value?’”Key is the direction of effort to creating a utility which can last the distance when new trends are inundating the industry from other quarters. Mark Zuckerberg hints as much in an interview for the Computer History Museum.
Raghavendra Rao, credited with charisma to sell ice to an Eskimo, urges longevity at all costs and points out that money is not permanently elusive when value can be communicated.
“Choose a goal and focus on it. It can be in the area of product, service or knowledge. Longevity of the field is important. Combine reason and intuition. If there’s a tie go with intuition.
“Think either big or niche. Doing what many others do won’t take you anywhere. Build teams. Believe in dignity of labour. Be passionate and direct about your ambition.
“There is no dearth of capital to back the right ideas and entrepreneurs. Aim to create lasting value,” says Rao.
Brand consultant, Anand Halve, insists on following the heart because while the brain can do many things, only the heart can answer the meaningful questions of life.
As Jobs and Michael Dell are directed by different intangibles to reach different results, a clear picture must be developed of what is propelling the entrepreneur.
We close with a citation from Anu Aga: “Profits are important but not the only thing . . . without breathing, you and I can’t live, but if you ask me what is the purpose of my life and if I say breathing, it is such a narrow way to define it.”
By: Stanely Mushave
Book: Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
Author: Rashmi Bansal
Publisher: Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (2008)