Of Outliers and Indian Entrepreneurship

 There is nothing in a caterpillar that makes you see that it is going to be a butterfly some day.

 I read this somewhere today and made me think about it. It made me think of how are some achievers were identified of their potential in a very small age and nurtured to become what they are? Or is that a coincidence that things happen for them? Or is it because of the nurturing they become successful?

My Current read is “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm never ceases to surprise me. His “Tipping Point” and “Blink” were good reads but this one really got me hooked. It analyzes the characteristics of the successful people, From Rags to riches kind of people on how they were able to reach the heights. I am not going to reveal anything about the book here. But I must tell you it initiated long conversations and thought process which I think is the ultimate output a book can produce.

It briefly talks about people who had IQ more than 200 (150 seems to be Nobel Prize thing) and how they fared in their life and also business tycoons and music bands about their success. Malcolm not only talks about their gifted talents and their hard work here. But the opportunities and the chances they got which made them the people they are. The opportunities doesn’t start at a coach or a mentor identifying the talent, but it starts with the year they were born and then narrows down to the month they were  born.

This made me think on Indian Background. A child is born in 2008 August will wait for one more year to get into school than the child born in 2009 March or April. They both will share the same class. So what is the edge that the child born in 2008 has over the child born in 2009? Obviously the parents would have made use of the time training him in Math or English or something like that. Does this make the child born in 2008 a top performer in the class? If it is so, is that fair?

Just think about the odds that the Indian Entrepreneurship aspirants face. The book gives immense examples of a culture which wanted its people to grow and make the country benefit from them. And most of the time the people didn’t disappoint the country. Bill gates had a lot of free time working in the Mainframe computers, practicing and practicing to get things right till he dropped out of Harvard University (Wonder how many drop outs had made the world we live in? Its just amazing). Steve Jobs requested spare parts directly from the Senior Director of HP while he was practicing assembling computers. Few professors gave up tuition and appointment in famous universities just because they can be on their own and create a better next generation. Surely a long hop hope for current Indian educational system, don’t you think?

Can you just imagine such things happen in our country? I do not. Say if a person has a dream or a plan to get into a new venture where nobody else had thought till that day, like Mark Zuckerberg thought about social networking. First thing he would have to face is his family. They partly don’t understand what he is actually going to do and partly worried whether their son/daughter went insane. And the frantic calls to the relatives start. Some start coming in directly to home and the others through phone advice our aspirant that what he has decided will not work. No, it doesn’t take them to listen completely on what he has to say. Just the fact that he is interested to be self employed is enough.

If the family is like this, we don’t even have to think about the potential investors. I know a person who wanted to start up a company. He was looking for investors. He had a business plan in place. He was very sure when he would hit the break even and the whole road map was ready. And when he approached the investors, they started talking length and breadth about their own business and how they made it successful. And about the unethical ways to get things done which are cheap cost wise and other stuff. End of the story, you are too honest, you cannot do business.

There is no encouragement, let alone opportunity for these guys. The bank stories are different. It deserves a book to be written on the hardship they can give to people. Nobody can approach a bank for a loan without security. So the intellect and aspiration cannot expect any respect or consideration with banks. If the person is able to scrap up something to show to the bank as security apart from the loan he is forced to buy all their insurance, mutual fund and other things the bank offer in order to get his loans processed.

So before even the aspirant think of selling his abilities or study the market he has to think and go through all the above said hardships which will easily move him to a different path than starting up his dream career. After a few years of doing something that is not his passion he gets trapped into the rat race and feels like a failure.

So just like a success which also depends upon the culture, the background and the opportunities presented, a failure (most of the time they will not be failure personally. They will still do well financially, but failure in heart) also has its own reasons.

It is said that if a person practices his skill for 10000 hours he becomes a genius in it. The endurance limit may vary from person to person. Genius shows inspite of all the odds. Genius will come out of its own. It needs just some encouragement. If you can provide opportunities, it would be a bonus.

Do you know anyone who is genuinely capable but struggling to make it happen? Have you watched them go through the lows? What’s your take on this?


  1. Mukund

    ha hah aha…. atlast.. 🙂 u have read a book which I already have :- DD ha ha ha.. jus kidding..My sis presented this book, as usual I read only half of it.. I feel like thr is some amount of fate in everybody’s life. I could accept Gates theory, but Jobs getting parts from the director and all, is a bit of luck… happens very rarely.

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