I grew up tired listening to the crap that we Odias don’t make good entrepreneurs. I wonder how an entire state priding themselves in their old rich tradition of entrepreneurial pedigree can still choose to live in defeatism and nihilism in the modern day. We’ve been collectively conditioned to accept defeats easily and give up on our dreams so we could choose what ostensibly offers highest level of financial security and social prestige – a job.
Like many other folks, I too was the victim of such a social sickness until I realized I was too good for nine-to-five doldrums and too claustrophobic to limit myself within the cluttered cubicles of profit-hungry sweatshops. I realized I’d been raised wrong and I headed where I forever I belong. I came back to the city of Bhubaneswar to chase my dream, surrounded by narrow-minded people and constantly looked down upon by their palaeolithic perceptions.
I can’t speak for my fellow entrepreneurs, so I’d rather share my own experience on running an IT start-up over the last five years in the city. So here are the impending challenges you may face if you’ve been thinking of starting a company in Bhubaneswar.
Let’s face it – our city is no Bangalore and we’re clearly governed by authorities that just don’t get it. Unless you have an uncle who allows you to run your start-up from his vacant building for an affordable rent, you have got to slog it out to find one all by yourself. When you look for an office space, you have to keep a few things in mind – it should be located conveniently to a place where your prospective employees can have access to easy conveyance facilities. Unless you have VC funding backing your start-up, you can’t really afford to pay 50 bucks per square feet at a commercial location. Even if you rent a commercial space of 1000 sq. ft, it would cost you around 50,000 bucks. So you’re bound to compromise and choose an office space at a not-so-good-looking location. And, that’s life in Bhubaneswar where unscrupulous business people are patronized by a self-centric government and struggling business communities are left to rough it out. Who cares!
Depending on your basic needs, and growth projection, you have to start investing in your office infrastructure upfront. A start-up would always begin in a humble way and this is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it may influence your prospective employees, in terms of how they look at your growth and sustainability. In short, unless it shows, you’re unlikely to attract talented people. But that’s the way the cookies crumble.
One of the other problems could be electricity and internet problem; both suck in this city. Unfortunately again, our government can do nothing about it. If you’ve registered a complaint for a faulty line with BSNL, for example, you know what I’m talking about. Not many private internet service providers offer their services at an affordable rate for a small start-up like yours. None of them cares about their customers.
Hiring good employees is critical to a start-up’s growth. But there’s a dearth of talented people here in this city, especially in the technology sector. You have to try every option out to understand how difficult it is to hire employees around here. Float an ad in the local newspapers, and you will be inundated with job applicants, most of which won’t even fit the bill. There are a very few people out there who would like to learn things before they expect a decent pay package. Otherwise, rest of them would just walk in expecting “stars and moons”.
You can hire an HR consultancy but my experience says sometimes they are under too much pressure (to achieve their target) to filter out the chalk from cheese. Don’t be surprised if they send utterly confused candidates for a position that requires the person to have quick decision-making traits. One day I spoke to an HR who said she just searched for the term “content writer” within the database of Naukri.com and sent me all the profiles remotely containing the term.
When you run a start-up in a city, you know you’re on your own. You have to do everything yourself including staying up for acquiring clients to negotiating salaries with your prospective employees to running around electricity and telecom offices. Just when you think there’s electricity and the internet is stable, unforeseen issues will appear out of nowhere. For example, once I was on a conference call with my client in Chicago when a bunch of stray dogs started barking just outside of my office. When my client asked me what the noise was about, I had to ask him for a break in the meeting so I could go back to my garage and shut my pet off before we could carry on with the meeting any further.
Entrepreneurship is a challenge. But it can get even more challenging when there’s no support from the society that looks at you pathetically and the government that turns a blind eye to the struggles of start-up entrepreneurs. I seriously think with necessary support from the government, Odia entrepreneurs can definitely do much better and change the popular perception towards business over job as a professional choice.
But it’s not what I think that is important alone – it’s what “WE” think as a whole that matters more. What do you think?