Explore and Experiment
I have seen many people and ventures fail because they were too rigid about sticking to the original business plan. This is not to say that the plans are not necessary – they are important to get one started on the journey. But after that, one has to continuously evolve. To date, I spend a few minutes every morning thinking about what I learnt in the previous day and what I need to change in our business approach.
I remember a meeting I had in 1997 with the CFO of a global tech company which was considering an investment in IndiaWorld or one of our competitors. Here is my recollection of how the conversation went:
CFO: I need to see financial projections for the next 5 years.
Me: I don’t have the projections. I can barely tell you what our numbers will be for the next year.
CFO: I need those projections before I can make an investment decision.
Me: Ok. Here is what I can do. Tell me the numbers you need to see in year 5, and I will fill out years 1 to 4.
CFO (shocked): What do you mean?
Me: It is such a fast-evolving world. There is no way I can tell you with any degree of certainty what the future numbers will look like. But what I can tell you is this – I run this business as if my life depends on it. I will make sure we succeed. I have stayed ahead of every competitor for the past 2 years. Whatever new ideas come, I will be the first to do them. This is a life-and-death business for me. But there is no way I can give you any believable projections for the next few years. No one can.
The meeting ended shortly thereafter. As expected, I did not get the investment while my competitor did. I had the last laugh when IndiaWorld was acquired for $115 million in November 1999!
My approach to running a business is to always be on the lookout for new ideas – how can I make it better daily. Some ideas will work, while some won’t. Unless I explore and experiment, I will never know. In IndiaWorld, we launched 13 portals – 4 succeeded, 9 did not. I would never have known which ones would have worked unless I was willing to try. That’s how proficorns get created.
Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 7)