Speaking at GSF 2012 today, Disney India MD Ronnie Screwvala, who sold his company UTV to Disney earlier this year, and has been a serial entrepreneur, shared his views on the aspects of entrepreneurship and some things that worry him about the current state of entrepreneurship.
On being “Pioneering”: Over the last 15-20 years, I’ve wondered if being pioneering is a sharp asset or not. Being before your time is one the most riskiest things. 10-20 years ago, when you were pioneering, there were certain industries that were mature, and you were disrupting. Now there are industries that are pioneering, and you don’t know what direction they will take. My learning is that pioneering cannot be an asset.
On Diversification: Where is the focus? When you’re diversifying, it’s almost as if you’re trying to hedge, thinking that your original idea wasn’t good enough. If you’ve not got a focus right, diversity is for the sake of it.
On Competition and Competitiveness: In India, it’s fantastic to be fiercely competitive. You need to be extremely competitive, but there’s a fine line between that and trying to grow the sector. I would urge the younger generation to be professionally competitive, but with nascent industries, build the ecosystem because the competitiveness can drag the market down.
On Scale: There has to be tremendous obsession. We don’t think big in India. If you are focused and can bring about scale, your probabilities for success can be substantially higher. We’ve got to obsess over how we can scale. There are very few sectors where you see that kind of scale and global power. It isn’t a small wonder that the top 15-20 Indians represent 25% of our GDP.
On Luck: In the media business, I learned a lot about the word luck. People say someone was lucky and another was not. I do believe that you need to be at the right place at the right time, but you need to be prepared and opportunistic, and that’s my definition of good luck versus bad luck.
On Sceptics: I would urge everyone that there will be a tremendous amount of scepticism. You cannot let that get you down. Take that in your stride.
On Going Public: For a lot of people, going public has become a holy grail. It is not. It is extremely challenging. The entire concept of being a listed company, it’s a different DNA. Today in the economy, the ability for you to take long term calls versus short term calls gets impacted. A depressed stock price forces you to take a U-turn. That champagne bottle gets corked very very very soon.
On Media: The beauty of media: it protects success and hides failure.
Tenacity: I don’t see the tenacity and the resilience to stay of course. Your real value is after your seven or four or three year itch.
The second one I worry about is scale – the whole has to be bigger than the sum of its parts.
The third worry is about the speed of execution, and the sense of pre-planning and preparation gets compromised. You need deep thought and planning, even if you have to execute fast.
Fourth is the strong obsession in the Indian commmunity; one of control. I have strong advise for that – first you’re a founder then a shareholder. Once you get even one more person into your company, the mentality has to change. The 51% obsession among Indian founders is one of the reasons we’re not seeing supernatural scale
Trust & Credibility: the trust and creditbility between the entrepreneur and an investor is top priority. At the level at which you’re interacting, what you leave behind for people in creating wealth with you, will come back. Success builds reputation, and trust, and credibility builds success.