This whole blog today is inspired and taken from a podcast. I wanted to channelize my experience, thoughts and learnings from various articles and books which also resonates with Kunal Shah’s various interviews on multiple platforms. Some answers are intriguing, well-informed thoughts. They also portray the “big picture” which I have gathered through numerous conversations with varied people. I hope this amazes you as well.
Does Kunal Shah consider himself the smartest person around or in the startup space?
To which he says- “I don’t think that I am smart. Most of the time, I vocalize my thoughts which appear smart. Sometimes it goes above my head and people’s head, which people assume to be smart. I am just curious, and I will not say that I am smart.”
His early story and the work behind creating successful startups
He became financially independent when he was 16 by choice because of financial setbacks in the family. He sold pirated CDs, sold Mehendi cones, ran a cybercafe, taught computer applications etc. to make money. But the good news is that it taught him how to make money early on in life. That is what our education misses to do thoroughly. We get to learn to sell something so late (he jokes –“also because of lack of dating culture”) that we are terrible at it. This makes our country a terrible salesman because 98% of the country is going for arranged marriages. Also, about doing that ‘extra’ matters so much that people are not trying to push for it. Working for that extra 5% ensuring that everything goes right makes the other person feel the utter passion and dedication and value created towards one’s work. He has obviously done 40-50 different businesses but is known for 1 or 2. In short, he summarizes his journey till now as a journey of iterations, where creating successful businesses is all about 2 things only.
- What people want?
- Will they pay money for it?
Most businesses lack these two points, imagining a problem and trying to create a monetizable solution.
Biggest motivation in life
The biggest motivation in life is being curious and knowing that you know your stuff in order to apply it and turn it into a business. Business is always about the application of knowledge, but knowledge won’t be as valuable if you haven’t tested it yet. India as a country is full of “Gyaanis” or “appear to be Gyaanis”. Times have changed, and knowledge is freely available nowadays. But most people are engrossed in listening to motivational stuff and “Gyaan”, doing or finding out zero things in life. That’s the biggest problem of the nation.
To sum it up – “A guy even in his late 30s is entirely different compared to when he was at the age of 22 because of the impact of the internet and knowledge available.
India in 2060
It’s very tough to predict. Maybe it will have a very bright future or a very dark one. The reason for it being dark is what capitalism has done. The world is like a big superconductor, everything inter-connected. Even the jobs we do aren’t entirely about what we had learnt in our graduation. We need to understand this in simple language, that a joke or a meme becomes popular instantly. Saying the joke even the next day is not cool because people have heard it already. And because of this rapid spreading, when innovations come, they spread extremely fast as well. Sometimes they take away jobs, and if we aren’t prepared for that change, the skills we have will become obsolete rather quickly.
India has a terrible education system, which does not cultivate the curiosity mindset of learning new things. And fundamentally, the world will therefore take away the jobs and automate them. Unfortunately, job losses will happen in India because the world is connected. An American becoming efficient will result in job losses in India. Astonishingly we don’t even understand this connection right now. For example- due to covid, the call centres in the US are not working, and they somehow figured out how to outsource to homes. They realize that it is outsourceable, so they give it to India. Now they know they can even automate it because people have become tech-savvy and BOOM! Millions of jobs are gone. But they are not gone in the US but gone in India. So, the world’s useless jobs are getting accumulated in poor countries. In 2060, unless we shut our borders imagining a North Korea type of imagination, i.e. we are not creating but only using; it’s going to be very, very hard.
But the positive side to this is that we have a very young nation and if people understand that they don’t have to depend on the education system to become smart and learn skills, apart from the necessary skills of language etc.; people will get going on how to crack anything. Which is creating an entrepreneurial mindset. The countries biggest problem is that we are all job seekers. (This has been mentioned by Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia as well while changing the education system administratively for Delhi government schools)
If we look at google trends and look at the top 10 keyword searches every day, out of the top 10 two are for government exams. Right?? And this is what we as citizens should also be worried about. If everybody is hoping for that one government job, the problem is that the government doesn’t need so many people.
I guess it’s very evident now that the largest employer of the world is inefficiency. When we remove inefficiency, the jobs are gone. There are so many jobs in India that are not required like liftman, security personal in ATMs. But what happens when people stop using cash. So, what happens then? So, we are just not ready. Our education systems are just not there yet, dependency on agriculture is way too high.
One more scary factor which nobody pays attention to is that the number of women working in the labour force is dropping every year. Less than 10% ((8%) of urban women work and have financial independence which is lower than Pakistan and Bangladesh (68%). China is at 90%. To understand it even more in-depth, look at the airport or railway station booking counters- How many queues for men and women? How many compartments for women vs men? When we stand in rush hour -How many women and men do you see? 92-94% of credit cards are owned by men. (5% of all personal loans are taken by men. We are a reasonably patriarchal and regressive nation because we fail to look at data.
We are aiming for capitalism while having the blood of socialism
In simple words, capitalism is to use capital to employ more people, the whole society focuses on wealth. Innovation is rewarded disproportionately to one inventor, manufacturer, businessmen or industrialistif they do good stuff and therefore, the overall wealth of the society increases.
Socialism has just failed everywhere in the world, and India has still not adapted to it. Socialism means that everything is governed by the state and shared equally. For example, a patent in India is a public good, and the individual doesn’t reap the benefit of it. It’s obviously a very complex topic, but 99% of people in India have no clue about what capitalism is and what socialism is.
Most people think MRP is a good idea. Fundamentally it is against capitalism because why somebody like you and me who are staying in affluent neighbourhoods, should be paying the same for a bottle of coke or mineral water or chips. Because real estate is costlier in our area, storage is expensive, the delivery cost is expensive, but MRP removes taking a socialistic approach. To change this, it needs a complete overhaul of our education system because our governments somehow operate with a socialist mindset. There are so many subsidies etc. that don’t create wealth. The problem is that most of our taxes are coming from capitalism, i.e. 30-40 million working professionals pay income taxes. A lot of businesses who own capitalist market are paying taxes. However, the reality is we still haven’t overcome the mindset that we get jobs in PSUs. (You must have heard 100 job openings have attracted 10 lakh applications)
Status seeking vs wealth seeking mindset
Have you heard about the Indian crab story?? The story is like this-
One day a guy goes to a crab store, where crabs are stored, and he sees that one container has the lid open. He asks why is this open? The shopkeeper says – “These are Indian crabs!” The guy asked – “What do you mean by that?” The shopkeeper immediately replied, “Don’t worry! As soon as one guy tries to go up, others will pull him down.” And this is the fundamental problem between wealth driven societies and status-driven societies. Status driven societies fundamentally dislike anybody going up in life. A wealth driven culture is basically -You are making money, I am making money, so no problem. We will work in collaboration or in unity. We don’t understand this because we haven’t seen a collaborative society.
India isn’t one country; it is 29 countries merged to become one country, and therefore we have the need for neutral platforms. Example of neutral media- Cricket – not from India, this blog is written in English which is a neutral language, Tea and coffee not from India, in parties the neutral food ordered is Pizza, Samosa is not from India, Biryani is not from India, even Khichdi is not from India. The point is the need for the country to come to neutral platforms. Just imagine what happens if we ban the same language arranged marriages. A Gujrati cannot marry a Gujrati and a Bengali cannot marry a Bengali ( that is what one of the theories of evolution says) fundamentally we would have English speaking children because the only way they can communicate with each other is a neutral language. We don’t realize and often confuse these things while still fighting elections on old topics or principles. One of the reasons can be that everybody is celebrating the past, and none are thinking about the future, i.e. creating statues and renaming stations and roads after revolutionaries. People as well as nations are super obsessed about their past while often being delusional about their future.
This time I have split the blog into two parts. There are some more burning issues to talk about, as well. But, meanwhile, how much do you agree with all these arguments? Let me know in the comments.