By Joel T. Fagsao
A story goes that a dying man called upon his three sons. His sons gathered at his deathbed and listened to what their old man has to say. The old man pointed to three bags of grains and asked that each of his sons take them. Then he said, “it is my wish that all of you equally divide the land that we have tilled through the years as this is all that we have.” The old man then slept and breathed his last. The eldest son, took the bag of grains, went home and asked his wife to cook all the grains as food for the night. The second son also did the same thing. The third son went home, asked his wife to cook just a little of the grains each day for their meals. He then went on to set aside grains to be sown in the land he inherited from his father. Anybody can guess who is wiser and more entrepreneurial among the three sons.
All of us yearn for a better life, a better means of living that could provide for our families. We want a secure job and often times are afraid to tread a path where we could compromise our children’s future. The path to self employment through entrepreneurial activities has its risks so that we still prefer having a job with a government agency or private company as a steady source of income. India’s Father of Entrepreneurship, Shri Akhori recognizes this factor as to why people think twice before giving their dreams of running a business a go. The risks of setting up an enterprise are high. I notice this everywhere, too often the start up entrepreneur ends up losing all his or her investments, gets into heavy debt and would have nothing but the clothes he or she has. Akhori put emphasis in our International Training on Entrepreneurial Promoters/Trainers program that we help minimize the risks for the start up or fledgling entrepreneur. As future advisers to entrepreneurs, it is essential that we challenge the entrepreneur to come up with a product or service that could be better or an improved version of one that already exists. The entrepreneur could also come up with an entirely new product or service that could fill the need for a particular group of customers. To come up with a product or service that has no innovations would be like putting the start up entrepreneur in the lion’s den. The market out there is very cruel. Innovations in products or services help reduce the risks of business failure. As an illustration, if you set up a hot pandesal venture, what else would make your venture better than the competition? Providing home deliveries could be one. Thinking differently, coming up with innovations and continuously striving for excellence are some of the marks that separate the entrepreneur from the businessman. There is also the need to do a business plan that is supported with a market research. The market research helps you identify your customers. It also gives you an idea where your product or services stand among your target customers. Tedious it may be and often times involves expenses, a market research is important. Pair this with a business plan and you fairly have a road map to guide you in nurturing the enterprise. Banks in India require a business plan from a loan applicant. This could be one best practice that we can adapt in the Philippines. The banking industry may have different ways in assessing loan applications; the business plan provides a picture of the planned venture. A loan applicant may have collateral but how else can the banker ensure that the money is to be spent for the loan purpose? Too often the concentration of the assessment of a loan applicant is on the collateral provided. I hope to see a time when a business plan is all that is needed to get you a bank loan.
To budding entrepreneurs, you have to learn to be willing to sacrifice for a better future, like the third son in the story of the farmer. I quote from my lecturer, Govind Sharma, “as an entrepreneur, you have to realize that nothing in your life will resemble what the rest of the world considers as normal.”
Meanwhile, the night before I watched the old film (Mahatma) Gandhi, India’s Father of Independence and had a visit to his tomb in Delhi, forty kilometers away from my school. An eternal flame burns on top of his tomb, a very simple one, made of black onyx. A field of lush green grass embraces his memorial and on the gate leading to his tomb, written on a stone block it reads: The Gandhi ‘Talisman’- Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words will it lead to swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and also spiritually starved millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.
Namaste, to our dear readers.