Want to hear the three magic words that shall make you pop out of your chair: You are broke. That is our vantage point for the rest of this article. You are broke in New Delhi/Mumbai (pick your city) in 2017. What do you do?
Walking around in Delhi you shall find many markets, scenarios, and opportunities. Desi finance is about the third: opportunities.
Standing in the land of unexplored opportunities in an ecosystem of people who want to spend but do not know where to spend it is an entrepreneur’s dream. My NRI friend Aryan just got back to India from London mesmerized by the quinoa revolution. Quinoa is the staple diet for the Latin Americans. Rice is to India what Quinoa is to Latin Americans. It is hailed as the hallmark of success for globalization. Over a cup of coffee in the market complex opposite IIT Delhi, he asked me:
“You have no idea how unexploited Indian markets are. I just wish I could start a quinoa revolution in India. Do you think it is possible?”
Being the patriotic Indian, I replied, “No Aryan, you should not do it. We live in India. We should promote domestic grains like barley, maize and Bajra. Why should you import a grain from South America and sell it in India?”
“No” is the favourite word for novelty
“No” is the favourite word for novelty. If you hear “No” to something in India, you are doing something novel. And not everything novel is not worth pursuing. My friend Aryan started importing quinoa from a dealer in London, started selling it on Amazon and approached me to file a collective bid for a franchise restaurant based in New York. He saw an opportunity and he made it happen! The Baap of all protein foods is now catching on in India.
Let us go back to our vantage point now: Imagine you are broke. You have no money. You are living with your friend in the suburban area of Rohini in Delhi. You have no money. You pick up a job as a restaurant manager near your place and now, you have to make money. You cannot borrow and in this particular scenario, your parents are not an option.
The cultural baggage of financial dependence is shed. What are you going to do? Scenarios like this provide perspective on the importance of financial independence. We are lucky to be born in a culture where it is an obligation for familial systems to coexist financially but this is a matter of luck and not a privilege. And that is as much as luck as we should lead ourselves to believe we have.
Money is not only for the rich
It is empowering to be financially independent. Money is not a sin item. Money is money. It is an enabler. Money, contrary to what populist narrative would have you believe, is not ‘only for the rich’ or stratospheric entity you cannot achieve.
Looking out for the correct opportunity at the right time is the basic characteristic of an entrepreneur’s mind. Not only should you be able to gauge the dynamic of the market, but win the hearts of your consumer. You should be able to crunch data into comprehensible, implementable ideas that are not only self-sustaining but increasingly profitable. But prefixing all that with an “I can do it” attitude is extremely important. Whatever you do, your cause, your product or your service has to be able to transform into a tangible entity that can promote itself.
The comparative advantage is against you when you are starting a business or investing your money in one. The first hurdle that you have to cross is a “no”. It is hard. But it is surmountable. How do you deal with an audience whose first response to a product is “no”? My broke friend decided to open a café. He took a personal loan and I loaned him the rest of the money. He got the design ready, the menu ready; he had all the right ideas. We were looking for a space.
“Indians are prudish”, he said brooding. We were standing near a chole-kulche stall opposite PVR Prashant Vihar.
The patriot in me revolted. “How dare you say such a thing? It is blasphemy. Indians are honest and humble. People with simple needs.”
Internet is a human right now
“Well, simple needs is a flimsy concept. Needs change with time. Internet is a human right now. I think it should be a fundamental right, like equality. A hundred years later, it will be a need simple need to own a Tesla electric flying car. I am trying to sell them gold at the price of Channa and no one wants to buy it. I am selling them smoothies, coffee, juices, a detox diet and all organic! In a foreign country, it would sell in a jiffy! But here, choosing the right spot is a nightmare. And whenever I tell one of the people here the menu, they freak out and taunt me by showing me fresh fruits. How is one supposed to start a business here?”
The patriotic fervour toned down a bit. “My broke friend”, I said lovingly, “You are looking in the wrong direction there. PVR Prashant Vihar sees a daily footfall of students, couples. It is a movie hall. The idea of relaxation for people here is a movie and a pizza.” I took my friend to a hospital. Well, outside a hospital and we rented the ground floor.
That is where we run our successful café called, Swastha Bharat. (The patriot in me could not resist that name)
Now, dear reader, would you be interested in working on a project of a grand seven star apartment on TRAPPIST 1?