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To Desi Student Entrepreneurs: Here’s Why Romanticizing Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg Is Harmful For You!

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By Adhitya Iyer:

Dear Indian fans of Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerberg,

Firstly, before I progress with my rant, let me share your admiration for the gentlemen I mention above. After all, it is difficult to resist regard for anyone who has the rarest claim of being in the top 1% of their profession, right?

This letter is a reaction to the romance that you profess and regularly enjoy by sharing videos that suggest young blokes like me ‘Not Think’, ‘Drop out’, ‘Just do’ and the various ‘Do what you love’ quotes that you vehemently share as Facebook updates before you count likes, shut your device and conveniently go to bed. Not to forget the desktop wallpapers.

Let me also introduce myself and establish some relevance to the reader. I, like many fellow Indians who grew up in the 90’s when the economy had historically been liberalized, would like to consider myself an ambitious and enterprising young bloke. Do check my bio for more on me but I am basically like most of you still trying to figure things out, which probably makes it relevant we share thoughts?

So, let’s consider a few things that you may suggest I do:

Drop-out of college

Gates and Zuckerberg were Harvard drop-outs. Harvard. Face it, being a Saraswati Vidyapeeth Mahalay or a Dwarkadas Jamnabhai Sanghvi drop-out isn’t half as cool. In India, best case, you’d want to be an IIT drop-out but you know, when you have spent 2 years preparing in Rajasthan and regretted making that otherwise avoidable trip to the washroom just so you could get into IIT, you’d want to stick around.

Quoting from this insightful article:

“There are 34 million Americans over 25 with some college credits but no diploma. Nearly as large as the state of California, this group is 71 percent more likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to default on student loans. Far from being millionaires, they earn 32 percent less than college graduates, on average”

Dropping out is easy. The real glory is in clearing your degree, no?

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Do not listen to your parents/elders. They just don’t make sense.

Remember, your parents brought you up without any guaranteed RoI. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you know that means a lot. If they resist you, they probably do it out of care and genuine concern.

In the west, parents stop looking after their kids once they turn 18. Your parents and mine do not stop till they die.

Also note, Bill Gates’ father was a prominent lawyer. Not sure what Zuckerberg’s father did but hey, he could afford his son a degree at Harvard.

Don’t know about your folks but my dad had once legendarily filled petrol worth 50 bucks into my Santro. I don’t recollect seeing that pump attendant ever again.

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Care Less

Your life is not a Bollywood movie. Fortunately or unfortunately, duties, logic and sense do apply to your living.

Unlike in Amreeka, Indian weddings for some inexplicable reason, are supposed to follow the KSO (Karan Johar film Shaadi Organization) 9001 standard for conducting a wedding. Also, if you are a girl or have one in the family, don’t forget your parents are shedding tears on your Vidaai primarily because it starts sinking in that they nonchalantly ended up spending 98.3% of their savings on KSO 9001 standard for conducting your wedding. So yes, KSO 9001 standard for conducting a wedding. You may want to consider this and other obligations to your family.

There are practical realities in your life.

Don’t Think

With the start-up failure rate as high as this, the last thing you’d want to do is not think. More importantly, why would you not want to do something that is the solely differentiates you from an animal?

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Does it mean, as an Indian, you cannot become an entrepreneur? Of course, you can! Just that, in a country where the spoken language changes every few kilometers, it is difficult to apply standard guidelines to everyone, no?

For any entrepreneur, there can of course, be no substitute to actually doing things but then the ‘When’ and ‘How’ can be figured by applying some subjective thinking and not over some romantic talks we watch over Zuckerberg’s venture or otherwise.

Next time you start thinking like an MTV Roadies contestant, do consider having a Plan B because you know ironically, the companies Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg founded, don’t hire drop-outs.

You must be to comment.
  1. avyaya

    I ROFLd first, then cried because of the truth, that hit like a 1000 or more ton brick.

  2. someone who agreea throughly with the article

    Especially when I see such a hype around satya nadella’s appointment as ceo of Microsoft, and easy abuses that I’ve see Being hurled at Indian system, this is the hard truth we need to face. Thanks

  3. Suindaram Iyer

    Absolutely a practical truth. Enjoyed reading it. And the truth is – I was told to read this.
    This comment is from me, his Dad.

  4. Tapas Shyam

    Well, I would beg to differ over a few points over here.

    Firstly, Investors do not give a damn about your pedigree as much as the depth of your idea and your execution expertise for commercializing the idea. It is true that many of the great companies are founded by ivy league college dropouts, but that doesn’t mean that people from second rate institutions cannot try. Especially in India where there is severe crunch of quality educational institutions, if you do not make it to IIT, that does not mean you are a failure. By advocating that sound education degree should be a factor before jumping on to entrepreneurship bandwagon, you are killing the spirit of entrepreneurship that many young minds who could not make it to IITs IIMs due to n number of reasons nurture day in and day out.

    Second point, my two bit on Indian marriage is this – it is the biggest and most futile expense on the face of this earth. An entrepreneur who wants to make it in life shall be better if he stands up to his family and puts his foot down for a normal and sober marriage ceremony. And if he can’t even convince his parents, I seriously doubt if he can create a market for his product / services.

    Lastly, for me the word ‘entrepreneur’ is defined by the person who burns midnight oil researching the market and industry, spends countless hours fine tuning his idea and gathering customer responses; and jumps with both feet only when he is willing to take a chance with a reasonable degree of surety. As such, the last pic in your article signifies a more a ‘dreamer’ rather than an ‘entrepreneur’.

    That being said, I am not against the spirit of your article which basically asks us to ‘look before we leap’. It is of imperative importance that one takes a decision with his eyes open and knows the real face of struggle that an entrepreneur faces on a daily basis. But frankly, the reasons suggested by you fail to impress me. India in this age and time, needs more entrepreneurs than ever to accommodate burgeoning young population. No wonder, 3 out of 4 start-ups shall fail, no wonder there will be mountain of failures before success is achieved. But if I give up on a break-through idea just because I passed out of Saraswati Mahavidyalaya, it would be the most foolish decision ever.

  5. Arvind Nedumaran

    I am an aspiring student-entrepreneur and I really appreciate that you have taken the time to actually list out all major problems involved in a case of student entrepreneurs. But I would like to clarify a few things..

    1. Drop out – Your stand of Zuck and Gates dropping out of Harvard making the difference doesn’t make sense to me. For that matter, Steve Jobs didn’t go to or drop out from Harvard or any other Ivy League college for that matter. So is the case with Richard Branson and many others. Even if we go by your argument about Harvard adding a secret X factor to them, what about the countless others who dropped out of Harvard and Stanford and Caltech and MIT that never made it this popular? Where you drop out from doesn’t mater as much as why you dropped out. They didn’t drop out because they woke up one day and thought ‘maybe I should just drop out from Harvard’. . They did because their business grew and ‘REQUIRED’ their undivided attention. If you feel your startup is more important than a degree from Saraswati Vidyapeeth Mahalay, go right ahead. But please don’t do it to look COOL! That’s not how it works and you’ll be terribly disappointed.

    2. Parents – Here’s the problem with the stereotyped indian mentality that only the rich can and should start businesses. The lower-middle classes should work for the rich and focus on growing your pay checks; exactly the reason why with a population of over 1.2 billion, we’re still number 10 in GDP. Indian parenting is something that the westerners have always envied us about. But beyond a certain point, letting go is probably the best way to handle things. Not every parent is successful and imposing the limitations of the parents on their children (Parents have limitations. If you disagree, come talk to me) is not a very good idea.

    3. Practical realities – People who live everywhere have their own practical realities. They pose a hinderance wherever you are, India, China or USA. Your version of reality and your priorities may be widely different from that of the others. But that in no way implies that people in other countries or from other backgrounds do not have their own problems to overcome.

    4. Don’t Think – We don’t think twice about choosing engineering or medicine or CA over a rather unconventional profession. We sleep our ways through college, end up in odd jobs (Yes, A 20k/mo job for a graduate is nothing worth celebrating) through placements and celebrate like we’re on top of the world. All of this actually happens as if on Auto-Pilot. Not many people think about any of these decisions very much. When somebody decides to do something else, there’s a good chance they’ve thought enough about it. The slogans are meant to encourage those who make an informed choice to take a leap of faith and not second guess their way back to mediocrity.

    And to top it off, you really find it that hard to wrap your mind around the idea of a drop out actually starting up and running a successful business right? You seem very worried about whether or not you can find a job if you drop out. These are the shells we’ve built around ourselves through the ages. It’s going to take a while to crack. But when it does, and it will, you’ll see India like never before .

  6. Ankita

    Just see MICROSOFT CEO Satyam sir, he is not from Harvard.

  7. Shruti

    While your warning hits home, you do build up a lot on clichés. I mean, a ‘Desi Student Entrepreneur’ isn’t exactly gonna throw up his hands and say “Hey, I need capital!” to an investor, is he? Probably, what he’s gonna do is open a tea stall or something and then end up running for PM or owning RIL. So, try and Hermione-ize things, you know, “I’m going to the library!”. More on the ground research needed on tgis topic. Just saying. Come and visit Gujarat, why don’t you?

  8. Utkarsh Sinha

    Hi Adhitya. First of all, good Jobs(pun intended) with the article .
    For a few moments it did bring me back to the realities of life but there is definitely a bigger picture to being aspirant Entrepreneur. In a country where every other nook & corner has an engineering college and being a doctor or a lawyer is still considered to elevate your standards to that of a first-world citizen, I do think the flush of creativity & self-belief that’s making the rounds among the Indian youth is really great. One may call it being cool, but it definitely has given this generation’s youth a pump to be more creative and generate some great ideas. I understand we are not the United States of America where being independent after 18 has been a culture for a long time, but tell me that you wouldn’t like that freedom when you were 18, wouldn’t you now? That’s exactly the freedom and inspiration that we’re heading towards.
    I like the point where you call for a Plan B and it totally makes sense given the percentage of successful start-ups; but exploring our creative side is something all of us should explore.

  9. Arjita

    Hi Adithya, kudos to what you wrote. it actually brings me back to so many cliches that we all have heard in our lives. Fun reading an article which holds back relevance to may be the ages of dark ages. moreover it makes me realize that we just cant get over the crab mentality. a girl doesnt spend her parents entire savings in the marriage. dropping out of a not so great college can also make u successful. parents would love u even if you aren’t bill gates. so chill and do what you feel like as long as it’s not becoming someone who creates terror.

  10. PrIyAnGsHu

    Yes, that’s the truth in the Indian society and it’s important for Indian aspiring entrepreneurs to consider the things and the possibilities before taking an action towards becoming an entrepreneur. The road is always hard for Indians, with no special facilities and the conditions we are living with.

  11. On your face

    Hey Aditya nice try to demotivate entrepreneurs like me, well I am doing much better than you. Sitting in front of the computer and farting for no reason. Do you know what when we Indian to try do something new and wants to prove our self, then some shit from our own country raise and bark like a road side puppy. Well let me tell you one thing, either you don’t know how many graduate who boast and showoff their degrees are running auto, and chinese stall or many are drug dealers. Do you know why they don’t tell you because they shy of their degrees now. And Yes your college is the worst thing in the country where you learn nothing but still hope for the best. And who knows that brainless entrepreneurs can be your next boss?

    Well Aditya you should change your name from Aditya Iyer to Adiya Kayar, Believe me :/

    1. Adhitya ‘Kayar’

      In* your face

  12. Roadie

    What about Roadies? Do they qualify as entrepreneurs?

  13. Espy Tester

    Firstly I am not against this post, I totally agree about all the statements written above. However, it’s you and me who have to change the mindset. Ignorance leads to tolerance not freedom!, Reality would continue and shall never change if ignored.

    I am a high-school drop-out, I am working in a company who really need people who wanted to do something in life (http://moolya.com/) .

    To be frank we have no F***ing idea about what do we really need to achieve in our life. And on the other side, people don’t care about “achievement” till they have been paid some pocket money and sent to schools or colleges. There is nothing that connects drop-out with anything in this world. All someone need is to question themselves about “Do we really have to??” (Add whatever you are doing). In fact, colleges are those who spoils your creativity of being you! It’s quite amazing that we people are always daunted and got used to it. Students have been trained on how to score marks, not how to do something that really matters.

    Colleges: It’s those lecturer who have been teaching the same old torn book from past 10 years! Is there any changes that’s happening?? Even if someone questions, they are being kicked out of college for the only reason that they spoke against those lame people.

    Parents: It’s quite common that our parents are scared of our future just because they had a really bad time in their life growing up. They believe exactly what lecturer says and they want their children to be the same way of what was being told to them. If you are really courageous and passionate about what you want to do. Remember 3 idiots??

    Steve jobs and Zukerberg are one great example of making things happen. We have trained our brains to always think about negatives of one person and not about who they really are and how they wanted to change the world. Have your own definition of life and just don’t give a shit about anything. Instead talking about all the above I would say let’s join hands and over come this. 🙂

  14. Rhythm

    I think you have missed on an essence of the inspiring stories of these legends. It’s more about the perception towards life than belonging to a richer or poorer strata of the society. Try and read about J.K Rowling. The hardships which she had gone through might give you an idea that it is not just about Harvard or having a richer back. It’s about how you rise again after falling.

  15. srishti

    of course it’ll be tough……but letting ur dreams go in vain without making any effort 2 work towards them…..is a sign of cowardice,,,,,,obtacles will be thr ……..bt if u believe in yourself u can do gr8 in lyf

  16. vigneshwar

    do for something or die for nothing

  17. YoungAtHeart

    Entreprenuership is for those who love the journey more than the outcome.

    Life is tough for an enterpreneur but so what?

    You only have one life.. choice is yours

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