Q & A with Kanwal Rekhi – Mortals and Angels

In my previous post, I had shared some of the insights that Kanwal Rekhi had shared with the audience in response to the questions by the Moderator Sathyanarayanan of New Horizon Media.

The second part of the event was a freewheeling Questions from the audience that were fielded by Kanwal.  That session was moderated by Arun Natarajan of Venture Intelligence.  In this post, I shall cover some questions and their responses that I can recall.  There were also some questions that were posed on a one-one basis during the networking dinner that followed the event and I am including some for the benefit of others.  The earlier disclaimers continue in force.

If you want to watch the entire program, here is the link. http://www.hooghli.com/mma/

Q: Why cannot we unlock the technology brainpower in our IITs and other premier Institutions?

The Government had done the unthinkable of separating academics from research by going the CSIR route.  This created a situation where professors were not doing any research and at the same time research was done in isolation.  It is not enough to make ground-breaking research if you do not exploit them commercially and in that aspect CSIR has failed miserably. Technology by itself is not sufficient: it has to be taken to the market and that requires a different set of skills.  I was talking with Dr Mashelkar about a collaboration to commercialize Research but nothing fructified.

Q: What about ‘Intrapreneurship’?

In my opinion, the inner entrepreneurship is a non-starter because for a billion rupee enterprise, a 50 million addition by way of a successful new product is only 5% which he can do by prudent cost saving measures.  So why would he risk losing otherwise productive employees into research that may not produce anything at the end of the day.  Likewise, for the employee who has worked hard to create a new product or service and taken it successfully to the market, there might be at best a small recognition or a golden watch whereas if he had done it outside, he may reap many millions.  So, it does not work either way!!

Q: We are faced with an opportunity that is bigger than and also synergestic with our current business.  What would you advise?

An entrepreneur cannot ride on two horses or have two mistresses even if they appear to be closely related.  While the new business might seem as an extension, it will certainly cause you to drop the earlier ball and lose focus.

Q: I am currently employed and have a few ideas.  Can I pursue them on a part-time basis?

I believe that being an entrepreneur is a full time profession and anything else is a compromise that will stand in the way of his/her success.  You may use your current status to do some basic market research and prepare the ground work but anything beyond has to be done full time.

Q: (of mine). When and how did you make the decision to jump from employment to entrepreneurship?  

I was an employee for 12 years and one day I felt that I could do much better as an entrepreneur.  I resigned the next day and started my first venture.  There were no second thoughts and no cooling period.

Q: There are many investors in the market.  How do I choose the right one to go after?

In the same way you would choose an employee or a vendor or a customer.  And you must do it quickly instead of waiting indefinitely.  Find an investor who vibes well with you and do enough due diligence before you make the approach.  There are many Angel Investors here like the Chennai Angels and you can take advantage of their presence and check them out.

I reiterate that the wording of the questions and the responses are from my falliable memory and so please take them with a pinch of salt.

Better still, watch the video here  http://www.hooghli.com/mma/

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