Ok, people. Place your bets.

“I’d take all the youngsters to the horse track and make them bet!” exclaimed the well-known entertainment entrepreneur. This was his proposal for acclimating people to entrepreneurship. I was speechless; probably a good thing.

But we hear variations of this theme all the time: entrepreneurs are gamblers. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. I hear that that one key thing holding people back from becoming entrepreneurs is their unwillingness to take a risk.

I challenge that premise.

Most Indian graduates long for placements in multi-national corporations (MNCs), or large Indian companies. Indeed, an Infosys placement commands a premium in the marriage market.

I contend that these youngsters are the real gamblers. I contend that the young people signing up for jobs in large corporates are assuming more risk than many of their counterparts headed to start-ups, or starting their own ventures.

Consider the placement scenario over the past few months – I know of young people who received offers from highly regarded MNC’s, but then never received their appointment letters.

As in most large companies, the decision to terminate the jobs was taken by people far removed, who were looking at the overall picture of the company. Perhaps the conversation went like this, “We need to trim the bench from 10% to 2%.” “Ok, we’ll cut the new hires in Bangalore.”

And these would-be-new hires couldn’t do a single thing to change their fate. They couldn’t prove their worth by working harder; or improve circumstances by identifying a new opportunity for the company or by changing strategy or pricing. Nothing. It was as if they had placed their chips at the roulette wheel, and then watched the ball land another number.

Contrast that with what might have happened in a start-up, or in their own venture. Everyone faces tough times. But in a start-up, perhaps they could have found another customer. They might have volunteered for extra work to speed up product development. Or negotiated a better deal with suppliers to save some money.

It may not have worked. But the point is that they could have tried something; they had a measure of control.

And in the course of trying, they would have learned something, improved their skills, or met people for the next opportunity. What can you learn, sitting at home, waiting for an appointment letter? Or shoe-horned into a cube, working on a piece of code?

So, who is better off, even in the worst case scenario? Who took more risk?

Everything in life carries some risk. Perhaps it’s about where one wants to place a bet. Do you want to bet on someone you don’t even know? Or do you want to bet on yourself?

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4 Comments

Filed under Failure, Tips for entrepreneurs

4 responses to “Ok, people. Place your bets.

  1. madhu

    Point well said! thanks

  2. i would like to believe that the students are aware of the employment and market scenario. sitting like lame ducks, waiting for something to happen is foolishness, and not not-taking-risk. and well, if they are not aware of the situation, need i say more?

    • Laura Parkin

      Hi Sahil – Appreciate your comment, and hope Tossed Salad is doing really well. Been a few months since I’ve checked in with Vinod in Pune about you…..Anyway, regarding your comment: I think sometimes the obvious needs to be underlined! Though I would hate to have entrepreneurship positioned as an alternative to sitting at home. I think I was trying to point out a new way to regard risk — the control/lack of control is true in any market scenario, but in this climate it’s easier to highlight. cheers.

  3. Laura,
    You had me going with the first half of the article, and then I wasn’t so sure 🙂

    Is Entrepreneurship like gambling? I’m not sure. Its a high, and its a bet, but I think its a bit more calculated than that – I sure hope so.

    Being in a raft and knowing that you have one of the two choices – either stay in it and enjoy it, or have a waterfall coming ahead – or get out of it and go do something else, which one is riskier? I don’t think choices are that absolute. Its rather very relative. For one sitting in is riskier, for the other, getting out of the raft is. Isnt that more like it?

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