Entrepreneurs, Have you found your Queen of Hearts?

When I was 21 years old, I entered my father’s socks knitting factory that had existed for 25 years. It had flourished in a competitive, domestic market. For almost 3 decades, there had been no exports since pricing just was not viable. In about 2 months after I joined, Manmohan Singh presented his dramatic ‘liberalization’ budget and massively devalued the Rupee! All of a sudden, Indian exports became a possibility and over the next few years, our family business grew into a very profitable, highly export centric business (that was also tax free)!

[Guest article by Alok Kejriwal, founder of Games2Win. Alok talks about the four letter word a lot of entrepreneurs have been running after!]

If I ask you to randomly pick up one card from a well-shuffled deck of 52 cards, can you predict which one will you will pick?

The ‘chance’ of you picking up a Queen is almost the same chance you take when you start up a business, become an entrepreneur or even take up a successful and satisfying job.

As educated and well-read professionals, we loathe the concept of luck and chance and always believe that hard work, determination, brains and passion will make us win. I say ‘most likely’.  It is the unsaid and ‘swept under the carpet’ factor of LUCK that tips the balance one-way or the other.  The combination of luck and effort is what makes the magic happen!

Timing

When I was 21 years old, I entered my father’s socks knitting factory that had existed for 25 years. It had flourished in a competitive, domestic market. For almost 3 decades, there had been no exports since pricing just was not viable. In about 2 months after I joined, Manmohan Singh presented his dramatic ‘liberalization’ budget and massively devalued the Rupee!  All of a sudden, Indian exports became a possibility and over the next few years, our family business grew into a very profitable, highly export centric business (that was also tax free)!

It was the timing of the event, coupled with the sheer effort of changing the mindset of the family (to fly to London for orders rather than to Calcutta) that made this massive swing successful.

Lesson – Events that tip great opportunities will come your way. But you have to act upon it.

People

I grew fed up of the family business and by 1997 was desperate to exit it. One day a gentleman called ‘GK’ landed up on my door trying to sell me website solutions. His pitch was to create a website for my factory that would help my buyers understand what we were about. He was the window to my world of the ‘Internet’! One conversation led to another and lo and behold I had ditched socks making and the factory and had hired GK to create a contesting website for me!

Lesson – People you meet may be messengers in disguise. Take your ‘chances’ and do the unusual with them.

Believers

After having started Contests2win.com, things began moving fast.  We kept adding content to the site and started attracting more and more consumers playing. The site was however free for consumers and also free to brand owners who had never experimented with an Internet media business before. As a naïve entrepreneur, I did not even have the courage to ask any brand owner for money.

Just about 9 months after I had begun my journey, I got a call from a gentleman called Ajay Mathur from Intel. He treated me to breakfast at the Samarkand (Oberoi, Mumbai) and then said something very unusual to me. He said ‘ Alok, Intel wants to be the first advertiser on Contests2win.com because Intel believes that encouraging new web ideas is critical to growing Internet and computing penetration in India. Advertising on your site is a gesture in that direction’. He just said, ‘Add an Intel banner on the home page and bill us Rs. 5000 per month. No metrics, no questions, no click thrus and no reports required’. I was speechless.

That one paid Intel advertisement became my vanity calling card that I went out with & within a year 100 top brand advertisers had signed up as paying advertisers.

Lesson – there is always a believer out there looking out for you. Just do your bit without expectation and you will be rewarded.

Mentors

By 1999, I was getting investors excited about funding Contests2win.com. Citibank wrote out a term sheet and we were about to sign it when GK asked me to meet a new VC in town called ‘eVentures’. I met them and was impressed. Rajesh Jog was an imposing personality. Neeraj Bhargava gave me the right vibes of guidance and incubation. I was confused about what to do.

I had met Ajit Balakrishnan of Rediff.com just once before and he had impacted me immensely. I still don’t know why but I just picked up the phone and related my story and asked for his advise! What he said stunned me. He said ‘Alok, eventures are a great bunch of folks and will really help you in building your business but they have no money in their banks. They are still to close their funds. So, if you need just money, go to Citibank, and if you need mentorship, wait for Eventures’.

I wanted both, so I split the raise between ICICI and eVentures. eVentures, as Ajit had predicted paid us after 7 months, but the guidance, mentorship and incubation that Neeraj gave me has made us who we are today.

Lesson – Ask folks you may barely know the questions you may not have answers to. If luck is on your side, they may have the answers.

Partnerships

Just after we started games2win.com in 2007, my colleague, Dinesh Gopalakrishnan had developed a game called Bombay Taxi. It was a funny game about parking a taxi in Mumbai. It was as Indian and as ‘Bombaiyaa’ as you can imagine. One day, while sitting across my desk, he was discussing all the potential partners he would be sending this game to for distribution and while rattling off a long list, he mentioned ‘Additinggames.com’.

I had not heard of addictinggames.com (AG) before and I just kept nodding my head. If I had known at that time that AG was a Viacom (USA) owned flash gaming site based in San Francisco and had content that was as American as you can imagine, I would have NEVER let him send Bombay Taxi to them.

I was ignorant, he was a chance taker – that one game he sent to AG created such a massive rush of American traffic to our site, that in 6 months we had changed our business model completely to a Made in India, Sold in the USA story. Today, of the 20 million unique users we serve, less than 7% come from India.

All this thanks to that one game that slipped out to AG credited to my ignorance.

Lesson – sometimes not knowing can be the best streak of luck you ever had!

Luck will play a vital role in your success. Don’t depend on it but don’t refuse it either!

[Reproduced from Alok’s blog. Read all of Alok’s articles here]

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