Initiating a Startup – Ignore passion at your own risk

Startup fever is in the air. This infection is spreading fast and every young and old want to become successful through a startup route. While this fever is good to create a positive culture, the flip side obviously is failure of most of these startups within few months to a couple of years.


Last three days, I had opportunity to meet three such different groups of startup dreamers with very different and divergent backgrounds. After having detailed discussion as an advisor I discovered common traits that worried me.

One such team, that comprised of young students wanted to give their shot on starting a ecommerce portal that would help some daily needs of larger population. I was surprised that the team had brainstormed for several months before coming to the idea that to me seemed very basic and flawed. Another issue I found was that the team had no technical background but wanted to enter in a technology based business.

The second team was already running a technology company in a particular domain that was niche and had dedicated clients. However the leadership team of the company felt that by not moving to new technology domains in their service offerings, they may be left out in the race of a successful IT company. They had acquired skills and spend time and money in creating some ecosystem for offering new technology based services like big data but had met with no success even after one year. In this process, they had ignored their core business that had resulted in stalling the growth of the established business and not making anything substantial in the new area too.

The third team was a group of real estate experts who had great domain knowledge but wanted to create a portal that would be based on their domain knowledge and will be able to take on already established portals with very little investment.

All wanted to grow and create new companies that would be valued big eventually. The common problem I found in each was the ‘Lure for big money’ and not the passion of the cause. Each of them had a dream of making millions in a short span of time, and the entire journey was being worked out backwards.

The question in the planning process was not the passion they wanted to exercise and create something worthwhile, except probably in the third team to some extent. In all cases the question being answered was ‘What we have to do to make millions’.

In my more than two decades of technology experience, I have myself started few ventures with money as the motive. In all the cases the outcome started with mental fatigue, loss of interest in the business and eventually loss of money and a cause. It was only after few attempts that I understood the problem and started focusing on my passion. My success is primarily attributed to this learning. Most of the startup may have to learn this lesson and experience failures before they can smell success. For those who give up, this experience will only carry bitter feelings and sense of loss, while for persistent few, sky is the limit.


Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Managing Partner of SRKay Consulting group, a private equity company, nurturing innovative ventures. Alok also serves on the board of ICCL (Indian Clearing Corporation Limited - A subsidiary of BSE- Bombay Stock Exchange) as an external advisor for technology and information security. Prior to this, Alok had been Managing Director of Sears IT & Management Services India Private Limited (SHI) since its inception in December 2009 and served in the same position till very recently. Having been in senior IT management positions in Fortune 500 companies, Alok has won several national and international awards. Alok is instrumental in planning and setting up SHI and thereafter growing it to a multi-locational thousand-plus people organization. Over the last five years, with his strategic vision, Alok helped SHI grow roots in India, develop and support technology applications and infrastructure across core mainframe, cutting edge e-Commerce and big data technologies. With his unique people-oriented transformational leadership style, Alok turned SHI into one of the most valued investments of Sears, garnering great ROIs, and creating value much beyond cost arbitrage. Under his tutelage, SHI has filed two patents and is recognized widely for its best practices in various areas, the latter, currently featured in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) case studies. SHI also became a CMMI Level 3, PCMM Level 3, and ISO 20000 certified organization. Alok is a widely acclaimed corporate leader in India today. He regularly participates and leads various forums as a keynote speaker and is an author of several books in different genres. Alok has several awards to his credit. He is particularly known in the industry for his people management skills and innovative ideas in improving the productivity of employees through unique people practices. He has been credited with the following industry awards: ¬ Emerging Leader of the Year award 2013 by ¬ Game Changer CEO of the Year 2013 (SHRM) ¬ CIO 100 - The Bold CIOs - 2008 (Reliance Infosolutions) ¬ CIO - Ones to Watch Award 2008 (Reliance Industries) ¬ Extended Manager Award - CIOL 2004 (Tata Teleservices) As an able leader of SHI, Alok got SHI recognized widely in the industry with the following several awards: ¬ CII Award for HR Best Practices in 2014 ¬ Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award - AIOP (Phoenix 2013) ¬ IT Innovation Award (Design & Engineering) - Computer Society of India 2012 ¬ Golden Company of the Year - Economic Times 2011-12 ¬ 7th Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Mumbai, India) 2013: • ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ Award • ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with business • HR Leadership Award • Talent Management Award by Bloomberg TV India ¬ Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Singapore, Asia) 2013: • 7th rank in ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ award • Award for ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with the business • HR Leadership Award Other recognitions: Alok had served on the distinguished panel of NASSCOM's GIC (Global In-house Centers) National Council members. The council members play a key role in major initiatives of the industry and include the torch bearers of IT industry as panel members. Books and Papers: Alok is an established author, with three books to his credit. Alok’s third and latest book, a novel, “The Spy from Unaula” is a 2015 publication. A handwriting analysis enthusiast, Alok collaborated with his wife Nandani on the book, “Handwriting Speaks” in 2006. “Value Sourcing – Future of IT Outsourcing” was co-authored with Keith Sherwell (currently CIO, Altice USA) and was released in 2013. Alok also researched and published two whitepapers: a. “Creating next generation captives” talks about the best practices that are helping generate higher value from the IT company captives.

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1 Response

  1. Sumit Sharma says:

    Very thoughtful advice Alok. Money can only be an end result of what we do, never the premise. I recall how forthcoming you were with your views when I sought some advice during our visit to Pune.

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