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HTLS 2017 | How to be a successful entrepreneur: A sense of purpose and believing you are Superman

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, Ashwini Asokan, founder of MAD Street Den and Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder of Hector Beverages that makes Paper Boat drinks, discussed their strategies as successful entrepreneurs.

htls Updated: Nov 30, 2017 18:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Hindustan Times Leadership Summit,HTLS 2017,Entrepreneurship
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, Ashwini Asokan, founder of Artificial Intelligence solutions company MAD Street Den and Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder of Hector Beverages at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

A sense of purpose, believing you are Superman, and the ability to juggle “ticking time bombs”. These are approaches that help become a successful entrepreneur, according to founders of three successful Indian startups.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, India’s biggest largest mobile payment and commerce platform, Ashwini Asokan, founder of Artificial Intelligence solutions company MAD Street Den and Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder of Hector Beverages that makes Paper Boat drinks, discussed their strategies as successful entrepreneurs at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Thursday.

Talking to CNBC managing editor Shereen Bhan, Sharma said an entrepreneur’s sense of purpose is what drives them. “In the end, all of us humans have an urge to leave an impact on the world,” he said.

It is the belief that you are a “superhero, almost Superman” that gave Paper Boat the audacity to take on fizzy drink giants Coca Cola and Pepsi, according to Kakkar. “We see ourselves as protectors of these national, traditional recipes. No one has given us this role – we have taken this on by ourselves,” said Kakkar.

“You have to make one person say I love you. Three persons saying I like you does not work,” he added.

For Asokan, the only woman on the panel, it was the urge to take AI out of labs and make it mainstream that fuelled her entrepreneurial instincts. That, and the scepticism that confronts a woman in tech. “I love being told that I don’t belong, I can’t do something, because nothing drives me more than a challenge,” she said.

But largely, Asokan said, the experience of being a woman in tech has been “awful”.

“Entrepreneurship is a lot like juggling, except you’re juggling ticking time bombs. At any point in time, you get to hold only two. Question is, what do you do when one of those bombs explodes,” said Asokan, illustrating the firefighting that comes with being a startup leader.

The challenge to entrepreneurship in India lies not in starting up, but scaling up, Sharma added. He made no bones of the fact that demonetisation helped Paytm grow. “India’s market got built in the last two or three years. What happened in demonetisation, Reliance Jio, GST, made India’s market, made digitisation mainstream,” he said.

Each of the three said they had moments when the going was tough. For Sharma, it was his parents’ worry that he would never find a wife if he didn’t get a regular job. For Asokan, it’s multitasking family commitments, kids and in-laws.

But for Kakkar, becoming an entrepreneur is its own reward. “It’s an extremely selfish decision,” he says. “You are happy, you’re doing what you want. Your family is unhappy, you don’t have time for them or money for them,” he said.

Click here for full coverage of HT Leadership Summit

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 17:29 IST