Getting Lucky in India

 
 

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of hearing Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder of Info Edge, speak at a business conference I was attending.

Bikhchandani is best known for his jobs portal website, Naukri.com, which has been a huge success. He’s the product of a high quality education — a bachelor's degree from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and a business degree from the famed Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. But when he decided to abandon his corporate job in the early 1990s, India's economy had only just liberalized, and ‘sensible’ people didn't chase entrepreneurial dreams. Bikchandani, though, decided he wanted to try, and started working from a tiny room in his parent's home.

His company might be worth a billion dollars now, but Bikchandani recalled how the first seven years were really just about trying to stay afloat, which involved taking on a variety of work, including teaching management at a business school and taking on some human resources consulting projects for different companies.

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It took Bikchandani nearly a decade to come up with his big jobs portal idea, and he regaled the audience with descriptions of how most of what came after the initial idea, including rounds of venture capital funding, were simply the result of being in the right place at the right time. In fact, he ended his presentation with a slide that said simply: ‘Get Lucky.’

Perseverance, Bikchandani said, was the key to getting ‘lucky’. If you’re very lucky, he suggested, you might make it in five years. A little lucky, it might take you 10 years. And if luck is something of a stranger, then it could take as many as 15 years. But just keep plugging away, Bikchandani said, and success will eventually come.

In some pockets of civil society, there’s jubiliation that protests here have forced the government to allow regular citizens to participate in drafting landmark anti-corruption legislation. Even if you overlook the fact that such coercion, which has involved hunger strikes, might not actually be appropriate for a functioning democracy, it should be obvious that quick wins are unlikely to get us anywhere in the long-run.

Bikchandani's lessons on the importance of perseverance for lasting success have plenty of applications outside of politics.

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