Saturday, October 29, 2011

Slave to Election Winner

When we think of someone who is prone to being tricked or otherwise compelled to being a modern-day slave, I don't think that the picture includes someone who can really do something with their life after they're free. At least for me, my assumption has been that an adult rescued from debt-bondage slavery will probably learn a craft and work hard to provide for his/her family, but the most they can hope for is to be above the poverty line.

This article explodes that assumption - a former debt-bondage slave in South India was freed thanks to a collaborative effort between local officials, police, and International Justice Mission's team of attorneys and investigators. He and his family participated in an extensive after-care program and he was part of a leadership development program. He just won election to a local government post. In three years, from slave to elected official.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Outlook For [India's] Entrepreneurs

In the most recent The Economist, there is a special section on business in India. One article in particular was interesting: it lays out the difficulties of starting a new company in India and highlights some success stories.

Most of the young, educated professionals I met in India were aspiring entrepreneurs. I would ask my trainees, in particular, what they hoped to be doing in five or ten years, and most included starting a company in their answer. If I asked further, "Really? That's great! What kind of company do you want to start?" unfortunately they usually said something like, "a tea shop" or "a restaurant." Those are fine businesses, but there is a tea shop at least on every city block in India, if not more, and restaurants spring up quickly and close up just as quickly because they have a difficult time differentiating themselves - either they have the same food as most of the other restaurants nearby, or they have a novel idea with poor execution, like the "Mexican" restaurant in Chennai that did not have tortilla chips, salsa, and several other items that were on the menu.

What is true in The West is true in India regarding entrepreneurial endeavors: First, identify what you want to do: What is your goal? Why do you want to start a company? Then, what are you going to offer your customers/clients that is unique? And third, how will you accomplish this at a profit (or, for non-profits, at an acceptable rate of return on investment)?

What do you think? Are there other universal guidelines for successful start-ups?