12 Jul 2017 13:58 IST

‘95% start-ups fail but 100% entrepreneurs succeed’

K Vaitheeswaran co-founded India’s first e-commerce firm

Ninety-five per cent of start-ups fail; however, entrepreneurs must take heart because 100 per cent of entrepreneurs succeed, believes K Vaitheeswaran, known as the ‘father of e-commerce in India.’

He co-founded India’s first e-commerce company, Fabmart.com (later re-branded as Indiaplaza.com), with five others in 1990, that was forced to shut down in 2013 despite enjoying first-mover advantage. Vaitheeswaranexplained why he thinks it happened, after the launch of his book, Failing to Succeed – The story of India’s first e-commerce company.

“Entrepreneurship is a hard journey and not as glamorous as the media makes it out to be. While everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, few have the courage to be one. I believe there are multiple factors that can lead to the failure of a start-up, but the mere act of starting up is a huge success in itself,” said Vaitheeswaran, who likes to think of his Indiaplaza journey as “a successful failure”.

Tips for entrepreneurs

Pointing out that the financial outcome and the shutting down of a start-up is not dependent on the entrepreneur alone, he says entrepreneurs must focus on solving problems rather than looking for new ideas. Instead of failing fast and pivoting their business, they must do everything in their power to make their start-up work; and call it quits when they have to, without lingering too long and losing more money.

Most important of all, the personal dignity and integrity of an entrepreneur is non-negotiable and must be upheld at all times, especially when the start-up fails and has to shut down.

Pioneering efforts

Indiaplaza was India’s first online marketplace that launched several firsts — a PIN-based payment gateway, e-wallet, electronic gift certificates, cross-border gifting service, customised merchandise and cash-on-delivery.

Other innovations such as online-to-offline, hyperlocal and omni-channel deliveries, and an online loyalty programme were other firsts even before Amazon.com launched similar services anywhere else in the world.

Yet it was destroyed by a string of incidents that even today sounds surreal, he recounts.

Citing classic examples of Facebook, Google and Apple, he said: “Facebook was not the first social network, Google was not the first search engine, Apple wasn’t the first smartphone, yet they have all become huge successes. The first-mover advantage works better in non-tech businesses, like a new kind of automobile, where the impact of fast-moving technology is less. Companies who were there first simply fell by the wayside, simply because technology went ahead very quickly. Kodak is a classic example, the greatest camera company. I don’t know how many people know that they were also the inventors of the digital camera.”

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