If you really want to succeed in business, you have to nurture the habit of playing with different ideas. This also includes finding new ways of doing business, trying something different every time, exploring new markets, developing new products and adopting newer technologies and processes. There is no guarantee that all the ideas that come to your mind may work out. But at least one out of ten ideas will surely make an impact.
I read an interesting anecdote of Thomas Alva Edison, the famous scientist. He was able to successfully invent the electric bulb on his 100th attempt. The previous 99 attempts were unsuccessful. Someone asked Edison, “Sir, what was the use of those 99 methods? Were they not a failure?” Edison smiled and said: “Why do you say so? I have also invented 99 methods of how to not make an electric bulb.” This positive thought or attitude is really praiseworthy. Edison kept playing with the ideas throughout his life and invented many novel things that made human life more comfortable. This is the power of ideas or innovations.
Sometimes, failure or accidents in research also lead to new ideas and new inventions. For example, when Charles Goodyear was conducting experiments with rubber, he accidently discovered the process of vulcanisation. Similarly, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin antibiotic when he was performing experiments on fungus. This route to accidental innovation also applies to entrepreneurs. I remember one such interesting incident. We all love potato chips, which has become a huge industry. But very few of us know that the crispy and crunchy chip is an accidental invention. George Crum was a chef in a restaurant, where he served fried potatoes to the customers. One day, a stubborn customer demanded crispier and smaller fried potatoes. Crum prepared the dish but the kept sending it back until an irritated Crum sliced the potatoes wafer-thin and deep fried them. The product became hard, crispy and crunchy. The customers liked them so much that the chips quickly became a popular hot dish.
During the second world war, an Indian company manufacturing iron ploughs for farmers was encountering reduced demand. The company had already stored a huge quantity of iron. The question was what to do with that extra storage. They surveyed the market, understood customer’s requirement and diverted their production towards building strong household cots. This shift of product not only saved the company from loss, but inspired them to venture into another business line — utility products.
Starting a company with an innovative idea and selling it later for a huge profit is a reputed business in developed countries. Such persons are called ‘serial entrepreneurs’. Society looks at them with great respect. But in some conservative business societies, selling a business is not considered appropriate. In my opinion serial entrepreneurship is a novel idea. The new generation should buy into it.
Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil Trading.