By Axilor Ventures
Dec 21, 2016
3 min read

This article has been adapted from a post by Prof Tarun Khanna.

This post is part of my Thinking Like an Entrepreneur Series, where I attempt to distil my personal experiences for would-be entrepreneurs.

Recognizing large patterns and trends in the environment is something that all entrepreneurs (and investors alike) want to do well. Such understanding can make a large difference; even decide the broader direction they take. How can entrepreneurs be effective in such an effort?

To build on my previous post, here is a principle that embraces both the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of entrepreneurship. The science part here is of course to be aware of the structural realities of the environment within which you are building an enterprise or organization. Easy at one level, but also easier said than done, since it takes time to aggregate and assemble data that are relevant and, more importantly, takes an effort to remember to focus on these things. The art part is sensing things that are emerging.

Let me illustrate. Last week, I read the Economic Survey of India, a (quite ponderous) document released by the Economic Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister, ‘tabled’ in Parliament, right before the country’s budget was announced. It is always overshadowed by the budget, but is an important document. Indeed, I thought the survey was very well done (kudos to Arvind Subramaniam, the current incumbent of the post).

Here the ‘hard’ data the ‘science’ part so to speak, are on inflation that has been partly tamed, evolution of the fiscal deficit, and so on. But the softer part, closer to ‘art’ than to ‘science,’ that will manifest in the decade ahead, my guess anyway, is the report’s attention to disparate things that aggregate nicely in my view.

The particular theme that I detected and really liked was the emergent emphasis on the marginalized, my abiding intellectual and practical concern:

  • rural residents of India, where the stats continue to be alarming
  • unskilled (in urban and rural India) vital for India’s much-discussed but as –yet-nascent “Make in India” policies
  • women (to whom economic opportunities do not flow smoothly at all)

Any entrepreneur concerned especially with the mass market in India should recognize that if the government’s policies continue in this vein, this can herald a secular drift in a fabulous direction, it can be the wind in the sails of any such entrepreneurial effort as it will ultimately increase the size of the relevant market.

To connect to another post from a few weeks ago, In Praise of Drudgery, the Economic Survey also emphasizes robust incrementalism rather than a Big Bang approach to reform. As Arvind rightly points out, the big bang only gets tried, for the most part, in situations of crisis. For other times, as those that India is going through now, moving the ball forward, incrementally but robustly, is far better and much likelier to be effective. That is, praise be to daily drudgery.

So, to find the wind in your sails, to propel your effort forward, you need the science part and the art part. Now my question to you is, specifically in this effort of understanding the environment, how do you think one can become better and better at the art part?

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