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Are we risk-averse?
3 min read

Are we risk-averse?

Is the Indian Ecosystem and culture risk-averse by default?

There is a question that comes up time and time again about the ecosystem :

When I talk about an idea, most folks only talk about why it won't work. Why? Are we really so risk averse?

For a brief period, I did believe that might be true. Perhaps centuries of colonization have warped our wiring in a way that is not repairable.

But then, you look at the top performers in the world today and you realize that there are indians who are thriving in almost every sphere. Clearly, then it is not something that we are genetically predisposed to. Then what? Is it the context?


When you look at all the countries in the world, with a high innovation index, one thing becomes apparent. They are all quite high in GDP. While GDP is a relevant number, what makes more sense is the per capita income (GDP divided by the Population).

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita

India has a per capita GDP of Approx 2000$*. The US has a per capita GDP of 65,000$. In all the countries of the world, and if you go back a few years, you realize that there is something almost magical that happens when the per capita income gets to 5000$. At 10,000$, it is unstoppable. At 10,000$ Per capita income, the government starts to have real money to address real issues - and that's when quality of life starts to rise.

The mindset at 2K, which is barely enough to make ends meet, seems to be around the idea of a bird in hand vs two in the bush. When it gets to 5K, the attitude shifts from why? to why not? and at 10K, you start looking at the moon to dream big.

In times of scarcity, everything in our being (and on a cellular level) is only concerned about self-preservation and in times of abundance, we are wired to expand.

As an entrepreneur, understanding this gives you a better perspective - and that this risk averse mindset is a temporary thing.

The bigger question though, is how do we get to the 5K goal.

The way that most economies have done it over the decades is that, they start with exploiting their natural resources, pump up the GDP and leverage that excess to invest heavily in infrastructure and education, and execute the innovation play.

This is the playbook that most of the middle east and China have followed.

That playbook however has a huge environmental cost. China took the gamble to exploit their environmental resources and use that excess to go up the value chain and then clean up the mess (literally with massive air purifiers).

We are however in a time and place, where India is simply not going to have the luxury of using that playbook. The world has changed and with heightened awareness around global warming and the environment, that is not going to be a viable option - even though the government is sneaking in some of that to see how far they can go.


If India has to achieve its ambitions, it will come down to the entrepreneurial engine of the country.

The clash that we see between entrepreneurs and the ecosystem is the mindset where the entrepreneurs are asking "Why not?" and the environment is asking "Why?"

To survive this and still have a shot, it will take really really strong conviction about the problem that you are keen to solve - and the ability to go through the grind. If it is about building a startup (because everyone is) and raising money and getting publicity, eventually the environment will win.

Knowing fully well, that this is the ecosystem and context around us, think back on your conviction as to why you became an entrepreneur and what is the problem that you are keen to solve and if it truly an obsession or passing thought.

And if it is an obsession, it is going to take twice the effort to succeed - and if you do, the payout is also twice as big.

I am not going to mince words - it will be really really difficult as an entrepreneur to succeed in an environment that is negatively charged. But it is also the reason why being an entrepreneur - and succeeding - will be one of the most patriotic things one can do in this country. I would put it in par with serving in the military and protecting the borders.

Entrepreneurs are a weird lot that have one foot in the present and the next foot and their heads into the future. If anyone can ride through all this, it will be that lot.

What are your thoughts on this?


*This is Pre-COVID Data

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