ISB Updates

"Disruptive ideas come from new businesses," Kris Gopalakrishnan

A person of the stature of Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, fondly known as Kris Gopalakrishnan, barely needs an introduction. It wasn’t any different at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad campus, where Chairman Axilor Ventures and a co-founder of Infosys, Kris, had the audience of students, faculty, staff and guests under his spell. In a tightly packed auditorium, he spoke on the topic ‘Is Entrepreneurship for you?’, during the Dean Speaker Series (DSS) of ISB. The session was moderated by Dean Srivastava, followed by an invigorating Q and A towards the end.

DSS is an initiative of Dean Rajendra Srivastava in an attempt to give back to the community and inspire it, by presenting eminent thought leaders who have made a tremendous impact on the nation.

”I was lucky to have witnessed the IT revolution, not only in India but in the entire world. The timing couldn’t have been better for Infosys, in 1981, when the enterprise began. Personal computer proliferation had just begun and every business had started to use computer,” said Kris. Axilor, his own entrepreneurial venture, is an attempt to help start-ups improve their odds of success.

He stimulated the audience, especially the would-be entrepreneurs, with his articulation on the ideal requisites of entrepreneurship. He acknowledged that ISB, unlike other B-schools, is a fertile ground for entrepreneurship.

“One must be able to withstand the uncertainty and the challenges of starting a business. A clear rationale, a right frame of mind and a well aligned purpose are as critical and so is the alignment of purpose with people around you. When Infosys was started, all of us converged on the unambiguous purpose to earn respect of customers, partners and suppliers, government, society and all other stakeholders. That singularity of purpose drove everything we did.”

For some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in history, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zukerberg, their entire world revolved about their business and such are the role models the aspiring entrepreneurs need to identify themselves with. He quoted data from a US study that reveals that 60% jobs are created by start-ups. Out of this over 70% jobs are created in the first five years of creation.

Riding the wave, being there at the right time and at the right place determines success, and Infosys was a good example of having accomplished it. It takes a complete eco-system to align if you want to make an impact on the industry. Academics, industry bodies, government all have a role to play.

Disruptive ideas come from new businesses. Existing businesses are too busy protecting their turf, protecting their revenue streams and profitability, serving their customers. This is the best time to start a business because everything is getting disrupted, middle class is growing, and affordability is increasing. Opportunity for experimentation is high in India, he added.

Several relevant questions on the worthiness of the business idea, its defensibility, its fundability, the ability to build a sustainable business around an idea need answering before taking a plunge. The horizon of success is very important and one needs to align this horizon with the horizon of the investor. While the definition of success depends on an individual, it may be anything ranging from money, fame, winning, competition, peace, and happiness. There are no right or wrong answers.

The next 30 years are going to be even more exciting because it’s not only about IT, it’s about the use of IT in every aspect and in every industry. Every industry is being disrupted, every single industry will be transformed and it’s a good time to start a new business, said Kris, in his delightfully insightful address.