Who exactly is an ‘entrepreneur’?

I was born to a first-generation entrepreneur, with my father having started multiple ventures, failed in a few, succeeding in most. I belong natively to the ‘baniya’ community – a population typically known for their shrewd business & trading prowess, having given the country, even the world, some much-revered business personalities. And as a 21st century millennial, I was fortunate to have had hands-on experience of the dynamic start-up movement in India, having worked with one myself. And after all of this, when I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, it didn’t really come across as a surprise.

And so began my journey to understand what entrepreneurship was all about. Once I began to unravel the term ‘entrepreneurship’, I was surprised, even overwelmed by the various interpretations of what the word represents. Technically speaking, the Oxford dictionary describes entrepreneurship as the practice of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

So then, does anyone who starts a business become an entrepreneur? I’d have to say I disagree.

Because in my eyes, you can be an entrepreneur even if you don’t have a business. Yes, while in the general sense an entrepreneur has come to mean someone who is involved with the ownership, management and execution of business-led enterprises, in the larger sense, an entrepreneur isn’t just a person. Rather, entrepreneurship is a thought, attitude, and personality much before it becomes a company.

If you’re driven by the thought of taking an initiative because it means a lot of money, then you’re a businessman, not an entrepreneur. Not to say that financial gains aren’t a motivation behind choosing to become an entrepreneur, but if that’s the only driving force, then I’m not sure you’re on the right track. For one of the key rewards of entrepreneurship is being able to bring to life an idea that’s disruptive enough to break through the clutter, and acceptable enough to find its place. Which is why I’d say the primary step towards entrepreneurship is the thought of an idea that you believe is likely to work.

Time and again, I meet people with brilliant ideas, which if put into execution through the ideal combination of strategy and a well chalked out plan, are likely to find their ground. But the reason such ideas never see the light of day, is because the person didn’t think it would work. Or he was unwilling to take the risk involved. He had the idea, but lacked the entrepreneurial attitude.

And there of course are people who’ve got the idea, and  the attitude, but can’t sell their idea to their close kin, to the right people, or  the market. Because they couldn’t get people to believe in them. If you’re getting people to put their time, effort and money on your idea, you’re indirectly getting them to invest in you. Which is why there’s absolutely no way you can escape the personality part of being an entrepreneur.

And coming back to what I said about the link between entrepreneurship and business, I strongly believe that while we do end up correlating the two, the two can in reality be very far apart. For a businessman is someone who driven by the money, the entrepreneur, by the idea. An entrepreneur can be a businessman, and a businessman can be an entrepreneur, but when it comes to being an entrepreneur, you can be one, anywhere, in any situation. For it all takes to start is a thought, an idea and a belief.

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