Market Research presentations can be boring. But then, they can also give exciting ideas. Like it happened with Pranesh Misra once. When he was chief operating officer and managing director of Lowe Lintas India, Misra was sitting through one such presentation. He witnessed a lacuna in how data - although well collected - fell short of synthesising and crystallising into meaningful insights.
"As a result, I saw different clients twisting the findings to suit their own ends. Without having access to the database, it was impossible to question or challenge that. But a lot of clients were disappointed with what they got from their market research agencies. These agencies were run by researchers and not people with marketing or applications background. This is what we saw as a big lacuna or a niche that could be filled." says Misra. Having checked this out with some of industry friends from across the world, the feedback was positive.
Not that entrepreneurship was anything new to him. He was a businessman at heart for a long time and had thought of different ideas at different times. For instance, about 25 years ago he thought of starting a network of one-hour photo-processing lab in small towns. At some point he thought of starting a market research firm. Other ideas he has visited and revisited: exporting commodities, starting a brand of pickles.
Reasons for holding back through these 25 years were a middle-class background that perceived business as full of unfair practices, high-risk and wasn't supportive of it; a sense of responsibility towards family and a swinging career. "Each time I thought of taking the plunge, something came up - early marriage, two growing children and what follows." he says. And in a way, he also found a comfort zone in his plush cabin.
"Having built my nest egg, dispensing most of my responsibilities, with children getting settled - so not much of budgeting required to provide for their future education, etc." explains Misra, that he had very little to lose and was reasonably confident of success. He said to him self, 'If I don't take a plunge now, I never will! Later, I might feel sorry that I did not take the break.'
Preparing for the plunge was a task in itself. He invested in 'a roof over his head', which was one of his goals that got ready in a couple of years. Then came talking to and convincing the immediate family members. Then was funding, so Misra worked on a business plan, "which is when I realised that although I had been running businesses, writing a business plan was a completely new experience. You have to sell your idea to those who would put their money behind your idea. No longer is there any internal source of funds."
So what does he feels is the worst part of running a business? "It is uncomfortable at the top, the buck just does not go anywhere else! It stops squarely in your Blackberry or whatever communication platform you use."
But then, there are moments that make it all worth it. "Like a word of appreciation from a difficult client. Call from a past colleague who is very keen to work with you. The positive cashflow. The year-end balance sheet. The dream to build a concept that might be celebrated as an Indian speciality a few years hence. The dream of building a highly charged, passionate team."
Jumping into entrepreneurship has been one of the most rewarding decisions I took for myself. It has given my life a new meaning and I am learning new things again, after being called an expert or guru for some time. I am hardly a guru. Life is about learning and experiencing. And can there be a better opportunity to achieve both? I am so glad I took this step—finally.