Raj Nayak launched the general entertainment channel Colors and took it to newer heights. The former Chief Operating Officer of Viacom 18 Media launched his own venture House of Cheer that specialized in curation, consultation, and creation.
In a candid conversation, he shares his ideas on taking the entrepreneurial route amid the crisis, why Reed Hastings and Richard Branson inspire him, and why everyone can’t be an entrepreneur. Read the edited excerpts here:
A crisis is usually the time to take a step back, slow down, and think through more carefully than usual. But you took the entrepreneurial route. How did you get your idea off the ground?
Like everyone else, we were not expecting this abnormal situation of a prolonged lockdown. Initially, we thought that it will last for a month or two, nobody expected things to come to such a pass. All our plans came to a hard stop. I debated with my colleagues and we soon realized that in the current environment when people are anxious, afraid, disconnected, working from home, and stressed, a product offering like happyness.me becomes even more relevant. The biggest challenge leaders are facing in companies today is how to adapt their people and strategies to the demands and changes happening around them. How do you make your people feel connected and motivated? Keeping this in mind we decided that this was the right time to launch. And the overwhelming response we have received has validated our thinking.
There's a good chance the new entrepreneurs feel a loss of direction right now. Every business in the country is being put to the test. What should leaders do in such time apart from waiting for the business to shine bright?
As an entrepreneur, the first thing to do is to accept what is.
You cannot change the external environment. We have to remind ourselves that, what is not in our control is not in our control.
You have to see how best you can react to it. How can you navigate these challenging times? This is also the time to relook at the entire business model. It’s time to press the reset button and introspect how you would do it differently. What are the learnings from here and how well you can prepare yourself for the future? I am an eternal optimist and I believe this too shall pass. We can’t lose hope. Sometimes it is also a good strategy, to just sit tight and weather the storm.
Throughout human history, crises have been pivotal in developing our societies. It has been said that never let a good crisis go to waste. The present coronavirus pandemic will arguably not be an exception; can entrepreneurs be expected to rise to the challenge?
It all depends on the business you are in. Many entrepreneurs would have been wiped out or will be wiped out when this is all over. That is a sad reality. Some would have used their capacity and skill to pivot to another area of business. Not everyone has this luxury. In every adversity there is an opportunity, some will be able to take advantage of it. It’s not that entrepreneurs cannot rise to the challenge, many of them will, but some may just not have the resources to do so. These are challenging times.
There are two sides to a coin in the current situation and one of the theories suggests that if any business is able to launch successfully during these extraordinary times itÕll be well set up to thrive into the future. WhatÕs your take on that?
I am a big believer that you can’t wait for a perfect time to launch a business. A dear friend once told me ‘that perfect is the enemy of the good.’ My advice is, if you launch now, the expectations are less from everyone, so you can use the time to fine-tune, tweak your business, make course corrections and be in a pole position to take advantage when things are back to normal. But it all depends on the area of your business & it is not that one size fits all.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
You are outside of your comfort zone & life becomes more challenging. There is no security of a paycheck at the end of the month. There is a certain amount of uncertainty that makes you come alive. When you wake up every morning you feel the adrenaline rush. The good thing is, you have the freedom to do what you want. It is the whole feeling of having found a purpose to pursue things that you are truly passionate about.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and who inspires you?
Master of my destiny. And the person who inspires me is Richard Branson, but now I would also add Reed Hastings to it.
What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who are planning to take the entrepreneur route amid the crisis?
Not everyone can become an entrepreneur. It’s a tough journey & these are challenging times. Don’t get carried away only by the success stories. You need to have the courage and the conviction & more importantly the risk appetite. Once you have finally decided this is really what you want to do, then just go for it. Follow your gut & take the leap of faith.
Though it's a bit early, but what are the key learnings so far as an entrepreneur?
Start small, Think BIG! Manage your cash flow well. Be frugal & conserve fuel for the long haul.