3 Paradoxes of Entrepreneurship

3 Paradoxes of Entrepreneurship

By Somali K Chakrabarti

Entrepreneurship in India is a growing trend, spurred by the boom in e-commerce and rising investor interest. With this burgeoning interest in entrepreneurship, a number of courses, programs and workshops have mushroomed with the claim to help in turning entrepreneurial aptitude to the story of untold riches.

How useful management education is, for an entrepreneur, is a question that pops up frequently. Can entrepreneurship be taught?

After all, some of the biggest businesses have been built by people who never attended a B school.

A few such questions and paradoxes that arise in the context of entrepreneurship are:

1. Returns vs Passion

A pre requisite for an entrepreneur to get funding is having a scalable idea. An entrepreneur is expected to have a very strong conviction of why his/her idea would work and the returns that can be expected.

So, I was pretty surprised when I came to know while researching for the  -> brand stories that some of the entrepreneurs who founded popular brands did not have a concrete idea to begin with.

These individuals, who were incredibly passionate about something that they wanted to pursue, simply followed their passion. Availing the opportunities that emerged, they ended up successfully converting their hobbies into business.

Dilip Kapur, the founder of  -> Hidesign was passionate about designing leather goods and started designed handbags as a hobby. Hidesign grew from a two men workshop set up in Pondicherry, into an international mainstream luxury brand.

Similarly Meena Bindra did not start  -> Biba with a business idea but she followed their passion with full gusto, and took up every opportunity that came her way to grow her business.

So, while a saleable and scalable idea is needed to get funding, but passion, conviction and commitment are required throughout the entrepreneurial journey.

Passion – > idea – > execution -> commitment


2. Conception of Idea vs Execution 

It is often taken for granted that great businesses are built upon great ideas. However, merely coming up with great ideas can never make a successful business till the ideas are implemented well.

Entrepreneurship is more about relentless execution of an idea than about merely conceiving an idea. During the execution some things will go right and many things will go wrong. Entrepreneurs always put themselves in the driving seat and own up everything that goes rights or wrong.

A manager, in an organization, on the other hand may blame the system, or some external factors when things go wrong, while taking the credit for all right things.

Entrepreneur characteristics


3. Entrepreneurial education vs lessons of life

Entrepreneurial education is often looked at with skepticism. Unless you have entrepreneurial aptitude and risk appetite, no B school can prepare you for the dangerous thrill or the risks of entrepreneurship.

Education for Entrepreneurs

However, besides having  a strong understanding in say one area of business, an entrepreneur needs to have a decent understanding of all areas of business. That is where a management education comes in handy. B school equips a person with working knowledge of all business functions. Having said that one has to be careful in the choice of subjects that gear the person for more for entrepreneurship than for management positions.


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill


Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey and fraught with risks. An entrepreneur has to work leaving the security and the comfort zone of the office environment.

The route to success is not a straight one and is mostly paved with failures. More than the returns, the passion to create something keeps entrepreneurs going to such great lengths that the possibility of failure or even repeated failures don’t deter them.

What are the other paradoxes of Entrepreneurship that you can think of ? 


-> Image source

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  • I am not sure if I will venture into one, but definitely keeping your opinions on this in mind.

  • Great write-up Somali… being an entrepreneur after a long stint in the corporate world, I can relate with it… the reality of the orld is very different from the thoughts in your own head! Cheers!

  • Great write up! I liked the phrase “risk appetite” ….

    • Thank you Geetashree. “Risk appetite” is commonly used in financial services.

      • Thanks but it can also be applied to all other aspects of life, isn’t it? An appetite for risk….putting it mildly, a person who is fond of risks…or doesn’t cower from taking risk….who looks for or has a hunger for risks……:)

        • Yes exactly that is how it is used – financial services or otherwise.:-)
          The temperament for taking risks or the hunger for risk varies from person to person..and that can impact their choice of profession (govt sector vs private vs entrepreneurship) , or investment needs ( shares vs fixed deposit), etc.

  • Somali, IMO, not just for entrepreneurship, but for nearly everything that you venture into, passion and enthusiasm are more important than a concrete idea. Of course, concrete ideas are important from an economic POV, like for your pitches, but passion still tops it.
    Great to read about Hidesign and Biba – quite inspiring!

  • Very nice article Somali… I would add Talent vs IIT Graduation as one of the paradox as most of the ventures get funded with a tag line powered by IIT-ans…

  • An entrepreneur is in the most unenviable position in the corporate world ,his bed strewn with thorns. It is only his or her passion and conviction that keeps him or her going. With your deep knowledge of business strategy and having done in depth researching and case studies of successful brands, you have put forth a reasoned analysis of paradoxes of entrepreneurship.

  • Very nice article. Entrepreneurs are different people. Many burn bridges of comfort and success to pursue their passion. May be success comes to some, but others are simply happy to see that their ideas work. In India we need a lot of entrepreneurs. First government cannot give job to everybody. Second routine pen pushing job may not be for everybody. Third Indian problems are very unique. One needs to take them up using indigenous solving skills. Simply taking foreign idea and superimpose on Indian problem may not work.

    • Thank you Sir for stopping by. It is true that we need a lot of entrepreneurs, but the eco – system for entrepreneurship is not very developed in our country and so is the mindset. Whereas in the US it is not seen as negative if a person fails in his/ her startup (rather it is considered an advantage), that’s not the case in India – as it is seen as a failure of the individual’s core capabilities here. Things are changing slowly and hope they change for the better.

  • Wow Somali.. Very informative article. True, with passion for the thing, we cannot last long in any field.. Passion drives us forward with creativity.. And that Winston Churchill quote is so inspiring.. 🙂 Have a good day..

  • Somali, I couldn’t help, but nodding at each point mentioned in the post. As you asked about paradoxes of entrepreneurship, I’d like to share one – the paradox of long-term & short-term goals. Entrepreneurs, often, to gain short-term benefits, hamper their long-term benefits.

  • Very helpful and informative post for me Somali as I desire to be one! :’)

  • Being an MBA myself, I can very well relate to the points you’ve mentioned.

    It is more about passion and risk taking ability that matters in setting up something new. Once the idea gets accepted in the market, it is the hard (and smart) work that matters.

    This post is my favorite till date…tweeting it!

  • This post of yours is a morale booster for me. Every entrepreneur should know that ideas are dime a dozen. It is execution that matters at the end of the day.

    Another thing that I find every entrepreneur should have is to have strong decision making abilities, blocking emotions while making those decisions and keeping the friendship away from the decision.

    Every decision should be made after weighing its consequences and they should be aligned with the core business or motto of the startup.

    • Thank you Nitin. True that decision making is a key skill that all entrepreneurs need to have for smart decisions (referring to Alok’s point above) are a determinant of a person’s success/ failure. The decisions need to be serving the objectives, at the same time should not be for short term gains at the cost of long term objectives of the business.

  • Interesting post Somali. Being an entrepreneur myself, I can certainly vouch for the ideas above. I think the generation of an idea and the execution are two different things and the number of challenges that come up during execution simply change the course sometimes. But the passion surely is paramount in defining whether a venture is here to stay. Smart approach and constant working on the feedback and the bullish approach to make things happen can certainly go a long long way 🙂

  • ‘Passion – > idea – > execution -> commitment’. Informative and interesting post on entrepreneurship.

  • I am in a similar position. I think many of us are. We don’t have a concrete idea but a lot of vagueness. If someday, I venture into an entrepreneurship, I’ll keep these in mind. The fact that many of the successful entrepreneurs did not have a solid idea did give me some hope 🙂

  • Great points. The last one is very important.

  • Very useful points, and I certainly relate to some of them. I have left corporate life and I am trying to move into freelancing full-time (or entrepreneurship if you will). The first point you mentioned makes a lot of sense to me – I have ideas and am just going with the flow, without anything concrete. Hopefully inspiration will strike, one that is monetizable, else I’ll be in a deep soup. 🙂

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

    • Thanks Subhodeep. True that the inspiration has to be turned into an idea that can be monetized. Wish you the very best. Btw if you are on Linked In, please connect. You may also like to join the group Blogger India.

  • This is a very helpful article, Somali for all the aspiring entrepreneurs. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Very informative post, Somali! Quite helpful and useful points made. Thank you for sharing!

  • A great analysis of paradoxes. 🙂

  • When I decide to look beyond my working circle, the Entrepreneur is sure born in me.. But how he / she is nurtured, supported and ultimately made to show up again depends on my Social and Financial levels.. The Right Topic for the young minds! Well narrated, somali!

  • Great post!! My 5 years of commerce education and 17 years as a cog in the wheel during my corporate career (though not entirely a waste) could not teach me what my 5 years of entrepreneurial journey has taught me. Nothing better than self-learning and failures to make you great entrepreneur. I am working on my 3rd attempt and confident of succeeding.

    • True. A corporate career can be compared to one of the many cogs in the in the wheel, with each cog having its own importance, whereas an entrepreneur is the only log in the wheel, so yes the learning is immense. With each failure we learn something new. With you the all best Sudhir.

  • Another topic so close to me, being engaged in entrepreneurship I couldn’t have put it better, you have touched the nerve center for succeeding being an entrepreneur.

    Without any iota of doubt it has to be “PASSION”, nothing can replace or place it below in the order of attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur. The more we think about entrepreneurship, the more we realize that how passion determines and decides the fate of an entrepreneur. One may have brilliant ideas and one may have capital but to be truly successful one has to have that burning desire, the drive within to create something new and do something to change the society…once that it is there and we are ready to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship.

    The journey in no way guarantees success, the next big hurdle even if we have a great idea and capital is “EXECUTION”, indeed you have hit on the head, it is indisputably the second most powerful aspect in reaching the destination not just getting derailed from the journey and never able to reach the destination. Execution is the key to success.

    Yes, like everything in life there is something we are taught to learn and there are others which we learn out of experience, so is the case with entrepreneurship…as regard the entrepreneurship classes it can help so much not further but as rightly pointed out, it is not a prerequisite not essential to be a successful entrepreneur, at the same time given an opportunity one should go through, no way any such learning will harm any potential entrepreneur.

    Indeed things are changing and changing fast in India, and entrepreneurship is no more a dream restricted to the land of dream i.e. US, it has shifted base and the tentacles have spread and the fire of passion has caught up with generation-next and as rightly highlighted start-ups have mushroomed and it is just a matter time India is going to see its own “Facebook” and “Microsoft”…after all behind these success stories are the hidden Indian brains, we don’t market ourselves well, we do things and keep it ourselves. It is time to talk and speak out and show to the world how Indian entrepreneurship can change the world for better.

    Cheers to the spirit of entrepreneurship.
    Thanks so much Somali for highlighting the possibilities and paradoxes of entrepreneurship.

  • With reference to second point, totally agree. We can see most of the great successful startups which have touched many all had very simple ideas!

  • Excellent article Somali. Another paradox could be – the need to keep low costs but to hire and motivate the best talent to progress.

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