Usually, an entrepreneur's vocabulary features words like passion, drive, and determination. But there are few who would name shamelessness as a virtue. The Freecharge
founder Kunal Shah is one of them.
Shah, speaking at an entrepreneurship event in the city some time ago, felt that shame was counterproductive. "Shame works against you a lot of times to do things - when you start, when you are scaling, failing, exiting a business, growing or shutting down a business. Shame is constantly stopping you," was the conclusion Shah had drawn from his stint as an entrepreneur. Shah's company was acquired by Snapdeal
last year for $400-$450 million.
On success and not fitting in
People who were shameless, Shah said, were more open to taking risks and did well in life. "So, I would urge a lot of people to do many things, which they would otherwise not do as they fear being tagged as shameless," he said. "Some people do it really well." According to Shah, shame is used as a behaviour changing tool by parents when raising children in India. But shame is not natural, he felt. "It's a trained behaviour because we want to fit in. But fitting in is a very dangerous thing because success is all about not fitting in," Shah said.
Shamelessness also enables you to ask for help. Shah said he asks for help even now. "I come from a background with no ecommerce or technology experience. I am a philosophy graduate; dropped out from MBA. I had to ask. And I was shameless about it. I am pretty shameless. I still ask," he said.
On trust and its deficit in India
Having trust is another thing that he learnt. "India is a country with a massive trust deficit," Shah said. "We don't trust each other. We need to stop that. In fact, trust works if you give it to others." And how did Shah generate trust? "In IT, it's very common for people to accept an offer and then not join. So with every offer letter we sent a MacBook along," he said. "Most people don't know how to deal with that because nobody had trusted them like this before. My HR head reacted like crazy when I told him about it. He said, 'What if they don't return the MacBook?'. I said, 'That's a good price to pay to not hire a guy who would otherwise have been a cheat'."
On the importance of dard
Shah feels humans act only when there's a trigger and that's where pain helps. "You need to know how to use pain as your fuel to be successful," he says. "We usually shy away from pain, which is good; that's how human survival happens. But in case of business, you have to really convert that pain. I remember a movie where someone told a singer, the singing wasn't good because it lacked 'dard'. It's true for business too. Get the dard. Fail miserably. And then you will see how you succeed." However, he cautioned not to wallow in self-pity. "Everything will work as a fuel if you reflect on it and not cry about it," Shah said.
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