Learnings for Startup Founders from Manjhi – Mountain Man

Ask people that matter in the startup ecosystem around the world about what they look in a startup and almost everyone would talk about the importance they place in the founder/s. The idea, while important, mostly comes second. Why does this happen?

My numerous interactions with startups and its founders has only reaffirmed that ideas are subject to validation, while founder skills are inherent. Ideas are not cast in stone and changes as a founder starts executing it. Changes happen when presumptions around the idea maybe incorrect, market data may have been inaccurate or simply the founder could have come up with a much brighter plan. On the other hand a brilliant idea can be before its time and the market validation may not happen. Ideas are very subjective and it is often very difficult to ascertain if it will work or fall short.

Stay focused – Starting up and being an entrepreneur can be daunting. There are no off days and expect your days to be long and tiring. In the end it is easy to lose focus of what you are trying to achieve and fatigue to set in – both mentally and physically. As an entrepreneur there will be plenty on your plate, but the trick is to focus on completing the task at hand. Make each minute count and set yourself small achievable targets that can be achieved every hour, day, week and months. Every entrepreneur or an aspiring to be one, must appreciate the unwavering focus of Dashrath Manjhi in getting his job done despite years rolling by.

Start small – In the movie Manjhi starts chipping at the mountain by tackling the smaller stones. It is only much later that he starts breaking down the bigger boulders. Smart entrepreneurs know where to smart. To be successful you have to tackle the small things first. As the old adage says – you have to learn to walk before you run, you have to tackle the smaller aspects your business first.

Self belief – An entrepreneur will always have a fair share of naysayers. Your ideas will be put down, people will criticize you plans and keep discouraging you. History has shown that successful entrepreneurs have a strong self-confidence that their idea would work and they can make things happen. They trust their abilities and their skills to tackle any problem that the business may throw at them. What is endearing in the movie is that Manjhi grows in confidence and his ability to get the job done. For entrepreneurs it would be handy to note that self-confidence can be reinforced if you do not give up. However, as a footnote, it is important to note that there is a difference between delusion and confidence.

Find the spark – For Manjhi it was the loss of his wife and the person he loved that moved him to building a road through a mountain. For anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur, it is very important to have a strong trigger. A cause that can inspire you and excite you is most likely to hold you in good stead when navigating the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. Starting up is tough and if an entrepreneur does not have the inspiration to keep going, it make be very difficult to make a success of it.

Step out of your comfort zone – While you may have domain knowledge and some skills needed to get your startup going, you will never have everything that is required when starting a business. You may have no knowledge of marketing, or finance or coding. In each case an entrepreneur has to step out of his comfort zone and even do things that may seem scary and confusing. Success or a failure, entrepreneurs are always prized because they have been able to conquer the fear of venturing into the unknown. This has a great effect on personal growth and prepares you to handle tricky situations, failures and rejections.

Create value – Manjhi in the movie has only greater good of the people in mind. He had resolved that he would not let anyone else die because a mountain stood between his village and proper access to medical care. It took him 22 years, but Manjhi got the job done. Today, he is well known for his selfless act and the value he has created for people around him. While it is important to make money when in business, an entrepreneur should look to create value first. Create value and compelling reason for your customers and people will love your product or service. Solve a real problem and create value, the money will follow.

It is often said faith can move mountains. Manjhi has shown us that a mountain can be conquered through sheer determination and therein lies the essence of creating a successful business.

Ashish Mittal is Startup Mentor and Angel Investor at TurningIdeas , an accelerator and Incubator based in Noida. You can follow Ashish at @ashishmitt

Manjhi Mountain Man
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