Creativity: A Survival Strategy



How important is creativity for achieving entrepreneurial success? Very important, say India's leading entrepreneurs and experts. In fact, it's come to encompass all aspects of a venture

"Is this a swear word?"


"In any language, is it a swear?"


"Is there such a word?"

"Not that I know of," shot back Balki.

"Alright, then Hoodie Baba it is!"

This conversation unleashed one of the most memorable taglines in Indian advertising: Bajaj motorcycles' 'Hoodie Baba!'. Balki of Lowe India created a phrase out of nothing at all and built it into a brand that phenomenally pushed Bajaj's sales figures. In this, Balki has a very powerful lesson to teach entrepreneurs: one must take creative risks while building a business.

"Sometimes you just have to do something which makes you feel like a fool. You have to take that chance. Because somewhere a lot of being successful is telling yourself that you are not a fool. You move on with it, even though you know you might fall flat on your face. That's the only way to do something creative," Balki says.

What Balki did with his tagline, entrepreneur Prakash Mundhra did with his business idea. He launched a rather unusual product, especially, perhaps, for an MBA from a top institute. Prakash packages 'Ganga jal' with other puja items in a neat orange box. His product Blessingz, launched in 2006, brought in revenue of Rs 34 lakh in the first year. Mundhra says he owes his success to the creative edge he enjoys over his competitors.

But, as Tina Seelig, Executive Director of Stanford Technology Ventures Program explains, the role of creativity in entrepreneurship is not limited to a business idea or a marketing strategy. "Creativity defines the starting point, the middle point and the end point of a venture. You have to be creative while identifying a business opportunity, while building your team, while streamlining your processes. In fact, you even have to be creative while shutting down your company. Creativity is essential for effective problem solving throughout the life cycle of a company," Seelig says.

To Raman Roy, the 'father of BPO in India', creativity is a "survival technique". Entrepreneurs need to constantly think out of the box to survive," stresses Roy, who claims to get his creative kick in finding innovative solutions to client problems and seeing them work.

Interestingly, the power of creativity is being realized not only by entrepreneurs who have been there and done that, but by aspiring entrepreneurs as well. Entrepreneurship clubs across campuses are experimenting with creative games to help students think differently.

While the Rs 50 exercise is hugely popular, where students have to build a business using the threadbare seedfund, 'Bad Idea to a Good Idea' is another attractive game where students challenge themselves to improve the quality of creative ideating.

Recently, Bangalore-based Mount Carmel College organized an event called 'Cooking with Constraints' where participants were given limited stock of limited ingredients to prepare a creative lunch box within a given time. It was to replicate a circumstance entrepreneurs struggle with all the time: never enough people, never enough time, never enough money.

Rajeev Roy, Coordinator at Centre for Entrepreneurship, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, often plays the 'Ideas from a newspaper' game with his students, which he feels helps in creative idea generation. "Students comb through a newspaper and list down all the business opportunities they can derive from the articles. As an additional exercise, they also note the bad ideas and strategize around it to make them work as good ideas," shares Roy. According to Roy, this exercise helps students to creatively tackle the dynamic business environment.

Shirish Jajodia, a Metallurgy student of IIT-Powai finds these creativity exercises an excellent way to tickle the mind and channelize one's creative thoughts towards problem solving. "The effect is long term, as it builds confidence in our creative abilities which is essential to our career development," Shirish explains.

Seelig, who runs courses on creativity in Stanford University, is enthused about creative games too. "Most people are naturally creative but they keep it under lock and key. Creative games conceptualized around brainstorming and idea generation even help in triggering the entrepreneurial drive in them," she says.

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