How To Become An Entrepreneur While Employed

Posted: November 3, 2010

Entrepreneurship in India is booming. Here’s your “How to become an entrepreneur” while still at a salaried role. 

By Jaya Narayan

How often have you told yourself that ‘someday’, you will start up your own business? Yet, unless you inherit a family business, chances are, you are unlikely to be groomed to succeed in a business context.

Don’t wait to start learning until you actually turn entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurship cannot be learnt in a day, which is why – even if your business venture is a few years away, you can make concerted efforts to pick up the ropes while working in an organization. (Read, 4 Entrepreneurs in Unlikely Places).

Here are 5 must dos for a salaried employee waiting at the threshold of entrepreneurship in India:

Do you have entrepreneurship skills? Get appraised!

Start by identifying and working on your competencies and personal attributes. The performance management and development processes in your organization are a great source of professional feedback from leaders, customers, and key stakeholders. Do leverage all the learning and developmental opportunities provided by the organization to strengthen your professional profile and tackle your weaknesses.

Shabari Madappa, HR consultant and new age restaurateur says, “Thanks to my work experience as Business HR manager in Texas Instruments, I walked away with tremendous personal confidence and faith in my ability to work under tough circumstances – be it unrealistic deadlines, high pressure, demanding customers, unpleasant conflicts etc. My experience in organizations helped me inculcate a risk appetite, instill a never say die attitude and develop strong emotional maturity, all of which has come in handy while running my own setup.” 

If your employer doesn’t have a very good feedback process, go out and seek feedback yourself, from superiors as well as peers.

Redefine your role to become an entrepreneur at work

Anyone who is focused on starting their own venture must proactively seek diverse work opportunities and push personal and professional boundaries, whether at your current company or elsewhere. Face it, no one will hand you new opportunities on a platter. (Read, 10-steps to Changing Careers). Smita Rajagopal, who runs a design house, SMITTEN, previously chose to work as an Art director in design agency, Beyond Design as opposed to taking up a job at an ad agency. She says, “My last role gave me a bird’s eye view to all the aspects required to run my own design set up. I had to perform multiple roles at a time to deliver superior performance and it definitely helped me to take the leap of faith”. 

Smita invites prospective women entrepreneurs in India to question, if their current role will prepare them to run a business from a multi- disciplinary perspective. Ask yourself, have I –

a.Worked on cross functional situations to appreciate the big picture perspective of business?

b.Handled diverse roles to integrate aspects like finance, commercial, budgets, people, technology, sales, business development and legal?

Cultivate personal networks

“People work with people,” advocates Sangeeta Patni, previously the Head-Systems, Eicher Motors Limited and now the CEO of Extensio Software. Be it birthday catering or the IT services industry; opportunity will knock on your door by word of mouth. A strong network will differentiate you in the market place and give you a head start. Begin by cultivating key relationships to increase your circle influence. Engage actively in professional networks; leverage social media like LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook, online startup communities and professional networks to build your future company brand.

Gather future resources for becoming an entrepreneur

Gain access to government grants, training programs for women, online communities for start ups and formal training opportunities ahead of starting up. In addition your organizations may help in locating a credible and committed mentor. Investing in building a deep and authentic relationship with your mentor will come handy in the future. (Read, Getting the best from Mentoring). Sangeeta Patni says “If you start on your own, no one will give you feedback if you are not willing to listen; the cost of ignored feedback will cost your business heavily”.

Unlearn big company patterns

Often, working in an established organization makes us unconsciously acquire definitive patterns of working which we don’t question. For example, given the resources big corporations have, we may become accustomed to the idea that things can work flawlessly with minimum investment of time and effort. In the startup mode however it is our ability to work with limited resources that determines success.

Be watchful and open to unlearn some aspects of working in large corporations -.

a.Working with unlimited resources especially since start ups are all about being frugal and being able to beg, borrow and endure for a long period

b.Treating partners with disrespect due to a false sense of power. In a start up, the smallest vendor is strategic in ensuring your success

c.Rigid people practices – organizations operate with fixed norms on hiring, compensation, retention etc. In a start up you may value attitude and the ability to learn over professional qualifications.

If entrepreneurship is your destination, begin with a road map to evaluate what it demands from you. Use a time bound plan and build competencies in your current role that will prepare you for the big leap. Be reassured that many aspects of your dream entrepreneurial job can be learnt by tweaking your current role, and jump start to victory!

Jaya Narayan is a freelance Human Resources professional, behavioral trainer and assessor. She enjoys working on projects that untap the people dimension in organizations. She is passionate about blogging and writing on diverse workplace issues. In her free time she enjoys networking and playing with her kids.  She can be reached at jaya.narayan.ramani@gmail.com 

Jaya Narayan is a alumnus of TISS, Mumbai and has over 15 years of experience

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1 Comment


  1. Excellent article…

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