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Change The Thinking

Last evening, I had the opportunity to attend the Delhi chapter of Hacks/Hackers (terrible name, if you ask me) organized by Anika Gupta and  Shrey Malhotra. The idea was to get both hackers (better known as programmers) and hacks (better known as media professionals) on the same platform to figure out ways to reboot journalism. I won’t go into discussing the problems and opportunities in media and elsewhere. It is a topic that needs a different discussion. What I will write about is how we can probably do a better job of coming up with ideas and figure out if they are feasible at all.

At most of these events, I find a lot of bright people (both young and old) interested in trying to come up with different solutions to what they think is a problem. While these ideas do address some problem or the other, not all of them have enough merit to make the transformation from something an individual would love to use to something that can support a healthy growing business around it.

It was with this concept in mind that I asked everyone gathered the following questions:

  1. If you were given Rs. 5 crore, with the only condition being that you’ll build a media product, what would you do?
  2. How long do you think that money will keep you going?
  3. How long do you think it will be before you’ll break even on that money?

Unfortunately, I asked the question towards the end of the session and at least Nikhil thought it was an attempt by me to crowdsouce a business plan. Nobody else attempted an answer and that is where we have to change things first. Ideas are like stones in a river, there is always more than enough in there. To succeed as a business, you have start at the point of being able to answer the three questions (OK, you can change that 5 crore figure to anything you like) about your idea.

Understanding these key numbers (traction, revenue, OPEX), even to the limited extent you can project them, will help you look more effectively for the size/kind of investment you need. It will also give you a good idea about timeframe/runway you’ll have at different investment/traction levels. It may look like too much icky work for either a hacker or hack, but if you are going to wade into creating a business/product or come up with serious enough suggestions to reboot any business, you have to learn to work with these numbers.

Short of that, all we’d be doing will be idle ‘ideation‘.


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