Sunday, March 28, 2010

Billion Dollar Entrepreneurship and Age: Myths and Realty

Is there any correlation between Entrepreneurship and Age? What is the ideal age to start a venture and scale to a billion dollar enterprise?

With above questions in mind, I randomly picked few famous first generation entrepreneurs and researched the age when they started their businesses

In 50 years span (Age 17 - Age 66), for every year we can find an entrepreneur who started a reputable enterprise. More than 90% of these enterprises turned out to be billion dollar enterprise.

Let us divide this 50 years age span into two groups

(Age 17 – Age 33) – Early Executer(Age 34 – Age 66) – Late Bloomers
Early Executers

Age 17: Ingvar Kampard (1943) started IKEA
Age 18: Ted Waitt (1985) started Gateway
Age 19: Michael Dell (1983) started Dell; Joyce Hall (1910) started Hallmark Cards
Age 20: Mark Zuckerberg (2004 ) started Facebook
Age 21: Bill Gates (1976 ) started Microsoft; Steve Jobs (1976) started Apple
Age 22: Walt Disney (1923) started Disney, Richard Branson (1972) started Virgin
Age 23: Vishal Gondar (1999) started India Games
Age 24: Karsanbhai Patel (1969) started Nirma
Age 25: Larry Page (1998) started Google; Kiran Mazumdar(1978) started Biocon
Age 26: Uday Kotak (1985) started Kotak Mahindra; Phil Knight (1964) started Nike
Age 27: Jerry Yang (1995) started Yahoo; Sam Walton (1945) started Wal-Mart
Age 28: Pierre Omidyar (1995) started eBay; Ralph Lauren (1967) started Polo
Age 29 : Rajendra Pawar (1981) started NIIT;, Nolan Bushnell (1972) started Atari
Age 30: Jeff Bezos (1994 ) started Amazon
Age 31 : Shiv Nadar (1976) started HCL; Ramesh Chandra (1972) started Unitech
Age 32 : Oprah Winfrey (1986) started Oprah; Ross Perot (1962) started EDS
Age 33 : Warren Buffet (1963) started Berkshire; Larry Ellison (1977) started Oracle

Late Bloomers
Age 34: Charles Schwab(1971) started Schwab; S. Shetty(1993) started AllCargo

Age 35: NR Murthy (1981) started Infosys; March Benioff (1999) started Sales Force
Age 36: Dhirubhai Ambani (1958) started Reliance
Age 37: J Mckinsey(1926) started Mckinsey; Dave Thomas(1969) started Wendy
Age 38: Jim Clark (1982) started SGI
Age 39: M. Bloomberg (1981) started Bloomberg; Gorden Moore (1968) started Intel
Age 40: Martin Sorell(1985) started WPP;George Soros(1970) started Quantum Fund
Age 41 : Raman Roy ( 2000) Spectramind; Thomas Siebel (1993) started Siebel
Age 42 : Ajit Balakrishnan(1995) started Rediff;Reed Hastings(1997) started Netflix
Age 43 : Richard Egan(1979) started EMC; Naresh Goyal(1993) started Jet Airways
Age 44: Jerry Rao (1998) started Mphasis; Leo Burnett (1925) started Leo Burnett
Age 45 : Marry Kay Ash (1963) started Marry Kay
Age 46 : Capt. Gopinath(1997) started Deccan; Arthur Little(1909) started AD Little
Age 47: Rana Kapur (2004) started Yes Bank; G R Naidu (1985) started Amar Raja
Age 48: Bruce Henderson (1963) started BCG; KP Singh (1979) started DLF
Age 49: Vikram Talwar (1999) started EXL; Graeme Clark (1983) started Cochlear
Age 50: Leo Goodwin (1936) GEICO; Bernard Marcus (1979) started Home Depot
Age 51: Ashok Soota(1999) started Mindtree;Taikichiro(1955) started Mori buildings
Age 52 : Ray Kroc (1954) started Mcdonald; DS Barar (2004) started GVK Bio
Age 53: Barry Diller (1995) started IAC
Age 54: Prannoy Roy (2003) started NDTV
Age 55 : TMA Pai (1953) started Manipal University
Age 56: Anita Crook ( 2005) started Pouchee
Age 57: J Marriott(1957) started Marriott Hotel;J McGraw(1917) started McGraw Hill
Age 58: Orville(1969)started Redenbacher;A Hammer(1956)started Occidental Petro

Age 59 : Barbara Miller (1995) started Miller Papers
Age 60: Jack Fenimore (1983) started Mid Com
Age 61: Carmen Jones (1977) started Kids Corner
Age 62: Col. Sanders(1952) started KFC; Joseph Glidden(1875) started Barb Fence
Age 63: Henry Kaiser (1945) started Kaiser Permanente
Age 64 : Thomas Duck (1977) started Ugly Duck
Age 65: Capt. Krishnan Nair (1988) started Leela Hotels
Age 66 : Jagdish Khattar (2009) started Carnation

Some interesting observation from studying the sample of above listed entrepreneurs (with caveat of biased sampling and over simplification)

Early Executors' Traits:
Profile: Some entrepreneurs are college drop outs, whiz kids, early salesman…
Sectors: New Industry Sectors such as Software, Web, Computers, Biotech, Investing, Entertainment
Industry Trait: High Risk & High Reward Industries,Product oriented,Winner takes all
Funding: Angel Funding and later Venture Capital FundingBold

Wealth: Their average lifetime wealth is more than that of Late bloomers

Late Bloomers' Traits
Corporate Executives, Bureaucrats, Professors, Inventors turned entrepreneurs
Sectors: Traditional Sectors such as Retail, Food, Hotel, Publishing, Education, Advertising, Management Consulting, IT Services, BPO, Media, Airlines, Pharma, Beauty, Oil and Gas, Banking, Insurance, Logistics, Real Estate,
Industry Trait: Process and Service Oriented, Relentless Execution, Manpower or Franchise intensive
Funding: Personal Funds and later Private Equity
Wealth: Average lifetime wealth of Late Bloomers is less than that of Early Executers

Surprisingly tycoons from Capital intensive industries such as Telecom (my industry), Steel, and Cements are missing from above first generation entrepreneurs list. Two possible reasons apart from my biased sampling could be
1) Most of the successful entrepreneurs in these sectors are second generation entrepreneurs
2) Most of the big companies in capital intensive are still government controlled enterprises.

So Age is no bar for Entrepreneurship. One can start at any age and lay foundation for a billion dollar enterprise. It’s always possible and it’s never late!!


Little bit of information of my new book:


Website/ Where to buy -

Facebook Page -

A Business Fiction book - "Who is that lady?"

The book is about an idea that is converted into a billion dollar business, about a belief that an idea can be implemented and about formulating right strategy for converting an idea into a business. The plot harmoniously weaves around complex business fundamentals, required to set up, run and make a business successful, presented in lucid, easy to understand style. The novel is about implementation, about challenges that can be overcome, about success, about friendship, about passion, and about fun above all! All in all a hilarious and inspiring story on entrepreneurship and idea possibilities!

The book has got good and encouraging reviews from readers so far.

Dr. T. R. Madanmohan ( Ex Associate Professor IIM Bangalore ) says, “Reading ‘Who is that lady?’ brought vividly the moments of celebration and anguish of "identification of business opportunity", validation and construction of business model and implementation. A wonderful, written as a novel, that should be read by all current and future business leaders. Wish the book was available around 2005 for my class of Managing Technology led business at IIM Bangalore. I am sure the class would have devoured and gained much more from the book.” 

Sathish Sheshadri ( Management Consultant at IBM) says, “India is renowned for using stories to convey great life lessons. Who is that Lady could well become such a legendary story on the topic of innovation and entrepreneurship. Everyone from students to CEOs will find a lot to reflect on, from the pearls of wisdom that the authors have shared through the protagonist, Pratik.”

Major Pooja Gupta says, “The book makes you think... if there is anything in this world which is impossible.”

Subir Dhar (Principal Consultant at Infosys) says, “This book will inspire India’s restless youth to take up entrepreneurship.”

Neerav Nimesh (Entrepreneur) says, “An entertaining book, which is not only a good novel but also a very good book on management. The author has been able to explain the fundamentals of every aspect of business whether marketing, planning, strategy, organizational structure, H.R., lines of communication, team work, goal setting etc and has done so without appearing to dispense "gyan".

Website/ Where to buy -

Monday, March 15, 2010

Future of Telecom Operators : Global M&A and “Walmart of Services”

How the Telecom Operator landscape will shape in future? Two trends which might unfold

Global and Regional Consolidation (M&A):

Already local , regional and Global M&A is under process but there is still more room for M&A. There are more than 700 Telecom Operators in the world and finally these 700 operators after consolidation might narrow down into two digits.

Who will be the buyers and who will be the sellers in Global M&A game?

Which is the “most global” Telecom Operator?

I thought “most global” Telecom Operator would be Vodafone. When I looked at the data, surprisingly, Orange was present in more countries than Vodafone as direct Operating Entity.

Plotting the data for Global Operators – Consolidated Revenues of Direct Operating Entity in $ Billion (X Axis) versus Number of Operating Countries ( Y Axis) gives interesting results.

Operators in Right Top Quadrant:

Five Operators can be called truly global and their Globalization Strategy is working so far – Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica, T Mobile, America Movil

Operators in Left Top Quadrant:

They are present in many countries but their revenue lag behind global operators. They will most likely be acquisition targets –

Not surprisingly, MTN and Zain belong to this group and are looking for buyers…

Qtel has expressed vision of being among Top 20 players globally …So Qtel might consolidate either with Orascom , Etisilat or MENA assets of Zain.

Among Telenor and Telia Sonera , some consolidation might take place and Telia Sonera might be the likely winner with some interesting combinations

Market Buzz is that Telenor is already looking to divest its stake in Telenor Pakistan to China Mobile.

Telia Sonera has investments in Turkcell and Megafon . It may increase its stake to convert into operating control.

Telenor has stake in Vimpelcom, Either Telenor may acquire Vimpelcom or Vimpelcom may acquire Telenor or third entity ( Telia Sonera )may acquire that stake.

Operators in Right bottom Quadrant:

These Operators have built economics of scale in few key markets ( Cash Cows). They are not in pressure either to sell or to acquire other operators. They are likely to be opportunistic in pursuing opportunities –

Selective Global Acquisition –
China Mobile acquisition in Pakistan,
Vivendi interest in Zain acquisition and acquisitions in India
AT&T interest in Acquisition in India
Docomo investment in India

Selective Local Acquisition for Spectrum
Softbank’s intention of acquiring Willcom for its unused spectrum

Might Sell Off to Global Operator
Telecom Italia may be acquired by Telefonica
Verizon may be acquired by Vodafone ( from current 45% stake)

Expand Horizontally into Other business in their Operating Countries – Walmartization
China Mobile Investment in Shanghai Pudong Bank

Operators in Left Bottom Quadrant

Majority of the operators are emerging market operators in this quadrant. Some incumbent western operators are also there .

The Operators in this quadrant will be under pressure to acquire , to get acquired or to pursue diversification.

Bharti is very aggressive and pursuing acquisition candidate – First MTN and now Zain
Reliance expanding Horizontally – Walmartization : Banking, Financial Services and Insurance
Idea is likely to be acquired either by their Minority stake holder Axiata or by some other group
Axiata either may pursue more acquisition or may get acquired by Vodafone
STC has investment in Maxis and might convert it to operating control

Meanwhile some Opportunistic operators might follow Private Equity Approach and play selective local or regional acquisition to increase their attractiveness and value for future acquisition. ( “Synergy less” acquisition and bidding for new licenses for building spectrum and licensing assets)
Idea acquiring Spice
Maxis acquiring Aircel
Essar acquiring Warid Uganda, Congo

Telecom Operators as Walmart of Services

Telecom Operators have unique opportunity to become a one stop shop for digitized services – Media, Banking, Insurance, Health Care, Education, Information, Utilities for their subsribers or customers .

Telecom Operators will have advantage of “Economics of Subscribers” and “Economics of Access” by providing one stop shop for these services to Subscribers.

Already some experiment is happening and some Operators are entering into these seemingly unrelated businesses. They might utilize their telecom infrastructure (“ Economics of Access”) to provide these services to their subscribers (“ Economics of Subscribers")

How will this trend unfold and which Operators can become Walmart of Services” ?
Typically Operators in bottom quadrants ( both left and right ) are experimenting with this

Media – Reliance, Tata, Vivendi
Banking – China Mobile, Reliance,
Insurance – Reliance, Bharti, Tata

Education and Health Care never had economics of scale as they have to be delivered locally and didn’t had back office or operational infrastructure which could be consolidated across regions. Now with possibilities of Mobile Education and Mobile Health, the delivery need not be local; hence, they can have economics of scale at few locations. Telecom Operators can capitalize on this opportunity.

Utilities can transmit electricity without wires (wireless) and then Telecom Operators can be providers for utilities too…( That will take time… a decade or so… but possibilities are there )

Telecom Sector with more than hundreds of M&A , diversifications and new business models will be sector to watch in this decade. And emerging market operators will be at least equal if not more in their share of driving changes in Telecom Sector. Telecom World will not be the same again !!