Picasso on Entrepreneurship

In a scenario where the bar to qualify as an entrepreneur depends on who we ask, how do we actually define entrepreneurship?

Good artists copy, great artists steal’. Picasso said that. The focus of this article is not on Picasso’s originality, but quite ambitiously, on the word ‘originality’ itself. Some merely copy great things that have already been done and some take these elements, fuse their own interpretation onto it and stake their claim on it, stealing the idea in the process. We all take something from what has already been done, consciously or unconsciously; no one is an absolute originator. Picasso might have been talking exclusively about artists, but the distinction relates to entrepreneurs as well.

On one end of the scale, there are entrepreneurs who consider copying a worthy effort. The number of copy cats is difficult to assess accurately but looking at the mushrooming number of restaurants in Jhamsikhel, local colleges with copied names, vacant high-rise buildings, and the retail shops of New Road that offer the same products with different brandnames, the number must be quite huge. Thanks to the Internet, the options to copy from have just exponentiated. Whatever the size of the sample to choose from, merely copying would only lead to mediocrity – as Picasso suggested. And in modern times mediocrity can be a fatal ingredient for the success of any business. On the other end, there are those who are always in search of an ‘original’ idea – the ones who dream of coming up with something that no one has ever thought of. These people fail to realize that the creation of something new does not require them to start from scratch. For instance, when someone talks about the success of Facebook, they tend to associate its success with the profound idea of a virtual hangout spot. However, social networking was an idea that already existed in the 90s, long before Facebook was created in 2004 or even before Mark Zuckerberg attended college. Sites like MySpace and Hi5 came before Facebook, however by fusing the concept of exclusivity to an existing idea, today Facebook has become synonymous to social networking.

Entrepreneurs are dreamers, but only dreaming won’t cut it. We need do-ers. And copying for the sake of doing only dilutes the returns. We need do-ers who can see what surrounds them, and internalize what they see and make it their own. We need entrepreneurs who can combine solar panels with LED lights, water proof switches and financing services (Solar Tuki), entrepreneurs who can bring merchants and buyers together with discounts (SastoDeal), entrepreneurs who can make eggs accountable (Golden Egg) and even entrepreneurs who see an opportunity with MaPaSe and open up liquour shops that are doing roaring business. Solar panels aren’t a new find, but capitalizing on subsidies in China on solar panel manufacturing is. Discounts are an old trick, but offering discount on someone else’s product is quite new. Eggs are older than chickens (debatable), but dating and branding eggs amidst a widespread health scare around chickens is new. Liquor shops are definitely not a master stroke, but when drinking ‘out’ is a challenge, drinking ‘in’ is a smarter move. Copying is not affordable, neither to the economy nor to the copier. However, passively waiting for that ‘original’ gamechanging idea can be even more expensive.

Entrepreneurship is the big word these days; everyone is talking about it. For the government, entrepreneurship and small and- medium enterprises (SMEs) are interchangeable terms. Many businesses refer to their own work as entrepreneurship. For some, entrepreneurship has a social side. Ask an IT guy, chances are he’ll say that anything to do with new technology is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship can be an SME, a business, social entrepreneurship or a tech company, but it can also be none of them. It is the approach that defines entrepreneurship. It is the kind that internalizes surroundings, fuses it with a new interpretation, and puts its claim on what already was; the kind that ‘steals’.

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