7 Lessons in Entrepreneurship Learnt from the Bollywood Movie Trishul
Under the weather, on a day with gloomy weather
Today was one of those days when things started on a slow, not to exciting note. I woke up with a fever, which meant that I had to cancel several of my calls and a couple of meetings. The grey skies did not help either. (Though not complaining about the very active monsoons, we need the rains!)
For a change of environment, I thought of watching one of my favourite Bollywood films, Trishul. The word, incidentally, means a Trident in Hindi, and the movie revolves around three lead male protagonists.
It stars Amitabh Bachchan (the actor in the bottom of the poster for those of you may not know BBC’s Star of the Millennium) and the late actors Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor (left and right in the poster, respectively) as the leading male trio. Trishul is the story of a young man Vijay, who seeks revenge from his father, R K Gupta. The latter has abandoned Vijay’s pregnant mother for the daughter of a millionaire, and eventually becomes a construction magnate in Delhi. But let us leave the plot of the movie and move on to the lessons learnt.
Lesson 1: How To Start A Business When You Do Not Have Money
Construction is a very capital intensive business, and Vijay, who claims that he does not even have “Paanch Phooti Kaudi” (Hindi phrase which literally means he is penniless) sets on to build a multi-million rupee construction project.
R K Gupta owns a piece of land which has been occupied by some thugs. Vijay signs an agreement with R K Gupta in which he buys the land for half a Million rupees. He raises funds from one of Delhi’s private money lenders, under the assurance that the goons will vacate the land.
Vijay then uses his own muscle power to throw the thugs out from the occupied land, and sets up his building project. Matter solved: land is cleared, the moneylender loans him money, and he pays off R K Gupta.While the approach may be unorthodox and questionable, how he achieves it is simply brilliant.
Lesson Learnt: Understand the nuances of the business, that will help you figure out ways to overcome the barriers to entry.
Lesson 2: How To Challenge The Market Leader
In business school of the school of life, many of you might have heard about the concept of a “Moat”, a term that is derived from the medieval times when castles had moats surrounding them. The moat is essentially a ditch, filled with water and would often have poisonous snakes and alligators or crocodiles. This was a way to prevent the enemy from reaching up to the walls of the castle.
In Trishul, Vijay systematically destroys the moat that R K Gupta has created to protect his business. Starting from getting inside information about tenders, to defeating Gupta’s credibility in the market, Vijay tries it all. R K Gupta is shown to be a family man, and Vijay tries to create a rift within his family as well. Again, some methods may be questionable, unethical and even illegal. But there is one key lesson learnt.
The lesson learnt: Systematically go after your rival’s moat.
Lesson 3: Do Not Get Emotionally involved in the Business
Towards the end of the movie, Vijay puts everything at stake to run R K Gupta out of business. In the process, he risks running his own company aground. Now this may bode well for a movie, but in real life, as your company grows, you have employees, business associates, and customers to care about. You cannot afford to be as rash as Vijay.
Lesson Learnt: Letting the emotions get the better of you may not really the best thing for your startup or business.
Lesson 4: You Need Trusted Lieutenants
As Vijay climbs the ladder of success, he builds up a team of trusted lieutenants, including Geeta, a former employee of R K Gupta and eventually Vijay’s Lady Love.
Geeta is shown to be dedicated to her work, loyal to her boss, and extremely hard working. So is a person Mehta, an old timer in the construction business who becomes Vijay’s right hand man. Vijay says it as much in his pitch when he hires Geeta,
“My business is growing and I need people like you to keep it growing.”
Lesson Learnt: You cannot build a successful business without a solid team.
Lesson 5: Use The Law To Your Advantage
Towards the fag end of the movie, the very same money lender who gave Vijay his very first loan, becomes Vijay’s sworn enemy. He happens to be one of the leading distributors of cement in the city, and he stops all supply of cement in the market. Remember those were the dark days of License and Quota Raj in the Indian economy, and hoarding was commonplace. (Things have somewhat improved now, but not a whole lot!).
While doing an inventory check, Geeta informs Vijay that soon all their projects will come to a grinding halt because of a shortage of cement. What does Vijay do? He calls up the cops, who raid the cement warehouses, and frees up the hoarded material. Ironically, the same Vijay who has broken many laws while starting his business now takes the help of the law.
Lesson Learnt: When in a bind, you can reach out to the Law to come to the your business.
Lesson 6: Lunch is for Networking
When R K Gupta’s second son (and Vijay’s step brother) Shekhar asks his lady love Sheetal out on their first ‘date’, he says,
“Every company’s Director has lunch with Directors of other companies in a high end restaurant.”
Now this may seem like an ostentatious statement, arrogant even. But the key here is that he was also referring to the networking opportunities these lunches offer — a la deals struck on Golf courses. (Shekhar and Sheetal DO play Golf incidentally).
Lesson Learnt: Reminds me of the phrase “Never Eat Your Lunch Alone”
Lesson 7: When Mission is Accomplished, It’s Okay To Merge With Your Rival
The movie ends with the companies run by Vijay and Shekhar (Shanti and R K Gupta and Company, respectively) merging. Vijay’s mission of taking revenge on R K Gupta has long been accomplished, and he no longer considers it necessary to keep competing with R K Gupta’s firm. A merger, both for family and business reasons, is a logical choice.
Lesson Learnt: It’s all about a Happy Ending
Which brings me to the Question:
Which movie has taught you or inspired you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Added later; I also speak about this post in Episode 4 of the Startup Nibbles Podcast.