This is the age of the entrepreneur. Scholarship and erudition have taken a back seat and initiative and enterprise have surged ahead. Tales of individuals journeying from rags to riches, on the strength of their business acumen, are dime a dozen. You must have heard the names of Dhirubhai 'Reliance' Ambani and Karsanbhai 'Nirma' Patel. But I'm sure the name of Roshan Lal is unfamiliar to you.
To enlighten you, let me then, sketch the 'Portrait of an Entrepreneur as a Young Man'! (With apologies to James Joyce).
Roshan Lal is an acquaintance of mine. He has only one ambition in life-'to make it big, real quick'. He wants to compensate the disadvantage of being born with a wooden spoon in his mouth, by cashing in on his ideas. Entrepreneurial initiative is his substitute for the silver spoon.
One evening, as I was sitting at home brooding on the infinite (my favorite avocation), in strode Roshan Lal. His face was aglow and seeing him, I could imagine what Archimedes must have looked like during his Eureka phase.
'Ramen, I've got the most awesome idea imaginable. It's a real winner. I'm going to start a reusable toothpick industry,' he said, and paused for effect. Addressing my raised eyebrows, he continued, 'I know you are surprised, but just for a moment reflect. There are about hundred top restaurants in this city. At a hundred customers a day and one toothpick a piece, the number of toothpicks consumed comes to thirty six lakhs, fifity thousand a year.
At a modest ten paisa a toothpick, it means a cool Rs. 3.65 lakhs.
'There is no room for buts in my life, Ramen. 'Nothing in the world', wrote the great poet Ovid, 'is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. And Ramen, this idea of mine is timely and hence powerful. To translate this idea into action, I have done a lot of ground work. I've even thought of a marketing strategy to launch the product. The brand name will be 'Titan'.'
'That sure sounds impressive,' I mumbled, hoping he would leave my space ASAP.
He took a bow and continued, 'The launch will be accompanied by an advertising blitz. Even the subtle nuances of the advertising strategy have not escaped my mind. I firmly believe in the power of celebrity endorsements. I'll get Sachin Tendulkar to model for my product. The visual will depict Sachin facing a doosra and cleaning his teeth with Titan. The voice over will declare ' 'clash of the Titans.'
'Fantastic idea, isn't it' he asked. And without waiting for my reply, (as was his habit), he continued. 'Another ad will have a macho man with a couple of attractive females, in various stages of undress, clinging to him.
The caption - 'Titan Toothpick 'the mark of a Man' will flash on the TV screen.
'I've also thought of an ad, especially targeted at the female segment of the market, which will create the ambience of a candle-lit dinner. The visual will show a man presenting a gift-wrapped set of Titan toothpick to the woman sitting opposite him.
The voice over will proclaim' 'Titan Toothpick'A gift for someone you love.'
'What about the moolah'?
I managed to ask.
'Yes, I've thought about that too. I've made a project report and right now I'm going to various financial institutions to invite them to participate in my venture. I'm going to make them an offer they just can't refuse,' said Roshan Lal, doing a Marlon Brando.
'And Ramen, this is just the beginning,' he continued, 'once I capture the indigenous market I'll be spreading my tentacles overseas. You have heard of textile tycoons. In the near future you'll be hearing about the Toothpick Titan'.Roshan Lal'
And on this profound note he strode off to capture the market.
I saw him a month later. He looked dejected.
'What happened?' I asked.
'This world is full of myopic morons,' he muttered.
'Nobody was even willing to give my gilt-edged scheme a thought. One joker had the impudence to call it hare-brained. He suggested that I burn the project report and go to a shrink to have my head examined.'
I murmured my sympathies.
'Never mind. I'm down but not out. Already another scheme is taking shape inside my head. This project is about shoe-laces'.,' he began.
I muttered an excuse and beat a hasty retreat. I knew what was coming next. Out of the ashes of the 'Toothpick Titan' was rising, phoenix like, the 'Shoe-lace Sultan'.