How legendary entrepreneurs created a brand of their own

In the past, a legendary gallery of inspired souls created wealth through growing brand-new opportunities or dramatically redefining and expanding current business opportunities, often globally.

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In the early period of economic expansion from 1900 to the 1960s, giant entrepreneurs were at the forefront of growing the Indian economy.
By Shubhranshu Singh

Almost all global brands owe their origins to an entrepreneurial fount. In many inspiring instances, entrepreneurs were driven by the need to challenge tradition and create value and in the process became forces for modernism. In India the names of G.D. Birla, B.M. Birla, T.V.Sundaram Iyer, Jamnalal Bajaj, Walchand Hirachand, J.R.D. Tata will be remembered for having led the biggest expansion of Indian industry. This was before the start of socialist licensing policies and the loss of enthusiasm as India started closing up. In the early period of economic expansion from 1900 to the 1960s, giant entrepreneurs were at the forefront of growing the Indian economy.

Across the world, in Western Europe, America and Japan the rapid professionalization of business administered by a managerial class happened concurrently with the emergence of a world of institutions. In our world today, every major area of activity – economic performance, healthcare, education, protection of environment, nurturing of the arts – is entrusted to institutions. In the year 1900, the world would have been largely composed of two sets of influentials – a powerful government and its associated ruling elites on the one hand and the entrepreneurs as a force on the other. World commerce accelerated ahead and private capital outpaced sovereign authority. Yet, it has still preserved the space for giant entrepreneurs - Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Larry Ellison, Richard Branson are a few amongst the tallest examples today.


In the past a legendary gallery of inspired souls - Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, JP Morgan, John.D.Rockefeller , Henry Ford, Iwasaki Yataro (Mitsubishi), Kiichiro Toyoda (Toyota) , Lee Byung-chul (Samsung), Jamsetji Tata created wealth through growing brand-new opportunities or dramatically redefining and expanding current business opportunities, often globally.

Those most remembered were blessed with a certain charisma which galvanised everybody into active collaboration. The closest archetype for the entrepreneur is that of a spirited rebel who breaks down barriers to create something new and exciting. The story of such a bootstrapped maverick is typically rags-to-riches. While the ingenuity, determination and perseverance is typically a part of the first generation progenitor, it is true that there are inheritors who have been fired with the same spirit and grown business boldly in new directions.

Energised by the very process of creation they were ahead of their times. This visionary mindset motivated them to persevere, with determination, in backing a seemingly small opportunity, a fledgling market or a promising technology.
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The study of the entrepreneur was the core of Joseph A. Schumpeter’s work. In his seminal book ‘The theory of economic development’, published originally in German as Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, he provided an early definition of the entrepreneur – “…the carrying out of the new combinations we call ‘enterprise‘, the individuals whose function is to carry them out we call – ‘entrepreneurs’…”

Schumpeter idolized the entrepreneur as one who breaks up the old and creates new traditions. This is not surprising given that he studied them at the time when industrialisation in America and Europe was at its peak. In his follow-up work “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy “ which he wrote later in the 1940s Schumpeter notes that a moving force for reforming or revolutionising patterns of production or commercialising a technological possibility was present in a small fraction of the business population.

This is why the stories of successful entrepreneurs have become a part of Western folklore and rightly these originator businessmen are the first to be associated with greatness.
We need a billion of them in India. Strength to them.

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(The writer is global brand head of Royal Enfield. Views expressed are personal)
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