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What entrepreneurs can learn from diving

DNBAN23156 | 4/11/2010 | Author : Shilpa C B | WC :569 | Media & Marketing

Guhesh Ramanathan, a mentor for start-ups, draws from principles of scuba diving to guide aspiring entrepreneurs. Shilpa CB downloads this PDF document available on the Internet to find out more

What does scuba diving have in common with entrepreneurship? The two might seem like chalk and cheese or sushi and chocolate at first mention. Dive deeper into the comparison and you just might find that the former is a lot like starting your own business, says Guhesh Ramanathan.
The scuba diving enthusiast came up with the unusual simile and began to blog about it. The posts could become part of something bigger, friends suggested. And so, Ramanathan created a document by compiling all that he had written so far about his two passions, scuba diving and entrepreneurship. He’s now sharing the “lessons” on the web. Ramanathan’s 126-page document can be downloaded free of cost. The PDF file is just part of the bigger idea that he had. He intends to get the compilation published in the form of a book; the working title is The Scuba Sutras: Ten business lessons from under the sea.
The back story of how a Bangalorean got interested in scuba diving and came to compare it with the launch of a business is interesting, too. Ramanathan, an electrical engineer, had a thing for start-ups. Soon after graduating from IIM-B in 1988 he set up a few new ventures. Then, one day, thanks to his wife “talking endlessly about her experience in Seychelles”, he tried scuba diving. As he plunged into water over and over again in diving gear, he saw how similar the activity was to starting a business. The lessons he learnt underwater in the last 10 years as a certified advanced scuba diver, he applied to his other passion — mentoring start-ups, which is what he does for a living. The 45-year-old took to scuba diving 10 years ago and is now certified as an advanced diver. While he was at it, Ramanathan also picked up photography and turned a naturalist.
“One of the rules is always dive in pairs, never alone. We call it the buddy system. A lot can go wrong underwater and if you are alone, you could die. That almost happened to me when I broke the rule. Similarly in business, never venture out alone,” he says drawing a parallel between the two subjects he is most attached to. “A common mistake people make is setting up a business alone. That usually does not work,” he explains. This is just one of the 10 tips fished out from under the sea.
Sample another: Check your equipment before every dive. “Of course, you have to check if you are prepared, equipped, trained to handle the plunge into business. You cannot afford for your strategy/tools failing midway,” he says. Ramanathan has an example from his experience to narrate. “We started a company called Remote Fix that offered remote technical support service. We put up the software on the Internet and announced that anyone could download it and would get technical support from us through that software for free for a month. Of course, we had done this without understanding the market. We were in for a disastrous start,” he recalls.
The company was inundated with requests for troubleshooting as soon as it launched. The website they were hosting the software on crashed. The idea did not work as planned. More tips to sidestep such pitfalls can be found in the fairly large file (over 30 MB in size) liberally sprinkled with photographs from under the sea.

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