5 Lessons For Aspiring Entrepreneurs From Tej Kohli
Tej Kohli knows a thing or two about being an entrepreneur. A successful international businessman and philanthropist, Kohli has established three thriving organizations: Grafix Softech, the Ozone Real Estate Group, and the Tej Kohli Foundation. Kohli has shown the world through these three businesses that the sky is the limit when it comes to personal aspiration and achievement.
A man of humble beginnings, Kohli enrolled himself in the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology as a youngster. He received his B. Tech in engineering and worked for five years as an electrical engineer. During his tenure in the engineering field, Kohli noticed a need for improved e-commerce platforms in that market. After some soul-searching, Kohli combined his lifelong entrepreneurial thirst with his acquired technical knowledge and came up with a plan for his first business, Grafix Softech.
Kohli does not hesitate to share the knowledge he has acquired with other aspiring businessmen and women. The following five lessons represent some important tenets of success for this accomplished entrepreneur.
#1. Discover Your Talents
During his stint as an electrical engineer, Kohli spent much of his time absorbing knowledge and reflecting on his thoughts and experiences. Self awareness, combined with earnest reflection and self-evaluation, led him to realize what he truly wanted for himself: A career in business.
Aspiring entrepreneurs often dive into new projects with starry eyes and a little self knowledge. Kohli encourages people to spend time evaluating their interests and talents before jumping headlong into something new. “Whatever your plans for business,” says Kohli, “the first step is to work out what you are good at.” As a young graduate, Kohli realized his talents extended beyond the boundaries of his college degree.
#2. Find a Gap in the Market
Before investing precious time and resources in a project, Kohli advises entrepreneurs to make sure there is genuine demand for their offering. Finding a true “gap” in the market ensures that a customer base exists through which money can be made. It makes little sense for an entrepreneur to offer a product that nobody needs or wants. The trick, of course, is to identify a profitable gap that will attract customers.
Kohli saw a need for an improved e-commerce platform in the general marketplace and capitalized on that. Other entrepreneurs have lived similar success stories. In 2003, a Harvard computer science student by the name of Mark Zuckerberg launched a college-themed website called “FaceMash.” Originally intended as a way for students to rate the good looks of their peers, “FaceMash” eventually evolved into “Facebook,” Zuckerberg’s billion dollar industry.
In the 1970s, entrepreneur Gary Dahl made an unlikely discovery: He was able to earn a fortune by charging people $3.95 apiece for a “pet rock.” The rock was nothing more than a free object found in Dahl’s backyard, but he identified a profitable niche and jumped on it. In 2011, a brother and sister team mused at how difficult it is for people to remember their many usernames and passwords. This musing ultimately led to the siblings’ invention of MySocialCloud.com. This simple niche site, which was recently purchased by Reputation.com founder Michael Fertik, has been lauded by the CEO as a “highly valued platform.”
#3. Nurture Business Relationships
One of the top secrets of Kohli’s success is that he doesn’t work alone. “Finding and developing the right people,” he says, “is critical for building a successful company.” Aspiring entrepreneurs should choose their employees wisely and treat these people as valuable company assets.
Trust is an important factor in any business relationship. It is especially critical, according to Kohli, in larger companies. “The bigger the company,” he says, “the more you need to delegate.” Harvard lecturer Robert Pozen concurs. In order to delegate efficiently, Pozen says entrepreneurs must “hire people that you really have confidence in.” Employees who lack a sense of autonomy in their job, warns Pozen, feel micromanaged with no sense of personal control.
Kohli also stresses that businesses should surround themselves with young talent. Younger people are “fresh thinkers with new ideas, courage, and confidence.” Kohli encourages companies that seek longevity to listen to the voices of younger generations. He cautions that trying to force young talent to “fit your mould . . . damages your prospects and theirs.”
#4. Think Globally
Kohli is a man of the world. Born and raised in India, he now calls Costa Rica his “adopted home.” He has pursued business projects in his native India, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Clearly, Kohli has an affinity for international endeavors.
Kohli advises entrepreneurs to consider a global angle when starting a business. “As the world gets smaller,” he says, “a business with . . . global value is becoming increasingly important.” Global business ventures are often profitable because so many market gaps come to light when the needs of the entire world are brought to the table.
As an example, Kohli points to the recent expansion of the mobile phone market in the third world countries of Africa and East Asia. Many people in these poverty-stricken nations don’t have the banking means to pay for mobile phone service, so mobile phone companies developed a system of transaction services for customers without banks. As a result, Kohli says, these mobile phone companies have achieved a “degree of penetration that . . . exceeds that in any Western nation.”
#5. Learn From the Best
Kohli insists that businessmen and women should regularly investigate the newest developments in their field. For beginners, this means scrutinizing the habits of billionaire entrepreneurs like Kohli himself. Major league pitcher Vernon Saunders Law said, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” Fortunately for those still learning, Kohli is an open book. He willingly shares the wisdom he has gained through years of experience in the international business world. Aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to reap the benefits of a fruitful business would be wise to drink in as much of Kohli’s proffered wisdom as possible.
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