IBM’s recent study claims ‘unethical business conduct’ is a major reason for startups failing in India. In my opinion, it is harsh to term them as such. Very often, the reason is actually cultural.
We are culturally different from our Western counterparts; and this shows in our online businesses too. The Indian inability to say an outright no, the over-eagerness to please, the tendency to over-promise and under-deliver – all these are physical aspects of our behaviour which get translated into online businesses. In the real world, these characteristics can be handled face to face; but when the same is transferred online, it seems untrustworthy.
When my wife discovered an online site providing household services, she was delighted. The other day she happily booked a plumber for a long-standing problem we’d been having. I happened to be home when the plumber arrived. It didn’t start well- he was much later than promised and he didn’t have the right tools; he also didn’t seem knowledgeable of what was needed to be done. At the end of two hours the problem was fixed but in a very negligent fashion. And it resurfaced the very next day; despite several calls, neither the plumber returned nor was the money, which had been paid online already.
We have a start up for every conceivable idea; ideas are flowing and so is the funding. But the delivery is taking a beating. A lot of times businesses are not transparent in their claims. And the customer is left to read in between the lines, where understanding can be blurred.
‘Unethical’ actually means the fabrication of financial data, miscalculation of profits and ignorance of rules and regulations; to this list we must add cultural biases. Our online businesses are a version of, “I am coming in two minutes” which actually means “I’ll be there in twenty”. The day we say “two minutes” and mean “two minutes” is when startups will flourish. This is likely to take a few years.