Kishore Biyani can sometimes get overly aggressive in betting on the future. He's also prone to occasional flights of fancy—and to top it all, often fails to pass the test on execution.
But in my book, he has one trait that perhaps overrides all his other flaws: He is an original thinker. Or else, he wouldn't have succeeded in creating a $2.5 billion enterprise from scratch in about 15 years. During this period, I've watched him from the sidelines as he fought against all odds to create retail businesses based on astute insights about the lives of millions of Indians.
Today, after the sale of Pantaloon and Future Capital Holdings, there's considerable speculation that he might entirely exit the Indian retail industry. If you ask him that question, you'll never get a straight answer. So, we've tried to get inside the mind of one of India's most creative entrepreneurs to see if he's likely to surprise us yet again. And if he chooses to exit the industry, I'm willing to bet that he will be missed.
First generation entrepreneurs like him are rare in this country. They bring a compelling view of local opportunities in India that tends to get missed in a dominant Western world-view.
Even today, a sizable majority of the Forbes India Rich List is dominated by inheritors, many of them from the old industrial families. If you believe, as we do at Forbes India, in the democratisation of business, we've got to create a more enabling environment for more first time entrepreneurs to emerge.
But there's one thing that we've got to learn from the West: There's no shame in selling out, if someone is willing to pay good value for it. As Indians, we still get a bit queasy about giving up any asset that we own. Yet, this process of creative destruction lies at the core of entrepreneurship and free markets. And it's time we looked at it as a natural process of renewal and prepare ourselves for it.