I have finished three weeks at my first job. The place is an Industry Chambers and I work as a Research Associate in the Economic Affairs and Research Division. Sounds fancy, right? Well, to be honest, it is fancy if you work in a corporate job or have a small business that is not related with the Government. Though I do not get to sit and get up with Government officials day in and out, my bosses surely do, and I get to do all the policy work I always wanted to. Sometimes, what I find and write goes to the Government as recommendations from my organisation and it feels good. That somehow somewhere all of it will make someone’s life easier and make an impact. That is all I thought about doing via my work when I was a student. Government policy undoubtedly touches lives.
So that is my story, and will continue to be so for a few years at the least. And this is also the story of the 250 other employees who work in my organization. Let me tell you, as I have told my business-oriented Gujarati family, especially my parents, several times before, that not everyone gets to do what I am doing easily, and I consider myself fortunate enough to work at this place. Now let us go to the one extreme of the spectrum (I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle). There are people who spend their entire life driving people from point A to B, maybe in their own cars, or a taxi. There are people who are career chaiwallahs, liftemen, guards, rickshaw-pullers. THAT IS THEIR JOB! That is what they do all their lives. And still live through it. I sometimes cannot believe that the guard outside my office stands for twelve hours and still manages to smile at me when I enter office after him and exit office before he does. Dada at office is the most animated chaiwallah I have seen in my life. He makes jokes while passing the cubicles, makes random sounds, all this for ten bucks for every cup of tea. And, I have never seen him yawn!
The other extreme of this spectrum is people who work six hours a day, five days a week. Biz honchos work for four to six hours a day and there are enough people around them to do everything for them. They make tons and tons of money and lead a brilliant life. Sure they have seen tough times but they now utilise most of their day behind themselves and their families, playing golf, or going on a vacation every week. And then, there is everyone in the middle. Managers, teachers, professionals, your typical middle class. Everyone who is apparently doing what they are good at to make a living for themselves and their families. And that is how the world works.
Moving from home to New Delhi has taken me away from this entrepreneurial vibe I was around all the while. Mostly everyone in my family, from my father’s generation and the one before his, has a business. It shocks me how they sleep every night thinking from where is the next two thousand rupees note is going to come from the next morning. Somehow, they do manage fairly well. Now, I am doing a job, like most of the people from my generation in the family are, and everyone is doing something different than the other. So that’s the thing about entrepreneurship. It has changed greatly from the way our fathers and forefathers did it to how it happens now. Hate to say it but engineers have taken over the entire start-up scene. Nothing is moving an inch without science. These guys are making real difference to our lives. I recently happened to meet a serial social entrepreneur and was blown away by the work he does. And I thought to myself, why do people not know about people like him. Why do we settle down so early in our lives with a secure job and dont strive to make real difference?
The currently non-entrepreneurial kind is my kind. I, for a Gujarati, think a lot about betterment of things and chose Economics as a career. I love to put my opinion out in the open. Though, I need to brush up my debating skills a bit. And maybe, just maybe, I want to be a thinker, among the best in the country, or maybe the world. Write stuff down for people to read and think more about and see the world change. So there are people like that. Economists, editors of newspapers, writers, columnists, politicians. They sit in their offices and change the world we live in, one research paper, one article, one signature at a time. They too, are making a difference, but how real or quantifiable is this difference?
What if an industry economist really set out to open a factory? Will he actually optimize his production function with a budget constraint and calculate optimum output? I really want to know! Or will he do it better than his entrepreneurial boss if given a chance? This question haunts me. There are theorists. They either make new theories or link a current event to a pre-existing theory. I sometimes feel they miss out on the point. It never about generalising. It is never ever one big elephant, it’s always a million tiny ants. But if you say that these experts, theorists do not get business, I say it stands true the other way round too, does it not? So, where do you see yourself?
I think there are mixtures of both these kind of people. People who can write, think, teach, theorise and people who can, plain and simple, do. I think it is not a mutually exclusive set. There is a mild intersection, but there is. In my opinion, it boils down to a few things. Firstly, what do you see merit in? Do you see merit in a lot of books or a lot of money? Answer this question. Next, it is about what you absolutely love to do. And then, finally, it is about what you want your perception to be. In today’s age of social media, and media in general, there is only a certain perception about yourself that you are allowed to put out. An economist will never be asked questions about a particular pharmaceutical company’s financial health, a biz honcho will not be generally asked about what he thinks about the fiscal deficit of the Union Government. Though it is very much possible that both know about both, but they will only be allowed to put out one perception, though the other one is equally brilliant. Finally, money, fame and knowledge, in more than decent amounts are equally easy and difficult to come by at the same time. So is switching career paths after a certain threshold. So it all boils down to where you want yourself to be!