Corporate, Entrepreneurship, StartUp, Student

Start-up: Ek Haath ki Taali.

Someone asked me randomly one day that who was my favourite character in Mahabharat? As a reflex I said – Eklavya. This name just surfaced as I heard the question, though the guy was expecting something more traditional like typically Arjuna or Krishna or whatever….hence he promptly asked me – Why? why Eklavya !!??

Eklavya to me is a seeker of knowledge. He represents a Start-up founder, most Coachable Mentee who is open to taking chances, innovate and learn from mistakes. He is an epitome of perseverance and passion. He represents the best qualities of any Start-up founder…he represents the Aum, the Amen and the “anaahat naad” known as “ek haath ki taali” – clap with a single hand.

This is why as Osho says, Eklavya, in the Mahabharata, could sit alone in the forest without worrying about the master Dronacharya refusing him. The master simply refused, but the disciple was ready, insisting on becoming a disciple. So what could the master do? One day the master discovered that the disciple had defeated him. Eklavya had made a clay idol of the master and was practicing archery in it’s presence. He was obeying the clay idol and touching its feet.

When Dronacharya heard that Eklavya had become very adept at archery, he went to see. He was surprised…not just surprised, he was frightened. He was upset because Eklavya had become so well-practiced that Arjuna paled in comparison.

Is this something a master would do? Does a master still see any distinction between disciples? No, he must have been a businessman, with his mind on the market. How can a master of Kshatriya warriors accept a commoner? He must have been very afraid of society. He must have been a pillar of this society and lived therefore within its restraints. He must have been narrow-minded. Such foolishness!

And then the ultimate dishonesty: when Eklavya’s skills were evident, Dronaharya was shaken because he wanted his disciple Arjuna to be known to the world. Eklavya was also in some sense his own disciple, but without his assent. The master felt at a loss. The one he had taught with heart and soul, had put all his efforts into, was insignificant in comparison to this man – who had only made a crude clay statue of Dronacharya with his own hands and had attained great skill practicing in front of it. As it was a customary practice for the disciple to offer a gift to the master, Dronacharya said that he wanted Eklavya to cut off his thumb and present it to him.

It was very strange – Dronacharya was not ready to consider him as disciple, not ready to give instruction to Eklavya and mentor him, but he had the audacity to ask for a gift for being his master! But Eklavya, being an amazing disciple, did not refuse to give to the man who refused to initiate him. He immediately cut off the thumb and gave it to Dronacharya. Dronacharya had asked for the thumb of the right hand – it was cunning politics to have him cut off his thumb: then Eklavya’s archery would be useless.

Hence a question worth asking: In the end, who failed? Eklavya or Dronacharya?


At a recent TiE Mumbai event, one common thread of our discussion was about ‘failing fast’ and also that we must learn how to fail gracefully and move on.

It seems all of us are placing the onus of success and failure on the shoulders of young start-up founders. They have been the victim of “Chatur” syndrome of the film 3 idiots – “not me but you Raaaajjuuu”.

Most Start-ups struggle as they do not get opportunity to engage with the customers to evaluate the right product market fit. They do not receive start-ups with open arms and allow relevant start-ups the opportunity to initiate the Proof of Concept (PoC) with organisations, be it Government departments, large or small companies. Not because the start-up may fail, but because we do not have enough courage, mandate or authority to sign the dotted line and allow start-ups to engage with their organisation.

In this game of “Passing the Parcel”, we resent to hold the buck and are shamelessly passing the blame of failures on to the start-ups. This is a cultural issue, a societal issue, it is ingrained in us that we go only after success and avoid associating with any failures. With so much of evolution of human mind, we are still living in the quadrant of “I am Right & You are Wrong”. The Innovation ecosystem can be built by embracing failures and learning from them. The DNA of Silicon Valley was built more by these learning from failure than by just celebrating successes, and even customers and investors supporting failed start-up to bounce back and rise again.

But we find many decision makers and leaders in the following category –

पंछी की पीड़ा पर जिसने बढ़िया शेर सुनाया है
अभी-अभी वो एक तंदूरी मुर्गा खाकर आया है –

(The guy who speaks on the pain of birds, is the one who has just eaten chicken tandoori for his feast.)

We see most decision makers / CXOs behave like Dronacharya as they never give any opportunity to start-ups and are totally risk averse. They have to build the character, courage and mindset to encourage start-ups, work with them, learn to accept failure of their own decisions, selection of technology, start-up ideas and move on even if the intended solution does not work out in the end. Such failures are to be taken as a part of R & D expense, learning experiments and should be encouraged, without tagging the decision maker guilty and associate their appraisals with it in a negative way, the Company Management also has to get evolve to such levels. In comparison, SMEs would be more open to work with startups than the large corporate or governments. Because if these trials are successful, it will be hugely beneficial for the departments, companies and also most importantly for the start-ups….only then the vision of START-UP INDIA, STAND-UP INDIA be fulfilled.

Like Eklavya , our Start-ups are clapping with one hand…Let’s join our hand too !

नज़र को बदलो नज़ारे बदल जाएंगे,
सोच को बदलो सितारे बदल जाएंगे;
किश्तियाँ बदलने की ज़रुरत नहीं,
राह को बदलो किनारे बदल जाएंगे ll

Nazar ko badalo, Nazaare badal jayenge,
Soch ko badalo, Sitaare badal jayenge;
Kishtiyan badal ne ki zaroorat nahin
raah ko badalo, kinaare badal jayenge.

Just change the way you see the world, newer opportunities will unfold newer horizons.

About rajivvaishnav

Rajiv Vaishnav Managing Partner Cornerstone Venture Partners Rajiv is Managing Partner at Cornerstone Venture Partners, a global tech VC fund focused on Consumer business enablers (such as Applied AI) and Enterprise / SME BI solutions (vertical SaaS, AR & VR applications, Blockchain for enterprise, etc.). Cornerstone is a Pre-series A / Series A fund, the first institutional support for promising tech ventures enabling growth and customer access in unique ways. Rajiv brings over 35 years of solid experience in building brands, developing teams, expanding the market share and building organisations from grass root upwards. He was heading the Ecosystem & Partnerships Developmentt at Jio-GenNext Hub, A Reliance Enterprise. In this role, Rajiv is responsible to evangelize the Start-Up ecosystem, identify and connect with the deserving start-ups, academia, government agencies, mentors, angel investors and VC networks globally. Since 2002 till end of 2015, Rajiv was an integral part of NASSCOM’s senior management team. He headed NASSCOM’s first regional office in Mumbai and grown to manage the membership outreach nationally. He initiated many path breaking initiatives at NASSCOM including Cyber Safety initiatives with enforcement agencies, start-up incubators with State Governments under 10K Startup programme, evangelised Animation and Gaming industry and nurtured it, lead the ISO Standards initiative to establish a Global BPO and Product Quality Framework Standards out of India. He helped establish NASSCOM’s emerge forum in its formative days. At NASSCOM, he was enthusiastic about developing new IT destinations in the country, and fostering platforms for Industry-academia interactions as he believed that these were the two most critical requirements for the Indian IT industry to maintain its globally advantageous position. Rajiv was a member of AICTE (WR) and of IQAC of the SNDT Women’s University and Trustee at Dewang Mehta Foundation Trust. With Harish Mehta, the first President of TiE, Mumbai and the first Chairman of NASSCOM, Rajiv co-founded TiE in India. He built the organisation bottoms-up and nurtured the start-up ecosystem in India since early 2000. He got early exposure to work with TiE in Silicon Valley and investors, entrepreneurs and mentors such as Kanwal Rekhi, Suhas Patil, Desh Deshpande, Sridhar Iyengar, Raj Jaswa, Shabir Bhatia, Raj Desai and many others… He has worked with Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), Franchising Association of India (FAI) and US- Environment Resource Center (US-ERC). In the corporate sector, his experience includes stints with two U.S. Freight Forwarding giants Emery Worldwide and Air Express International in sales & marketing. In 2000, Rajiv was invited by the U.S. Government to participate in their International Visitors programme on US Trade and World Market. Rajiv has administered several outward trade delegations including those to International Franchise Expo ’99, USA, Emerging Companies delegations to CeBIT Australia and Silicon Valley. He has represented NASSCOM in the International Advisors Council to the Mayor of Luwan District in Shanghai, China and E-Sports Symposium in Seoul, Korea. Rajiv is a Science graduate from Mumbai University. He is passionate about music and literature. His blog url:
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8 thoughts on “Start-up: Ek Haath ki Taali.

  1. Very true of the present scenario Sir. Though everyone may sound bullish on startups and all but the ground reality is there is still a long way to go

  2. Fantastically framed Rajiv Sir… Extremely pragmatic… Whoever reads this article would surely have atleast some takeaways.

    According to me the crux lies in the words:
    “…. but because we do not have enough courage, mandate or authority to sign the dotted line and allow start-ups to engage with their organisation….”
    — This prejudical trait itself is a serious stigma on anybody who is or aspires to be a TRUE LEADER…

    Once again Fantastic… Keep it up Elder Brother…

  3. Very Apt analogy between Eklavya & the Start Ups in India and so is the title “Ek Haath ki Taali”

    Excellent and though provoking article!
    Loving every post of yours!
    Keep them coming, Rajiv.

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