Niyat is the Urdu term for intention. It’s borrowed from Arabic نِيَّة (niyya), via Persian. In Hindi it is नियत (niyat). I first noticed this term in a speech by Indian politician (Aam Admi Party) and Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, and it has since been borrowed by the ruling NDA government as a slogan, “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas” (clean intentions, right development).
What attracted me to the term is the doubtful niyat of many of the business founders I interacted with. Many wanted to do a startup because it was a lifestyle choice, a new form of tackling a mid-life crisis. Why do you start a business? Sounds like a basic and fundamental question to ask yourself before you start. On paper it says all the right things — solve a problem, build a fast growing successful company, become a unicorn, exit with many multiples… but is that really, truly, your niyat?
As the cost of setting up a business, especially online, becomes more affordable, more people are taking the plunge. For many it is an easy escape from the routine of life — the rat race.
So what if you fail? It adds character to your resume. What if it really takes off? I will try this for a few months and see how it goes.
Being an entrepreneur sounds sexy and many want the limelight. It’s a good conversation starter at any gathering, making you stand out as the adventurer; no more sizing each other up based on the year’s bonus cheque figure or office dynamics. You have escaped that orbit and launched yourself into a brave new trajectory. You have balls.
This is perception. If your niyat for being an entrepreneur is to be perceived like this, you will fail.
Here is the hard truth. Entrepreneurship is brutal. I think it is either a mental disease, or it is thrust upon you out of necessity. Why would anyone give up a stable, well-paying job and risk everything unless they are insane? Especially when you have a family to be responsible for?
Week after week, I come across entrepreneurs who come to talk to me about their experience with starting out, fundraising, product development, etc. The first thing I do is a niyat test. Why are you doing this? The truth comes out in a matter of minutes, after the initial pleasantries and a well-rehearsed pitch. I look for the craziness or the necessity, or both, driving the entrepreneur.
It’s not difficult to tell. Having Saaf (clean) Niyat will make things easier. You are just being you. There is no put-on hustle, no buzzwords — just you selling your story. Big data, AI, ICO, Crypto… don’t get carried away by the hype. Being an entrepreneur is not about being famous, it’s about creating a sustainable business model that creates value for all stakeholders, over the long term (yes, I’m old fashioned, I know).
Intentions (Niyat) play a big role in how we behave, feel, say and do. If you want to know what my niyat is, it’s simple: I want to create a legacy business. I want REDHILL to be a global, integrated marketing communications player with strong roots in Asia.
Fifty years from now, I hope my grandchildren will find it worth their while to intern or work at this firm. We are building for the long term, and every decision Surekha and I have made, since we started as a two-person organisation from an attic on Boat Quay, and the ones we will make as we grow, is guided by this niyat.