Nonlinear Thinking Isn’t Just About Business Capital: Ronnie Srewvala
Serial entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala has been thinking ahead from the start of his career. A self-proclaimed non-linear thinker, Screwvala believes the country needs non-linear thinking more than ever. In an interview with Activity area, Screwvala demystifies nonlinear thinking and how anyone can fit it, under any circumstance, into the smallest of aspects.
Do you think that the ability to take risks has increased among Indians as their economic situation has improved?
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about risk is not finances but choices. You can take risks with anything – with your career choices, starting your own business, etc. When I say nonlinear, it’s not just about business capital but also about the choices we make. In terms of the choices you make, I think if you don’t have an element of risk then those choices are not the ones you should be making.
Do you think we’ve wasted time building businesses with innovative solutions?
A big part of what you think of as successful is what people think of as successful. The media turned to the flashiest aspects of a startup, such as fundraising. The problem is that young people will start to believe in such aspects because they are thinking of ideas that will get the funding rather than what is likely to be a good business idea. There are a lot of sectors that have grown on a massive scale but haven’t received media attention because there wasn’t a lot of funding involved. In a country like India, running e-commerce businesses is no small feat; we have postcode problem, delivery problem, people want to touch and smell the product. Other industries have also flourished. At the same time, India’s outsourcing economy, which has given birth to a strong middle class, needs non-linear thinking more than ever to move beyond the identity of outsourcing.
How do you convince people to adopt non-linear thinking?
The seeds must be planted to let go of the mood of the past. The thing about nonlinear thinking and letting go of the past is having to deal with discomfort, which people don’t like. But it is only when we get through this discomfort that something substantial will be created. However, I don’t think we need to be so loud to defend this idea because it will only turn people away. Seeds must be planted to convince people to adopt a non-linear mindset.
One of the things we found in your report is that Gen Z is more risk averse than their older counterparts …
I think this is mainly because you are young and impressionable and the thought processes in your surroundings are affecting you. Once you’ve broken with that, you can start to think non-linearly. This is why I insist that sowing the seed of non-linear thinking be done as early as possible, you don’t have to be 40 to become non-linear, you can do that in your 20s too. . In fact, the sooner you start, the better. Likewise, it is never too late to become nonlinear. When I talk about non-linear, it doesn’t always have to be major milestones like starting a big business or a major start-up. Incorporating a little discomfort into your day-to-day decision-making will also be non-linear. People like to live in their comfort zone because they will think that if they do their job enough, don’t look up to be noticed, they can get away with it. However, when the company cuts down the poorest 20 percent of its business each year, without upgrading, it will soon find itself in the mix of people who will eventually be made redundant.
How should education integrate nonlinear thinking?
My thinking is that education doesn’t have to fundamentally change to incorporate this way of thinking. The curriculum has been constructed over hundreds of years and does serve some purpose. What we need to do is increase it with something else. We have 1200 schools in our Swades Foundation in rural Maharashtra, where we don’t go to the teachers to tell them how to teach their curriculum. We are saying rather that we need a little more time from the children and a little more time from the caregiver so that a small part of the schooling can be reserved for non-soft skills. linear pupils, such as trust, communication, etc. let’s say I built a library in the school, I will ask the teachers to set aside some time for the students to sit and chat, explore books or do whatever they want.