Linda Bernardi, a synonym for innovation was one more celebrity speaker that I got a chance to converse with at #NASSCOMPC. Linda is not at all new to India and she is one of the very few non natives to be a part of the Indian Angel Network.
It was very tough to catch hold of Linda on day one but luck favoured on day two as we bumped into each other at the lobby. Upon my request, Linda was very enthusiastic to spend some time and we grabbed a a nice place in the speaker lounge.
After an informal chat, I placed my questions before her.
Linda, you have seen all phases of work life from being CEO you went on to become an entrepreneur and author too. At the same time, you been an investor and now you are also a part of the Mumbai Indian Angel network. So would you like to share how the journey has been and what brings you to India?
I started my career as a technologist. My background has been mathematics and my passion has always been how to get information from data. I built a company and by 2006 I sold it which was in the high tech arena. After that I started getting into investment and my quest to find exciting ideas to invest on brought me to India years ago. I am also a part of the India Angel Network. So the journey has evolved from being a technologist to a CEO, to an investor and to an author. The important thing here is that the bulk of my time is spent in India as my end users of all the technology companies that I had invested in reside here.
Linda, with all these roles you are an author now. Your new book ‘Provoke’ is out in the market. Can you share a bit about the book in terms of whom are you addressing to and what is the idea behind the book.
Provoke has been released on Amazon and the ebook is also out there on Amazon and Apple. The primary purpose of the book that I wrote about is actually with the utter frustrations about the complacencies that I used to get when I was working with my clients. There are thousands of employees in the company that felt they are just in the company to collect a paycheck instead of creating things. The enthusiasm that they used to achieve, education and the effort that the company spent on while recruiting seems to have become futile. Reason being the employees feel that they don’t have influence in the direction of the company. That is one reason. The other one is that I believe that anything in life we have to disrupt in order to innovate. Disruption means taking things and doing it in a different way. So the book talks about the necessity of doing this and the culture of disruption globally. The third contention is that innovation is global and it is not limited to Silicon Valley. I travel to India and other countries and I strongly feel that disruption is global. Having spent good amount of years in Indian startup side and large enterprise side with my clients, I believe that innovation is possible anywhere. So I wrote the book Provoke for the reasons I shared with you. It’s been written for anyone to read because disruption occurs for anybody from any level of organization. The book requires a bit more participation so readers will find a membership card and every time you look at that card in your own business you will think about how I can do things differently. The possibilities are infinite and this is an invite for participation for everyone out there.
Very true, innovation can happen globally and one innovation that is happening today is in social media. What are your thoughts on it and don’t you think it is a boon for startups and SMEs.
At consumer level, social media is wonderful because everyone can go on and do things as one would like. My mother has no knowledge of computers but she is out there on Facebook. So at a society level, there is awareness of social media.
However, there is a part that is yet uncovered which uses the effective targeted use of social media. So when I put something out there, it is an invitation to a party. I don’t know who is going look at it and who will respond to it. So the message should be much more targeted. In terms of startups and SMEs, social media can become their marketing and brand building because it is no longer necessary to have an agency or have PR. Saying that the crispness of message and the design part is yet something that startups can work upon. In case of the large enterprise, it is completely changing the landscape because now via social media the market can influence the brand as opposed to in the past. So for the first time before a product goes out in the market, people are talking about the product. So this is going to force innovation to happen and in Provoke there are two chapters that I talk about the same.
Apart from this, there are lots of things that we are not doing right in social media. We are shooting lot of bullets in the air hoping that some will hit the target. I think that is something we need to look at and there would be correction soon.
Without a doubt, social media is a great tool if used properly by startups and SMEs. I have seen lot of good work happening in this space.
Linda, I also know that you are a great blogger and I have seen your blog. There is amazing content out there on your blog. However, there is lot of hard work involved in it so brands tend to avoid it. Can you tell how important do you think is blogging for brands?
A very good question I have been faltered deep in my blog because I look at it as a conscious thing I am doing and I am also responsible to provide content. I have been also faltered for putting in too much of content. It is an incredible platform to speak but the reason the love has gone down is because we have become much more Twitter attention span as opposed to blog. So if we can redefine blogs and focus on micro blogs, make the blogs more targeted, available quickly and if there is an invitation for direct participation for readers then we can make blogs much more effective.
An interesting thought Linda, and I agree that our attention span has become so limited. However, there are so many blogs that still draw huge traffic but underneath there is lot of blood and sweat.
As an investor, you have invested in quite a number of companies in India and you have closely followed the startup community in India. So what do feel is that one thing missing and what would be your advice?
One thing that is missing is the risk taking ability. Entrepreneurs mean risk. So one thing entrepreneurs should keep in mind that smaller the risk, smaller is the success. So there is too much of caution in India. So this is probably one area that is missing. However, there is one thing that is interesting that I feel people in India want to tell about the technology and they don’t want to convince you. Entrepreneurs are known to be passionate. When I was an entrepreneur, I used to convince people in every conversation that RFID is going to change things. Here in India if I talk to someone, he or she will say my company does this and then the conversation ends there. Philosophically I think entrepreneurs in India are more of an economical venture and not a passionate venture. When it evolves to a passionate venture then one is willing to take risk because then it becomes that one thing in life that you have to absolutely do. You will leave your job to do it, you will convince everybody about it, you will take the risk and you will embrace the failure. Obviously you will fail at some but what will happen is that your passion will give you an asset that no one can replace. This is probably the transition that has yet not happened in India but it is going to happen and I am sure we are going to see some big shifts in India.
Entrepreneurship is about passion and being mad for that one thing in life. Indian startups should read the above sentences thoroughly. Thanks Linda for your valuable time and I enjoyed talking to you as I got to learn a lot of things.
Hopefully, even you guys had some takeaways from this amazing conversations with Linda.