Dear CEOs and Entrepreneurs,
I am honored to be here today to discuss one of my favorite topics: Think outside the box. As a person who has faced similar challenges to yours, I understand the high expectations you carry, the difficulties you encounter, and the devotion you bring to your work.
Before we get to the Topic, I would like to give a small introduction about myself. Same as most of you guys, came to the US as a techie. I founded an IT services company between Bay Area and Bangalore with nothing but a vision, a team, and a strong desire to make a difference. I faced many challenges, including a significant failure in a $1.2 billion project in India, where business failure is considered a personal failure. Nevertheless, we persevered. We broke the mold, pivoted, innovated, and increased our revenues to $50 million in less than four years. Now, after moving to Columbus, OH, I am building reAlpha, a global democratization platform for investing in Airbnb properties.
Today, I would like to share with you a theme that has played a pivotal role in my success, which I believe will unlock extraordinary achievements for you and your businesses: “Burn the Box.”
What do I mean by “Burn the Box”? I suggest that, in order to achieve exceptional performance, you must venture beyond your comfort zone, question your assumptions, and think creatively – or, in fact, abandon traditional ways of thinking entirely.
Many of us are conditioned to work within certain boundaries – the limits of our education, our culture, our industry, and our geography. We may have been told that certain things are impossible, or that we must adhere to specific conventions or rules.
But what if we challenged those limitations? What if we envisioned new possibilities beyond the confines of our current thinking? What if we burn the box, and open new horizons for ourselves and our companies?
To achieve this, I suggest using the framework of the “5Ws and 1H”: What, When, Why, Where, Who, and How. Let me elaborate on each of these.
What: What are the possibilities and challenges that exist beyond the Box? What are the trends, needs, gaps, and disruptions that you can utilize or address? What are the experiments, prototypes, and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products or services) that you can test and refine? The possibilities are infinite, but it takes bravery to explore them.
When: When is the appropriate moment to burn the box? When should you pivot, scale, consolidate, or exit? When should you take risks, be cautious, be flexible, or be patient? Timing is crucial, and striking the correct balance between risk and reward is critical.
Why: Why should you Burn the Box? Why should you challenge your assumptions, beliefs, and biases? Why should you disrupt your own business, industry, and way of thinking? Why should you aim for exceptional performance rather than incremental improvements? The answer is simple: if you do not, someone else will.
Where: Where are the markets, customers, talent, resources, and ecosystems that can support your burning the box? Where should you expand, consolidate, pivot, or exit? Location can have a significant impact on breaking free from mold.
Who: Who are the individuals who can assist you in burning the Box? Who are your mentors, partners, advisers, customers, employees, and competitors? How can you learn from them, work with them, and leverage their abilities? The people around you can be your greatest assets in breaking free from the Box.
How: How can you Burn the Box? How can you create a culture of innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking? How can you align your strategy, culture, processes, metrics, and leadership with breaking the mold? How can you inspire and empower your employees, customers, partners, and investors to join you on this journey? There are numerous methods to cultivate a culture of innovation, but it all starts with the correct mindset.
Now, let me share with you my own journey of “Nothing to NASDAQ.” I started my IT services company with nothing but a vision, a team, and a burning desire to make a difference. We faced many challenges, including a major failure in a $1.2 billion project in India, where business failure is seen as a personal failure. But we didn’t give up. We burned the box, pivoted, innovated, and grew our revenues to $50 million in less than four years. And we didn’t stop there. We went public on NASDAQ, the world’s most prestigious stock exchange, and became a global leader in our field.
Our success was not just due to hard work, talent, and luck, although those played a part. It was also due to our willingness to burn the box and think outside the building, the city, and the country. We looked beyond the traditional IT services model and saw opportunities in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain. We embraced a culture of innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking, and we attracted and retained top talent who shared our vision and values.
But our burning of the box was not without risks and failures. We made mistakes, we faced setbacks, and we learned hard lessons. But we also learned that failure is not the end, but a stepping stone to success. We learned that burning the box is not just a one-time event, but a continuous process of exploration, adaptation, and reinvention.
So, my fellow CEOs and Entrepreneurs, I urge you to burn the box. Burn the box of your own assumptions, your own limitations, your own comfort zone. Challenge yourself, your team, your industry, and your world. Imagine new possibilities, experiment with new approaches, and dare to be different. Don’t let the box confine you, but let it inspire you to reach higher, go farther, and make a bigger impact.
As the great Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” To be a leader in your industry, you need to burn the box and be willing to take risks. As Elon Musk once said, “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” Burning the box may seem daunting, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve breakthrough performance.
And finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from our very own Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said, “If you want to achieve something, you have to be prepared to take risks.” Burning the box is all about taking calculated risks, and I hope this speech has given you the inspiration and framework you need to do just that.
So, get out of the constraining boxes. Burn the box and explore outside the building, city, state, or even continent. Bring new ideas to life and grow exponentially.