Non-linear thinking is not just about commercial capital: Ronnie Srewvala

Ayushi Kar Mumbai | Updated on August 22, 2021

Ronnie Screwvala. File photo   -  Businessline

Says non-linear thinking is also about choices we make

Serial entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala has been thinking ahead of the curve since the beginning of his career. A self-touted non-linear thinker, Screwvala believes that the country needs non-linear thoughts now more than ever before. In an interview with BusinessLine, Screwvala demystifies non-linear thinking, and how everybody across the board can incorporate it, regardless of the circumstances, in the smallest of aspects.

Do you think the ability to take risks has increased amongst Indians as their economic situation has improved?

The first thing that comes to my mind, when we think of risk, is not finances but choices. You can take risks with anything - with your career choices, starting your own business etc. When I say non-linear, it is not just about commercial capital but also about the choices we make. Regarding the choices you make, I think if you don't have an element of risk, then those choices aren't the ones you should be making.

Do you think we have wasted time in creating ventures with innovative solutions?

A lot of what you deem successful is what people consider successful. The media has been gravitating towards the flashier aspects of a startup such as raising funds. The issue is that youngsters will start believing in such aspects because they think 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 at a massive scale but have not received media attention, since there was not much funding involved. In a country like India, it is not a mean feat to run e-commerce ventures; we have postal code issues, delivery issues, people want to touch and feel the product. Other industries have bloomed as well. At the same time, India's outsourcing economy that has given birth to a strong middle class, needs non-linear thinking more than ever to go beyond the outsourcing identity.

How do you convince people to take up non-linear thinking?

Seeds need to be planted to drop the mindset of the past. The thing about non-linear thinking and letting go of the past is that one has to deal with discomfort, which people dislike. But it is only when we go through this discomfort will something substantive be created. However, I don't believe that we need to be that vociferous in advocating for this idea since it will only turn people away. Seeds need to be planted to convince people to take upon a nonlinear mindset.

One of the things we found in your report is that Gen Z is more risk-averse than their older counterparts...

I think that is mostly because you are young and impressionable and the thought processes of your surroundings affect you. Once you break away from this you can start thinking non-linearly. This is why I insist that planting the seed of non-linear thought should happen as early as possible, you don't have to be 40 to become non-linear, you can do it in your twenties as well. In fact, the sooner you start the better. Similarly, it is never too late to become non-linear. When I talk about non-linear though it doesn’t always have to be major steps such as starting a big business or major startup. Incorporating a little discomfort in your daily decision-making will be non-linear as well. People like to live in their comfort zone, for they will think that if they sufficiently do their job, don’t put their head up to get noticed, they will be able to coast through. However, when the company is trimming the bottom 20 per cent of their company each year, without upgrading themselves they will soon find themselves in the mix of people that will be eventually let go.

How should education incorporate non-linear thinking?

My thinking is that there is no need for education to fundamentally change to incorporate this way of thinking. The curriculum has been built over the course of hundreds of years and does indeed serve some purpose. What we need to do is augment it with something else. We have 1200 schools in our Swades Foundation in rural Maharashtra, where we are not going to the teachers and telling them how to teach their curriculum. Rather we are saying that we need some extra time from the kids and some extra time from the reacher so that a small portion of the schooling can be set aside for students' nonlinear soft skills, such as confidence, communication etc. For instance, let us say I have built a library in the school, I will ask teachers to set aside a couple of periods for students to go sit there and chat, explore books or do whatever they want.

Published on August 22, 2021

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