On the occasion of International Women's Day, today at Locale, we talked about inspiring women from our lives. From mothers and sisters to teachers and colleagues, we've had strong women leave an indelible impression over our lives. We wouldn't be here had it not been for them. The discussion sparked another interesting line of thought in me that I'd like to share with all of you.
In terms of gender parity, the world has made some great strides in the last few decades even though we are a long way before we get there. Our co-founder Aditi is a great example of a woman leader I have had the opportunity to work with up close. 48% of all Shark Tank India pitches were by women founders. This wasn't the case five decades ago, and definitely not in politics.
This is the story of Maggie Thatcher. Now, as a politician (and a human), she definitely made her own share of mistakes and the idea behind this post is not to condone each and every thing she did. But it is about why I think her journey has a lot in common with that of great startups.
1. Quintessential Outsider: The post world-war Britain was a society clearly stratified on class and gender lines where a person's "place in society" mattered a lot. And yet, Maggie, who hailed from a humble background rose through the ranks in a party full of male aristocrats, becoming the Prime Minister, and changing the British polity for generations to come in the process. Similarly, who'd have thought that a first generation South African immigrant would go on to start a car company that would not only become the largest in the world but would eclipse the combined market cap of next 10 automakers?
2. True Disruptor: Maggie Thatcher moved fast, broke things, disrupted the status quo at the time and pulled Britain out of its worst crisis. Her time in power was tumultuous with her radical policies leading to quite a shakeup in the British society. From Amazon that transformed how people buy books (and subsequently every other good) to Netflix that changed the way people watch movies and TV, this is the story of every great startup.
3. Polarizing Figure: The iron lady might consistently rank among the top in an overwhelming majority of historical rankings of British Prime Ministers (both academic and by popular vote). But Thatcher's legacy, while impossible to ignore, remains a divided one with people holding very strong opinions on her premiership. Not very unlike Meta that has lately seen its market cap crash, partly due to bad rap over privacy and anti-trust concerns.
4. Trend Setter: In her decade-long premiership, Thatcher redefined the British politics, setting up a template for not just her own party but also the opposition. She truly shaped the opposition in her own image. That's what great startups do; they set the trend in their industry, forcing the competition to imitate them and play catch-up.
PS: The iron lady was fond of startups. As this piece here notes, under her flagship Enterprise Allowance Scheme, Thatcher "gave lots of twentysomethings free money for messing around and having fun". This unleashed an entrepreneurial wave in Britain with a flurry of startups coming up in sectors as diverse as computer games and indie record labels.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are of the author and they do not necessarily represent views of Locale.)