In part 1 of this 2 parter Vlad the Idea Hamster had pointed out that Kolkata’s airport was damn near devoid of business travelers and tourists when we arrived from Istanbul. I told him I would attempt to find out why. I asked my AirBnB host, who happened to be an entrepreneurial kinda guy. “Simple,” he answered, “thirty four years of communist government in West Bengal.”
Well, yes, that would explain it. Despite the fact that the city, and indeed the entire state of West Bengal, have been making great efforts to rid t themselves of their reputation as a place where dreams go to die, where corrupt bureaucrats smile knowingly and wave inch-think rule books at anyone who wants to start a business, the world, apparently, is not buying it.
While India’s other major cities have been recognized around the world as being business friendly, or at least on the path to that status, Kolkata is being largely passed over by entrepreneurs, global and domestic, largely because of its reputation.
Shortly after West Bengal’s citizenry ended the reign of the Bangla Bolsheviks in 2011. the state’s new Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee,
set out to rebrand Kolkata as New London, or the London of the East.
I lived in London for two years, in the late ’90s, and I have no idea why any city would want to be associated with the British capital. In fact, when I returned to Vancouver I ran for office vowing to take the British out of British Columbia, in part by changing the name of Canada’s Pacific province to Zillastan. The Chief Minister and I will have to agree to disagree on the reality of London, but I will agree with her conclusion that London is much prettier than Kolkata, just as Vancouver is much prettier than London.
Three months after she rose to power the Chief Minister declared that she would beautify India’s third most populous city. “In spite of a much smaller population than ours, Londoners could build such a beautiful city through proper planning,” she told anyone who would listen. “Even we can do so if specific plans are in place.”
So far, she has managed to build a 1/3 scale model of Big Ben on the side of one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
As of November 2017, she was still trying break ground on the erection of a duplicate of the London Eye
on the banks of the Ganges.
Evidently, she wasn’t having much luck.
I don’t know if Kolkata is any closer to having a giant Ferris wheel, and frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn, because the whole effort is tantamount to smearing lipstick on a pig.
To her credit, Banerjee understands that her government will never be able to afford the kind of plastic surgery that will be needed to make Kolkata beautiful. “Although our government do not have huge amounts of funds like that in London, I believe money will start pouring in from private players once the government takes a positive step towards beautifying the city,” she opined back in 2011. The estimated cost of the Kolkata Eye is somewhere n the ballpark of $60 million. That’s some damn expensive lipstick.
Even if Banerjee manages to erect her Ferris wheel, it’s not gonna attract so mush a a nickel of foreign direct investment. London was not built on foreign direct investment, unless that’s what you wanna call the proceeds of crime that came from plundering the resources of every country in the British Empire.
If the Chief Minister wants to morph West Bengal’s capital into the London of the East, she’s gonna have to mount a campaign to pillage every country in the world of their most precious resources.
No, I’m not talking about oil, gold, or any other material commodity. I’m talking about people. I’m talking about people with brilliant business schemes. I’m talking about creative intellectual capital investment. I’m talking about ideas.
Everything starts with an idea.
Frank Zappa once scoffed at scientists who claim that carbon is the most plentiful substance in the world, when it’s so obvious that stupidity is. Go ahead, argue his point. You can’t, because it’s true. But there’s a whole lotta smart wandering around on this rock. You think you could have invented the Internet? Created a vaccine for polio? Hell, i wouldn’t have been able to figure out the incredible utility of the wheel if I’d been a caveman.
Ah, but all the geniuses in the world are coveted, and lauded in whatever land they hail from, you say? The Hell we are. If you read my previous post, and took my advice about watching that interview with Jordan Peterson, you may recall that the guy interviewing him asks where all the creative people are, to which Peterson laughs, “They’re starving in garrets!”
Fuckin’ eh we are. And a lot of us are tinkering away in garage workshops and laboratories, coding in coffee shops etc., and everywhere we are smiling and saying, :Eureka!”
Here’s the video again. Watch it!
I’m not the only madman wandering the world, knocking on doors and being fucked off by the boys from the monkey jerk-off box. Oh, no. We are everywhere. And everywhere we are, we are ignored. Mocked.
Bring them to Kolkata, Ms Banerjee. Bring them to Kolkata, with all their creative intellectual capital, and the money will follow.
Then you can make the city beautiful. It may take a couple hundred years to transform Kolkata into a city of jaw-dropping beauty, but Rome was not built in a day, as they say. Nor was London.
And how can we get them to come to Kolkata, you ask, Madame Chief Minister? You build a THINKubator.
Yes, there it is, that strange term, of my own creation, that has lured you to this blog, not once, but twice. So, what the Hell is the THINKubator? I thought you’d never ask!
It’s a pre-startup stage engine that sends a message out to the world:
“If you’ve struck out everywhere else, come to Kolkata We’ll figure it out. Together, Or die trying.
The THINKubator is an introduction service for people who have great business ideas, and the entrepreneurs who can build companies out of them
You see, just because you have a bright business idea, it doesn’t mean you have a clue about how to cash in on it. Like myself, lots of the frustrated wannabes neither have, nor have any great desire to attain a lick of business acumen. We are not going to do the ugly work. We don’t have to, because there are millions of people right here in India who have talents in that area. Entrepreneurs.
The coolest kids in the world today are all doing startups. Business talents they have, but that doesn’t mean they have great ideas. These people, idea hamsters and entrepreneurs, need to meet each other. And that’s what the THINKubator is all about.
I happen to have two multi-billion dollar ideas crammed into my big, fat buffalo head.
One would take massive bites out of Amazon, Apple, and others of their ilk. It would greatly enlarge at least six industry sectors, and give slices of those massive pies to millions upon millions of people who richly deserve to be richly rewarded for their genius.
The other, also a multi-billion dollar idea, would slap the shit out of the world’s legal profession Mafiosos (lawyers) with Adam Smith’s almighty invisible hand. It would take us one giant leap closer to the unfulfilled promise of justice for all
Those are beautiful, gargantuan ideas that would change the world, helping to usher in a new age of capitalism with a human face. They are both inevitabilities.
But the THINKubator would not be exclusively for big think, big money ideas. There are legions of people out there who have built better mousetraps. But they can’t get them to market, for all sorts of reasons. The THINKubator is as much for them as it is for the ones who wanna be the next Jack Ma, Elon Musk, or Mark Zuckerberg.
The wannabes don’t literally have to come to Kolkata in person. Not at first, at least. They only have to share their ideas with the clever, hungry minds that will populate and run the THINKubator.
Let’s say, for example, that Lola Luciousbottom
has an idea.
A shoe. Something that’s never been seen before. Think Crocs.
Even if you can’t stand Crocs, you can’t deny that they have gone around the world, and the creator kept laughing all the way to the bank in every country where the footwear was trotted out.
Lola brings her new shoe idea to the THINKubator. The clever boys and girls at the THINKubator tell Lola that there are 37 footwear companies in Kolkata that have signed on with the program. Lola gets all the information she wants about every one of those potential partners. She does her due diligence, and asks for a introductions to four of them. Lola gets the introductions, and decides which of them she wants to reveal her idea/design to, and off they go. If, of course, that particular business likes the new shoe.
Etc. etc. ad infinitum.
is, like me, lucky enough to have a hyperactive idea hamster running around in her head, she may also have an idea for a new video game that will conquer the world. I’m sure Kolkata has scores of video game production companies.
And, if Lola
has an idea for… well, you get the point, right? (hey, does anyone have contact info for Lola? Asking for a friend. He really admires her… clever mind, and would love to meet her).
There is, naturally, a problem here. Not for Lola,
and her new shoe, which can be afforded intellectual property protection, but for people like me.
You see, ideas that can’t be trademarked, patented, or copyrighted can be poached by whomever they are disclosed to.
That’s why, when I tried to get one of my BIG ideas to Richard Branson, I wouldn’t tell any of his middle management minions what it was. I tell one of them the idea, he says, “That’s a really stupid idea, and Sir Richard would laugh n your face, so fuck off,” and then either gets it to Branson, taking the credit, and the rewards, or tries to bring it to fruition, himself.
And, please, don’t talk t me about NDAs, because if their lawyer is bigger than my lawyer, or I can’t even afford a lawyer, an NDA is worth sweet fuck all to me.
In order for people with unprotectable ideas (think Uber, AirBnB etc.) to trust the THINKubator, they have to have confidence that the institution will come down on an idea poacher like a ton of shit-covered, lead bricks. It may be that new intellectual property law has to be written. That’s certainly been happening since the advent and proliferation of the Internet. I’m not a legal scholar, so I don’t know much about that, but it’s just law. Laws, just and unjust, are passed every day. Even Hitler made sure to create laws that made it legal for him to try to exterminate the Jews (and, by the way, if you wanna see a great film about hat, find CONSPIRACY (2001).
I can’t emphasize this enough – it is absolutely essential that the creators have confidence that they won’t get ripped off. If so much as one person has their idea stolen, without justice being dispensed, the THINKubator could go tits up.
When I tried to get my brilliant idea to Branson, the middle management minions at Virgin told me that they get flooded with all sorts of loons like me. Well, I seriously doubt they get overrun by loons like me, but I get the obvious point. That’s the other role the THINKubator plays. Screening out loons.
The companies that sign on to the program need to be confident that the THINKubator will thoroughly vet ideas before introducing the interested parties to each other. They need to be confident that they’re not wasting their time, even though any introductory idea pitch can be wrapped in less than an hour.
The THINKubator gives an idea hamster credibility that can’t be bought. The THINKubator opens doors that idea hamsters can’t open, or even get to in many cases.
Does the Chief Minister have to take this on all by herself Hell no. What a schmozzle that would be.
Surely there is a private enterprise with a sense of corporate social responsibility, and noblesse oblige that will come to the table with seed money. Let’s start with General Electric. They’re the ones who produced this gem of an ad,
that Vlad the Idea Hamster gnawed on until he spat out the THINKubator.
Everything new is strange to the rabbit mind, everything strange is terrifying.
But the wolf will sniff at it.
If it smells good, the wolf will lick it. If it tastes good, he will devour it, and it will make the wolf stronger
My THINKubator is an idea. Don’t be afraid. It’s just an idea. But… everything starts with an idea.
Next time, I’ll tell you what I would do to draw tourists to West Bengal.