Innovation Vs Trading: Some Personal Reflections

Theoretically speaking, innovation is a by-product of creativity and trading is a by-product of hunger

This article is an argumentative piece which largely relies on my personal observation and experience of more than two decades. It may look more opinionated in tone but carries out some objective points of departure for those young Pakistanis who are interested to learn a thing or two about the business. At the outset, let me put a simple question: do you want to earn money and become rich? Probably a large majority of human being in Pakistan and beyond would say, YES. So the next question may be: how can you earn money? Now it demands serious effort to be explored and understood before you decide to take any practical step towards your un-ending journey of accumulation of wealth.

Theoretically speaking, innovation is a by-product of creativity. Trading is a by-product of hunger. Does it look odd? Perhaps, yes. Some of you may not want to agree with me. That’s how the world is. However, this is what I hold after facing many challenges, failures and loss of hope in my professional life. To be precise, you cannot be creative and innovative when you are hungry. Hunger does not make you creative. Because when you are struggling for basic necessities of life; you do not think beyond a certain level. In other words, empty belly cages you and demands limited recourses to ensure some food and a place to take some rest.

I vividly remember that I was 18 years old when I used to carry heavy cans of fresh water on daily basis. It was a couple of kilo meter away from our residence. Honestly, I do not come from a privileged class. I come from a class where I along with my parents was struggling to ensure the provision of the basic life facilities. Those moments of less food and more depression still continue to be part of my childhood/adulthood memories. In those days, I do remember, all my worry was to arrange food, water and electricity for the family. Thus, I believe innovation usually and mostly works well for rich kids. Or for kids in the eco-system. An eco-system that is designed for innovation with adequately available funds, mentors and a lot of time in hand to come up with something creative. Maybe I could have made Amazon dot com when I was 18 years old. Just may be. May be if I had that environment, access to funds, mentors, “bhara howa pate”. Then might have been possible. However, God knows better. But the point I want to make here is that it is higher likely for a rich kid to innovate something than his/her counterpart coming out of slum (kachi basti).

As a matter of fact, poor or hungry kids have higher chances to perform well in trading. Because trading gives them quick cash vs innovation which works well for well-fed stomach and requires a well-designed eco-system to fund their time and energy and to mentor them. Whereas trading is quick, easy and accessible. Give a unch of cupcakes, flowers, pen, food, snacks to a poor kid (of course 18+) and ask him to go around and sell them, he will come back with money. Trading does work if you ask him to start walking around and sell things without any shop, electricity bill and employees overhead. At least he will learn how it works. If he is smart, he will find his ways to grow it up to next level.

Now, just for the sake of experimentation, ask the same kid to innovate something. Does he have that high IQ, money, time to excel and mentorship? A fully funded, loaded with money eco-system willing to invest on his ideas and take a chance of 1-2% success? What are the chances of this poor kid to innovate something when he is hungry? So what is the percentage of rich kids vs poor kids? Or what is the percentage of well-funded innovative eco-system vs ordinary business skills training centres in Pakistan? Where exactly are we standing right now? Think logically considering 200+ Million population of this country and one of the world’s poorest economic conditions or, to be more accurate, a failing economy. Where exactly do we have higher chance to succeed? Innovation which demands some hard-earned socio-economic prerequisites or trading skills which effectively work for the young entrepreneurs? We rather teach these kids how to sell on streets; how to sell wholesale; how to sell through Alibaba; how to sell on Amazon and eBay; how to sell on websites. We equip them with the knowledge and let them do the rest. This is both a way to make them capable of earning money and empowering them to run their households smoothly.

Let me admit one thing very openly. I don’t say they will all succeed. All I say is they have higher chance to succeed with average intellect, average budget, average education and average business plan. The chances to succeed with basic trading skills would be higher than trying to innovate something. How many kids in Pakistan end up innovating something and able to raise funding through well-funded eco system? Probably 0.05% or 1%. It’s a rough idea to understand the following points. What would be the percentage of successful traders coming out if we start equipping them with basic trading skills and knowledge? Look at the World’s Billionaires and look at Billionaires in Pakistan. Where did the majority come from? Trading or Innovation? And let’s focus more on the Billionaires who came out of poverty. We will find the statistics that majority of World’s billionaires became richer through trading.

Innovation looks good, in my opinion, for the developed countries and rich entrepreneurs. Please understand, I am never against Innovation. Innovation is always backbone of the economy. My point is all about average population, average intellect, average people, average budget, and average kids. I am sure one day Pakistan will be ready to become World’s leading Innovative hub. But are we ready for innovation right away? Or we are better off putting more energy and focus on equipping our young entrepreneurs with basic trading skills be it offline or online? The choice is ours.

Good luck!