By Ajay Batra,
Head, Centre or Entrepreneurship Education,
The buzz around entrepreneurship is everywhere. Startups make headlines every day; the Unicorns ($1bn valuation) are celebrated; Startup innovations are recognized. The government certainly has become very proactive – for the first time in India’s history, we have a separate ministry of entrepreneurship. Besides this, there was the Startup India campaign launched by the PM some time back. Entrepreneurship is truly an exciting domain in India today.
This creates a perception that startups/entrepreneurship is a sunshine, Greenfield, or new area. This is not true.
The fact is that ‘startups’ is just a fancy word. When an Infosys or a Wipro started up 25-30 years ago they didn’t quite use the term ‘startup’; but they were startups nevertheless. Before them, there were the industrial houses like the Tatas, the Mahindras besides the whole host of small entrepreneurs that we don’t perhaps talk about or know about or cover in our media. Entrepreneurship has always been India’s mainstream. Startups have been the way to live in India albeit at a small scale. The Indian social and economic context is challenging; everyday challenges of life require us to think differently. So, there is no way but to innovate out of it and startups have been at the forefront of this innovation. Given our history and need for developing enterprise, entrepreneurship is not just natural but a necessity.
The other thing peculiar and inherent to Indian entrepreneurship is this psyche of ‘jugaad’ or frugal innovation if you want to use a formal term. This is not necessarily a good thing because ‘jugaad’ is often associated with “unethical” shortcuts for narrow and personal gains. At the same time, I think that streak of innovation is embedded in our DNA and that it can be harnessed for the larger good, for innovation that serves society and solves some of the many complex problems that we have. I feel there is the need, there is the skill set and we are moving in that direction.
So is entrepreneurship a sunshine area? No. Is the focus on entrepreneurship and startups something new and interesting? Yes. Is it grabbing the fancy of most urban metro places? Yes. Is it really getting excitement going in our Tier 2 cities and rural areas? Perhaps. And that is what needs to change. For innovation and entrepreneurship to become a national movement, a lot more needs to be done. We have only just begun to encourage this wave and much more needs to be done to support startups, especially ones that solve larger societal problems.
Another popular perception is that entrepreneurship is related to youth. This is actually a fallacy. If entrepreneurship is about thinking differently, asking “why not” and not just asking why, about being solution oriented rather than problem focused, about being a little crazy, if you will, about challenging the norms and being able to not just dream big but actually implement it then every job is entrepreneurial. Remember, there is no restriction; there is no socio-economic divide; there is no age to be entrepreneurial. As Mohd Yunus, the Noble Peace Prize winner said, “Everyone is an Entrepreneur”.