India, emerging hub of entrepreneurship

Can entrepreneurship be learnt from Uganda? A difficult connection to guess, but Uganda happens to be the most entrepreneurial country in the world, with 28% of its adult working population engaged in entrepreneurship.

Yes, you read that right! Compulsions are rather high, given the fact that very few jobs are around. The youth has therefore chosen to create jobs, instead of seeking one.

With Zuckerbergs, Bansals and Kalanicks emerging as role models, the last few years saw the startup fever catching up in India. And it is not only limited to the startup capital of India — Bengaluru — but also smaller towns and other cities.

It is cool and aspirational today to be a startup founder. However, compulsive entrepreneurship with the urban educated is showing its early signs, with several sectors potentially facing uncertain and disruptive times ahead. Year 2017 is going to be the starting point of this change and several others.

Fearing a slowdown, executives are signing-up for entrepreneurship education programmes and planning to go the startup way. Heads of institutions are taking interest to make entrepreneurship programme mainstream. An entrepreneurship wave is in the early stages of sweeping India.

As a consequence, there is a rush among the states to adopt entrepreneurship education. The Ministry of Skills Development & Entrepreneurship teams up with private sector institutions  which offer entrepreneurship education.

States are not content with a startup policy in place. Another race has just begun to create a student startup policy, with the focus shifting to the students.

Because, it is increasingly considered important as a skill, not just to start a venture but to find problems and solve them. Even recruiters are giving preference to such folks during placement season.

There are some crucial shifts happening in the world of startups as well. The rules are getting rewritten. It is time we understand and embrace them since these turns will provide winning opportunity to the initiated.

There are changes in the way people are looking at startups — the founders, the mentors and the investors. The focus on valuation is shifting to value creation for end customers. A sustainable business model is a key success factor and therefore the focus shifts to revenue and profits.

It is not just finding the funds, but inculcating a financial discipline. The age of lean startups is here. No one is asking any more about the burn rate. In some sense, it is getting more real. Many mentors are looking to guide their mentees on these aspects of execution.

Joining forces
Startups are immensely valuable when it comes to running the first mile of business as they are quick to respond and act. And the established corporates run the last mile better, given their reach and ability to scale. This realisation is leveraged today by corporates in adopting, buying or incubating startups.

And that’s encouraging the startups to solve grand problems today — sustainability, global warming, local problems, healthcare, rather than the conventional app-based something.

The first wave of startups focused on connecting last miles through smarter supply chains, aggregation of providers offering economies of scale or ventures that deliver benefits of a shared economy.

Also involved are technology-led IPs that aim to improve the quality of life. The innovation funds from the Department of Science & Technology is yielding some wonderful work in the colleges and promoting the culture of frugal and need-driven innovation. 

There are some healthy habits emerging as well. Exits are already on a relative decline, thereby drying up funds for angel investing. Bootstrapping is gaining prominence, which will lead to financial discipline.

Failures (learning from experience) are being celebrated today on platforms, which will encourage more youngsters to come forward. Colleges are arranging sessions for parents to deal with social acceptance.

Startup is fast emerging as a culture and a mindset. It has the power and potential to deliver broader goods to our national economy.

And it gets better by the day, as it gets more real and not living in a virtual bubble that hypes it up more than it is worth. Uganda, are you listening? India is gearing up!

(The writer is Managing Director, India and Asia, Wadhwani Foundation)

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