Systematic Changes Needed to Make India a Strong Entrepreneurial Nation
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A recent survey of working professionals reveals interesting insights on how entrepreneurship is perceived globally, and in India. Globally, while 53% of those employed would love to become an entrepreneur as it gives them more opportunities; the number is as high as 83% for India. Also, India ranks highest in terms of providing a supportive environment for launching Startups – catalyzed by initiatives like Startup India, Stand-up India and the Atal Innovation Mission.
Current Rank and Future
This confidence bodes well for India’s future and speaks highly of the current government’s thrust on supporting social and economic changes through innovation and entrepreneurship. A tight coupling between encouraging innovation and solving India’s chronic challenges in water, pollution, energy, health, and education, is ensuring more meaningful action. We must be careful that we do not start celebrating prematurely – as we are ranked 68 in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, just above Panama and just below Kazakhstan. Similarly, in the Global Innovation Index, India is ranked 60. there is a dire need to address two critical areas of systemic change to ensure that our past and current, investments in promoting entrepreneurship continue to bear fruits.
The first pertains to the social environment that is needed to initiate and sustain our belief in skilling and generating employment (as opposed to seeking employment). In the same Ranstad survey, it is alarming to note that a vast majority of Indians polled (about 76%) fear entrepreneurial failure – and are hence quite paralyzed in implementing their entrepreneurial dreams. With role models like Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy, Sachin Bansal and Bhavish Aggarwal - as a society, we have always respected self-made men and women who have boldly challenged the existing norms and created breakthrough products/services, and more importantly, created enduring institutions.
However, family and peer pressures often inhibit the innovative drive of our youth. We need to launch a large-scale awareness initiative in the country to make sure our youth, and their parents, are sensitized to the huge opportunities that await those who take informed risks. Scaffolding in terms of soft loans, startup mentoring, special incentives for women entrepreneurs and peer networking also need to be undertaken on a greater scale. We must also learn to not stigmatize failure – and only see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. This must begin at an early stage in life, as the second point below elaborates.
Developing the Culture
Children are naturally curious and innately experimental in their approach to life. They derive as much joy in playing with the toy car, as in taking it apart and challenging themselves to put it back together [most, of course, are not able to do it – much to the chagrin of their parents!]. They are innocently drawn towards innovation with a bias for action. Unfortunately, our rote-based formal education often thwarts this very capacity in the children. While the world innovates, our educational institutions have remained stagnant.
As a result, they are not graduating the “status-quo challengers”, doers and cutting-edge thinkers the world needs. Our schools and higher education institutions need to recognize the need to develop the students’ entrepreneurial mindset; a mindset that is less about launching startups but more about creativity, asking questions, working others and dealing with ambiguity. This mindset needs to be developed through curricular changes (e.g. courses in design thinking), extra-curricular activities (e.g. innovation projects that help solve real social problems like water scarcity and pollution) and support for those who wish to take their innovations forward (e.g. through Incubators and Accelerators).
There is a lot to learn about the institutional focus on innovation and entrepreneurship provided by the likes of Stanford University, Babson College, The Kaufman Foundation and the National Entrepreneurship Network. As India’s next Education Policy takes shape, we hope that it will highlight the economic and cultural shifts needed to propel us forward as a nation known not just for “Jugaad”, but for impactful and sustainable innovation.