The Blooming Indian Middle Class and the Start-up Ecosystem
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‘Success’ for most of the young graduates from middle class families until a decade ago, was getting a good job, preferably in a government organization and, retire with a house and car. For most of the folks from south Indian middle class families though, the route to success was predefined as—engineering, master’s abroad, getting a job abroad, marrying and settling down.
Entrepreneurship as a choice of being gainfully employed was an aspiration trademarked for a select few communities, more so from those hailing from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Today’s fresh graduate has multiple opportunities and modes of employment and, along with it, also has highly effective tools to make a well informed choice. Between retiring with a cozy house plus car versus building an enterprise, many of them from the middle class today are at least willing to speak out their love for the latter option, rather than snubbing their dreams down the drains.
Business is no longer a monopoly of a few selected communities or families. The profile of entrepreneurs who have essayed their success stories in the last decade or so, is a testimony of the changing times.
However, India as we know, is still a predominantly middle class driven country. And, like everything else, the ‘customers’ for education loan too are predominantly from this working class. Which is why, most of the graduates from middle class, even today, can’t start their entrepreneurial journey immediately after their education. They have to settle the dues at all fronts, before braving the ‘risk’ of starting a business which doesn’t assure the security and comfort of getting a salary every month, irrespective of the dynamics of the business.
Considering the current demographics of India, especially the young work force and also taking into account the fast growing start-up ecosystem, it is only a matter of time before entrepreneurship as an option of employment becomes a ‘permitted’ mode of earning among the middle class families.
Having said that, this process of building a robust ecosystem for start-ups can be catalyzed to a great extent if the middle class families are educated to support entrepreneurship in their own family circles. Most of them would be comfortable spending their money on gold or some rituals rather than funding a budding entrepreneur in their own family. In many cases, the experienced folks would be patient enough to guide everyone else in the world but, are unable to make their own buds listen to them. And, it’s the same case at the other side too. Many a times, the fresh blood is ready to compromise on rough ups from everyone else except their own family. You see, ego is a big spoil sport and, it’s nothing but a manifestation of the fear of losing.
An interesting statistic for you is the sale of yellow metal on the day of Dhanteras in India. Reports suggest gold sales on this single day is usually around 30-40 tonne. Also, the demand for gold annually in India is pegged at around 850 tonne. And, around 40% of the buyers of gold in India are from the middle class.
One of the other major challenge that the educators and counselors of entrepreneurial coaching will encounter while interacting with the middle class families is that, most of the elders in the family would be reluctant to take a back seat and allow their younger generation to steer the wheel of the family, even when it’s the right time to do it. They do so by compulsion, only when they are fully dependent on younger generation and, not while they are still actively working in some way.
The main reason for this mindset being, most of them from the middle class in their late 40s or early 50s would have starved of recognition, as most of them wouldn’t have got the limelight like the working class of these days flaunt. However, they obviously deserve the recognition for being the flag-bearers of their family. Hence, while coaching, it’s very important that the head of the family is recognized as the chief mentor of the budding entrepreneur. Else, the biggest challenge for him would be winning his own family.
In the traditional age old business communities, you can see that, in most cases, the entire family is together in business, unlike working class families where in, each family member has their own journey to tread. While there are pros and cons to both the sides, it is prudent for families to have an eye for such budding entrepreneurs and support them with whatever best they can, to get them going.
For any enterprise, fund is the oxygen. And, one needs to be patient with the hustlers, come what may. After all, it’s your family. And, for God’s sake, please don’t compare them with the ‘successful’ kins in the family. You would be draining away their energy by seeding unnecessary negativity. Let’s remember, we all have different gradients of mistakes and our share of imperfections. What’s more important is whether one is putting an effort to change themselves and their situation.
I think there is immense scope for entrepreneurial coaching and its role in building a thriving start-up ecosystem, if this route of integrating the middle class families for both funding and mentoring is explored. Until the middle class families are not systematically conditioned to be pro-business, the entrepreneurs would be wasting lot of their time and energy braving emotional battles in their own head and home, rather than being in full control of their business.