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The Next Phase of Start-up Evolution - Bharatpreneurs! Focus now should be to adopt a more inclusive approach that benefits 70 per cent of the population i.e. rural India

By Dr Keshab Panda

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India is home to the world's best known start-ups. The start-up wave in India has taken off very well with the sector establishing itself as a credible and reckoning force to compete with the age-old conventional sectors.

Technological Influence

In fact the influence of the start-up wave has resulted in convergence of conventional sectors onto the start-up wagon. The influence of technology has resulted in subsets of service proposition such as Fintech start-ups, Edtech start-ups, Agritech start-ups to name a few.

According to Nasscom, the country is estimated to witness around 10,500 start-ups by 2020. All these have collectively resulted in India emerging as a third largest market for start-ups in terms of number of firms.

Inclusive Approach Required

However, a closer observation suggests that the start-up wave and its immediate benefits are, as of now, limited only to the urban areas. As a next step, the focus now should be to adopt a more inclusive approach that also benefits 70 per cent of the population i.e. the rural India. And it is not merely considering the social cause; it is rather more to do with the ability of the rural population that is largely born and brought up to deal with challenging situations.

Challenges then, Boon Now

I cite my own example. Born in a rural area in the eastern Indian state of Orissa in a family of five siblings, our childhood taught us to be very strong and tough mentally all throughout our lives. Our daily routine included walking 3 km every day to school. But the distance didn't matter as we knew over 80-90% of our fellow villagers did not even afford to pursue studying. Born to parents who were poor but realized that real wealth lies in education, we always aspired to make our parents proud and follow an advice of 'Never be second'.

From a Village Boy to Global Company CEO

Each year when we used to scale newer heights of academic excellence, our father would question us, "so what's next". All these challenges and upbringing inspired us enough to do well in life. Personally, this developed a fire within me to keep striving for nothing but being the best at what I did and to never fail. Such a fighting spirit and passion to excel in all spheres of life helped transform me from a village boy to the CEO of a global engineering services company.

The sheer passion for knowledge and innovation led me to obtain a graduate degree of technology in aeronautical engineering from Anna University, Chennai, a post graduate degree in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Doctor of Philosophy from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Rural Youths in Tune with Entrepreneurial Mindset

I cite my example to draw notice to the observation that the rural youth are largely mentally equipped to derive optimum results out of modest resources. This is perfectly in tune with the start-up or entrepreneur ecosystem where the measure of success is to derive the best out of modest beginnings.

I have spoken about this unique proposition of Indian rural youth as a speaker on authentic leadership, acknowledging the fact that my humble background set pace for my unique leadership style.

'Think Like Innovators'

And I exhort my own employees to think like innovators and not be constrained by hierarchy or rules. Their efforts are bearing fruit. L&T Technology Services is a strategic partner for NASSCOM in their CoE-IoT - a joint initiative of Government of India (Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) and ERNET. This alliance benefits the academia and IoT start-ups by providing access to the CoE - a physical infrastructure site with multiple technologies from collocation, design, prototype and incubation space, to test and validation platform in addition to enterprise connects, access to funds, access to technologies and mentorship support. Our mission is to provide support to those with a great idea but without the funds to make their idea a reality.

Rise of Bharatpreneurs

It is indeed heartening to know that the government is focused to pursue the start-up initiative with rural population in mind. Schemes such as Deen Dayal Upadhyay Swaniyojan Yojana designed by the rural development ministry will be backed by MUDRA Bank loans, innovative credit linkages and self-help groups. This coupled with the fact that the government aims to connect all the villages as part of Bharatnet project is expected to provide the much needed impetus to the rural start-up buildup. If given due support, one can be rest assured that the coming together of Bharat's rural youth onto the start-up wagon, will result in Bharatpreneurs -- a new & promising category of business leaders who will play a role in transforming the nation into a global technology powerhouse.

Dr Keshab Panda

CEO & Managing Director, L&T Technology Services Limited

Dr. Keshab Panda is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of L&T Technology Services Limited. Dr. Panda has over three decades of global industry experience in research, conceptualizing, creating, operationalizing and turning around complex technology and engineering services businesses.

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