Samuel Morse, found his wife dead because the letter reached him a little too late, which was delivered by the slow-moving horse messengers of the day. He decided to find a faster way to send messages and ended up inventing telegraph back in 1838. Ingvar Kampard, the iconic founder of IKEA, couldn’t fit a table in his car that he bought and so he took the legs off. He began to do something so that furniture could come in flat packages. He was just 17 and IKEA was born and today it’s a $40 bn corporation. Closer to home, no-helmet-no-petrol rule came into effect for motor-bikers in a few states recently. Two guys in Kolkata spotted this opportunity and teamed up. One sits at the entry point of the petrol pump and provides a helmet on rental. And once the biker has got gas filled, hands over the helmet back to another guy, for a consideration of Rs.5.
All 3 are entrepreneurs by definition, because they decided to do something. The word entrepreneur, came from the French word entreprendre, which means “to begin something”. And history is full of such examples of a start-up motivation, where they overcame all odds and made things happen. Some of them led to invent things, while others set-up generation defining enterprise!
However, when we want to create entrepreneurs at scale, such individual anecdotes don’t help. The focus is on removing the odds and inspiring people to action. The triggers are largely environmental and in a country like India, there is no dearth of opportunities to solve last-mile problems and finding a better method in madness. Be it cultural odds coming in the way of considering entrepreneurship as an option OR making physical & economic infrastructure available – the focus is on making it simple and easy for folks who want to begin something.
Government policies, programs on entrepreneurship, availability of incubators and investors, mentors and well-wishers are all a part of the recipe. Rather, the ingredients of secret sauce! And they are coming together, to make a real impact. India is just having a party time today. Be it the Start-up India mission or a ministry dedicated to entrepreneurship; NITI Ayog’s 100+ incubators, special start-up policies and schemes across states; a dozen+ Tier-1 institutions offering programs on entrepreneurship; India has perhaps the fastest growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world today. Motivation is one: create jobs and impact lives. The corporates are not left behind. The GenNext innovation hub from Reliance, Axilor incubator founded by Infosys founders, 10000 startups from NASSCOM, database of start-ups from Traxn are all adding to the much needed infrastructure.
While these are all very important, these are not very difficult to plug in. And it can be achieved fairly quickly. A focus, a strong commitment and an investment can make these happen. However, the big question is: how do you convert a country of job-seekers to a country of job creators? How do you build that culture? Why the same thing could not be replicated outside of Silicon Valley? Why the Paypal mafia did what they did? Why is 43% of all VC funding in the US is in Silicon Valley?
All this can be tied to one simple question: why entrepreneurship? Someone had to answer the question why and inspire the young minds. The success stories of IT services was the starting point, which got reinforced by the success of internet -generation companies in the last 10-15 years. Around the same time, this crucial question was getting answered in a systematic manner at National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) colleges, which introduced entrepreneurship education. Not as a compulsory subject that mandated & thereby diluting things, but as a subject that folks volunteered for. They liked what they saw. Leading institutions like IIT-B, IIM-A, SPJIM and the serial entrepreneur & philanthroper from Silicon Valley, Dr. Romesh Wadhwani came forward (led with Wadhwani Foundation) to create NEN in 2003. 1000+ colleges signed-up for courses in entrepreneurship. Over a 3-year period program at college level, this changed behavior through an engaging curriculum and practicums and the rest is history. 1000+ colleges, 3000 faculties, 1000 mentors, 2000+ companies became a part of this program, which created 10x jobs.
That was a humble beginning and the foundation for entrepreneurship was laid in India. Today, we are building our future on this foundation. The work is far from over. Wadhwani Foundation is working to broaden the platform now, not just to create entrepreneurs but to support them well, so that they succeed. India has moved on and there is a complete rethink happening. The hang-out cafes in Koramangala, the August Fest in Hyderabad, the mentor-on-road Jagat Shah mentoring 1000s of folks in 65 days across 35 cities, everyday cover of start-ups in leading business dailies are all adding up. So, there are scores of things happening…. What else do you think needs to happen? One for the road from my side… can we start celebrating failures?