Besides the will of individuals, what is needed is an ecosystem that fosters this
– Ajai Chowdhry
In my many years of study, deciphering the secret to what makes an entrepreneur tick—I have come across an oft-cited fallacy. It seems that many young people have the notion that entrepreneurship is a lonely battle, a singular trek through a bumpy business landscape where one is armed only with a burning passion and little else. There is an idea that a “real” entrepreneur can only be “born”. There is some innate, intangible quality, which makes a person an entrepreneur—that there is no room for outside intervention (governmental or otherwise) to retain the sanctity of that title. I am here to suggest the opposite.
Importance of mentors
I absolutely believe that for a young person to embark on the path of entrepreneurship, they need certain qualities: Passion, fearlessness and dedication. Yet they need not be alone on that path. They should be armed with education, the knowledge and expertise of mentors and an ecosystem that supports and fosters their efforts.
India is a land dotted with incubators—many of the strongest beings in educational institutes. I feel that while these institutes have strong technical mentorship, there is a void where business mentorship, teaching entrepreneurship and providing a connection to angel investors are concerned. It was in the interest of addressing this very void that I created a first-of-its-kind Minor in the subject at IIT Hyderabad, as Chairman of the institute.
I have seen the benefits of bolstering the entrepreneurial spirit with education and tempering it with experience. The true question for India is, how to get the government on board to provide the regulatory environment required to breed and incubate these young giants of the industry. Unfortunately, only around five percent of the many Indian start-ups get financial support from sources outside of friends and family due to an inhospitable business ecosystem.
One of the best examples of positive incubation of entrepreneurs in India can be seen in the Indian Angel Network (IAN)—of which I am an active member, having invested in 12 start-ups myself. Combining the expertise and knowledge of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders with fledgelings in the field, the network provides mentorship for start-ups with great potential. A great example in the Indian IT space is Nasscom’s launch of 10,000 start-ups aimed at incubating, funding and supporting technology start-ups in India over the next decade in partnership with the IAN.
It is important to note that India has a long way to go in terms of the number of companies nurtured by angels when compared to their counterparts in the West. Here, in India, we are in need of more and more jobs of this calibre. About 100 million new jobs to be considered a “developed” nation, in fact!
We stand to gain from a multiplier effect, if we can convince more young people to embrace entrepreneurship as a supported, nurtured and respected arena for business practice. This can only happen when the government steps in and creates a positive environment for these young, dynamic businesses.
There are myriad ways this can be done; by creating greater ease of business for start-ups by simplifying the maze of regulatory roadblocks and through tax breaks and incentives for groups such as the IAN.
The creation of an entrepreneur is a tricky business. It requires the construction of a robust ecosystem complete with mentors who can guide and inspire these bright minds to their best.
An argument can be made that the last two decades of growth in the IT industry contributed in no small part to the creation and success of entrepreneurial ventures in the country; HCL being a strong case in point.
How much more will India grow if we foster an environment that provides the framework, funding and mentoring for these start-ups to succeed?
Mr Ajaii Chowdhry is the co-founder of HCL. This article appeared in the Intelligent Entrepreneur, July 2013 and reproduced here with permission from Mr Ajai Chowdhry.
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