www.thehindu.com | February 8, 2020
Encouraging students to question and not be afraid to take risks is one of the many factors that India needs to establish a healthy startup ecosystem
Startups are one of the strongest engines for wealth creation, employment and economic growth. India is aspiring to be a $5 trillion economy in the next five years. There is also a need to create 300 million jobs by 2040, which is roughly 10 million jobs a year. These aspirations and needs of India cannot just be fulfilled by the existing large enterprises alone. Startups can act as a vehicle to achieve the next level of economic growth and social development.
India has begun its journey to becoming one of the fastest growing startup hubs in the world, and today, it is the third largest in technology-driven product startups, after the U.S. and the U.K. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor estimates some 20% of Indians (aged between 18 and 64 years) intend to start a business in the next three years, while more than 11% are nascent entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs, innovators, academicians, and mentors to startups, in this third wave, Indians have an opportunity to rapidly prosper and put India on the path to becoming a developed nation. For this, we must explore new areas of entrepreneurial opportunities, develop new approaches, acquire relevant skills and mindset, and offer complete ecosystem support to successfully build deep-tech, IP-driven innovative platforms, products and solutions from India, for the world.
The new technology of microprocessors and integrated chips opened opportunities for nations in creating a new industry. The Indian IT industry leveraged these technological developments and made a significant contribution to make India a global economic power. Today, India is the world’s largest sourcing destination for the IT industry, which employs about 10 million professionals.
Now, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is well underway. The manufacturing industry is undergoing a major technological revolution in the way products are designed, manufactured and distributed. This rapid, end-to-end digitisation of all physical assets and their integration into digital ecosystems is a part of Industry 4.0. It promises a new frontier in the manufacturing and other sectors, with enhanced value creation through higher productivity and efficiency throughout the value chain. The technologies that enable Industry 4.0 include smart sensors, automation devices, advanced robots, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, location detection technologies, human-machine interfaces, augmented reality, 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and mobile devices, among others. India has achieved strong leadership in IT.
The preparation for the third wave of the entrepreneurial journey should begin at schools and universities in India. Unlike in the U.S., universities in India are not at the epicentre of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. They need to build a strong foundation of innovation and entrepreneurship to empower aspiring entrepreneurs to successfully incubate high-impact ventures. Educational institutions must create entrepreneurial culture where students are...
1- Explicitly encouraged to question, experiment, observe, and network to generate novel ideas where they are not afraid to take chances and fail. They must show tolerance to failure, as failure is a natural part of innovating.
2- Challenged through structured ideation efforts around specific topics, themes, or problems, and rewarded for taking smart risks in their pursuit of innovation.
3- Provided opportunities to discover new solutions, experiment, refine and validate solutions, and empower to present their ideas and utilise the collective wisdom to validate and refine ideas.
4- Given opportunities for hands-on experiential learning to build innovation capabilities and skills, which might include simulated exercises or real projects. Students get access to successful innovators, creative people, and entrepreneurs as mentors.
5- Given access to platforms and facilities through which ideas can be submitted, shared, developed, prototyped and piloted.
The Indian government has funded several organisations to establish incubation centres while major corporates have established startup accelerators. One of the challenges of deep tech entrepreneurs is access to advanced technological laboratories and experts. In the third wave of entrepreneurship, India needs to establish global Centres of Excellence (GCoEs) in exponential and Industry 4.0 technologies, in partnership with academia and industry from around the world. These centres should support entrepreneurs in (a) evaluation and implementation of state-of-the-art technologies; (b) development of products, prototypes and patentable solutions; and (c) developing industry acceptable platforms, products and solutions. GCoEs can also provide practical use cases, make concrete recommendations, and provide a test bed for startups and the industry.
Mentoring is at the core of creating high-impact entrepreneurs, and it is the weakest link in the Indian ecosystem. It is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to have access to CxOs from different startups, companies, technology domains, sectors and geographies for regular mentorship. In addition, they should get an opportunity to shadow successful entrepreneurs/founders of high-impact startups. The guidance from leading business experts from multiple domains offers a synergistic view of developing a business model and the challenges of developing and launching new products.
Aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators need to have access to global and local immersions to gain deeper insights, newer perspectives and global connects for successfully building products and solutions for India and the world. These immersions not only provide experience entrepreneurial ecosystem, but will offer inspiration to connect ideas that lead to disruptive and breakthrough products and solutions. It also provides an opportunity to collaborate and partner with individuals, institutions and create global teams.
India’s opportunity to rapidly progress in this decade is built on the ecosystem that is developed to promote high-impact entrepreneurship. Using this opportunity will require us to develop an education system that is focused on entrepreneurial culture and establish the pillars that allow Indian entrepreneurs access to advanced technology laboratories and experts to accelerate product and venture development. Through this, India can create a new generation of high-impact entrepreneurs and ventures based on IP-driven, deep-tech, and innovative platforms, products and solutions for its progressive future.
The writer is Founder and CEO, QLeap Academy and Chair Mentor, FLAME University