Entrepreneurs in India

 

Who is an Entrepreneur?

Wikipedia introduces Entrepreneur as a loanword from the French language that refers to a person who undertakes and operates a new venture, and assumes some accountability for the inherent risks. Being in business or being an entrepreneur is about taking risks and confronting challenges.

Entrepreneurs build companies that are specifically crafted to exploit a particular opportunity. This gives them an advantage over older companies that were designed in response to challenges of the past and must change to adapt to today’s requirements. Entrepreneurs can build new companies. They can also rejuvenate existing companies via buyouts and turnarounds. They can also build new companies inside existing companies, which can be called corporate entrepreneurship.

The will to spot opportunities and take risks in order to realize them is part of a person’s overall makeup, which is partly innate and partly a product of his upbringing. The best way to learn how to be an entrepreneur is to work at the side of a successful one. The problem is that entrepreneurs are understandably reluctant to hire those who cannot help them immediately. It appears that the best way to learn this is to work for a startup which offers more opportunities to learn Entrepreneural skills.

Risk-taking and opportunism go along with frugality. Really good entrepreneurs squeeze as much as possible out of limited amounts of cash. They leverage the money of others, and never invent the wheel when a good, cheap one is available in the marketplace. By keeping the rate at which they burn cash low, entrepreneurs can try a lot of ideas, most of which do not work, without losing because they ran out of money before they hit upon a workable value proposition.

Many “high-profile” entrepreneurial ventures seek venture capital or angel funding in order to raise capital to build the business. Many kinds of organizations now exist to support would-be entrepreneurs, including specialized government agencies, business incubators, science parks, and some NGOs.

Venture capital investments generally are high risk investments but offer the potential for above average returns. An angel investor (business angel in the UK, or simply angel) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for ownership equity. Unlike venture capitalists, angels typically do not manage the pooled money of others in a professionally-managed fund. However, angel investors often organize themselves into angel networks or angel groups to share research and pool their own investment capital.

In India…

According to Global Enterpreneurship Monitor(GEM) project India Report 2001, Due to social rigidities, Indian women are half as likely as men to be entrepreneurs. Younger, moderately educated, and reasonably well-off people are more likely to be entrepreneurs. The types of startups encountered (established within the last 42 months) were mostly consumer-oriented, comprising of trading activities; most have just about a handful of employees. Main sources of funds in decreasing order were personal, financial institutions, close family members, and government programs.

The wheels of India’s bureaucracy still turn too slow for entrepreneurs, the educational system is not good at promoting entrepreneurial skills and attitudes, Indian institutes have not been as good as multinationals in R&D transfer, and India’s physical infrastructure ranks lowest among the countries surveyed in the report – all prime areas for study and improvement by policymakers, academics and business leaders.

According to Vivek paul, former CEO Wipro “The stuff that’s been done in India is staggering in terms of range and depth. I don’t think that anyone can say that the work we’re doing is trivial. But the work we’re doing is under somebody else’s direction.

Let me put it this way: For an engineer, there’s a big difference between discovering something, versus discovering something that you know somebody else says can be done. That difference is the difference between the service business and the products business. In the service business, what you’re doing is great stuff, but it is in some sense something that someone else told you to do. “

He further argues “If you look at that service business as leading to innovation and product outcomes, the answer is absolutely not. Frankly, I feel that when people work in a service business like ours, it’s almost like we give them a lobotomy. I don’t think – and I hope I’m wrong – you will see a single successful product startup coming out of people who were working at Wipro or any other similar companies. You’ll find that innovation comes from people who worked for Intel India; they’ll go off and come up with a new chip. Or someone at Cisco India will come up with a new router. Why that is, God knows. But I truly believe that there is some sort of inadvertent lobotomy that we give people. “

Is India a right place to start a startup?

Following are few interesting observations:

1. People: India is a land of technologists. It is the best place for techies with similar interests to combine their skills and innovate than in any other countries.

2. Funding: Indian startups can survive for much longer time than in any other countries looking at the limited amount of cash requirement for running business here.

Does India lack Entrepreneurship skills?

India Venture Challenge organized by The Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) and TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) met with a stupendous response and saw participation of 125 budding and aspiring entrepreneurial teams from across India, representing both new ventures and existing early stage businesses.

According to Tim Draper, Founder and Managing Director of DFJ,“Entrepreneurial talent abounds in India and needs the right atmosphere and encouragement for the skills to be honed and met with success.”

I believe it is required to create right environment to create successful business builders in India. To do this India should be focusing on following areas:

1. Create the right environment for success: Entrepreneurs should find it easy to start a business. To do so, most Indians would start slow with capital borrowed from family and friends, the CEO playing the role of salesman, a professional team assembled months or perhaps years after the business was created, and few, if any, external partners. Compare this with a start-up in the Silicon Valley: a Venture Capitalist (VC) or angel investor would be brought in early on; a professional management team would drive the business; a multi functional team would be assembled quickly; and partnerships would be explored early on to scale up the business.

To a large measure, culture shapes this style. Silicon Valley is abuzz with ideas to build global businesses; deals are continually being negotiated, teams are pulled together and partners are identified. There is almost unlimited access to multiple VCs and angel investors. Critical support services abound, including professional managers, legal firms, venture capitalists, angel investors, and placement agencies. Combine this with excellent infrastructure – connectivity, communication, and office space – and getting started is easy.

2. Ensure that entrepreneurs have access to the right skills: A survey McKinsey & Company conducted in 2000 revealed that most Indian start-up businesses face two skill gaps: entrepreneurial (how to manage business risks, build a team, identify and get funding) and functional (product development know-how, marketing skills, etc.). In other countries, entrepreneurs either gain these skills by hiring managers or have access to “support systems” such as universities or other institutions that may nurture many regional businesses. In addition, business schools give young graduates the skills and knowledge required for business today.

3. Ensure that entrepreneurs have access to “smart” capital: For a long time, Indian entrepreneurs have had little access to capital. It is true that in the last few years, several Venture Funds have entered the Indian market. And, while the sector is still in its infancy in India, VCs are providing capital as well as critical knowledge and access to potential partners, suppliers, and clients across the globe. However India has only a few angel investors who support an idea in the early stages before VCs become involved.

4. Enable networking and exchange: Entrepreneurs learn from experience – theirs and that of others. Much of the success of Indians in Silicon Valley is attributed to the experience, sharing and support TIE embers have extended to young entrepreneurs.

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