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One of the best ways for start-ups to innovate is to look to other businesses that are innovative and see what they can emulate or adapt in their own companies. Photo: Thinkstock (Thinkstock)
One of the best ways for start-ups to innovate is to look to other businesses that are innovative and see what they can emulate or adapt in their own companies. Photo: Thinkstock
(Thinkstock)

Start-ups are gathering momentum in India

We need to ensure that the growing number of start-ups are capable of not just surviving but truly thriving

As we saw at the recently concluded Tata First Dot student start-up showcase, ever more students are practising being entrepreneurs today. Some are doing this within the safety of campus companies and others are setting out by starting their own firms. Increasing numbers of students are also choosing to intern at start-ups or even make their first job at a start-up. All of which is great news. The students get to build life skills hands-on and learn first-hand what being an entrepreneur means and the nation benefits too.

We’ve all heard—at least I’m hoping we have—how India needs to generate more than 10 million jobs a year for the next decade if we are to truly tap into the demographic dividend. Data also shows that these jobs are most likely to get created by high-potential start-ups capable of fast growth.

At the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) over the past nine years, we’ve worked at more than 600 campuses nationwide to get students, faculty and other stakeholders inspired and educated to become entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship evangelists. It is heartening that we are seeing an increasing number of student start-ups as a direct result. Not just in the metros or top institutes but across smaller cities as well as arts, commerce, engineering, management and science colleges. As a nation, we’ve taken the first step by getting more people to start companies. Sure we need to get even more folks to do it, but the momentum is building in the right direction.

Now we need to ensure that ever more of these start-ups are capable of not just surviving but truly thriving—growing to become revenue generators and net job creators. This requires two critical components—that these companies are innovative in the broadest sense of the term, and get adequate support—that a strong ecosystem can provide, be it mentoring, financial support or knowledge and skills.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in India has begun to receive greater attention and is growing. While this is a long row to hoe, many organizations including NEN and the rising number of accelerators and incubators are focused on it. On the other hand, being innovative has been a mixed bag at best. Most young founders, especially if they are from a technical background, tend to relate innovation to technology—and that too life-altering breakthroughs. The reality is businesses and particularly start-ups can and need to innovate in a variety of ways: From how they raise money, hire employees, find customers, deliver their product or solution and support or service clients—every step of their business requires innovation. One of the best ways for start-ups to innovate, regardless of the nature of the business they are in, is to look to other businesses that are innovative and see what they can emulate or adapt in their own companies.

Young entrepreneurs all too often dismiss this opportunity by falling into the trap of labels. “Ours is a technology business or e-commerce or manufacturing business," we say, “so that doesn’t apply to us." While the details may vary, all of us need to acquire customers much like BuyHatke, at reasonable to low cost, and be able to get them to part with their money for our offerings and service them profitably.

So how Redbus signs up suppliers or TeamLease manages cash or Ryan Air does pricing can not only inform, but when adopted to your business innovatively can be a great competitive advantage. So looking to others who have done it and adapting to our own business is a great place to start. If aspirin, that has been used to relieve headaches for more than a century, can find new use as a treatment for heart disease, I’m sure our young entrepreneurs can find new and innovative twists to things other businesses do today.

K. Srikrishna is a serial entrepreneur and executive director of National Entrepreneurship Network.

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