By Rahul Jain:
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu
Every company, from an industry giant to an SME had to start at some point in time. No company has popped just into existence and made it big. You have to prove yourself on the field before you make it large. Today, the winds of perception among Indians regarding startups is changing. Many years ago, India was all about the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and opening up a business was the norm rather than the exception. But soon people began to look for security, and jobs became fashionable as the economy strengthened.
As we saw a transition from having our own business to ‘padh aur engineering kar’, we are back to the phase of again taking pride in starting our own thing. And if anyone doubts that, take a look at what the Prime Minister himself had to say about starting up and what his opposition party’s prominent leader also iterated. It is rare for them to be at a consensus on any issue and their view on startups is one of them. Thus, views are changing.
While everyone thinks of the Unicorns (the billion dollar Startup club) when it comes to start-up culture, few realize the importance of upcoming start-ups, and very few of them did when it was vital. Yes, Flipkart, Uber etc. are big, and they do represent hope for people who want to go big, but their Unicorn stature is the exception, not the norm. Start-ups are important for reasons other than what the Unicorns portray. And the new startup culture that is arising in India is more about students finding their own ground and building their skills.
The role of National Entrepreneurial Network (NEN) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) has been indispensable in this case. Targeting the intellectual capital of the nation with an entrepreneurial spirit, these initiatives allowed the engineering giants and B-schools of India to form e-cells and incubation centres for helping people who want to test themselves by starting up on their own, while allowing them to become members of reputed organizations and attend global events. While institutes in India are still judged on the basis of their average package, e-cells allow students to groom themselves for the future market, be it in terms of starting their own venture or understanding how startups work by helping them establish themselves.It takes nothing to start a business, but it takes everything to build it.
IMT Ghaziabad, a premier B-School with a prominent E-Cell has had its fair share of success stories where student-driven ventures have gained recognition for their unique value proposition. For instance, 132Connect, a venture that enhances mapping education content with an industrial context for maximizing relevance, reached the finale of the Ericsson Innovation Awards 2015. Another venture, Sandwedges has seen quick growth despite being a bootstrapped venture and has created some waves in the local market.
IIT Bombay’s E-Cell has also seen success, with their competitions promoting multiple start-ups and the students at the institute itself getting excellent support from the cell. E-infinitus is one of the many offerings to come from the institute. In order to encourage entrepreneurship, the Institute, among a number of others allows students to drop a year after graduating to pursue their startup idea and come back and sit for placements if they feel that they need to change their stance.
If one thinks that only the big cities are capable of having startups, then IIM Indore would be at loggerheads with them, as they called Design Ghar, a startup based in Jaipur for summer placements. The startup is presently under the wing of Startup Oasis, the first incubation center supported by IIM-AHD and the government of Rajasthan. Even the most prominent institutes of India respect the entrepreneurial culture developing in India, and this is one of the many signs of faith in the change.
One of the major arguments against startup culture is that it is just a way for the youth to get some drive out of themselves and they won’t last and will eventually come back to reality and look for jobs to support themselves. But, people like Rajeev Karwal, an IMT G 1982-1984 alumnus famous for establishing LG Corp in India are proving people wrong. He too started his own venture, Milagrow Humantech in 2007.
Despite the lingering preference people have for jobs, there is no denying that startups are growing as a culture, and if the changes are any sign, it’s for the better. Security, after all, was just a myth. As has been said by Entrepreneur and Apple founder, Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
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