Widespread disruption in the world of business has caused 70% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list to fall off the map since 2003. New entrepreneurs are emerging from nowhere to become dominant players.
Globally, entrepreneurship has become a key engine for employment generation. As policy makers grapple with economic uncertainty and cultural changes, large corporations that traditionally created jobs are biting the dust. From 2003 to 2013, 712 corporations disappeared from the Fortune 1000. One can safely extrapolate that very few Fortune 1000 companies will be around in another 30 to 40 years. Instead, a new breed risk-takers and innovators in the form of entrepreneurs are beginning to line up on the horizon of business world. According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, industrial era companies in the US dismissed more jobs than they created in contrast to high-growth startups that created the maximum number of new jobs between 2000 and 2010. Facebook has been credited with having created 4.5 million new jobs, directly and indirectly. This global trend makes a strong case for supporting Indian start-ups and entrepreneurs as a means to create future employment.
However, it is even more important to create a support system that ensures the survival of the start-ups beyond the first five years. In other words, once invested in a start-up, return on investment (ROI) can be assured only when the investment finds further sustenance. This is critical as 70 to 95 percent of start-ups fail or exit, resulting in disproportionately high job destruction. Studies have shown that 47 percent of the jobs created by start-ups are eliminated by exits in the first five years. It is the surviving 53 percent of businesses that witness rapid growth and bring about broad-based job creation.
This means that government policy must be attuned to the practical needs, while addressing the pain areas, of Indian entrepreneurs. The policy must address: funding to be more easily available to entrepreneurs; creating a large pool of experienced mentors and advisers who provide inputs around manpower and resource management, legal and marketing, partnerships and technology; and providing mechanisms to improve access to local and global markets.
It is evident that supporting entrepreneurship is a medium to long-term approach. The question that needs an answer is: what type of entrepreneurship should be prioritized for support so that success and subsequent job creation is assured? Today’s marketplace has become hyper competitive. Just take a look around. There are more choices available to consumers and enterprise buyers than ever before. There are new business models that don’t require buyers to own products or commit up front to long-term subscription of services. Delivery systems have changed, allowing businesses to reach customers in remote locations and new markets, bringing down geographical and political barriers. Entrepreneurs are innovating to give birth to entirely new asset-light business like Uber, Ola, Airbnb, Oyo Rooms, Zomato, Foodpanda, PayPal and Paytm. These businesses are re-shaping entire industries, forcing traditional players to re-think their strategies.
Igniting the spirit of entrepreneurship and sustaining it is also a long-term undertaking. Not everyone is blessed with the DNA of entrepreneurship. A culture of free enterprise needs to be nurtured. Today, one of the nations to have taken positive steps towards creating such a culture is the US where 1,600 colleges offer over 2,200 courses that ‘skill’ students in entrepreneurship. These courses build knowledge through academic studies, practical industry experience via apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship clubs, boot camps and access to investor networks and support systems. Education, without doubt, is a way to ensure higher success rates for entrepreneurs. In India, we need to create cost-effective and scalable education models that help reach students using video and mobile technology on MOOC platforms that transform teaching into learning, thereby eliminating the need for massive armies of instructors and trainers.
Lastly, a substantial demographic in the form of Indian women remains untapped. Of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country, only 10 percent are women. However, even within these small numbers, women entrepreneurs from India—Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Sulajja Motwani and Ekta Kapoor to name a few—have been in the limelight. Significantly, a Dow Jones study has confirmed that start-ups with female executives have a higher chance of success. What they need to succeed is education, vocational training, access to funding and interaction with entrepreneurs and buyers across the world. According to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), annual growth of the Indian economy could improve 2.4% if the country implements pro-gender policies.
Historically, Indian society and the education system have focused on creating doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. These professionals are a necessity. But after decades of conditioning, the nation is re-aligning itself with the culture of entrepreneurship. We are at the cusp of entrepreneurial success. This opportunity must not be lost for the lack of policy and world-class support systems.
Atul Raja is Executive Vice President-Marketing, Wadhwani Foundation