When APJ Abdul Kalam talked about his vision of India in 2020, it showed an equal, healthy, educated country well-equipped to deal with its issues on its own. Clearly, fate had a different opinion on what 2020 was going to be for this country. Even without the pandemic, India today is lagging behind in several sectors. Prejudice, discrimination, and racism are at an all-time high, and the economy has been tanking for the last three years. While the COVID-19 pandemic did break the most well-developed economies of the world, it was no secret India was in dire straits even before. Unemployment rates were at an all-time high, regular commodity prices did not reduce and India was, and still is in a big import-export trade deficit. This means, we have been importing more products and skills from abroad, while our indigenous workforce remains jobless, and we export more natural resources and lesser products. The Prime Minister has talked about an “ aatmanirbhar ” or self-reliant vision of India that he has for the future of our country, and while the emotion and meaning behind this vision is strong, there are a lot of changes we need to bring in to actually enable us to become “ aatmanirbhar ”.
The biggest driving force behind this is the evolution of more start-ups and entrepreneurs. Start-ups mean creating new indigenous companies that are funded and home-grown in India, which create job opportunities and adds money to the country. The most basic change we need is in the way we are taught things in school, and the way society looks at entrepreneurs. Our students are taught how to get existing jobs instead of creating more, and society has idealized that pattern of thinking. If an entrepreneur creates jobs and gets success, it’s all well and good. However, if an entrepreneur is struggling, or a child even thinks about shifting his focus to a start-up of his own, the family and society discourage him or her. The ideal for an education system should not be creating people who do the same things everyone is doing. It should be thinking out of the box, bringing up creative ideas and solutions to problems people are facing, the job of entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are perhaps India’s most valuable assets. They create services that can be outsourced to other countries, bringing in revenue from abroad. With the right skill training, these entrepreneurs can create useful products, and hire more people as they expand. These products can be exported, and can also be sold in India. It is a huge market of over a billion people, and companies can do really well even if they make and sell products right in the country. Start-ups can empower our rural workforce better, by creating jobs and bringing something new and fresh to our villages. Even Reliance started from a man selling textile, and the ITC just sold tobacco in its initial years. Today, these companies have expanded to become industry giants, offering products and services to people all over the world, and offering employment to thousands.
Now, it is a well-known fact that over 90 percent of start-ups fail in their initial years. This happens for a multitude of reasons, but the most common reason is failure of a balance between start-up visionaries, skilled word-force, and right business direction. The digitization of the country has helped the cause a lot, making people more aware, which has led to the creation of multiple e-commerce sites, logistics and financial startups. Now to maintain this in the future, it is very important to properly train and instill a culture of entrepreneurship in the youth of this country.
India is not lagging behind on the number of entrepreneurs it has. As mentioned in The Print, ‘the nation currently is home to the world’s 3rd largest startup ecosystem with more than $5 billion being invested in 2019 across 1,500 or so startups. India also has some 30 unicorns, which are startups valued at more than $1 billion.’ Seems like good news, right? The catch is, most of these start-ups are funded by companies or entities abroad. More than 80 percent of investment in these companies is coming in from other countries. This is what we need to change steadily. While Foreign Direct Investment is important, when our sources of innovation require foreign support, we become more nirbhar or dependent on them. More government funds need to go towards financing new indigenous start-ups, and our investors need to invest more in homegrown companies. Startups raised close to Rs. 40000 crore in equity capital in 2019, and for sustainable growth, we need domestic investors to invest more than 50% of this amount in indigenous startups. The government needs to come up with better policies that favor new startups. Currently, very few investors invest because of the tax disadvantages and specific skills required in a new startup, which is something that needs to be worked on. The GST was meant to ease this process for investors, and yet it has become something that hasn’t been able to produce great results. It is a good thing to have FDI right now, but investments from abroad are made on well-established companies that guarantee returns. For the growth of new startups, financing is scarce and is something the government and the people need to look into.
Some of India’s most recent startups that made it big include household names like Swiggy, Oyo, Ola Cabs, Zomato and Paytm. We are advancing in all spheres, but we need to do more. As the youth of this country, we must try to use our education for better, for more than getting a job. Creating jobs, reaching out for change, and making the country a better place to live in, that is what we must use our education for. An entrepreneurial spirit has curiosity, awareness, resilience, and determination, and this spirit is what each one of us needs to imbibe.