October 20, 2006

"The Indiapreneur" column by Sanjay Anandaram

Sanjay Anandaram, one of the earliest entrepreneur-turned-VCs in India, writes a regular column for The Financial Express. I will be linking Sanjay's columns on the FE web site (whenever I can find the links) here. Else, with the author's permission, I will post the entire draft.

- Arun

Here is the first installment of the column (First published August 25th, 2006 The Financial Express).

The Indiapreneur by Sanjay Anandaram

As India’s enters its 60th year as an independent nation, it faces perhaps one of its most interesting challenges. What should the vision and destiny of a 60 year old country be when half its population is less than 35 - the world’s largest population of young people? What should a country offer its young people as a role model in the year when, arguably, its most celebrated entrepreneur – not businessman! - chose to retire this year?

For the first time, India is emerging as a world scale market as well as a world class supplier to the world in a variety of goods and services. Reams have been written about the great possibilities ahead. Sound bites by hyperventilating anchors fill the air waves. Various reports and analyst comments are bandied about as proof of our impending arrival on the world stage. While, these are all still in the realm of potential and possibilities, there is an unmistakable all round sense of being able to compete with the world’s best especially among the educated young people.

For the first time, an entire generation of young people cutting across class lines is acutely aware of the opportunity ahead of them. They also recognize the inscription on the other side of the coin: RISK. And it’s not a four letter word anymore. While earlier generations were defensive and inward looking, this generation is aggressive, outward looking and not given to the self-doubts of the past. This is the “why not?” generation. This generation has the potential to lead India to heights that are greater than anything we have achieved till date.

For the first time, innovation has entered the lexicon of Indian companies and management. It has become almost fashionable to talk about innovative practices in companies. But, in an era when intellectual property creation holds the key to success in many fields of economic activity, we need to be sensitive to the need for innovation. However, real successful innovation requires an entrepreneurial mindset. And an entrepreneur is one who assumes risk and the management of it to drive a business.

And it is no surprise therefore that for the first time, we’re seeing educated first generation Indian entrepreneurs emerge on the scene to take advantage of the golden opportunity and parlay their vaunted technical and managerial skills into world-class businesses. The IT entrepreneurs showed that entrepreneurship can help India ethically create new businesses, many new jobs, and create wealth in society. Telecom has, similarly, demonstrated world class entrepreneurship. Other sectors of the economy too are responding to these changing winds. Industry associations, academia, and investors are responding to the possibilities and needs of entrepreneurship. International funds of various hues have arrived to commit over $2 billion of sophisticated capital to entrepreneurs.

But a lot, lot more needs to happen if entrepreneurship is to become broad-based and to generate wealth across the board. Wealth creation takes place through entrepreneurship, not through babudom. The 2nd independence (from license raj and gut wrenching bureaucracy) of India that occurred in 1991 allowed some intrepid entrepreneurs to create wealth and jobs. But where will the next jobs come from when 70 million more people will join the ranks of the workforce in the next 5 years if not from entrepreneurial activity?

As India stands at the cusp of incredible opportunity, we must realise that this ethical wealth creation process across sectors of the economy needs whole hearted encouragement. Unleashing the energies of the young generation into productive economic activities is an imperative. Countries like the US, UK, China, Israel, Taiwan, Korea and Japan have demonstrated what entrepreneurship has done to their countries.

However, we must first learn to celebrate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. Role models and successes need to be highlighted. But, while doing this, we must also learn to celebrate failures. Setbacks are inevitable in the course of creating successful enterprises and navigating these successfully is the hall mark of great entrepreneurs. Creating such a celebratory mindset and a culture is imperative to fostering entrepreneurship.

This column is devoted to entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, and in general to an entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. It is dedicated to the Indian entrepreneur – The Indipreneur.
Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture investor, faculty member, advisor and mentor. He’s involved with Nasscom, TiE, IIM-Bangalore, and INSEAD business school in driving entrepreneurship. He can be reached at sanjay@jumpstartup.net. The views expressed here are his own.