December 29, 2009

"To Indipreneurship" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

1991 was when India achieved its second independence – that of economic liberalization. But, in retrospect, one has to say that it has been far more than just economic liberalization. It also liberated the mind of the baggage of self-doubt, low confidence and ignorance. It has therefore been my belief that those born around or after 1991 would be the change agents of India. Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking would be the vehicles of change.

In the first column of Indipreneur published August 25th, 2006, I wrote: “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.”

Here’s an example. I met an impressive young woman Jayashree Hegde, an engineering graduate of 2008, yesterday. Energetic, vivacious, quietly aggressive, understands the value of relationships and networking, entrepreneurial. Being interested in marketing, she interned with well-known advertising agency McCann-Erickson in Mumbai for 2 months after her engineering from Bangalore. In these 2 months, she also attended a week long programme on marketing in Malaysia during this period. Returning to Bangalore, she joined redBus a startup to help with on-line marketing while volunteering with a theatre company and learning French. After about a year at redBus, she recently quit to start her own company. She toyed with the idea of doing a MBA but rejected it in favour of becoming an entrepreneur. To raise money for her venture, she brokered some high value real-estate deals, sold art-works of some friends online (selling 35 pieces in 1 month!), co-founded an events management company focused on arts and cultural events, secured sponsorships and helped conduct various events in India and abroad. Jayashree’s dealt with bureaucracy and the political administration and has emerged unscathed! Today, her company provides online and digital marketing services to 5 clients and she employs 15 people. She is currently developing an innovative digital marketing programme for educational institutions that is set to launch in January. Her first year revenues will cross Rs 1 crore. According to her, “I have nothing to lose. If I don’t take risks now, when will I? If I fail, I can pick myself up and move on. At least I will have failed doing what I wanted to do”.

As the end of the first decade of the 21st century dawns, it is important for all to understand how far we’ve come in just 19 years. The decision this year to stop production of the Bajaj scooter is symbolic of the shedding of the pre-1991 past; The globally watched and celebrated arrival of the Nano was a metaphor for the possibilities of 21st century India. There are huge problems still to be solved, enormous inequities to be addressed and immense entrenched regressive mindsets to be battled. Entrepreneurial thinking (across society) will be required if these are to be dealt with.

As we contemplate India in 2010 and beyond, it is worth reiterating that 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 has been devoted to entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, and in general to an entrepreneurial approach to problem solving for over 3 years now. It now re-dedicates itself in 2010 to the Indian entrepreneur – The Indipreneur.

What do you think?

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.