We spent most of yesterday meeting Entrepreneurs in Bhubaneswar and then discussing Enterprise training in the top management institution in the City. It sure seemed that the 'Pensioners' Paradise', as Bhubaneswar was previously called, is suddenly abuzz with entrepreneurial activities. Some of the entrepreneurs we met yesterday came back to the city, after having spent years abroad or elsewhere in India, to set up their entrepreneurial ventures, which is indeed a good sign. There are successful medium scale enterprises growing at a fast clip, and plenty of evidence that, at least in among the companies we met, there is healthy collaboration and culture of sharing. These are not world-leading companies yet, and indeed, I observed that most of them are decidedly low-tech, but there may be lessons from Bhubaneswar other Indian cities need to learn, and quickly.
India is unlikely to sustain economic growth, and indeed its GDP will need to grow at least by 8% per year, if it is to emerge out of poverty within a decade. Many things need to be fixed for the country to achieve this. The daily circus on Indian television makes some of it obvious: The country needs a government. Anyone travelling around India notices the poor state of its infrastructure - bumpy roads, overcrowded and unclean trains, chaotic railway stations and inconsistent electric supply among others - and massive investment is needed to turn around the infrastructure. Then, there is health care and education, mostly unfit for purpose because of the lack of work ethic and skilled people, which is a massive problem that needs to be fixed before the country could stand up and be counted. And, then there is the question of credit - India is still the country where consumer credit is plentiful but Investment capital is relatively sparse - with interest rates hovering in mid-teens. All these, and more, need to be fixed if India's growth has to be sustainable.
However, just fixing these problems, which are hygiene factors that just need to be there, won't get the country onto the fast track of growth. While the wheels need to roll, it still needs an engine, and traditional engines of India's growth are too rusty to move it forward. Indeed, in the Sixty years since Independence, the Indian government has defined the development agenda: It cannot, any longer, as the perilous state of public finances and complete breakdown of governance limit what role it can play in the future. Then, there are the large pan-Indian businesses, respected Business Houses such as Tata and Birlas, as well as the relative new comers such as GVK, GMR, Wipro, DLF and the like, which has enjoyed a sort of Renaissance since the liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s and have done very well in the shining years pre-recession. However, tightening of global credit, and dare I say the relative cooling of global investor sentiments towards BRIC in general but India in particular, have put brakes on what these companies can do: Besides, some of these companies themselves have cooled towards India's development prospects and started putting their money in overseas assets. Besides, as it is becoming more and more evident, India's growth will have to come by solving India's problems in a context-sensitive way, and not by applying age-old formats and formula: Neither the government, which is inefficient, nor the business groups, which are usually conservative, are going to do this.
The Indian problem will need an Indian solution, and the best chances of that coming about are from the entrepreneurs that we met yesterday. Indeed, there are myths around entrepreneurship and many of the starry-eyed entrepreneurs will fail. Many will stagnate at their level of irrelevance. But the collective impact of such efforts is the point, not the dollar value. England became successful and ruled the world because its entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, to solve very English problems such as how to find Red Dye to manufacture military uniforms for Red Coats, spawned organisations such as the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), the model of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we talk about today. What's refreshing to see in Bhubaneswar is that these entrepreneurs are trying to build their own ecosystem rather than being dependent on some government agency and government handouts. Surely, there is little point waiting for a 'Ministry for Entrepreneurship' to happen. Far more impactful will be the work of people like Professor Shridhar Dash, who we met at XIMB, and who, in his modest way, pursuing his goal of creating '10 successful start-ups'. It is inspiring to hear about the three he and his colleagues helped get started: All decidedly low-tech, in Milk production, Rural Tourism and Energy, but all with idealism, innovativeness and focused on real problems which no one is trying to solve.
Can the governments do anything to help build the entrepreneurial ecosystem? Government interventions, such as funding etc, do more harm than good, as they subvert the deeply meritocratic dynamics of entrepreneurship into a perks-and-privilege system where, more often than not, the inefficient thrive. So, indeed, the Government can do by getting mostly out of the way. However, there are still things for government to do. For example, the government can indeed invest in education and research, the activities which have long term impact and often fall outside the entrepreneurial time horizons. Further, and this is particularly true for India, the governments should revisit their approach to big businesses, which are often the problem than the solution. The control of advertising standards, hygiene, health and safety, institutions which control monopoly and unfair trading help build entrepreneurial ecosystem by holding the rapacious big businesses in check and creating space for solutions which solve real problems. In India, we are seeing the rise of big 'Group of Companies', family-owned conglomerates which often work together in anti-competitive and inefficient way, and devalue meritocracy and professionalism. This is the area where government's attention needs to turn into: There needs to be a level playing field for entrepreneurs. It is difficult to do, but this is the least any government could do if they want to get India moving again.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.