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
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
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
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
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,
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. Reli
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
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.