The academic career of students in India tends to be geared towards acquiring steady jobs. Engineering, accountancy, economics, even basic sciences are not exempt from the attraction of job-oriented learning. This is not a phenomenon unique to India; it is worth noting that the Industrial revolution changed the occupational profile from artisanal and agrarian all over the world.
Of late, though, there has been a trend towards entrepreneurship globally. Developed countries like the USA have a strong start-up culture, as do smaller countries like Israel and Singapore. In France and Germany, traditional forms of business as strongly encouraged, and it is possible to find a Gallic village still functioning in much the same way as it would have before the first world war.
India has not been exempt from this either. As we have detailed elsewhere in these pages, the NDA Government has taken concrete steps to provide an impetus to Start-ups through the ‘Start-up India’ campaign, which was flagged off in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence day speech, where he said:
“We want a startup network to be established in India. We are looking at systems for enabling start-ups. We must be number one in start-ups… Start-up India; Stand up India.”
But what will this mean for the people who matter most to the future of the country – its students? Broadly speaking, a healthy start-up culture encourages entrepreneurship and leads to creation of more businesses, providing more jobs. But beyond job-creation is the setting of examples for other budding entrepreneurs. Already, Indian start-ups like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Zivame, Myntra, Jabong have enjoyed enough success to become a part of the aspirations of the next generation of young entrepreneurs. IIT-Mumbai has a ‘startup cell’, or a technology incubator. Organisations like the National Entrepreneurial Network (NEN) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) have partnered with engineering and B-school campuses around India to encourage the growth of a start-up oriented culture.
From a student’s perspective, this is a window into an exciting future. Speaking as a fairly typical member of Generation X, I can say that a ‘steady job’ is not as comfortable as it sounds. Perhaps because our aspirations and expectations from life have changed, perhaps because large corporations no longer have the wherewithal to offer truly satisfying on-job experiences, but the incidence of students planning business careers from a young age are definitely on the rise.
If the Start-up India initiative achieves its stated objective of fostering a vibrant business culture in India, we should see establishment of multiple incubation centres like NEN and TIE as well as the transformation of a city like Bangalore or Hyderabad into an Indian Silicon Valley. Neither does this phenomenon necessarily have to be tied to the metros, since if you thin about it, every small and medium enterprise is really in the nature of a start-up.
For the essence of a start-up is not the bricks-and-mortar of it’s location, or the software coding or even the money that goes to putting up all these things. It is the dream, the big idea, the ambition of a young student who wanted to do something more than take a steady job and ‘settle down’.
If this cultural change is effected throughout India’s campuses, if our students start thinking in terms of what they can build, what they can create, rather than how they can earn money, then we can say that ‘Start-up India’ has not only been a resounding success, but has made a significant difference in the minds and hearts osf Indian Youth.