The loudest round of applause at the recent Enterprising India Summit organised by TiE in Mumbai, was possibly for Mr R. Elango from Kuthambakam village in Tamil Nadu. It was indeed a reflection of the mood at the two-day event focused on the theme ‘Changing the Nation. Leading the World.'

Mr Elango was one of three entrepreneurs sharing the stage with co-host Mr K. V. Kamath of ICICI Bank for a session on ‘inclusive development.' As he presented the case of the transformation of his village, he underlined the opportunities that abound in India's hinterland.

Urban spend

At the very beginning of the summit, Mr Kishore Biyani of Future Group, underlined the consumption that could be unlocked by enhancing the ability to spend among the urban poor, who comprise 20 per cent of the population. Mr Ajay Piramal of the Piramal Group, reiterated this in the context of healthcare and education. He noted that the number of schools India has, allows only 14 per cent of the population to complete their higher secondary course.

The take out was that improved living conditions will mean higher aspirations, and present greater opportunities for entrepreneurs.

If inclusivity is the name of the game, can women be far behind? The summit also had a dedicated session for women entrepreneurs under its umbrella TiE Stree Shakti, on angel investors for women-led enterprises. The session featured Ms Stephanie Brown (Golden Seeds), Ms Paula Mariwala (SeedFund) and Mr Arun Diaz (Aavishkar).

“ Ten years ago, we looked at challenges and wondered how we would manage without ports, communication facilities, highways and other things. Today all that is getting into place. The ability to deal with these challenges is what holds India in good stead. Indian entrepreneurs have come a great distance, and have learnt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat,” said Mr Kamath.

If part of the agenda was inspiring entrepreneurs and stoking their fires, the summit did that in good measure. Start-ups that moved from ‘seed to success' (0 to Rs 100 crore) in less than five years, were showcased. These included RedBus, InMobi and CarWale.

‘Stay focussed'

Mr Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto provided the right spike at the closing session, delighting entrepreneurs while driving home the message of staying focused, and staying differentiated, with the example of his company's successful brand Pulsar.

“My biggest quarrel with management science is that in management, we're not taught where growth ends and greed starts,” he noted, underlining the need for a focused portfolio of operations. In a parting message to the emerging entrepreneurs, Mr Kamath said, “Dream, and keep dreaming. That's what gets you to the next level.”

Please send feedback, comments or suggestions to Emergingentrepreneurs@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 13, 2011)
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