Young blood: The hope of every economy

JESSU JOHN | Updated on September 22, 2013

Sujit Nair

How young entrepreneurs can aid economic recovery

Almost three years ago, a study commissioned by Virgin Media Pioneers established that the way to economic recovery in the UK was to allow young entrepreneurs to thrive. The ‘enterprise-led recovery’ concept had caught on at the time. The study, Disruptive Influence, found that out of the 270,000 new businesses set up each year, less than 10 per cent of them were fronted by entrepreneurs who were under 35. This meant that if a quarter of the British population really wanted nothing but to start their own businesses, very few of them were doing so.

The key to fuelling entrepreneurship in any economy, as we’ve discussed here, is access to the right mentors, accelerators, knowledge platforms that allow sharing of information as well as peer networks. It also helps to have the enablers, including venture capitalists and banks, aware of how certain businesses need longer windows of time to make dents in the market. The collective attitude towards entrepreneurship has to shift from sceptical to a willingness to test ideas.

In the end, both public and private enablers are important for high quality start-ups to flourish in any country.

Support Systems

The Federation of Indian Young Entrepreneurs, a private entity, exemplifies some ways this can be done. “We’re already looking at young people from countries such as the UK coming here to set up their enterprises. They receive more and more support from their home countries to venture out in this manner,” says Chandrakant Salunkhe, Founder of the Federation of Indian Young Entrepreneurs and President of SME Chamber of India.

“India is a prime start-up destination for many across the world. Our own young people are not accepting of the routine and desire change rather than hold the same jobs for long periods of time. Many of them are ready to set up businesses outside major cities as well. The choices they make from day to day even as consumers will define the future of enterprise in India. So, we have to cater to them,” Salunkhe adds.

He believes that hubs for every industry with peers coming together can make a difference. They foster business partnerships and serve as representation for various sectors.

Hubs and networks

Sandbox, a global community of over 800 entrepreneurs across sectors such as arts, finance and academics, was set up to support young people who have the drive to effect change. The network functions in 25 cities worldwide, including in Bangalore.

Alexandre Terrien leads global community development efforts at Sandbox. “What we’re observing in Sandbox is that the youth play a critical role in both creating and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems and ultimately in driving growth because their cultural context and codes are completely different… They somehow follow a set of common values and all have a desire to affect progress.

“We call this mindset Generation Why, a knowledge mindset that brings together people who question things, who add meaning to their work and who produce work that is relevant to society at large… If roads and bridges were the infrastructure of yesterday, networked communities like Sandbox, enhanced by technology and the increased ease of travel, provide the infrastructure of tomorrow,” elaborates Alexandre.

Recognising Excellence

Besides, support, recognition goes a long way in motivating young people to work for change.

The Washington D.C.-based Diplomatic Courier and the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy recently awarded Sujit Nair for “his efforts in promoting trade and relations between the UK and India.” The recognition of “99 under 33” is linked to an international list of the most influential policy leaders below 33 years of age. Sujit is the only Indian to make this list.

Besides powering an economy through to recovery and steady growth, entrepreneurs can play the role of brand ambassadors for their countries. This impacts bilateral relationships positively and enables enterprise to flourish, facilitating trade and investment between countries. The demands of economic progress are such that more young people have to be poised to be influencers and leaders in business and in society at large.

Nair, who is the Co-founder and Director of British South India Chamber of Commerce, says, “India needs leaders who have studied and worked here and in other countries. This enables them to cross over cultural boundaries and have a good understanding of how things work across geographies. In my role, I am able to act as a cultural bridge as well as enable trade and investment ties between India and the UK.

He adds, “In a country like India, poised to becoming one of the largest economies in the world, business leaders with a knowledge and understanding of various international perspectives play an important role in making “Made in India” brands successful in our increasingly diverse world.”

Young entrepreneurs in India do not have to be a drop in the ocean. If we believe young people are our future, it is time we support them in concrete and large-scale ways.

(The writer is an independent journalist.)

Published on September 22, 2013

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