Optimism, Entrepreneurship and Wind of Change!

What is “Entrepreneurship”? It is not about finding funds from venture capitalists in an easy market. It is not about making money with the help of policy interventions by government. It is about creating opportunities where seemingly none exists, it is about taking risks with a big heart, it is often about proving naysayers wrong. Entrepreneurship is about starting a journey on a bumpy road because on smooth roads anyone can move ahead.
In sport, you can win on your home ground but the real test of your ability is when you win in an away encounter, where your competitor has fans rooting for them, ground conditions are in their favour, and when you long to be home. To be considered a great, you must win in conditions that are tough and alien and where you have no home advantage.
In the India of the 1980s and the 1990s, people took flights to places in the USA, Germany, erstwhile USSR and more, and created new opportunities. Tax-free income provided incentives to start an export business. The markets, though, had to be created and retained. There was no policy leverage beyond this. Your competitors were people from your own country as well as global competitors. You had to deliver the best,consistently. Some won and some were not so fortunate. It was the era, where exports and exporters were celebrated for creating opportunities and markets. The result was large Indian players in apparel, IT-e-nabled services and much more.
Here was the catch. You could only spend foreign currency that you had earned from your business. In a sense, one lived within one’s means. Some might say it was limiting and maybe it was, but it is a useful thing to remember.
Especially now.
Now, several foreign brands and companies have a significant presence in India. Leisure travel and higher education options in other countries have opened up for Indian citizens. Online shopping sites, Indian and otherwise,now let Indian customers buy clothes, books and several other products from anywhere in the world. Global cuisine is being explored in metropolitan cities. In many cases, local companies have opted to import products as a response to emerging opportunities in the Indian market.
All this means one thing — that we are spending a lot more foreign currency.  
The question is — are we living within our means?
Conversation around the world and in India, for the better part of the decade, has focused on the India opportunity i.e. access to and size of the Indian market.
In this noise, perhaps the need for a next generation of entrepreneurs, that was focused on creating new markets away from home, was not felt. Or not felt enough. There is much talk about slow pace of policy change etc, but true entrepreneurs create markets themselves. One can’t simply depend on the policy leverage of the home base to connect with customers elsewhere.
We take pride in our food habits and how we ensured that global food chains had a more localised product in line with our preferences. But have we created market for our food elsewhere? (Haldiram’s is the only exception I can think of, but do contribute in the comments for more stories.) One could give many more examples from other sectors.
The conversation these days focuses on our currency. Some of us notice the more expensive smartphone, others complain as they holiday in New York or London.
This note is not about monetary policy and there is no claim to expertise in that domain. Nor is this note about import substitution.
The harsh reality is we can’t merely be net consumers; we need to become net creators.
This note is about real entrepreneurs in emerging India, who have the guts to create markets elsewhere. People who are willing to develop products and services, that the consumers of other countries would love to have.
If we have allowed ourselves the benefit of global products and services, then surely we have a responsibility to compete in world markets. If a market for 2 minute noodles can be created in India what is stopping us from creating markets for our food at a global scale? If we sign up for cloud computing from global companies, what is stopping us from creating mobile products and services that the world cares about?
If we focus on creating for the world, then we would not need to worry as much about our consumption of foreign brands and the state of our currency.
All this is an opportunity for the Indian Entrepreneur. It needs ambition and vision on the part of the Indian Entrepreneur to make the most of this opportunity. This is the Wind of Change!
This post is also available on Medium

2 responses

  1. A very compelling article indeed. It highlights a perspective that we very often miss. For the most part, India Inc has been inward looking for the last 25 years with opportunities galore. There have been many opportunities of making money selling products that global consumers will not buy. As money has been easy, there has possibly been a lack of motivation to innovate in the most part. Incremental / marginal improvements have been the mantra for the most part, not radical rethink which is a must for global leadership.
    Skill building and expertise development have also been hampered with this myopic vision. All the big companies I see, all the people I meet seem to be catering to the skill needs of today, with not many focussed on tomorrow. consequently Indian industry and expertise in the most part gets outdated at the same pace as it skills itself.
    True entrepreneurship has been lost in the race for easy wealth accumulation by India Inc.

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