In this polytheistic world of entrepreneurs, who is the Startup Initiative for?
There are many types of entrepreneurs. There is the self-employed vegetable-vendor type, the Thelawala. Then there is the small businessman in Okhla or Peenya who has grown to be in GST net. And how can one ignore the technology entrepreneur who graces the pages of ET every day . Even these tech startups come in many shapes and sizes. Some are after mainstream `Bharat’ consumers; others are building mass-luxury brands.Then there are fast followers in global markets or those who are rattling ferocious global players. And who can ignore startups that are filling white spaces in the safer domestic market and are aspiring to be national leaders.
In this polytheistic world of entrepreneurs, who is the Startup Initiative for? If it’s for all the various types of entrepreneurs, then it will quickly succumb to the 80% syndrome. Policy-makers will address things that are the common denominator for all types of entrepreneurs. While this is necessary , it’s not sufficient. As any product manager in the technology industry will tell you, this 80% fix is a recipe for failure.
To make a critical mass of changes, a persona-based policy making is needed. The biggest problem for Thelawala type entrepreneurs is absence of easy credit. For Peenya and Okhla business Peenya and Okhla businessmen, it is the inspector raj. For technology star raj. For technology startups it’s outdated regulations that thwart venture financing.
Each of these types of entrepreneurs is in pain today . Last year 54% of the funded technology startups redomiciled themselves outside India. This year, iSPIRT estimates, the exodus has accelerated and the number of companies redomiciling out of India will be 75% of all funded startups! There is crisis on another front too. India’s Global Innovation Index has been falling for four years in a row. We are no longer in the top 85 countries of the world! This innovation deficit has a bearing on sustainability of the entrepreneurship boom that we are witnessing right now. We are overly reliant on copy-paste entrepreneurship and this can only sustain if we keep MNCs out like China has done.
The most important decision for a policy-maker is focus on a specific type of entrepreneur. Only then the `how’ comes into focus and a cross-ministerial approach kicks in. Some of this is starting to happen. Later this week, there will be an important announcement by the Ministry of Finance about addressing venture-financing gaps in areas beyond e-commerce, neighbourhood commerce and consumer tech. There is a lot of work to be done to bring Startup India initiative to life. A nuanced henotheistic approach is needed (henotheism: involving devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of others). It can be done. Early signs give reason for cautious optimism.