A win-win in entrepreneurship education

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a consortia-driven empirical research report on the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Published: 24th October 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2021 08:06 PM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

As the ringing of the Nasdaq bell announced the arrival of the first Indian Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise in the iconic Wall Street, New York, “the worst case scenario for a failed entrepreneur is a job” statement rings fresh in my ears. With this profound statement, Girish Mathrubootham, Founder-CEO of Freshworks, ended his advice to the young team of incubates at SASTRA-TBI a few years back during his visit to his alma mater. Girish not only built from scratch Freshworks that made a glittering billion-dollar debut at Nasdaq but also ensured that over 500 of his employees also turned ‘crorepatis’ overnight. Employee wealth creation in its true sense!

The journey of Girish from the temple town of Trichy to the temple of equity capital in Wall Street is a case for study by not only India’s next-gen entrepreneurs but also Indian higher-ed policy makers that has come at a right time. The Hurun Research Institute has ranked India the third largest Unicorn system in the world after the USA and China. The report highlights the positive hyperactivity in the Indian startup ecosystem due to both Desh (domestic) and Videsh (foreign) and the migration of Indian born startups in search of capital and regulatory incentives. The good news, however, starts now.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a consortia-driven empirical research report on the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. The GEM 2021 report is a mixed bag for India’s own entrepreneurship policy and operational mindset. Despite the global entrepreneurially negative mindset during 2020, GEM 2021 puts India in a relatively better shape. Though the Total Early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) score reduced from 15 percent in 2019 to 5.3 percent in 2020, over 65 percent of the early-stagers saw opportunity after the pandemic, second only to Israel with a score of 70 percent. However, the rate of Indian adults intending to start a business within the next three years declined from 33 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2020.

On the access to finance metric, the Indian score of 6.4 is highest amongst the 45 GEM participating economies and this is an increase from 5.7 in 2019. This is definitely contrary to the popular belief that Hurun Research flagged and may reverse the pathway of the capital-seeking migratory entrepreneurs. On the tax and bureaucratic policy reforms, the Indian score of 5.7 puts the country in number six position amongst the GEM participating economies. This is better than the 11th rank with a score of 5.1 in 2019. This improved score is also reflected in the government’s entrepreneurship programmes, which put India’s score of 5.8 (rank 11 with a scope for improvement) better than its own 5.1 in 2019. Such an institutional response mechanism has won the confidence of experts who awarded a score of 6.6 placing India fifth amongst all the GEM-participating economies.

Another important metric is the post-school entrepreneurial education in which India ranks 15 despite being one of the largest higher education systems in the world. With the Research & Development transfer score of 5.7 (Rank 3) and Ease of Entry: Market Burden & Regulations Score of 6.2 (Rank 2) both registering significant improvement from the 2019 scores, it’s natural that there cannot be looking back for the college population with an entrepreneurial mind. There is a compelling need for industry-academia ecosystem to coherently synergise and create campus startup success stories in Indian higher education institutional soil which is always fertile with ideas.

The policy makers and statutory bodies controlling higher education need to jumpstart on this startup favourable policy landscape in India. Courses on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Design Thinking, Game Theory, organising Hackathons, etc. are good surface scratchers. We need to extend the surface scratchers and create game changers to unlock the hidden potential inside the university soil of entrepreneurial fertility. Reimagining entrepreneurial education in collaboration with industry with on-campus startup sabbaticals, in-service incubates, rigorous boot camps, etc. are good appetisers for a gastronomically sumptuous main course. The NEP 2020 offers a recipe for the higher-ed policy chef to light the entrepreneurial fire in the belly. Once the menu is ready, either the startups grow healthy in their best case or the founders find a good job in their worst case scenario. It’s a win-win always.

S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University


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