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NASSCOM’s 2020 Startup Catalysts-Incubators and Accelerators report highlighted an interesting fact. India is home to 520-plus incubators and accelerators, the third largest number of such programs in the world. Not just that, of these over 40 per cent were set up post 2015 and they included academic programs as well as private ones.
The timeline is significant. Over the last few years, the narrative around India’s startup growth has increased, with more funding availability, till before the recent economic downturn. If a startup needed learning support, chances are they could find some options.
But, is that enough?
Entrepreneurship comes in all shapes and sizes. Not every entrepreneur dreams of creating a tech-based platform painted in Unicorn hues.
Let’s look at the larger narrative.
India is home to one of the largest young and work-ready population in the world. A number upwards of 300 million and growing.
If we look at our education system, while there has been increased enrolment in the primary and secondary grades, there are dropouts from the formal educational system at every stage, from school and especially to college where the higher education gross enrolment ratio is just about 27 per cent.
Even for those with college degrees, employment is not always an easy road, with technology re-shaping many careers and requiring many skills to be unlearnt.
Meanwhile, vocational education opportunities exist and for many provides an employment pathway but building entrepreneurial skills is more than getting the skills to join a job.
Gig jobs such as delivery and driving has stepped in to fill in the gap in employment in some cases. But there are questions about their long term sustainability from an individual’s career point of view.
The point is simple. Rather than wait for jobs to happen, can the young Indians be trained to develop their livelihoods in ways in which they can build their own entrepreneurship ventures?
Let’s understand with a few examples.
Say there is a person in a small town whose parents worked on handicrafts. But their machinery is old. And the demand is uncertain. He/she might have migrated to the city to look for a job to get steady income. If, at the same time, they received the right training on new designs that could create better demand and pricing, and could be updated on technology and marketing requirements, they could create a viable livelihood and a strong entrepreneurial story.
Now, imagine if there is someone who has a strong skill. Say baking. Or cooking. Or making chocolates. Or candles. He/she was always talented in this skill but was not sure if it could become a viable business. With the right livelihood education, they could set up a business right from home, know the ways to market, distribute their products and to manage their income.
Again, imagine there is a farmer who has a small tract of land. What if he could learn ways to make additional income from his farm, like bee-keeping or learn about smart farming or integrated farming techniques?
These and more are real livelihood lessons that can help many people across the length and breadth of the country use these skills to develop their own entrepreneurial ventures. These could be small businesses, even those set up from home, or farming ventures.
As more and more people get the confidence and learning to initiate such ventures, there could be as spiralling impact of innovation and value creation.
There are however a few key considerations to provide such learning:
- First and foremost, it has to be practical such that people can use the learning to really get started on their ventures
- Second, language plays an important role in democratizing the access to the learning. Many people prefer to learn in the languages they are comfortable speaking in.
- Third, a lot of the people are busy in their daily lives and do not have time to spare to learn in a dedicated fashion. So, byte sized learning and that too in formats that can be more digital in nature, could be really helpful.
- Finally, while these livelihood lessons are really important and even critical to build a nation of future entrepreneurs, given the unpredictability of income, there could be a need to also help people understand how to build more financial literacy and to find practical ways to save and to invest money.
Overall, livelihood training is the gateway which is needed to build an entrepreneurial nation.