Designing an empathetic start-up ecosystem needs an administrative culture that trusts young people and builds upon their creative ideas. It has to be flexible enough to adapt rules and regulations to match their aspirations without violating ethical norms of transparency and social accountability. Let me explain. There will always be some people who will not conform to the group norms. For dealing with such exceptional rule breakers or benders, we should not straight jacket the entire system of governance. That’s how, in the last six decades our bureaucratic system learned to avoid risk, shift responsibility and ignore the need for adapting delivery system to the need of aspirant younger generation.
Entrepreneurial culture can be forged by a) putting premium on taking risk, b) recognising that diversity and variability is the essence of a responsive ecosystem and c) unique ideas need differentiated approach. Obviously when each innovation is different from the other, how can uniform rules and regulations be applied to support them? I suggest a decentralized distributed in situ incubation system so that any innovator who wants to set up an enterprise or an entrepreneur who wants to leverage someone else’s idea can get support through an simple one page agreement. Anyone can submit ideas with estimated cost of developing proof of concept or prototype along with detailed design if possible and a bill of materials at a national portal or at the District Industrial Centre office which will upload the same at the portal like Udyog Aadhar or techpedia.sristi.org). The central team will assign the idea to a local expert, an established entrepreneur in the nearby industrial cluster and if needed an external reviewer outside the region. The reviewers will assess the feasibility and if the amount required is less than 25000 INR, they will sanction it without any further procedure within a fortnight. If it ranges between 50k to rs five lacs, then a presentation to district innovation-incubation committee can be required besides the review. In exceptional circumstances, the larger projects can also eb sanction through on line review. The credentials can be verified by the local banker where the innovator has an account and present or former teacher where either the student is studying or had studied. The innovators will upload the progress every week and if found satisfactory by the mentors, they could be offered enhanced support. MSME has created a no frills portal already (udyong aadhar) which has made registration of enterprises hassle free. Already in three months, more than 99 thousand enterprises have registered on their own. It is possible that in a few cases, there may be suboptimal utilization of resources. However, majority of the young people are expected to justify the trust reposed in them.
This country has often doubted the integrity of the creative people and thus hesitated in unleashing the creative and entrepreneurial power of the youth. The experience of Micro Venture Innovation Fund set up by NIF with the help of NIF in 2003 has proved the validity of this claim. More than 190 innovators were provided the risk capital under single signature without any coobligant and guarantor. More than 75 per cent of the money was repaid showing the high degree of ethics that small innovators and entrepreneurs have, many of them did not even have a bank account earlier. SRISTI has pooled over 187,000 engineering projects from more than 500 institutions pursued by around 550,000 students at techpedia.sristi.org. For over six decades, we have generally ignored the potential of final year projects becoming a basis of setting up of enterprises either on their on their own or in collaboration with the existing MSME. The experience of MVIF and BIRAC, DBT which has partnered with SRISTI to support biotech and medical device enterprises has shown a way for larger replication of in situ incubation.
The implication is that the budding innovation based entrepreneurs do not have to physically uproot themselves from small towns and rural areas to join existing incubators in big cities and institutions. Under this model they will be supported where they have an already familiar ecosystem and do not have to worry about their subsistence. The added advantage will be that migration of youth to big cities leaving their old parents and grandparents behind will also be checked. The obvious benefit of generating local jobs at relatively low cost is there.
I am very hopeful that policymakers will pay attention to the roadmap given above to unfold the creative and entrepreneurial potential of Indian youth.