India’s start-up businesses flourishing
“But starting your own business is something you can do instead of medicine or law or teaching, not something you do because you can’t do one of those things,” she says.
Apart from private efforts such as Be, India’s government has an entire ministry devoted to promoting entrepreneurship, the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry.
The ministry sponsors training programs, credit facilities and networking opportunities. Moreover, government has also introduced entrepreneurship in the course curriculum from the secondary level onward to attract young minds to take up entrepreneurship as a career option, says Siddhartha Dash, chairman of the postgraduate program at the Entrepreneurial Development Institute of India.
Deval Sanghavi, founder of the Mumbai-based social entrepreneurship group called Dasra, credits the government with becoming increasingly proactive in promoting entrepreneurship.
“There has definitely been much greater opportunity for individuals to become entrepreneurs in India over the last 10 years. Twenty years ago, established businesses in this country were run by just five or 10 families. That’s not at all the case anymore,” he says.
Be’s researchers have produced a list of skills the group thinks is critical to successful entrepreneurship. These include negotiation, communication and leadership.
“We’ll also explore things that disable young Indians in their attempts to start businesses, such as caste and gender discrimination,” explains Doel Trevady, a former journalist who is part of the Be team in New Delhi.
Ms. Heydlauff likes to focus on success stories, with only a nod to the subjects’ circumstances.
“You don’t say ‘Santosh is from this low caste and was very poor,’ ” she explains. “You say ‘Santosh has an amazing waste management business with a turnover of 200,000 rupees a month and 60 people who work for him.’ Viewers may notice, ‘Ah, he’s also from a low-income group,’ but that’s not where you start your story.”
Apart from Be’s media initiative, the second, and riskier phase of the project is to set up a source of funding called the Be Fund.
Ms. Heydlauff is raising $1.5 million to invest in 75 social enterprises, to be identified after an open call for proposals later this year. Investments will be awarded to an even mix of young entrepreneurs - male and female, rural and urban.
The Be Fund differs from other development financing in several ways. Ms. Heydlauff emphasizes that the funds disbursed are investments, not gifts with no strings attached.
“The whole problem with grants is that they don’t come with a high expectation of return,” she says. “The idea of an investment is that it’s a partnership between me and you.”
Ms. Heydlauff notes that all profits from investment will be recycled into Be’s ongoing operations, as well as later tranches of funding.
In addition to showing potential for income generation, funded business plans must also achieve advances in at least one of a dozen social categories, including sanitation, health, renewable energy and transportation.