Entrepreneurship in India

Entrepreneurship has had a long and colourful history in India, right from the Swadeshi Movement to the Startup India Movement. While the Swadeshi Movement was fuelled by patriotism, the Startup India Movement was fuelled by the desire for growth and innovation. Perhaps our motives for engaging in entrepreneurship have changed over time, but now the land that was once famous for its mythology is now famous for its very real unicorns.

Earlier, entrepreneurship in India was associated with industry, and the likes of Dhirubai Ambani and JRD Tata. However, today we see a radical change in the facets of entrepreneurship, and all of this is a result of rapid advancement in the worlds of technology and finance. Be it the value propositions, customer segments, channels of delivery, cost and revenue structures, or funding- it is nothing like anything entrepreneurs of the previous generation had encountered. Words like “disruption” and “venture capitalism” have entered our lexicon, and SoftBank or Tiger Global Management or Kalaari Capital have become as newsworthy as the start-ups they have poured money into. It is only the funding that is keeping the start-ups afloat, as most of them have yet to make profits. Earlier, entrepreneurs could not have afforded the luxury of incurring heavy losses year after year.

The solutions that these start-ups offer have altered boundaries of industries, goods and services, and lifestyles. Amongst themselves, they cater to every conceivable (and unconceivable) need- food (BigBasket or Grofers), clothing (Flipkart or Snapdeal), shelter (OYO Rooms), transportation (Ola) and making payments for the aforementioned (Paytm). Not to mention that if you find reading the incredibly long list of Indian start-ups headache-inducing, there is always Practo on which you can book medical appointments. That is why, it is better to say that start-ups today offer solutions, unlike the prior generation entrepreneurs who provided traditional goods and services, like textiles or steel.

The solutions are novel, easy to scale yet sufficiently difficult to replicate, and most importantly, provide unprecedented convenience to consumers. The traditional value propositions were nowhere as complicated. Entrepreneurs today also keep altering the channels of delivery- first making brick and mortar stores obsolete on account of online browsing and shopping, then reverting to the brick and mortar stores when online sales fall low (as in the cases of Pepperfry and Urban Ladder). The cost structures have also changed vastly- the major costs today are technology, logistics and marketing based. Where once the focus was on End of Season sales, e-tail startups rely on End of Reason sales. This heavy emphasis on marketing is unprecedented- Snapdeal spent Rs. 200 crore on Diwali marketing (Sahay, 2016). Another unprecedented thing is the government support for entrepreneurship. Start-up India Movement is a manifestation of this support, though its efficacy is debatable. Yet the very intention of simplifying bureaucratic processes, creating a fund of funds, and setting up incubation centres is a welcoming signal for the start-up scene. All in all, the changing facets of entrepreneurship in India indicate a positive outlook.