If there was a mechanism to review the questions that we face since our childhood, I’m sure that it would be the one, “What’s your ambition?” At a retrospect to my own experience till this 21 years of age, I can tell that I always tried to frame an answer that can please the person who asks the question. I always struggled to appear with the best answer that can stop the questioner, rather than extending the discussion on which I hardly had any control.
To accommodate the perceived preference of the listener, I wanted to become a Teacher, Scientist, Doctor with the ambition of serving the society, engineer to be an able member of family that has the legacy of many engineers and once I aspired to become an astronaut to please one of my senior family member. The fact is that I could never express my wish to become a rich businessman, because I have realized the fact that nobody in my family has any preference for doing business, given the fact that their idea of business is limited to the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ business that never seemed to be an attractive option for various reasons, ‘Insecurity’ being the most prominent among them.
I know that this is the situation of many or most of the youth of our time. We are forced to live in a small island marooned by myths and misconceptions around our career. We grow up with the understanding that everything we do should make our family happy and reduce their sufferings that they have been going through just for the purpose of making us educated and eligible for earnings. To be honest, we receive very limited understanding on the possible options available for us and we get our milestones in life set by someone else, be it our parents, teachers or any other so called wise person in the vicinity of conscience.
Being a good student throughout, I got my milestones of life set as ‘getting good marks in Board exams and then securing my place in a good engineering college’. I tried my best to achieve them and once I am at the verge of my career, I really don’t want to follow the stereotypes of getting into the path of a ‘Good job’ but explore the world of business. Yes, I agree with the fact that I do not have any role model in my family to follow or learn from them. I already started receiving mandatory warnings from my seniors that we do not have any legacy of doing business and so, I might end up in failure! Yes, the word that kept me on my toes always, ‘Failure’.
Now, the question is what actually prevents young men and women (please don’t call us boys and girls, irrespective of our earning status!!) from venturing into the world of business. Once the Startup ecosystem in India and all over the world is making us more attracted towards business, what actually prevents us from taking the risk of so called ‘Failure’. I tried to understand the situation through a series of interactions with my friends, siblings, teachers and family members. The responses helped me to arrive at some specific points that prevent the youth of our time to initiate any business as a career.
Please bear with my limited knowledge regarding the Operations Research (thankfully, I had a paper on this in my last semester), but I tried to use my skills to ensure the methodology of the data collection and analysis during the study. I selected a sample of 100 people out of which 70% were youth (15 to 35 years) and 25% belong to the senior members. I also tried to interview 5 persons from the age group of 10 to 15 years with an objective of realizing whether our next generation has got some different or improved notion about the business and career.
The key findings from my study could be streamlined as follows:
- The term ‘Startup’ is not known to many of the young men and women in rural, semi- urban areas. Most of my respondents never heard about it. For those, who expressed their familiarity with the term ‘Startup’ shared that they don’t know anything beyond the term itself. As I myself belong to rural areas, I myself had never heard about it till I got admitted to my engineering college. There is a big hollow around the actual meaning and scope of the Startup business in India among the youth, mostly in rural and urban areas.
- The concept of Business is very much limited to the act of traditional business with ‘Brick & Mortar’ set up. In that case, the common perception is that one has to soil her/ his hand for doing business, as it always involves ground level work and as mentioned by few of my respondents, doing business means doing less sophisticated works. They feel that there is not much room for ‘enjoy life’ for which they have been struggling since their childhood. Doing business is not a good option for gaining financial independence quickly.
- In most of the cases, parents have shared their skepticism for Startup business, given the fact that they are not conversant with it. Please note that my sample included the people from the non- business families, as I have an idea that they are in majority percentage in our society. Thus, I found only a few parents who shared that they would support the wish of their ‘Educated’ sons and daughters to explore the world of ‘Startup Business’. Here again there is a dearth of clarity among the parents regarding the emerging world of Startup business and its prospect.
- Low or no access to Finance is another prominent factor that prevents the youth today to explore the world of Startup business. A large portion of my young respondents mentioned that they have some ideas (though not very organized) but do not know how to manage the resources for initiating the business. Few of them have already tried to get some finance from various sources like local banks or financial institutions. But they found it very tough to manage the funds for initiating the business as they lacked guidance to accommodate the documentation requirements for that.
- Surprisingly, I found that young women were more towards planning for a business, that too in rural areas. As mentioned by them, getting a decent job and maintaining it much harder for them, given their locational and societal disadvantageous position. Most of the women from the senior age group in my sample, i.e. 25 to 35 shared that doing business by their own or in groups is a better option than doing a job, after managing family. But again, their perception around Startup Business is very limited or almost nil.
After consolidating my observations and findings, I realized the fact that the young generation of our times, which is going to be the majority of population in India, lacks clear knowledge about the spirit of Startup business. So, there is a need for equipping them with the knowledge of business and simultaneously we need to create an enabling system that will encourage youth to explore the world of business.
At the same time, it’s also true that there are initiatives from various Startup incubators to reach out to youth in academic institutions with knowledge and skills for doing business in an organized manner. In my own college I got the opportunity of attending a session by Wadhwani Foundation that actually helped me to internalize the key aspects of Startup ecosystem. Practically, that session helped me to start thinking in an organized manner. There is need for more initiatives like this in future to create a general awareness among the youth around Startup ecosystem in India.
Having said that, I also feel very strongly that there should be awareness generation in rural and semi- urban areas to sensitize youth who remain outside the coverage of the premiere institutions. Moreover, there should be awareness generation activities in local language to bring more people within the coverage.
It goes without saying that youth is the time to take most challenging steps to achieve new horizons. But, there should be enough space to allow them to gain clear knowledge and information to take new avenues and explore new options in life. At the time of youth explosion in India, Startup ecosystem could be an option for catering to the growing need of the employment generation and economic development in India. Only point is to empower them to explore new options, rather than exposing them towards further challenge of explaining something that they themselves don’t know, because, at the end of the day it’s all about the youth who has the capacity to bring discernible change in the situation.
Rahul Mondal is a youth leader and Digital Marketing lead at Markzin Business Services.
Please write to Rahul at email@example.com for further discussions