Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya is an Associate Professor & In-charge Department of Entrepreneurship Education & Director, CrAdLE – Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), Ahmedabad. An academician in the areas of entrepreneurship education, Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya holds expertise in training budding entrepreneurs as well as grooming developed entrepreneurs. Teaching courses in New Enterprise Creation, Entrepreneurial Finance and Security Analysis, he is engaged with Start-up focused initiatives of Government of Gujarat, MHRD Innovation cell at All India Council of Technical Education and various universities/Institutions. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya talks about the Indian start-up ecosystem, how is EDII helping entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges, the future of entrepreneurship in India, and much more.
India has the 2nd largest start-up ecosystem in the world, and it is expected to witness the YoY growth of 10-12%. What is your take on the Indian start-up ecosystem and its potential?
We see a bevvy of highly charged start-up enthusiasts whose ambitions have been particularly triggered after the government’s rising emphasis on start-ups and entrepreneurship. Some start-ups reflect a high growth potential, whereas some perish on account of their inability to compete. However, the point here is that both the sets of entrepreneurs begin with the same mojo, but down the line, one fails to find scalable ways to capture the market while the other manoeuvers with a solid knowledge base, thus benefitting from various start-up schemes that help tide over the difficulties. The good news here is that some start-ups that nosedive in their first attempt draw learning lessons and bounce back with a stronger pledge to make it big.
To begin with, most of them have a blurred idea about the difference between a start-up and a venture. An entity is considered a start-up “if it is working towards innovation, development or improvement of products or processes or services, or if it has a scalable business model with a high potential of employment generation or wealth creation. An entity ceases to be a start-up upon completion of ten years from the date of its incorporation/registration or if its turnover for any previous year exceeds one hundred crore rupees.
Some of the successful Indian start-ups include Paytm, Flipkart, Zomato, etc. These and several others grew on the premise of technology and held great potential for employment generation and growth. The government has tried to facilitate administrative ease, networking and incubation support, thus enabling start-ups to reflect their progress by multiplying job opportunities and investments. The country has over 190 active incubators and accelerators. As per the NASSCOM Report 2019, India is home to around 8900-9300 tech start-ups which depict an appreciable 12 to 15 per cent growth rate; the key domains being Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. B2B start-ups form 40 per cent of the overall start-ups and continue to gain eminence. A phenomenal 325 start-ups are focussed on probing and solving some of the core problems gripping the country.
India aims to become one of the most sought-after start-up destinations through the amalgamation of proactive policies, strong institutional setup and dynamic participation of the private sector. The nation has instituted measures to create a conducive ecosystem by facilitating the creation of start-up unicorns through collaboration between state governments, industry and institutions, creating intrastate regional centres for start-ups and addressing start-up concerns through innovative and sustainable solutions. To enhance the start-ups’ propensity among students, it is also important to have supportive state-wise policies, experiential mentorship and a strong network of mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists.
For instance, the start-up and the scale-up manifesto of the state involve the Student Start-up and Innovation Policy (SSIP) of the Education Department and the Start-up Scheme as part of the Industry Policy of the state. The focal point of SSIP is the students, and it stands on the cornerstones of awareness, attitude, technology and innovation.
In your opinion, what are the significant challenges young entrepreneurs in India face? How is Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) helping them in overcoming those challenges?
Today’s youth is in a hurry to make it big fast, but simultaneously the fear of failure and loss also looms large in their mind. Some take a hasty recourse to entrepreneurship and even work hard, thinking that things would shape up naturally, only to that they are not on the right track. Some linger on the idea and because of lack of awareness, never take the path itself. In any case, when failure strikes, the blame is shifted to the whims and imperfections of the market. But it isn’t really so. The fact remains that the youth had not focused on acquiring entrepreneurship specific skill sets before venturing out. Well an entrepreneurial bent of mind with knowledge, skills, updated information and oodles of passion for making it big, is mandatory. And such a mindset can be cultivated, knowledge and skills can be imparted, and passion can be infused if one is inclined. In other words, successful entrepreneurs can be created by training and counselling interventions.
At the end of two years, students are ready with a bankable project report. EDI extends necessary follow up support to ensure that as per their identified business opportunity, they have a sound and bankable business plan. Students of Family Business Management are ready with a Five-Year Perspective Growth Plan.
In India, do we have an adequate number of institutions committed to imparting full-fledged courses in entrepreneurship? How is EDII filling this gap?
Entrepreneurship is now a global phenomenon. Considering the advantages that accrue out of it, international universities and management institutes are today offering full-fledged courses on entrepreneurship. Harvard Business School, Sloan School of Management and the Babson College, USA, among several others, are some reputed institutions that offer entrepreneurship programmes. Even in India, several prestigious institutions such as the IIMs, Indian School of Business have incorporated entrepreneurship inputs as a part of their curricula.
EDII offers a two-year course devoted to imparting knowledge, skills and attitude to budding entrepreneurs. They receive both classroom inputs as well as field-level experiences.
Global incubators and accelerators in India see frenzied growth. How will it help the Indian start-up ecosystem?
In this age of exponential technology development and relentless globalisation, innovation and entrepreneurship have become the prime drivers of economic growth. Incubators and accelerators have been seen as an effective and innovative economic development tool. Incubators can usher technological innovation that can lead India to take advantage of performance opportunities in global markets. Incubators and accelerators can aid by introducing the latest technology and business models for start-up support. Further, rapidly evolving digital infrastructure demands for a munificent resource environment for entrepreneurial activity. These intermediaries can build supportive infrastructure by providing much-needed help through the latest technology and evolving business models.
At present, what are the sectors in which you see an increase in activity by start-ups? How will it evolve in the future?
No industry is escaping the disruption of COVID-19. Manufacturers are increasingly turning their focus on aftermarket services, not only as a means to enhance customer satisfaction but also as a revenue-generating opportunity. In the wake of COVID-19-driven disruption, there is additional business sense in scaling aftermarket services at a time when new equipment orders are disrupted, and capital spending comes into question.
For example, in the case of the automotive sector, the pandemic has shut millions of people in their homes and disrupted every part of the transportation domain. This has been powered by quickly evolving technologies, new business models and shifting societal expectations, a future of mobility that is more sustainable, equitable, efficient, and convenient than today seems inevitable.
Grocery and food retailers are responding to an unprecedented demand that strains the entire ecosystem. Customers from all demographics, but especially those over 50, have shifted to digital and delivery, ushering in a new normal for food retail that may become permanent. This has created an environment poised for innovation, with a need to realign supply chains, redefine what parts of the food workforce are essential, and gain a deeper understanding of how to connect with loyal customers.
Healthcare sector, however, sees a number of innovations aiding the present healthcare functioning. One of the alumni of EDII, Harsh Shah has founded a start-up named ShiUV India (OPC) Pvt. Ltd., which is focused on the development of advanced disinfection technologies for various standard and customised applications. Their flagship product GermiWand is germicidal – i.e. it deactivates the DNA of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and thus destroys their ability to multiply and cause disease. GW sterilises any surface with powerful UVC light & kills up to 99% of surface germs and bacteria, including the Coronavirus strain (COVID-19).
What will be the impact of this ongoing COVID-19 on start-ups? How will it affect the Indian economy in the coming months?
Many entrepreneurial businesses have pivoted to meet new needs for goods or services borne out of the crisis. The way entrepreneurial business models and approaches are affected by the pandemic will have an impact on how entrepreneurship is perceived as a job choice in the future. Yet, while a large number of start-ups have suffered during the pandemic, COVID-19 has also led to an increase in entrepreneurial activity. Companies and individuals across the world have rallied to respond to, and wherever possible, tackle this crisis. From organisers of music festivals overseeing pop-up morgues to automotive companies pivoting manufacturing to much-needed ventilators, there has been a surge in creativity. People and companies have devised new ideas to respond to existing, or emerging needs insufficiently addressed so far.
Seeing the plight of farmers during the nationwide lockdown, the team of Phycolinc Technologies ( a start-up incubated at EDII’s Technology Business Incubator) turned towards increasing productivity of crops using bio-fertiliser. The start-up has focused on raising farm income per hectare through quality and productivity improvement of the crop. The start-up is aiming at community level enterprise creation by supporting manufacturing of bio fertiliser by entrepreneurs within the local community. For the same, the start-up has planned to take up this initiative with support from NRLM.
Some new-born entrepreneurs and start-ups have been more opportunistic during the pandemic, pivoting their businesses through some kind of “repurposing” and redirecting existing knowledge, skills, people and networks to new needs that have emerged. From start-ups and individuals producing and selling face masks and shields to their local communities to local taxi start-ups turning into grocery delivery companies, the nature of innovation is often incremental but, at the same time, essential for survival and adapting to the ‘new normal’.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are starting?
COVID-19 has unleashed a wave of innovation as well as new innovation challenges. The evidence base and experimentation of science, coupled with the agility and risk-taking of entrepreneurs, are major elements of this wave and essential to ending the crisis and building a post-COVID-19 world.
The agility of such science-based entrepreneurial companies to leverage their networks and repurpose their expertise and equipment shows how ingenuity and resources can be combined to help create a safer and more certain future. So to all the new entrepreneurs, I would urge to think from the point of NEW NORMAL and move ahead. Opportunities always show up.
More About Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya
Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya has attended ‘Startup Accelerators in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ at MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, Israel, and ‘Application of Business Simulation for Entrepreneurship Teaching’ at the University of Tennessee, USA and that added to his proficiency in the areas of entrepreneurship. He has conducted various management development programs in areas such as Agri Entrepreneurship, Technology Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation. He has organised a faculty development program on entrepreneurship teaching and start-up incubation for Department of Education, Govt of Gujarat.
Dr Satya Ranjan Acharya is engaged with Start-up focused initiatives of Government of Gujarat, MHRD Innovation cell at All India Council of Technical Education and various universities/Institutions. He consistently contributes to strengthening the concept of entrepreneurship as a member of the organising team of the Vibrant Gujarat Startup Summit organised by Industry Industries Commissionerate, Govt of Gujarat and Annual conference on Student Startup Innovation Policy organised by Gujarat Knowledge Society.