“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” It’s Diwali time-the festival of lights where we celebrate the conquest of light over darkness, good over evil. We religiously clean our houses, our office spaces, our minds, and remove the cobwebs of dirt and darkness. We allow in light to make a fresh start of a new year. And like for everyone else, it’s also an apt time for the Indian startup ecosystem to let light in, clean its house of dirt and unwanted things, and let the new in to make a fresh start.
As we close in another year in the chapter of the Indian startup ecosystem, we thought it’s an apt time to talk to some of the players in the ecosystem and understand what we need to clean out of the ecosystem to make a fresh start. We want to be the nation of 10,000 startups by 2020, but there are some things that are holding us back and holding us down. A fresh start for a vigorous approach to achieve our ambitious goal calls for a major evaluation this Diwali. So what are some of those things we are better off discarding this Diwali as we open turn a new page in the ecosystem?
Let’s hear it out from our startup ecosystem stakeholders!
No More Misaligned Interests In Indian Startup Ecosystem
As we move forward to build a nation of startups, one thing that is foremost is that all stakeholders of the ecosystem move together, are on the same page, and understand that we are all in this together for everyone’s gains and not for individual wins.
Angel investor Ajeet Khurana puts it very succinctly when he states, “What we need to cleanse from the startup world is the debauchery of misaligned interests between stakeholders: founders, employees, investor, mentors, corporates, and government. Otherwise, it is two steps forward and one step back.”
Indeed, and two steps back is something that we cannot afford.
Amit Ramani, Founder & CEO, Awfis Space Solutions stresses on the same when he says, “Investors and startups are partners. However, sometimes the investors’ response to a startup ecosystem can be sluggish which can affect the scalability, since that requires capital. The challenge is not merely to generate enough seed capital but also to support in expansion and sustenance. One needs to take into consideration all the elements and set a budget to be on track. It’s important to remember that external capital can only give the necessary push to a startup, hence focus on creating value and providing solutions to the end consumers is imperative.”
Collaborative Innovation Over Disruptive Innovation
The same views are espoused by Bhavik Vasa, Chief Growth Officer, Ebix ItzCash, when he speaks about collaboration.
Bhavik says, “Start-ups should drive collaborative innovation to drive scale leading to value creation over valuation. There are startups trying to grow individually and raise investments. However, instead of being independent entities, collaborating with already established players on various aspects like innovative ideas, solution approach, etc. can provide both – scaling and early reach. Collaboration is the key and will bring in a far better startup ecosystem from India.”
Indeed, when it comes to Silicon Valley, the community approach is what is the backbone of the growth and flourishing of the startup ecosystem there. But can we say the same about India?
Maybe this Diwali, we need to strongly focus on this aspect to build a stronger startup system which encourages collaborative innovation, rather than merely celebrating independent disruptive innovation in silos.
Out With Copy Paste Models, In With Build For India
It is hard not be inspired by the Silicon Valley. But the stage at which we are now, the next wave of growth is possible only if Indian startups build for India and more specifically solve for India. A country of billion people with million unique problems is clamouring for original thinkers who can build India specific solutions rather than just copy and paste Western models here.
Naiyya Saggi, CEO of Mumbai-based parenting social discovery platform Babychakra says, “We need to understand India is a different ecosystem with 29 states 22 languages, and hence, we need to build our own strategies. I think it is only this year that we have starting recognising that building for India requires a different mentality and understanding of the opportunity. A bunch of copy paste models did not work and for a reason. Hence, let’s keep building for India and keep the momentum going.”
Startups Recognise That Talent Is Their Responsibility
Today more and more young people are joining startups and are open to the idea of starting their careers with a startup than a plush corporate or secure government job. While it is healthy to see this change but more needs to be done to change the perception and mindsets of people when it comes to promoting startups and entrepreneurship. And this change can be brought about encouraging and taking care of this talent force by the startups where they join.
Naiyya aptly explains, “Talent is our responsibility: For more and more young folks in India, a startup will become their first place of work. There’s a massive responsibility on us as startup founders and ecosystem builders to ensure that the next generation actively choose a startup as a place to build their career and grow personally and professionally. As a founder building in India today, you have a responsibility to yourself, to your company, to your investors but also to your team.”
Failure Is Fine
Success and failure go hand in hand. While we preach this philosophy, but how often do we practice it? In the startup ecosystem, failure is an important part of the journey. As we celebrate successes, it’s our responsibility also to ensure that we do not berate failure but rather accept it and celebrate it as yet another important lesson in entrepreneurship.
While the attitude towards failure is changing slowly, it is more important to bring about a wide level mindset change.
Amit adds, “Indian culture does not promote entrepreneurship, instead it inspires individuals to take less risk and opt for stable employment opportunities which is either in the public sector or private organizations. Amongst the investors too, there is still some apprehension due to the risk of failure, and unsupportive government policies. This needs to be the changed.”
Similar thoughts were expressed by Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Group Chairman, Inditrade who said, “Investors and sponsors could take this opportunity – the New Year – to make a renewed commitment to the start-ups that they fund; evincing greater interest and perhaps investing time in their advancement would pay greater dividends in the long run. Last, but not the least, the government would do well to refresh various regulation to facilitate start up, such as faster registration, more practical labour laws, simpler access to more stringent intellectual property rights, faster dispute resolution, etc.”
Ritesh Malik, co-founder Innov8 aptly concludes when he says, “Cleansing of mindset is the key. Entrepreneurs need to focus on the good part of startups i.e. product, value, empathetic team building, revenue & impact. Defocussing from valuations & focusing on creating value.”
And this can only be brought about by a supportive startup ecosystem which not only motivates the young entrepreneurs but also supports them to be creative and innovative. And take a leap of faith. Which brings back again to our first point of aligned interest and collaboration!
So this Diwali, as we banish away the darkness, let’s allow more light, more support, more encouragement, more collaboration, and thus more innovation in the startup ecosystem.
As they say, “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
Wishing you all a happy Diwali from Inc42!