PM Modi’s Startup India initiative has certainly made the terms ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘startups’ well known across India. It has made ‘doing a startup’ cool and respectable, and has certainly highlighted entrepreneurship as a possible career option.
One of the biggest impacts this will have is that parents will be much more willing to allow their children to consider doing business instead of taking up a job. Indeed a big impact in a country where parents considered starting your own business as a riskier option, and parental pressure for taking up a stable job was considered to be a barrier to starting up.
However, my concern in the hype around startup and the Startup India initiative is the over emphasis on Venture Capital funding and funded companies, largely technology businesses, as showcase and role models. Because of this, the perception created is that to do a startup means doing a VC-fundable company, and the quantum of capital raised is being perceived as a sign of success.
It is important that we quickly change this perception and include in the definition of entrepreneurship any businesses that has the potential to be a profitable, sustainable and value creating venture, irrespective of whether it is scalable in the form & fashion that VCs prefer, and whether it is a technology company or not.
Of course technology and scale is a good thing. And perhaps all kinds of businesses can leverage some amount of technology for efficiency and scale if they want to scale. But to make technology, innovation, IP and scale as key criteria to be qualified as a startup is absurd.
So much is our perception moulded on technology as the most important criteria, that businesses that cook and deliver food to consumers call themselves food tech companies, just because they use an online platform or a mobile app to engage consumers. Would they cease to be ‘food tech’ companies if instead of a mobile app they accepted orders from consumers just over the phone? What’s wrong in someone making great food and delivering it to consumers who place an order on phone, and who discovered the brand via a printed leaflet and not an online ad?