A good many startups are now being established in India and the entrepreneurial scene is starting to blossom, in spite of a general lack of structural and political support for such initiatives.

Student-Driven Startups Preparing to Take Off in India

In sharp contrast to the stereotype of the call centre worker, an increasing percentage of young educated Indians, especially in the cities, are now thinking about setting up in business or actually going ahead and setting up innovation-oriented companies. The Indian Students Entrepreneurship Aspirations Survey (I-SEAS), published in late November by India’s International School of Entrepreneurship Education and Development (ISEED), which offers a post-graduate level programme in entrepreneurship, reveals that in major cities close to 65% of all post-graduate students polled would like to become entrepreneurs. Given that the latest (2001) government census shows that 53.7% of the Indian population is aged under 25, , the pool of talented young graduates should continue to increase along with the progress being made in education policies. However, while the desire among young Indians to become an entrepreneur is growing all the time, those who try to set up a company still encounter a variety of both cultural and structural obstacles.

India: land of a million opportunities

The I-SEAS indicates that an increasing number of college students wish to become entrepreneurs within five years of completing their studies. Interestingly, students from medium-sized cities appear to be keenest to set up their own company – 72% of respondents from ‘Tier II’ cities in the study – compared with 65% of those from the ‘Tier 1’ major cities. The report further shows that “in terms of regions, students of Southern India (75%) outscore students from the rest of India (62%).” On the gender scale only 53% of girls would like to start up their own venture within five years of finishing their studies, in comparison with 72% of the boys. While these aspirational figures are high, the students surveyed were not reticent about detailing the obstacles – whether real or perceived – with 65% of the respondents saying that it is ‘safer’ to be in a job than to be an entrepreneur. Aspirations also change as students progress towards the end of their studies: immediately after obtaining their diploma, only 30% of the students say they wish to be an entrepreneur, compared with the 43% who now say they would like to join a large multinational company. Moreover, only 20% of the students claim to have access to adequate funds to start their own business, while just 18% of the respondents said they had actually attended entrepreneurship lectures or workshops.

India back on track?

While it does appear that many obstacles stand in the way of young students starting up their own companies, ISEED co-founder and CEO Sanjeeva Shivesh argues that: “Students across India are bright, full of ideas and willing to take the plunge towards starting their own business. They are not afraid of failure and have a solid business idea.” In fact, only 25% of the students surveyed admitted that they were afraid of failure and over half believe they already have the knowledge and skills they need to start up in business. According to Sanjeeva Shivesh: “All [Indian students] need is access to funds necessary to start their own business and the adequate knowledge/training to do so.” In fact, the ISEED report points out that, despite a lack of funds and a serious shortage of mentors,12% of the students polled were already involved in some entrepreneurial activity.

By Quentin Capelle