The idea of Viksit Bharat has ignited the thought process of every citizen of this land. A nation is typically considered to still be “developing” if it does not meet the defined socioeconomic criteria, and the classification of a country as a developed economy is based on a combination of various indicators and measurement metrics. While there is not a universally agreed-upon set of criteria, several key indicators are commonly considered, e.g. GDP, industrialisation and diversification, the Human Development Index (HDI), Health Standards, Labor Productivity, Innovation, Research, income equality and Education and Skill levels besides Political Stability.
Countries like, Switzerland, United States, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Israel and others considered as developed nations have more than $60k GDP Per-capita and Human Development Index (HDI Index) is above 0.90 compared to developing India’s $2.5K GDP Per capita and 0.63 HDI index ranking India at 132nd position.
India needs a significant push in all sectors however a major contributor towards the attainment of the vision of Viksit Bharat will be attained through a strong ecosystem of startups. Startups are crucial to economic expansion. This is because they create jobs, which leads to lower unemployment rates, which in turn signifies a more developed and better-functioning economy.
Many surveys and researches have quantified that 25.7 percent of aggregate growth that comes through innovation is accounted for by entering of firms alone. Startups have potential to grow GDP and employability multi-fold and also improve the income levels. Of all the economies in the world, the Indian economy is expected to be the fastest-growing one – and startups are expected to contribute a whopping 5 per cent to the GDP of our country in the next five years.
Despite the recessionary trends in one decade and then challenges posed by Covid, India has not let its startup growth recede and has shown a remarkable resilience. In last decade, India has seen a significant growth in Startups. From a mere 350 startups in 2014, India now has close to 1.16 lakh government-recognised startups. As per a report from Traxcn, there is a clear dominance of handful of Higher educational institutions, Universities in building the startup ecosystem in India. As of September 13, 2021, India had 465 startups valued at/over $100 million. The founding team data were available for 201 of these startups. Out of the 374 founding members, 45 per cent (169) belonged to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), followed by the Indian Institutes of Management ([IIMs] 22 per cent; 83). Two other notable Indian academic institutions with a significant share in the overall founder pool were the Indian School of Business ([ISB] 5 per cent; 19) and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani ([BITS Pilani] 5 per cent; 19). Perhaps when we compare with other developed countries, Ten universities in the US produced 2,109 startup founders. Seventy-three per cent of these founders came from just the top five universities: Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of California (UC), Berkeley, and Cornell University.
College and Universities are a great place to start thinking about ideas that can change the whole world. In fact, most remarkable startups in the world have been conceived by college students or the graduates of some of these universities be it Google, Facebook, Netflix, WordPress, Times Magazine, WhatsApp, Air BnB, Instagram, Snapchat and Fedex.
Indian too has many well-established startups coming from the higher educational institutions that include Chayyos, Atomberg, Grey Orange, Dunzo, Flipkart, Zomatoo and Snapdeal. These data points highlight that higher educational institutions have an immense potential while contributing towards the creation and growth of the startups. India stands at a crucial juncture where the promotion of startups can significantly contribute to economic growth. Indian universities can play a pivotal role in shaping the entrepreneurial landscape by nurturing a culture of innovation and providing the necessary support for budding startups. Not only these startups will create an economic impact but they can increasingly focus on creating social impact by developing solutions to address some of the country’s biggest challenges, such as poverty, education, and healthcare
While India has seen remarkable growth in the startup ecosystem, especially in few higher education institutions, there is a huge untapped potential, given that India has around 1200 Universities, more than 50,000 colleges and around 10,000 standalone institutions. A concerted effort is needed to create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship on a larger scale across these institutions and to realise the dream of becoming VIKSIT BHARAT by 2047.
Key Steps for Universities to Enhance Startup Growth:
Discover to Uncover:
Every university and institution must scan their local and regional environments. Visit nearby areas and assess socio-economic challenges. Interact with local industries, artisans, and business communities. This is important to understand and define the problem in its right perspective. What are the issues, that people and society are experiencing? It can be health care, transportation, agriculture, banking, education and any other sector. Almost 70 per cent of Higher Education Institutions in India are in rural belts and given the immense local issues and challenges, local research can open significant opportunities for young minds towards developing solutions. In fact, data indicates that solving local problems & providing solutions at scale in diverse is the vital reason for the increasing number of startups from these parts of the country. It is also significant to note that 49 per cent of start-ups are from tier-2 and tier-3 cities, which has turned to be a game-changer as the business advantages in these locations enable entrepreneurs to operate at lower costs as compared to tier-1 cities.
However, this requires institutional and academic leadership to step out of their comfort zones, come out from their traditional academic mindsets and network outside the boundaries of their campuses. Through this process teachers can engage students and offer them internship assignments that will facilitate them to understand local problems and developing solutions.
Design to Deliver
More than 600 million people in India are aged between 18 and 35. With 65 per cent under the age of 35, India’s demographic dividend needs to be translated into a demographic advantage. With a 29 per cent of Gross Enrolment Ratio and technology disrupting every field, student thinking needs to be channelised towards becoming a job creator instead of job seeker. This puts a significant responsibility on our Academic Leaders need to design and develop curriculum in such a way that develops an entrepreneurial mindset to enhance creativity and critical thinking. The curriculum design must create opportunities for students to help understand how entrepreneurship works from a young age and build tenacity and resilience where they learn to take failures as a part of the journey and do not get frustrated by them easily. Designing curriculum with these objectives will help students through their life by making them more tolerant and aware of their abilities to carve
the right path. The curriculum design needs to be student-centric, where they learn skills more applicable to entrepreneurs. Given that entrepreneurship is not a linear process and creativity is central to it, finding structure is an unstructured process. It is therefore important to incorporate design thinking into the curriculum. Design thinking is a practical approach where students step out of the classroom. This experimental design can help students to gain deeper perspectives of the real world issues for better reflection. Curriculum can also incorporate hackathons and idea generation, besides making brainstorming an important aspect of teaching and learning process inside the classroom and campus.
Startup India reports have indicated that incubated start-ups develop a lot quicker than their non-incubated counterparts, and their survival rate is additionally 40 per cent higher at 80 per cent. The studies also suggest that incubators or university spin-offs could act as catalysts for speeding entrepreneurial growth in an economy. The reports show that an increase in the number of incubators would have a positive implication for the start-up ecosystem by catering to the growing demand and increasing the success rate of start-ups, thereby promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.
Therefore, every institution needs to establish dedicated incubation centres. Create spaces within universities where aspiring entrepreneurs can receive mentorship, access technology and resources, and collaborate with like-minded individuals. These incubation centres will serve as hubs for idea generation and development. An incubator firm helps grow a startup from an early-stage idea to a company that can stand on its own. Incubators help entrepreneurs by providing practical, concrete resources that may be difficult for a new business to obtain or afford. Incubators provide many support services that include office space, administrative functions, education and mentorship, access to investors and capital, and idea generation.
One notable example is the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, which has established the IITM Incubation Cell. This cell has nurtured several successful startups, including hyperlocal delivery platform Dunzo and healthcare technology company Perfint Healthcare. More than 1500 start ups have been incubated under the Startup India Scheme as per the latest report
The collaboration between industry and academia encourages open-mindedness, where students are motivated to share and publish discoveries, improve themselves to optimum capabilities, and be market-ready and job-ready faster and with more self-confidence. The collaboration helps students to understand how enterprises are created, managed, and successfully run besides understanding challenges and opportunities within the entrepreneurial ecosystem and emerging market needs.
Creating Next Gen Startups is the need of the hour and industry academia collaboration can boost this objective. Industry Academia partnerships will also foster a mutually beneficial exchange between knowledge generators and business actors. Collaborative research between Industry and Academia can lead to more inventions, innovations, and patents by making outcomes socially beneficial and economically meaningful. Countries with strong industry-academia collaborations are often more competitive globally due to a robust innovation ecosystem. As per the World Intellectual Property Organisation, India ranks 40th out of 132 economies on Global Innovation Index.
Every institution must set up a Corporate Relations Department or an Industry Integration Cell that extensively works on building partnerships with industry and seeks their support to provide students with real-world insights, industry-specific challenges, and potential areas for innovation. These partnerships can bridge the gap between academia and industry, fostering practical skills. This exposure will raise the level of skills and understanding of the students and will prepare them to think and act like an employer. The joint research can facilitate creation of startups and enterprises. However, the biggest challenge in industry-academic partnerships is that academics typically prioritise fundamental research for establishing new concepts, while industries focus on applied research for process improvement and maximisation of profits, thereby creating a significant cross-purpose conflict. This is where academic leaders must think out of box and develop more meaningful and purposeful partnerships that lead to creation of startups for socio-economic growth.
Many organisations in India are already collaborating with many IITs, universities, and start-ups in the country in Quantum Computing, AI, Design and Edge Computing and many other emerging areas and this high opportunity area is awaiting a strong and structured response from Indian Universities and Higher Education Institutions.
Seed Funding Initiatives
Every University and HEI must develop their own Startup Policies to promote nurturing of ideas and startups within the campus. As a policy, Institutions must earmark some funds as a financial support that can be offered to students to pursue their ideas while inside the campus. This fund is aimed at encouraging innovators who need early-stage funding to work on their research discoveries, college project ideas etc. Providing financial support in the early stages can be a catalyst for turning innovative ideas into viable startups. Institutions can also connect students with Venture Capitalists or Angel Investors as well to further support the success of the ideas at later stages as well.
These policies can further bring focus to prioritise seed funding to such ideas that have potential to translate into startups in emerging areas and technology integrated HEI’s can also set up their own Section 8 companies that can seek funds from corporates, industries, or philanthropists who are ready to financially support social entrepreneurs on other innovative ideas.
Hackathons, Innovation Challenges and Competitions
Institutions must host Hackathons, Idea Competitions and encourage students to participate in innovation challenges and startup competitions. These events will not only showcase their ideas but also provide opportunities for networking and exposure to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. These initiatives can also be arranged in partnership with industries to work on live ideas and also have students getting mentored to shape their ideas for better outcomes. Every year since 2012, NASA has been inviting people to join their International Space Apps Challenge, a two-day hackathon where publicly available data is used to find new solutions to global challenges (SpaceApps). The most renowned hackathon story is probably the one of the company GroupMe. The mobile group- messaging app was developed at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon in 2010, raised $11.5 million USD in funding and was acquired by Skype in August 2011 Microsoft acquired Skype later that same year.
However, academia is yet to fully recognise the significance of Hackathons as a ground for creating start-ups. Even though the concept has been adopted and adapted and is used in a wide range of different sectors, academia has not been able to fully leverage this. There it is a great opportunity for HEI’s to make Hackathons or Idea competitions as an vehicle to create startups.
Teachers as Transformers
As the world changes, so do the skills. Students need to be continuously trained and skilled in such a way that will help them to become a lifelong learner, build a sustainable career and a better society.Teachers need to practice innovative teaching and training pedagogies that encourage students to chart their own course through an independent thinking. They need to help students to think broadly that helps them to unleash their creativity.
The traditional teaching and training models need to be reformed and student centric models need to be adopted.
The traditional methods focus on pre packaged ideas and linear thinking while as the need of today is to encourage students to think and ideate. Students are often asked by teachers to do something or follow some steps. This prevents them from thinking creatively that is key to entrepreneurial thinking. Teachers have to create such classroom environment where students start to question the rules and think about new possibilities. Through use of classroom space, intentional course design and scheduling, and building “brand” identity, teachers can create a startup culture of empowerment and innovation for their students. Startups requires some key skills and Teachers can develop a holistic pedagogy to equip students with such skills by introducing, critical thinking and innovation, design thinking for entrepreneurs, market research strategy and Continuous improvement based on seeking continuous feedback. Teachers can plan to invite successful entrepreneurs who can interact with students besides facilitating networking opportunities for the students. Teachers also need to incorporate practical assignments that involve solving real-world problems. This hands-on experience helps students develop problem-solving skills essential for entrepreneurship. Imagine our academic institutions where all graduates leave with an entrepreneurial idea already in motion
By aligning academic curricula with the demands of the entrepreneurial landscape and fostering a supportive ecosystem, Indian universities can significantly contribute to the growth of startups. Teachers, as mentors and guides, play a crucial role in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset of students. Through collaborative efforts, universities can become epicentres of innovation, driving economic development and positioning India as a global hub for startups that will take India faster on the path of Viksit Bharat.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success that is way great spiritual giants are produced”