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 socio-economic criteria and the classification of a country as a developed economy is based on a combination of indicators and metrics. While there is not a universally agreed-upon set of criteria, several key indicators are commonly considered e.g. GDP, Industrialisation and Diversification, Human Development Index (HDI), Health Standards, Labor Productivity, Innovation, Research, income equality and Education and Skill levels besides political stability. Countries like Switzerland, the United States, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Israel and others considered ‘developed’ have more than $60k GDP per-capita and the 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.
Ecosystem for startups
India needs a significant push in all sectors, however, a major contributor towards the attainment of the vision of “Viksit Bharat” will be through a strong ecosystem of startups. Startups are crucial to economic expansion. This is because they create jobs, which lead to lower unemployment rates, in turn signifying a developed and better-functioning economy. Many surveys have quantified that 25.7 per cent of the aggregate growth that comes through innovation is accounted for by new firms alone. 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 5 years. Despite the recessionary trends in one decade and challenges posed by Covid, India has not let its startup growth recede and has shown remarkable resilience. 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 a handful of higher educational institutions and universities in building the startup ecosystem in India. As of September 13, 2021, India had 465 startups valued at/over $100 million. Out of the 374 founding members (201 startups), 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] 5per 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, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, University of California (UC), Berkeley, and Cornell. College and universities are great places to start thinking about the ideas that can change the world. Most remarkable startups in the world have been conceived by college students, be it Google, Facebook, Netflix, WordPress, Times Magazine, WhatsApp, Air BnB, Instagram, Snapchat or Fedex. India too has many well-established startups coming from higher educational institutions that include Chayyos, Atomberg, Grey Orange, Dunzo, Flipkart, Zomatoo and Snapdeal. These data points highlight that higher educational institutions have immense potential while contributing towards the creation and growth of the startups.
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 will these startups create an economic impact but they can also focus on creating social impact by developing solutions to address some of the country’s biggest challenges, such as poverty, education, and healthcare.
“We have 25 years of Amrit Kaal in front of us. We have to work 24 hours a day for the goal of Viksit Bharat. This is the environment we have to create as a family”
— Narendra Modi, PM
While India has seen remarkable growth in the startup ecosystem, there is still 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, to realise the dream of becoming Viksit Bharat by 2047.
Key Steps to Enhance Startups
Discover to Uncover: Every 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 are experiencing? 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. Data indicates that solving local problems is a 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 out 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 come out of their traditional academic mindsets and network outside the boundaries of their campuses. Through this process, teachers can engage students and offer them such internship assignments that will facilitate them to understand local problems.
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 29per cent Gross enrolment ratio and technology disrupting every field, student thinking needs to be channelled towards becoming a job creator instead of a job seeker. This puts a significant responsibility on our academic leaders to design and develop a curriculum in such a way that develops an entrepreneurial mindset to enhance creativity and critical thinking. 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. Curriculum can also incorporate Hackathons and Idea Generation besides making brainstorming an important aspect of the teaching and learning process inside the classroom and campus.
Incubation Centres: Startup India reports have indicated that incubated start-ups develop a lot quicker 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 in speeding the entrepreneurial growth in an economy. So best to 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. 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 Industry Collaboration: 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. 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. Countries with strong industry-academia collaborations are often more competitive globally due to a robust innovation ecosystem. As per the World Intellectual Property Organization, India ranks 40th out of 132 economies on the 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. The joint research can facilitate the creation of startups and enterprises.
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 5per cent to the GDP of our country in the next 5 years
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 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, and 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 the way great spiritual giants are produced”.