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Sustainability and Start Ups in Odisha

What grows out of ‘land’ and ‘water’ in the air of Odisha has succeeded in creation of sustainable self- employment programs in the state. However, for the future, where not only new opportunities are emerging to achieve ‘leap-frog’ economic growth but also the ‘needs and wants’ of the youth are changing, building a sustainable self-employment and entrepreneurship model would require a more global approach. Our technical advisor Bhavani S Pani, a reputed Industrial Consultant and Entrepreneurship Mentor, has advised our youth to “Think globally and act locally”.

For some time now, the buzzword in promoting self-employment in India has moved on from entrepreneurship development to motivating startups. Not many in the know, would probably accept, but the Indian society has somewhere down the line realized that creating an entrepreneur and sustaining him or her through the life cycle of business is a more arduous and expensive task than supporting an already motivated youth or a group of them with an well thought off business model to pursue.  So, for the time being, creativity and innovation are out and risk taking ability and business acumen are in. But the core issue remains – job creations through self-employment.

Self-employment and job creation:

The primary objectives of any government are to create avenues of income for subsistence, sustenance and prosperity for its citizen. Jobs in the organized sector of government and industry and commerce are generally occupying the place of first preference. But it is agriculture and agro-economic activities like dairy, poultry, animal husbandry, horticulture, floriculture, marine etc. that provide bulk of earning avenues to citizen of a country. This is more so in the lower economic order countries like India.

Service sector has the potential to create employment with higher per capita income. While all segments of economy are inter-related for their progression, the employment generation capacity in each of the mentioned segments are specific and the national planners try to maintain a balance between the primary segments of (a) Agro based (b) Manufacturing and mining (c) Service sector. However, apart from doing the planning or resource allocation to achieve required segmental and overall growth rate in national economy, government’s direct role in job creation remains rather limited beyond that in the organized sector which in a country like India, hardly ever exceeds 3-4%. Therefore, for India, which has to not only support a population of over 1300 million but also strive to bring over 50% of it living in abject poverty to above poverty line, self-employment remains the major source of creation of new jobs for existing and also the ever growing population.

Entrepreneurship development and job creation:

An entrepreneur per say, is one who comes up with an idea of a business that either did not exist at a geographic location or wishes to take up an existing model in a different format hitherto not attempted in that particular location or times.  In that sense, while all entrepreneurs are ‘businessmen’, all businessmen cannot be clubbed as ‘entrepreneurs’. A successful entrepreneur becomes a role model and an inspiration at a location or a region and over time. His or her success as a prosperous self-employed person helps build many more similar businesses around his successful entrepreneurial business venture. This multiplying impact in quality job creation at a location is an established model of human process re-engineering successfully implemented and achieved in advanced economies in the world, more so, in the western world.

At the core of any development of entrepreneurship in any society lies the primary requirement within the population, more so among youth and job seekers, a spirit of creative thinking and ability to take an innovative approach to solving visible and not-so-visible needs and wants of the society around. A spirit of adventure and risk taking is a basic driving force in the promotion of entrepreneurial spirit in a society. Enthusiasm to take up ventures with a spirit of taking up of calculated risk and business acumen particularly among the youth is what distinguishes and entrepreneurial society than others.

As for an entrepreneur, it is imperative that to become successful, all four stated entrepreneurial characteristics are present in a person. Unfortunately, leaving aside a few regions and ethnic communities in the country, the elements of entrepreneurial spirit is not present in the required levels in the Indian society. This issue has been noticed to be more sever in the lesser developed regions of the country.

The Eastern India and Odisha issue:

Creativity and innovation, in general, have somehow never been strong points of Indian society in majority of regions. The issue is more pronounced especially in the eastern part of the country; Odisha and its Odia population, included. Therefore, institutional efforts to promote entrepreneurship among the youth of Odisha over the last few decades has not really achieved the desired results as has been achieved in the more prosperous and traditional business oriented population of the northern and western parts of the country. May be, that has been one of the primary reasons the states like Odisha not been able to keep up with other developed regions of the country in eradicating poverty among both rural and urban population. This, despite the fact there is no dearth of political will, administrative and policy support and also abundance of natural resources in the region.

The ‘Start up’ culture and sustainability:

Of late, the focus has by itself moved on to encourage and support youth to take up business ventures without calling to  pick up new and hitherto untried ideas. Innovation and creativity is welcome but if self-employment could be taken up using established business ideas and made a success of it, all the more welcome.

It has long been realized even in developed economies that it takes a lot less efforts and resources to make a successful entrepreneur and business entity more successful than that needed create a new entrepreneur. The case is all the more expensive when it comes to revival of a failed business venture. Thus for a large and fast growing youth population of India, a faster growth rate in employment generation is not just a matter of necessity but imperative for  the success of nation’s fight against total eradication of abject poverty.

“Mission Shakti”, the successful Odisha model of self employment:

One of most successful rural self-employment programs in Odisha in recent times has been ‘Mission Shakti’, the co-operative movements of start-ups among women in the rural parts of state. Its success and sustained growth has been possible with strong institution support, grass root mentoring and hand holding guidance.  There have been similar success stories in cooperative dairy farming, horticulture and organic farming in the state and underlying their sustainability over time has been sound governmental policy pronouncement and implementation; added with effective mentoring and hand holding. More often than not, the mentoring and hand holding has come from private entrepreneurs who have promoted such cooperative movements as social entrepreneurship ventures.

Pursuing and ensuring sustainability of Start Ups:

Like in every other field, nothing succeeds like success. The best guarantee for sustaining a business at any location is its economic viability and profitability.

As has been often stated, while all entrepreneurial ventures can be clubbed as ‘start ups’, not all ‘start ups’ can be labeled are entrepreneurial ventures. Both, however, are very crucial in national and regional endeavors to engage youth in self-employment and create job opportunities in a society.

Some of the reasons and efforts that have helped in recent times with the emergence of startup culture among the youth all over the country in general and Odisha in particular are:

Among rural population:

  1. Government initiatives to engage women and semi-educated youth through cooperative movement.
  2. Systematic skill development programs connected local needs, wants and traditional talent.
  3. Generous Government and institutional micro-financing interventions
  4. An awareness of potential of additional earning through agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, pisciculture etc.
  5. Growth of food processing, storage and warehousing facilities in rural regions.

Among urban population

  1. Shrinking of job market for ever-growing numbers of educated and college graduating youth.
  2. Exposure to global, national and local entrepreneurial success stories
  3. Emergence of IT and IT enabled services based business opportunities
  4. Access to public, institutional funding.
  5. CSR interventions from corporate sector.

These are a few but significant factors which have contributed to the growth of startup culture in India as a whole. In the case of eastern region of the country , including Odisha, which have remained traditionally weak in the aspect of youth seeking business as a career on the first go after completion of their school and college education, startups have been born more out of seeking a means of basic survival rather than an entrepreneurial spirit.

The take-off stages of an ‘entrepreneurial and startup ventures’:

1: Ideation: An entrepreneur starts off with a passion to stand out. He or she may or may not have a product or a service in view. There is a vision and a passion in place.  The prospective entrepreneur needs to be guided to consolidate that unique and innovative idea into a commercially viable product or service. There could be many alternatives and routes to produce and deliver. Zeroing down to the one product or service around, which a business is to be modeled, is the crucial activity of ‘ideation’.  A ‘start up’ generally comes up with an already functioning business idea. What the start-up person needs is support to ‘take- off’ and does so with a well formed business plan.

2: Take off:  Once the idea has been zeroed down, preparations are to be made to take off with action at the ground level. It involves deciding what to produce; how much; where to produce, where to sell, how to secure supply chain, market leads, organization structure, financial structuring and resourcing etc . All these acts need to be secured after ideation exercises are completed.

A ‘start up’ is expected to be ready with a firmed up idea and a business plan before taking up financing and equipping with the requisite hardware to produce and deliver. That is where the activities of an entrepreneur and a startup converge and move forward on a common path of business development.

3: Growth: Growth is a necessity for survival of any business venture. This is the stage where the vision of the entrepreneur starts to take on the ground reality trail. This is also the stage where competition hits and the venture needs to develop strategies to pursue set goals. Organic growth is the call at this stage but ambitions and lack of focus sometimes drives the entrepreneur at this stage to deviate from the chosen path and misutilise his or her resources and abilities. The successful entrepreneurs at this stage are those, who remain focused and grow organically. Planned and scientific mentoring is the key to sustainability of the business at this stage. Western developed economies, in general, have well organized mentoring programs right down to local city council levels to ensure that not only the ‘start-up’ survives and grows thereon, but also the precious material, monetary and human resource  investments society has made in to it, are secured.

4: Consolidation: A pause period, when the gains made are to be protected and strengthened, weak links are to be taken care of and flanks are consolidated against attacks to business from identical, alternate and replacement ‘me-too’ businesses that have grown around a surviving and successful venture. It is an important stage in ‘sustainability’ where one takes a close look at threatening competition around and reworks own adopted strategies. Mentoring and institutional financial support is crucial at this stage for ensuring that the ‘start-up’ does not slip onto the road ‘down-hill’.

5: Expansion: Growing into new territories, new products, new strategies. By now the matured start-up has adequate vision, capability, skill and knowledge to grow and grow rapidly, on his own duly supported by an appreciative business environment.

6: Diversification: By western definition, an entrepreneur and/or any business is seen to have ‘arrived’ and can be termed as being ‘successful’ when it starts diversifying inorganically to make the best of the emerging opportunities in the economy.

Conclusion: For sustainability, it is essential to ensure that an entrepreneurial and ‘start-up’ venture survives and grows in through each of the six stages of business. The rewards to be gained by the society from a successful ‘self-employment’ venture are immense. At the same time, a failed venture too can cause immense harm to the society. Apart from becoming a de-motivator for future start-ups and entrepreneurs to come in, it results in waste of a young life and permanent loss of precious material and monetary institutional support provided by the society at each stage of the start-up and growth of the business venture. Surely, one shoe does not fit all. Odisha has a unique and tradition bound society. The mind set and thinking process of its youth is at a different plane than those in traditional business communities in other parts of the country. Experience has shown that what grows out of ‘land’ and ‘water’ in the air ofOdisha has succeeded in creation of sustainable self- employment programs in the state. However, for the future, where not only new opportunities are emerging to achieve ‘leap-frog’ economic growth but also the ‘needs and wants’ of the youth are changing, building a sustainable self-employment and entrepreneurship model would require a more global approach. The watchword obviously would be to “Think globally and act locally”.



About Bhavani S.Pani

Industrial Consultant and Entrepreneurship Mentor, Bhubaneswar.

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