Creating an ecosystem favourable to entrepreneurship in Kerala

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Seizing business opportunity in Kerala: Helping Entrepreneurs Series #4

Offered by C. Balagopal 
The subject of creating an ecosystem conducive to entrepreneurship is a subject that is receiving considerable attention in India today, with even the Prime Minister having actively taken up the cause of startups through the Startup India program. There appears to be a broad consensus that entrepreneurship is an idea whose time has come, not only in the technology sector and business in general, but increasingly also in government circles, as governments vie to position their countries and regions as attractive to startups.

A Cambrian Moment:

In January 2014, The Economist magazine carried a special feature on this phenomenon titled A Cambrian Moment. The metaphor employed was that of the amazing development 540 million years ago that led to the multiplication of life forms from the sponges and other simple creatures that existed till then. In a few million years, the planet was covered by thousands of new life forms, a process that has continued through the magical processes of evolution to the present, creating us and the world we live in. 

Entrepreneurial Explosion?
The article argued that in the business realm, something similar was happening: an entrepreneurial explosion. This has been enabled by the springing into existence of many technologies and capabilities and platforms that enable new ventures to quickly design and develop new solutions to old problems, often completely disrupting existing industries. Since much of this has happened in the virtual realm, and has been enabled by the advances in information technology and particularly the internet, geography, as a wag said, has become history. This has enabled regions within developing economies like Bengaluru and Gurgaon to become fertile breeding grounds for new enterprises. A brotherhood of young caffeine loaded people working out of cafes and shared facilities without a care for time of day or time zones has emerged, that seems destined to change the world.

Shift in Thinking:
This has created a tectonic shift in hitherto socially conservative communities, governed by traditional ideas of family and work and jobs, leading young people to look at starting enterprises of their own when barely out of school and college, without having acquired "experience" and "skills". This Cambrian Explosion is already having far reaching effects on huge swathes of business and society, disrupting traditional businesses and occupations, leaving ordinary people fearful and angry and insecure about their future. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs
Good work by the Startup Mission, TiE Kerala, CII, IEDCs in colleges, and several incubators in the state have helped put in place important elements of the startup ecosystem in Kerala. I visit many of these regularly, and have sensed the buzz about startups growing in the state. 

In my home state of Kerala, tourism and especially adventure and nature tourism are areas that offer new opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Huge new opportunities are opening up thanks to Airbnb and Uber making it easier and cheaper for people to travel to distant places. This can only benefit places like Kerala, which however needs to keep the region ahead of the curve in terms of value propositions others are unable to either match or quickly copy. 

Kerala offers good value to entrepreneurs: 
With its high HDI (Human Development Express), social stability, syncretic culture, and ancient history of communal and social harmony, Kerala offers a wonderful value proposition for entrepreneurs to start businesses to meet the growing demand from larger numbers of travelers from distant countries as well as distant parts of this country. 

Local partnership needed: 
Government and local bodies can help this process by helping keep the roads in good condition with sign boards and clean rest rooms, efficient garbage removal and treatment. With well trained police ready to assist travelers, good emergency medical services and healthcare facilities, good internet connectivity, efficient public services supplying power, water, and an efficient public transportation system. 

Luddites begone!
Entrepreneurs today are people in a hurry to get their solutions to customers on time, products to markets on time, and execute jobs to agreed schedules. They will shun places that do not enable this to happen. Hartals and "Attimari" are Luddite practices that will harm the case of Kerala, which otherwise is uniquely positioned through its 'first world' levels of HDI to attract many startups, not only in tourism and hospitality, but in other many hi-tech areas. 

"Come together, right now" 
Business and industry, government and politicians, leaders and members of civil society must all come together to make this happen. 

Editor's Note: Invitation to our dear readers:
CitizenzNews is setting up a group of entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs who will receive special invitations to events and activities designed for entrepreneurs.                        

If you would like to be part of this special group please send your name, email address, Whatsapp # and current occupation to

©Copyright C Balagopal. All rights reserved

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