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'Biggest employment generators will be MSMEs'

Last updated on: September 21, 2011 09:25 IST

'Biggest employment generators will be MSMEs'

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Shobha Warrier in Coimbatore


Annush Ramasamy, programme director, South Asia, Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the president of The Kadri Mills and the alternate director of SPM Ltd.

The Entrepreneurs Organization (www.eonetwork.org) a global network of more than 8,000 business owners in 40 countries, founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, is behind GSEA.

Sapan Kadakia of CityOffers.in is the winner of the Global Student Entrepreneur Award conferred by EO for the South Asia region. Twenty-one-year-old Durgesh Nandan, the founder and CEO of AutomotionAds is the first runner up, and Animesh Sarangi, CEO of the Bhubaneswar-based Amazing Youth is the second runner up.

In this interview, as the South Asia programme director of GSEA, Annush Ramaswamy talks of the entrepreneurial scene in India.

What exactly is your role as the programme director, South Asia of GSEA? Is it confined only to the selection of young entrepreneurs for the award?

No, it is a continuous engagement. The award is only one part. GSEA has to identify, promote, recognise, facilitate and then support the young entrepreneurs. That is why I said it is a continuous process.

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Image: Annush Ramasamy, programme director, South Asia, Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
Photographs: Shobha Warrier
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How do you identify young entrepreneurs from South Asia?

At present, we have only India and Nepal on our radar. From next year onwards, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka chapters also will be there.

To identify young entrepreneurs, we first made a list of all the colleges in India and that include even arts and science colleges, and how many of them have an Entrepreneurial Development Cell, or EDC.

That was how we tried to find out how many entrepreneurs were there. We have also found that while the engineering colleges have EDCs, the arts and science colleges do not.

What percentage of colleges have an EDC?

In arts and science, less than 20 per cent only have an EDC. In engineering and technology colleges, more than 90 per cent have EDC.

Over the years, has the desire to be an entrepreneur increased?

Unfortunately, no. Even now, most of the EDCs do not promote entrepreneurs. They may have an incubation centre, but nothing beyond that.

It is the last resort to be an entrepreneur. There may be incubations but when the students get a fancy placement, they leave everything else and take it.

This perception has to change. Colleges have to make sure that this perception changes.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Why is entrepreneurship the last resort in India?

Probably, the mindset. I also would say it has got something to with our culture. The way we look at failure is the main reason why students are scared to jump into entrepreneurship.

There is a social stigma in India to fail, and that has to change. If the social attitude changes, more people will take risks without the fear of failure.

Now, family, peers and friends laugh at them or mock them when they fail. The reaction all the time is, I told you so. Why didn't you join a job? This treatment and perception have to change.

We find that in India, nobody addresses this issue. I, as the South Asia Programme director of GSEA, have decided that we are going to change this perception in this region by going to all the colleges to talk about entrepreneurship. We want to celebrate entrepreneurship.

Recently when I interviewed a serial entrepreneur, he said the success rate of an entrepreneur is only 5 per cent. Do you agree?

I would say it is less than 5 per cent! The low success rate is not because the concept is wrong but because of the perseverance of the entrepreneur.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Lack of mentors?

Also. But I would say if he/she is persevering enough, he would get mentors. Of course, we do not have a structured programme in this country to facilitate and encourage successful entrepreneurs.

How important are entrepreneurs for an economy to grow?

Extremely important. If you take the case of Germany, while the rest of the EU (European Union) economies are failing, Germany is growing.

On a macroeconomic level, you may say it is because of the savings rate. Why is the savings rate high in Germany? I would attribute it to MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

An entrepreneur will not burn his profits but re-invest it or save it for future investment.

MSMEs provide the largest number of jobs. In the next 5-10 years, in India also, the largest number of employment generators will be MSME sector, not your TCS or Infosys or HCL. So, how do we promote these MSMEs? Through GSEA, we are promoting entrepreneurs. From job seekers, they become job creators.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Global Student Entrepreneurship award is instituted for students who run revenue making enterprises while they are students. Why only students?

If you look at the successful entrepreneurs, more than 90 per cent of them have started their entrepreneurial career as students.

Is it because they are more risk taking at that age that they become successful?

Obviously. Not only the confidence to take risks, but they have a 360-degree opening. As you grow older, the window gets narrower. You are more open at that age.

Why does GSEA insist that the venture has to be revenue generating?

Just talking about a concept in not enough. Entrepreneurship in essence means, it has to generate revenue. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

From the last six years of experience of GSEA, how do you look at student entrepreneurs?

Today, the United States has the maximum number of student entrepreneurs, that is volume-wise. If you take the largest percentage population of entrepreneurs, it is Israel.

What is your advice to students with ideas, and want to be entrepreneurs?

Please view entrepreneurship as the first and best option. Don't go with the thought of what if I fail. And don't worry even if you fail. View failure as a stepping stone to success. Don't pay heed to the opinion of those around you. Put your heart and soul into your idea and you will not fail.


Photographs: Reuters
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