Mentorship is a missing link in India's startup culture

5 Sep, 2016

Startup India program is an initiative to promote entrepreneurship and self-reliance among the Indian youth. But is it really driving innovative solutions and creating employment? If not, what is the missing element?

Today, the need is to create environment for more employers rather than employees. India has the third largest number of start-ups globally. The government needs to be applauded for being a facilitator supporting entrepreneurship. But what we also need to focus on is creating an atmosphere of mentoring and guidance.

Mentoring and guidance by experienced professionals and experts goes a long way in filling the gaps in a budding entrepreneur's vision.

A wise mentor helps one think through a business idea, suggests ways to raise capital and provides the experience that a budding entrepreneur lacks. One gets encouragement as well as a heads-up when trouble arrives. This becomes one of the major ingredients in setting a strong foundation and business that can be scaled up.

We also need to create space where promoters of traditional businesses can interact with aspiring entrepreneurs. A 'win-win' partnership between young energetic entrepreneurs and traditional promoters to establish innovative products and solutions, multiple go-to-market models and strategic client ventures opens larger avenues for growth and expansion.

To establish a successful partnership, one needs to look for personalities who value similar thought process and a similar vision. There is no need to re- invent the wheel. There are many great products and solutions which can be localised in India. It is better to explore technology collaboration and launch them with winning partnership models.

A bond between practical business experience and youthful dynamism can increase the chances of success. It is extremely important to focus on customer commanded innovations. Many solutions are found by line function managers who have solid experience. However, they are highly focused on their day to day operations and are not willing to think outside the box and that limits the discovery of creative solutions.

The ability of an entrepreneur to start a strategic partnership (whether it is a business partnership, a joint venture or a short-term alliance) is critical for continued financial success in an ever-changing and highly competitive business environment.

Many innovators in India believe that their invention is unique and globally competitive. This may not be true in many cases. While it is a great idea to start a new venture, we are ignoring that there are thousands of small and medium enterprises in India which can generate employment if they can get guidance from mentors or experts and focus on global competitive positioning in order to sustain long term profitability.

Finally, turnover is not the only important thing. We need startups that have a unique positioning, preferably at the global level.

Ajay Muttreja is startup mentor and advisor.