Entrepreneurship: The Coming Prosperity In Kashmir

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Entrepreneurship: The Coming Prosperity In Kashmir
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David Durani

“Follow your dreams and the money will follow” “Sleep is for losers. Success requires stress”. Motivational start-up quotes are everywhere. They almost seem to be the order of the day now. They shout from social media feeds, coffee mugs and status updates. Infact, if you read the national dailies carefully, you will very often come across things like start-up showcase competition advertisements, or profiling of promising enterprises.

With the government of India initiating programs like ‘make in India’ and ‘start-up India’, the vocation has become a phenomenon that is catching up with young entrepreneurial minds all across the country. Everyone wants to feel excited about what they’re doing and creating.We know that hard work can deliver results. Therefore, quitting your job to chase a start-up dream becomes an attractive proposition.

Though India now ranks third among global start-up ecosystems with more than 4,300 new-age companies according to IT industry body Nasscom, a region like Kashmir is still disconnected with this boom. The number of unemployed youth in the State has crossed the one million mark. Entrepreneurship can become of the possible solutions to bridge this deficit.

Entrepreneurship is still finding its feet in Kashmir. It is similar to introducing a cultural change, and as we know the process is gradual, faces resistance, and is based on several risks and assumptions. Having said that, entrepreneurial ventures in Kashmir have limitations that go beyond the disturbed political and environmental conditions in the state. These are factors that are well within our control and can be improved upon to give ourselves the best chance of succeeding. Some of these determining factors that make the new entrepreneurial ventures in the state a challenge are: Lack of basic knowledge Enterprises arealways found wanting about how they wish to start. With no handholding and mentorship support, entrepreneurs struggle right from the micro level business ventures. No wonder why we are still up there as a major industrially backward state.

Procedural fragilities to start a venture – In entrepreneurial language, they say the difference between Australia and Kashmir is 118 days. While it takes just two days to start a business venture in Australia, Jammu and Kashmir takes more than four months (120+days) to start a business. As a result, the enterprise ends up spending most of its seed capital to get the bureaucratic system in its favour.

Skills and the right mindset – Within the state, there is no such formal institution that teaches you to be an entrepreneur. Those, who start their own ventures, do so because they don’t have a choice. A stable 9 to 5 job remains the most sought after option. If it is a government job, then it is considered an even bigger achievement. Concepts like Innovation and creation do not command attention and respect. The ‘go getters’ who want to do something different often fall short of government support, lack of finance, desired skills and managerial techniques to name a few. The web to discourage a bright young entrepreneur is completed by the clumsy system of fulfilling procedural formalities.

Too much dependence and expectations from the government machinery also slows down things for a start-up. As a result, an enterprise’s plan is never symmetrical to how and when the government responds. Although the State boasts of entrepreneurship friendly schemes and initiatives, however, most of these policies do not cater to the financially vulnerable class.

The  ‘Sher-e Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for the Youth (SKEWPY) policy was launched by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir with an objective ‘to motivate, train and facilitate educated youth to take up entrepreneurship as a career option and create local employment generation opportunities’. The scheme was implemented by Jammu & Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI).

As per the scheme, graduates get a maximum of INR 3 lac as seed capital, postgraduates get INR 5 lac and professionals like doctors, engineers and technicians get a maximum of INR 7.5 lac, provided they give in writing that they won’t take any other government benefits. This scheme thus excludes all those small holders, artisans, craftsmen and innovators who may have the right skill and attitude but no formal education.

Perhaps these are the things that need a thorough revision. In contrast, if I pick any of the innovation challenges supported by the big private sector companies, development agencies or the government in the North East region of India (which also faces political and environmental disturbances similar to Kashmir), we find success stories of technological innovation and social impact from the remotest villages of the region.

All this because there was an entrepreneur/enterprise friendly platform that gave a fair opportunity to the best ideas and incubated them. A washing-cum-exercise machine, hand operated water lifting device, portable smokeless stove, automatic food making machine, solar mosquito killer, shock proof converter, a floating toilet soap, all these innovations have come from ordinary people who lacked education, faced cash crunch, but had bright ideas and were given the right platform to present them.

Everything is possible! But this narrative often leads founders into business before they’re ready. It can also create enormous (and unhealthy) pressure that derails smart, ambitious people. Therefore, what the Kashmiri entrepreneur needs most of all is a proper plan.

It has to necessarily start from developing a proper business plan that doesn’t allow for trial and error. Traditional business plans and product development models have one great advantage: They track progress with metrics like income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow. The problem is, none of these metrics are very useful because they don’t track progress against your start-up’s only goal: to find a repeatable and scalable business model.

 

That is what our entrepreneurs should work towards. The demands of customer discovery require people who are comfortable with change, chaos, and learning from failure and are at ease working in risky, unstable situations without a roadmap. This could be a defining factor to show that Start-ups in Kashmir can win.

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