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'We Need More Role Models in India' - Archana Jahagirdar, CEO, Indian Angel Network Incubator

We need role models in India and an industry flourishes with role models.

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As part of the discussion panel during the CII Industry Mentorship Summit 2017, Archana Jahagirdar, CEO, Indian Angel Network Incubator, spoke about how start-ups can focus on creating opportunities for networked learning in the nascent ecosystem, by identifying innovative ideas with the potential to succeed. To help new entrepreneurs by helping understand and avoiding costly mistakes in entrepreneurship and how effectively does the academia prepare aspiring entrepreneurs with the ‘right skillset and mind-set’ to envision and realise the dream.


Please share your views on the new-age entrepreneurs. Do you think the current education system is efficient enough to take them to another level?

Despite having a lot of focus on the start-up programmes and incubators, there is a major disconnect between the academia and the business world. A successful entrepreneurship is not attained by just creating a product. An entrepreneur may be creating multiple products with the best of his research, studies and skills but we hardly go deep down to the smaller intricacies like what is the application, how do you reach out to the customer, how do you price the product and so on and so forth. There are many important inputs that go into making a product; into a brand and reach the right customer. There is a need to actively involve the first generation of entrepreneurs and take them as mentors for the next generation. Take the case of carbonated drinks. It is not a necessity but the scale and turnover of this commodity created a need where actually no market existed. How do you achieve this scenario? In order to achieve success and keep scaling your startup, an entrepreneur needs to adapt a 360-degree approach. In Indian context, our institutions play an important role in defining and setting up goals and it comes from the next generation of entrepreneurs. There is a need for the first generation of entrepreneurs to be actively involved in academic institutions and work as mentors.

India ranks third among global startup ecosystems with more than 4,200 new-age companies. To encourage this thriving culture, the government needs to do a lot for an entrepreneur. Indeed, our government has taken wonderful steps to encourage the new age entrepreneurs. The government is the biggest customer for a variety of products and services that our entrepreneurs create. We must let the startup, that has created new solutions, be part of the tendering process, and understand the criteria of the government. There is a need to have a clear understanding between the government goals and an entrepreneurial role. An entrepreneur must get the right opportunity to showcase his endeavours, present a demo of his services to the right decision makers in the government policies, who are part of the procurement process. He must be able to interact directly with the entrepreneur.

On another level, there is a need to raise more incubation centres. India has the right demographic and the right mind-set for entrepreneurship. We can be better than other countries and achieve great results.

Do we lack good mentors in India?

We need role models in India and an industry flourishes with role models. For as many role models to emerge we need that many startups to emerge. It is a chicken and egg situation. IIT and IIM alumnis are successful role models. A new generation of powerful role models or entrepreneurs is fast emerging and trying to match up to the level of the Silicon Valley. Hence, they are willing to give back to the eco-system. So if the pool of role models increase you can tap into more avenues.

What is your advice to the new-age entrepreneurs?

With the increasing startup culture, one aspect needs to be ingrained and that is the acceptance of failure. As a society, we need to accept failures and for an industry like startup it is bound to have failures and in my view, the fear of failure is holding back India from being a startup country. People are scared of those who do not take a linear path to careers. We have been conditioned to be job seekers.

An entrepreneur needs to be agile; he must have an X-factor to be able to become a wealth creator. If you are able to face naysayers, you can be a successful entrepreneur. If your startup is not generating revenues and is unsuccessful to an extent, then you should deviate and consider research or ideation. It is important to know the whys? If the startup does not meet the three aspects – revenue, profits or jobs, then you are not on the right path.

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