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Naveen Kukreja

Naveen Kukreja is CEO and co-founder of Paisabazaar.com. He studied engineering at Delhi College of Engineering and holds a postgraduate diploma from IIM Calcutta

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Freedom for an Entrepreneur in Today’s India

In the time to come, I hope to see more and more youngsters take the entrepreneurial plunge, with Fintech, health and fitness, education and agriculture likely to be the most attractive sectors.

From getting a steady job and rising gradually through the ranks, to opening a startup and making your first million before you hit 30 – Over the last few years, Young India’s aspirations have shifted gears and transcended to a different zone. Today, India stands tall as one of the biggest startup hubs of the world. A NASSCOM report predicts we will be home to more than 11,500 startups by 2020, employing more than 2.5 lakh people.

So what has led to this massive transformation?

The biggest of, course, is the change in the mindset of the youth. The predominant middle class aspiration is no longer to secure a steady IT job and eventually move to the US for a better lifestyle. Inspired by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Ma, and taking a leaf out of Silcon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture, youngsters today are willing to take risks and toil hard to take the make their big startup dream come true.

What is fanning their ambitions is the rapidly improving infrastructure of the country and the government’s initiatives to provide an entrepreneur-friendly environment. Flagship programmes like ‘Start Up India’ are excellent platforms that encourage innovation, business and technological advancement. The government’s focus to build a ‘Digital India’ is another enabler for startups to develop easy customer-centric solutions. For example, the government’s ‘India Stack’ initiative that aims to digitize identity, customer verification, payments, and secure personal digital content is expected to give a big impetus to fintechs.

Moreover, factors like the advent of smartphones and the phenomenally rising internet penetration offer a huge opportunity to technological startups. Today, with 350 million internet users and 240 million smartphones in India, startups have access to data and seamless communication across a big portion of India’s 1.2 billion population.

However, the startup market is largely being fuelled by savvy investor organizations, who are giving wings to India’s entrepreneurial dreams. In 2016, $4 billion was reportedly invested across over 1000 deals in Indian startups. The success or failure of a startup is largely determined by the dynamics between the entrepreneurs and the investors, and the freedom and support an entrepreneur is given to drive the agenda.

Another crucial factor for a startup is its ability to attract the right talent. A big challenge for a startup, especially at an early stage, is to compete with large established enterprises in acquiring key personnel who will build its technology and business. One of the incentives startups offer to get the right people on board is Employee Stock Option Plans or ESOPs. However, the taxation around ESOPs can be a little onerous, leading to a rather negative perception, which often works against startups. I would want the government to encourage the use of ESOPs, and one of the ways could be to tax it at the point of monetization or sale rather than at the Exercise stage.

In the time to come, I hope to see more and more youngsters take the entrepreneurial plunge, with Fintech, health and fitness, education and agriculture likely to be the most attractive sectors.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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