Finance, News

Budget 2014: 3 reasons why India needs more entrepreneurs, not a Rs 10,000 crore fund

by Alok Kejriwal

So what can the government do? Encourage the rise of entrepreneurs! How? By exposing all the problems and challenges that the government wants to solve in its business; the government operating the biggest business of them all!

In his budget speech, finance minster Arun Jaitley spoke about ‘funding’ entrepreneurs and casually slipped in “promotion of entrepreneurship and start-up companies remains a challenge. While there have been some efforts to encourage, one principal limitation has been availability of start-up capital by way of equity to be brought in by the promoters. In order to create a conducive eco-system for the venture capital in the MSME sector it is proposed to establish a Rs 10,000-crore fund to act as a catalyst to attract private capital by way of providing equity, quasi equity, soft loans and other riskcapital for start-up companies.”

Shucks. How badly the FM has fared in understanding the real problem about entrepreneurs. To put it contextually (at least for me), it’s like the FM trying to play Candy Crush and failing at Level 1 itself — implying that he hasn’t understood the game at all!

I argue that India needs 10,000 entrepreneurs, not Rs 10,000 crore to start with! These are my reasons:

1. Capital chases entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs don’t chase capital!

I would like to meet 100 ‘entrepreneurs’ who qualify for Mr Jaitley’s funding corpus. Honestly, they don’t exist. In the past five years, I have been a jury member, spectator and even a mike runner at more than 100 start-up events in India and let me say this with utmost authority that India still lacks the depth and breadth of solid entrepreneurs.

What we have are contest-crazy business plan pitchers; copycats who begin their pitches by saying, “If X is the Y of USA, we will be the same for India”. Then we have a few burnt out mid-40s/50s suit-and-tie types, who want to earn the badge of ‘startingup’ rather than really being an entrepreneur.

So what can the government do? Encourage the rise of entrepreneurs! How? By exposing all the problems and challenges that the government wants to solve in its business; the government operating the biggest business of them all!

Now imagine a ‘portal’ that has 10,000 business problems that the government needs to solve! Examples: how to make a road that lasts in Mumbai? How to reduce immigration lines at airports? How to make people honk less while driving? What music to play in Delhi Metro? How to make money from public gardens? How to create a search engine to find a particular government official? How to light government buildings up at night using solar power?

Give me 10,000 hours and I will come up with 10,000 problems the government needs to solve.

Now, if the stated problems genuinely need to be solved by the government, then entrepreneurs will respond to these demands! Funding them is a trivial matter.

2. Clarity not charity

Will $1.6 billion suddenly fire up the Indian entrepreneur system? Is the government dreaming? Heck, Flipkart has swallowed up $1 billion just by itself to build one of the many e-commerce sites! So what will $1.6 billion achieve?

And how will this be given out? Which entrepreneur in his right mind wants a ‘soft loan’ from the government when she knows that her chances of succeeding are 1 out of 1,000 shots? Who wants ugly ‘notices’ of defaults to land up at their homes when they cannot return the money?

What the government needs to offer is clarity, not charity! Please, Mr FM, be clear. Explain what you mean and how you intend to support entrepreneurs.

3. Inspiration, not aspiration!

The government may ‘aspire’ to be the ‘catalyst’ of entrepreneurs, but who cares? What has the government done in the past to prove that it deserves to fund entrepreneurs? Is Air India an example of success? Or Doordarshan? Or MTNL? Or the Indian Railways? Are the balance sheets of our nationalized banks a great financial success story? How many noble laureates do we have working in the government?

Entrepreneurs look for inspiration, not aspiration! A few hours spent with the most iconic VCs in the world transform entrepreneurs and make them think beyond their imagination. VCs who have funded the first rounds of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and the likes share stories and learnings that entrepreneurs would give anything in the world to have access to. VCs open boardroom doors and have an overflowing chest of money for deserving entrepreneurs. Can the government even claim to have any of these?

Mr FM, we don’t want you to ‘spray and pray’ with our money. If you want to really encourage entrepreneurs in India and get monetary gravity for them, then prove that you can be entrepreneurial and set your own house in order. Remember, we have funded you.

Then, let’s talk.

The writer is a digital entrepreneur and blogs at


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