by NITI Aayog, New Delhi, India, August 2015.
Late in the spring of 2015, I was privileged to be asked to chair a committee on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, constituted under the auspices of NITI Aayog. The committee was pulled together in rather short order - a testimony to the good spiritedness of my colleagues who were willing to carve out time from their incredibly busy schedules - and we met formally to initiate the work on May 1, 2015, in the NITI Aayog offices in New Delhi.
Subsequently, there has been a whirlwind of activity, a near-continuous virtual meeting to brainstorm and write the report these past months, punctuated by occasional physical meetings in New Delhi, Bangalore, and Boston (my adopted home).
We took care to ensure the committee was drawn from very diverse walks of life, to include entrepreneurs (with track records of building for-profit and social enterprises), financiers, scientists and academics, heads of academic institutions and, finally, several who have experience liaising with government. Each member has, in turn, helped us access an incredibly broad network of individuals not on the committee, both in India and in parts of the Indian diaspora, who have all unfailingly and generously given of their time.
Through all this, my colleagues in NITI Aayog, led by Arvind Panagariya and his able team, and, informally, colleagues in the Prime Minister's Office, have been nothing short of spectacular.
Our approach has been to take a big-tent view of entrepreneurship, to think of the innovation and creativity that underlie successful entrepreneurship in a variety of walks of life, far transcending the exciting but ultimately rather limited remit of current entrepreneurial hotspots in information technology and e-commerce. These hotspots have given us much to be proud of, the "re-Bangalorization of the world" as the media sometimes puts it, but we cannot rest on these (limited) laurels. This has meant that our report is intentionally broader than past reports that have tended to emphasize venture capital and private-equity as handmaidens of entrepreneurship. There is an important role for such financing, and we suggest how to nurture it. However, at the end of the day, such financing is but one of multiple factors that need attention.
That said, we surely stand on the proverbial shoulders of giants. The committee laboured hard to acquaint itself with the myriad reports related to entrepreneurship produced by prior government committees and bodies, as well as numerous superbly qualified groups from the private sector and civil society. We are mindful of learning from these, as well from some other groups of people working in parallel in India on, for example, skill-development and securities markets issues.
Finally, consistent with India's desire to reimagine its future as a world leader, we seek to learn from the experiences of others and to contribute to these. So the reader will find an openness to experiments from far and wide. Chile, China, Israel and the United States, are sites of some of these that receive mention in these pages.
All this has led us to a conceptual model of an Entrepreneurial Pyramid that offers a prioritization of the many efforts that will propel entrepreneurship forward. First, we recognize that success breeds success, so, in the interests of building a constituency for change, we must identify actions that yield short-term payoffs. The so-called 'top layer' of our pyramid model does this. In particular, it identifies a dramatic upgrading and broadening of the incubators that pepper the Indian landscape already, a commitment to using competition and prizes to encourage grass-roots innovation, and the initiation of a symbolic but also substantive national entrepreneurship movement. The use of novel methods to stimulate innovation—including a special focus on science and technology—will affect the social inclusion that is sorely needed to empower the disenfranchised.
From there, we sequentially identify longer-range actions that will yield longer-term and more systemic payoffs, and will amplify the efforts of subsequent short-term initiatives. There is no use pretending that these investments– often in the form of public goods that have received short shrift from Indian society in recent decades—will yield results immediately, but there' s also no option but to embrace the need for these changes.
Through all this, we repeatedly emphasize the importance of some behavioural traits that we' d all do well to embrace—a bias to action, a willingness to be accountable with output rather than input metrics, an openness to ideas from wherever they emerge, and a partnership ethos, the last especially important to overcome the huge trust deficit that exists between the public and private sectors. These 'can-do' attitudes will, we are confident, ensure that our report does not gather dust in some cabinet.
As the Honourable Prime Minister said in his Independence Day address on August 15, 2015, to the people of India, "Startup and Stand-up". I couldn' t agree more. Let's do it sans partisanship and with team spirit. | Tarun Khanna, New Delhi and Cambridge