Most of the recent developmental research and discussions on India's economic potential have centered around the "Demographic Dividend"- the booming youth of India and how India could leverage this working-age surplus (47 million working-age surplus by 2020) to emerge as an economic might. Many entrepreneurs and businesses, especially in the knowledge sector industry, have tactfully cashed in on this boom. However whether this surplus could form a potential  "good human capital", given the lackluster skills and resources required to participate in the economy, is questionable.

It is in the midst of the rather unduly focus of the country on the vibrant workforce, that a segment of 55+ age senior citizens as a potential source of skilled manpower, especially in sectors where experience is much sought after and valued,  is not paid as much attention as it deserves. It is estimated that there are 76.6 million people over the age of 60 in the country and this is projected to be no less than 160 million by 2025. As per the Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, 10% of Bangalore population, i.e. 0.5 million, are senior citizens. This is a sizable population and a qualified pool of skill and experience that potential employers could tap into.

One however wonders why this pool has been more or less formally untouched. Is it because of the lack of willingness and enthusiasm of senior citizens to engage in meaningful work, instead preferring to comfortably recline? The answer is that very few have a luxury to retire from the workforce. With the absence of a social security system and apparent trends of nuclear families, a fear of instability and vulnerability with the inherent lack of extended support system, lurks amongst the middle class (which will comprise as much as 41% of population by 2025). So if demand for work exists, albeit latent, why is there an apparent no ready availability of such opportunities? Is it because employers have access to better quality, younger and more dynamic workforce at a cheaper price? When one looks at the plethora of job openings demanding professionals with a minimum of 10-15 year experience, the answer is evident.

If there is demand and supply, then why is it that this market still remains unaddressed? There are only a countable instances- DignitySecondCareers.org, SecondInnings.org and Verdurez.com  - catering to this market. But why they have remained barely in existence evades my sense and demands attention. Is there an untapped opportunity beckoning an entrepreneur?
  
(To be continued)

 
 

"This is the true joy in life - the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one." - George Bernard Shaw

Of late the print media seem to cover quite a few columns on entrepreneurship. Yesterday's ET has two big columns on this subject - one showcasing three entrepreneurs who dared to not follow the typical B-school crowd mentality, and the other attempting to explore a seemingly ridiculous question on whether one can be taught to become an entrepreneur. This debate cannot be dismissed as a purely academic one for if entrepreneurship can be learnt as a discipline, then it is bound to change the whole paradigm of business.

Today, there is enough literature that identifies typical attributes of an entrepreneur. In fact there are psychometric tests, such as Entrepreneurial Attributes Scale, that could be used to identify whether one has successful entrepreneurial attributes -  high level of drive and energy, self confidence, calculated-risk taking ability, readiness to learn from ones own mistakes and ability to visualize way-ahead. Now the question is whether these attributes can be imbibed in. Or can we categorically say that someone is born with these traits? If these attributes can be taught as a formulas, then is a B-School the right place? Is it not too late to learn these attributes, most of which are soft skills?

On one end of the spectrum, plethora of theories and evidences have been put forth that essentially says that it is absurd to expect to learn being an entrepreneur. However, in citing world's most successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and Indian success stories of Ambani or Dabbawalas, the argument falls into the trap of "Fallacy of biased sample" or what in psychology is termed as a "Confirmation bias".

The most repulsive argument comes when one cites numerous entrepreneurs who have emerged in the developing countries owing to the availability of capital through micro-credit. This calls for a more comprehensive review of two kinds of entrepreneurship - "Necessity based" and "Opportunity based". Are the self-employed bunch essentially entrepreneurs? If so, are the millions of Indians, unlike in the west, born entrepreneurs and hence don't need to be taught the same in a school setting?

Well, while much needs to be researched on teaching this discipline at MBA level, it might be worth noting that occasionally even best of the B-schools might falter and produce people of the George W Bush's (Harvard'75) caliber! Do we draw any conclusions from the Fortune magazine's 1999 article on "Why CEOs fail?" that states that 40% of failed CEOs were MBAs?

For now, time shall speak if like in Science, someday we have Newton's laws of entrepreneurship. Can schools impart confidence if not competence for budding entrepreneurs?

~ Santosh

 
 

Entrepreneurship seems to have gained its due attention in both the business and academia since the time Nobel prize was conferred to Muhammad Yunus. There have been numerous articles and publications authored especially in the recent past on the Entrepreneurship  discipline, with some going to the extent of arguing on who is an entrepreneur. In particular Social Entrepreneurs and Micro Entrepreneurs seem to occupy much of the the mind-space today.

For me, entrepreneurship has been the single most interesting and exciting subject since last couple of years. In fact it was the pursuit of gaining more insights into this discipline that took me to ISB. However, even after attending the best of lectures on entrepreneurship and interacting with many entrepreneurs, I have not managed to understand of who an entrepreneur is, let alone get a holistic perspective on the subject.

Looking at the informal sector of India, which comprises 90% of the economy, I wonder whether our country is the biggest haven of entrepreneurial spirit. Can the numerous people - like the street hawker, vegetable vendor, road-side food seller, neighborhood kirana store owner - who we interact and carry on small transactions with on a day-to-day basis be termed as entrepreneurs? Would the French economist Jean Baptist  who defined entrepreneur as someone who shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield, qualify a cycle-rickshaw driver as an entrepreneur? (On a side note, as per the ridiculous Delhi law the driver of the rickshaw has to be its owner. So, in fact most of the drivers have made the necessary capital investment of as much as INR 10,000) While these people in our neighborhood seem to have the entrepreneurial spirit of identifying a commercial opportunity – whether a material, product, service, or business – and organize a venture to implement it, I wonder whether they, as Schumpeter calls propagated a"Creative Destruction" of any kind.

Though I'm usually not the one who would get obsessed with definitions, this is one thing that I'm quite not able to let go. It is somewhat gratifying though to see the Nobel Prize winners Phelps and Yunus seem to offer different view of entrepreneurship.

(More on Social Entrepreneurs and Micro-Entrepreneurs in the coming posts)

~ Santosh

 

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