Entrepreneurship? Now for Bengali babus too!
The increasing impact from wealth-creation and employment generation in India certainly puts the onus on entrepreneurs to help the country grow and develop further. Realising its importance, the government too has set up institutions at the national and state levels to provide assistance to first generation businessmen. And surprisingly, the face of entrepreneurship is also fast changing in West Bengal, a state with 91 million population, ruled by communists for over three decades.
In candid conversations with Baishali Mukherjee, who has been in touch with several entrepreneurs and startup founders of Bengal, we get a glimpse into the changing socio-economic scene of the state powered by private enterprises.
Binod Kumar Homagai, founder of Wow Momo, a startup from Bengal, which has turned into the country’s largest chain of momos with over 100 outlets across eight cities believes Bengal could develop faster with entrepreneurship. “With a supportive government, more and more people from Bengal are getting into the sphere and many are quitting their jobs to follow their dreams,” says Homagai. He also believes that India today considers startups to be the greatest career option as it could develop our country faster and create great job opportunities, thus addressing unemployment issue.
According to Avelo Roy, a serial entrepreneur since 19 who mentors and supports aspiring entrepreneurs in Bengal through Kolkata Ventures, his enterprise, “Most colleges in Bengal are establishing entrepreneurship cells and organizing business plan competitions because that’s what the next generation is demanding.”
“While most engineering colleges are struggling to provide 20 per cent placement for their students, entrepreneurship definitely seems like a lucrative and glamorous career path for our youth. A lot of deans and professors are inviting Kolkata Ventures to organize Startup Launchpads and entrepreneurship development programs in order to help their students become self-employed. It’s working,” asserts Roy who currently has more than 240 startups incubated from Bengal and East India, a significant percentage of which are also generating revenue.
Manjir Chatterjee, an entrepreneur, drawn to manufacturing processes since her early years eventually founded Folk, a 100 per cent export-oriented company manufacturing accessories and merchandise for international carmakers like VW, Ford and others. She is enthusiastic to see the buzz in Bengal around self-driven business initiatives. “It is very encouraging to see how in Bengal, everyday educated youth are taking the plunge, coming up with innovative ideas, starting their own enterprises. It’s so important to ward off unemployment in a populous state like us as every enterprise not only provides for its owners but creates jobs for many others,” Chatterjee enthuses.
Akash Kumar Singh, founder of PAFY (meaning ‘Professionals Always For You’) that aims at revolutionizing the home service market of Kolkata, said, “Bengal is a very big resource of talent and has a large untapped market which is now gradually attracting entrepreneurs to explore its potentiality. Successful entrepreneurial journeys have also led to motivation for the current generation to explore the talent within and work for it. In my case, I saw a huge gap in the market for skilled professionals who are unable to sustain on the basis of their skills. After Skill India, it provoked me to create an ecosystem where they could earn more and earn security and respect for their families. A market has many such areas to be fixed or improved. If creative ideas could solve a problem, then start-ups is the future, which could not only benefit the founders but also the society as a whole. Besides, it’s always fun to build something of your own.”
Tirthankar Paul, managing director, Cygnus Advertising is into business for over 15 years now. Born into a middle class family and living in a small town where opportunities like education, more so professional training was extremely limited unless one was exceptionally brilliant, Paul believed in learning by ‘blacking my hands’ when opportunities came. “I believe that despite the present government’s efforts to woo industries, it would take years to change perception of Bengal to the big investors. With Information Technology and service industry becoming significant employment generators, tremendous opportunities lie for millions of youth of Bengal. To me Bengalis are going to make most of that in plenty!” foresees Paul.
Ashrujit Basu an Intellectual Property Lawyer and entrepreneur, founder of licensing start-up 'ipmall, says, “Time is really changing for Bengal as parents are encouraging children to become entrepreneurs. Today I see college students selling marvellous products both online and offline and joining a ‘nine to five’ job is not much in demand anymore. People from all social sections now believe in doing things on their own.”
“The startup culture is slowly becoming a new reality in career. The youth force in the state now wants to go for adventurous initiatives and turn them into viable commercial ventures.” Basu advocates for reduction in statutory fees (e. g fee for Trade license), facilitating participation of startups in traditional trade shows which demand high joining fees, and granting small amount of low interest loans for student startups,” adds Basu.
Bengal has always nurtured individual choice, free thinking, which is the foremost necessity for fostering any innovation. With increasing participation from the people and a changing mindset, the state might soon merge on the forefront of entrepreneurial scene in the country.
What would it require to change the business scenario in states like Bengal and Kerala, ruled by communist regime for many years? Please put in your comments.