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Mentorship is important, but not the only prerequisite for startup success: Suresh Prabhu

Libza Mannan
17th May 2018
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In a Facebook live session with the startup community, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu addressed entrepreneurs' queries and concerns, and spoke on mentorship, regulations, profitability and women entrepreneurship.

As India’s startup ecosystem sees billionaire entrepreneurs and unicorns, the focus on starting up is growing at an accelerated pace. However, this is easier said than done as there still are tight regulations, and crucial issues demanding attention from the ecosystem to flourish further.

Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu took to Facebook on Wednesday to address entrepreneurs' concerns through the hashtag #AskPrabhu. The minister also highlighted the support that they can seek from Startup India.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu

He kickstarted the session by congratulating all entrepreneurs, and emphasising that the government and startup community should work together to redefine India’s economy. “We are very excited that we are getting into a new phase of economic development in which ideas and innovation will drive the Indian economy and who will make it happen, it’s you – the startup community,” he said.

Mentoring is often deemed as a significant driver when it comes to startup growth and success. While responding to a query on mentorship, Suresh Prabhu said that finding a good mentor is more important than just seeking mentorship. He added that entrepreneurs need more self-confidence to build and scale their startup, rather than just mentoring, and reiterated that mentoring is important but is not the only pre-requisite for startups to succeed.

While speaking of the problems that entrepreneurs face while starting up, he said that “everybody faces problems, but how you deal with the problems is key.” He highlighted three key issues that aspiring entrepreneurs often face – the idea of starting up, converting an idea into a business solution, and then taking it through several hurdles like regulations, talent, and others.

The commerce minister also elaborated on the mental block that exists in terms of starting up or doing business. He stressed there is a social stigma around the risk-taking ability of doing a business, and that needs to be changed. But how will that happen? Suresh Prabhu is confident that successful businessmen and billionaire entrepreneurs would become role models and change this mindset.

“Mindset change is very important. Earlier, people used to think I have taken a lot of risk, and I don’t want my son to take that much risk and suffer by doing a business. The scenario will change by creating real-life heroes. I am sure people will soon realise that business is good, it’s a matter of time,” he said.

Suresh Prabhu also touched upon other key issues – tax exemption and regulations - for startups. He highlighted the tax holiday provisions which allows startups with revenues less than Rs 25 crore a year, and incorporated between April 1, 2016, and April 1, 2021, to claim tax deductions for three consecutive assessment years out of seven years. The minister also urged entrepreneurs to visit Startup India hub for more details and regular updates about the ecosystem.

Talking about regulations, Suresh Prabhu explained that regulations are framed based on working of the market and the prevalent system. However, he added that a startup is a breakaway from the old system and therefore regulations must change with changing times.

He also responded to queries on fund of fund schemes, and agro-based export start-ups, and assured that the government is exploring avenues to enhance the mobility of perishable goods. Talking about spreading awareness about the startup ecosystem, the commerce minister said that the government is organising several initiatives to create more awareness including Startup Yatra. He believes that creating awareness through participation is important, and the first Facebook live startup session was also an effort in this direction.

Shedding light on the importance of women entrepreneurship, Suresh Prabhu said there is a lack of active participation of women entrepreneurs in the ecosystem, and assured that the government is working on initiatives to boost women startups.

Before signing off, Suresh Prabhu said, “One can’t weigh business ethics over profitability and vice versa.” While responding to a query on ‘business ethics versus profitability’, the minister said entrepreneurs need to balance both, and one cannot exist without the other.

The minister said he is a strong believer in the power of social media. In his previous Facebook live session, Suresh Prabhu had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had wanted him to make sure the new startup wave gathers steam, and that entrepreneurs daring to think differently have “the power of the state behind them.”

Pratyush Prabhakar, who works at the commerce ministry said it is focusing on increasing interactions with startups, and the minister is open to meeting as many startups as possible.

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