Inside one of the youngest nations in the world, why it is time for youth entrepreneurship to take center stage?


Tilak Mehta was only 13 when he took the entrepreneurial plunge of starting Papers N Parcels. The intra-city courier service company guaranteed single-day delivery of small parcels within Mumbai. What’s more, he partnered with the city’s dabbawalas to build a strong operational and execution model. Hailed among the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Tilak is an inspiration to many. In 2018, the venture provided employment to 180 people in addition to providing work for 300 dabbawalas.

Today, OYO Hotels & Homes, the Indian multinational hospitality chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces, is among the biggest disruptors in the hospitality industry. Counted among the youngest billionaires, Ritesh Agarwal, the founder and CEO of the hospitality unicorn, was yet to turn 20 when he started the company in 2013. OYO currently has over 10,000 employees globally, of which majority are in India.

There are countless stories of young entrepreneurs who have defied the norms of age, ability, and success. The ventures founded by these young entrepreneurs have not only grown to become successful businesses with strong revenue streams addressing market gaps, but have also provided employment to hundreds and thousands of people.

Youth entrepreneurship: The need to become mainstream

While entrepreneurship gives young people the ability to work on their skills, interest, and passion, youth entrepreneurship gains an even bigger significance in the Indian context given its ability to contribute actively to economic development. With the average age of 29 years, India is today among the world’s youngest countries. This demographic potential and their inherent entrepreneurial talent translate into an opportunity to address economic and social inequities and thereby drive development and growth.

“In the next 10 years, India will see at least 100 to 120 million youth entering the workforce. The formal sector is poised to absorb just about 10 to 15 percent of that large workforce. The pertinent question is what happens to the rest,” shares Madan Padaki, Co-founder, Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME). As a multi-stakeholder alliance of policymakers, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, foundations, businesses and non-profits, GAME is working towards empowering youth, catalysing creation and supporting 10 million mass entrepreneurs by 2030 enabling 50 million jobs.

Being part of an organisation that has been actively working towards catalysing large-scale job creation, Madan is vocal about the need to promote youth entrepreneurship at scale to address the challenge at hand. He shares, “One of the solutions that we could look at is supporting the growth of 8-10 million youth to take the entrepreneurial plunge in their own cities and districts. These youth entrepreneurs could create employment opportunities for at least 5-10 people each.”

Not surprisingly, the promise of entrepreneurship, especially among young people, as a source of job creation, social empowerment and growth stimulator has drawn attention from the government, industry and civil society organisations. The government instituting a dedicated ministry - Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship to promote the potential of the youth - is perhaps the most significant and biggest testimony to the relevance of youth entrepreneurship for India. Initiatives such as Make in India, Mudra Yojana, Atal Innovation Mission, Startup India, growing number of corporate accelerators and incubators, launch of skill development programmes and institutes by government and industry, numerous policy interventions in the last decade are a clear reflection of the efforts in the direction.

Driving multi stakeholder and collaborative effort

In spite of these plethora of initiatives, Madan says, “Entrepreneurship and especially youth entrepreneurship is a complex adaptive system. In order for youth entrepreneurship to make a tangible difference, it is critical for all stakeholders to learn from each other and collaborate.”

So far, a common platform that brings different stakeholders together has been a white space; inhibiting the growth of youth entrepreneurship at scale. “For youth entrepreneurship to achieve economies of scale, we need to nurture entrepreneurial mindset, map career pathways based on skills, passion and opportunities, design structured internship models with local entrepreneurs, enable access to bank financing, structured mentoring programs, among others. This can happen only when there is a collaborative, structured and consistent effort,” shares Madan.

And, to connect the dots to promote entrepreneurship and enable the ecosystem to work collaboratively, GAME in partnership with YuWaah Youth Entrepreneurship Task Force is organizing a national-level virtual convening on August 21, 2021. YuWaah (Generation Unlimited/GenU) is a UNICEF-initiated multi-stakeholder global platform that aims to prepare young people to transition from education and learning to productive work and active citizenship.

Wadhwani Foundation and TiE Bangalore are the other partners actively driving this convening along with GAME.

Coinciding with the occasion of World Entrepreneurship Day, the convening led by these organisations working in the areas of entrepreneurship and youth will bring together ecosystem actors and create a space for sharing knowledge and exploring collaborative avenues. The event will see four high-intensity panel discussions around the areas of national level strategy and policy to promote youth entrepreneurship, whitespaces and challenges in the area and the need to innovate, how to enable collaboration, among others. The event will also see youth entrepreneurs sharing their aspirations and the challenges they face on ground.

Some of the Speakers:

1. Mr. Pratap Raju, Founding Partner Climate Collective

2. Mr. Anjani Bansal, Private Sector Lead, BMGFBill & Melinda Gates Foundation

3. Mr. Harpreet Sudan (-IAS), Director, Employment Generation, Skill Development and Training, Govt. of Punjab

4. Mr. Dipan Sahu Asst. Innovation Director at the Ministry of Education's Innovation Cell, & AICTE

5. Mr. Baskar Reddy, Executive Director Syngenta Foundation

The event will also see the launch of the YE Alliance, which aims to bring relevant ecosystem stakeholders in the sector together and work collaboratively in co-creating scalable and replicable models in the field of Youth Entrepreneurship.

Register here to be part of Powering Yuvoudhyamis - a national level virtual convening on August 21, 2021 | 10 am - 1:30 pm|


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