A recent survey by ManpowerGroup Employment painted a rather bleak picture of the job market for the July-September quarter of this year. The survey, which covered 695 employers across the country, showed that the outlook was at its weakest in the survey’s 15-year history. It also pointed to an interesting trend — maximum hiring was recorded among medium-sized organisations, followed by large- and small-sized firms.
This is interesting as the spotlight has largely been on India’s entrepreneurial journey, self-employment and fast growth start-ups. Surprisingly, the SME sector, which according to government figures, is likely to contribute to 50 percent of the country’s GDP in the next five years and provide jobs to 15 crore people, has largely been ignored.
Additionally, the ‘Missing Middle’ or Mass Entrepreneurship (ME) sector, which lies between the necessity-driven self-employed sector and the fast-growth startup sector, has been helping generate stable incomes, serving local demand, and has a clear growth vision.
To shed light on this ignored space, The Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME) was founded in August 2018 by Ravi Venkatesan, Madan Padaki and Mekin Maheshwari to unlock ME’s potential and mobilise the ecosystem and solve systemic challenges. Since its inception, GAME’s place-based initiatives have provided an avenue for key stakeholders and functions to collaborate to support local entrepreneurship ecosystems. As part of this initiative, GAME is initiating two place-based initiatives in Ludhiana and Bengaluru.
Laying the foundation
GAME’s place-based initiatives provide a systematic way to run a pilot in a single location, test its impact and identify what can be replicated in other parts of the country. The first initiative, in Ludhiana (Punjab), has been designed and has been inspired by Daniel Isenberg’s Scale Up® Master Program for Economic Growth . This approach takes a pilot location and focuses on demonstrating quick growth among enterprises, creating early role models, building engagement and ownership among local stakeholders, and ultimately enhancing local capacity to continue scaling up the program within the pilot location. As indicated by Daniel Isenberg, an entrepreneurial ecosystem comprises of components fit into six functions:
- A conducive culture (e.g. tolerance of risk and mistakes, positive social status of entrepreneur)
- Facilitating policies and leadership (e.g. ease of doing business, existence of public research institutes)
- Availability of dedicated finance (e.g. business angels, hybrid financing, micro loans)
- Relevant human capital (e.g. skilled/unskilled labour, successful entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship training programs)
- Venture-friendly markets for products (e.g. early adopters for prototypes, reference customers)
- A wide set of institutional and infrastructural supports (e.g. legal and accounting advisers, communications support, entrepreneurship promoting associations, etc.)
All programmes within the initiative have been co-designed and will be led by local stakeholders, with organisations like GAME providing strategic direction. As a result, there will be constant feedback collected from the entrepreneur to maintain focus. There will also be a special focus on building the entrepreneurship mindset among the youth and promoting Mass Entrepreneurship for women over time as part of the initiative.
Xcelerating to growth
The ‘Xcelerator Ludhiana’, a key part of the initiative, is a curated small business accelerator programme to support promising growth enterprises of Ludhiana towards increased productivity, efficiency and profitability. The program will be co-designed and led by India’s leading industry experts, past and current bureaucrats, academic institutions, veteran entrepreneurs, trade associations, experts from banks and financial institutions, representatives from the local entrepreneurship ecosystem and the Government of Punjab. It will serve as the first step to boosting ecosystem growth in the district. As part of the programme, there will be two cohorts of up to 20 firms will be taken through a quick growth journey through specific interventions over six months.
This would lead to the creation of prototypes in Ludhiana as well as provide data and facts to other entrepreneurs and other stakeholders of the potential growth across the entire ecosystem. The programme will kick off in October 2020, with the cohort launch in December this year.
The Xcelerator programme will feature:
- Launch Bootcamp: Two half-day launch sessions
- Formal sessions: Topic-specific instructional hands-on formal sessions
- Mentoring sessions: Each cohort participant to be assigned an industry mentor for business-level advice
- Peer-to-peer sessions: Sessions between businesses in the same sector/segment for learning from one another
- Expert sessions once every month (with bankers, government officials, corporates, etc.) Some topics that will be part of the formal sessions are:
- Sales, marketing and branding
- Cash flow management and financial planning
- Organisational management and professionalism in organisation
- Human capital management
- Growth planning
- Identifying new business opportunities
Nurturing mass entrepreneurship
The programme has been structured to help the leaders of selected enterprises in Ludhiana identify growth opportunities and scale to the next level. Selected participants will learn about the levers of business growth, leadership, team-building, process capability enhancement, and the self and organisation improvement skills required to grow their business.
The programme has been designed to help entrepreneurs prepare better to solve challenges such as:
- Inability to attract high-quality team members, staff and labour, who opt for larger firms
- Irregular, disturbed payment cycles from customers
- Lack of organisational professionalism
- Inability to identify new opportunities and where to find them
- Understanding labour and compliance laws
- Costs, and infrastructure such as logistics, shipping
Who can apply
To be eligible for the programme, the applicant should have been operating either one of the following:
- A profitable services business with net revenues of Rs 2-10 crore in at least one fiscal year (FY) between 2018 and 2021
- A profitable trading business with net revenues of Rs 10-50 crore in at least one FY between 2018 and 2021
- A profitable manufacturing business with net revenues of Rs 10-50 crore in at least one FY between 2018 and2021
- A profitable women-led business with net revenues of Rs 2 crore or more in at least one FY between 2018 and 2021
- The firms should be growth-oriented and working towards moving to the next level
- The firms must be registered and fully compliant; along with at least three years of annual filings
- Participant must be one of the key proprietors and decision-makers along with the participation of 1 – 2 senior staff members
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