Higher education for India’s entrepreneurial economy vision

During the past decade, start-ups have been transforming the Indian economy in myriad ways. This includes providing the nation’s youth with diverse employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The transition towards the new age economy has been underway since the new millennium, more so during the past few years. The outbreak of the pandemic has accelerated the digital shift many folds. Given the growing smartphone penetration throughout India and digital technology acting as an enabler across all sections of the economy, the start-up ecosystem has been one of the major beneficiaries.

Start-ups, Skills Training and Digital Education

Simultaneously, the steadily improving business environment and rising influx of funds from FDI and other sources has helped provide steady tailwinds for Indian start-ups. Not surprisingly, the latest Economic Survey 2021-22 revealed that the country has emerged as the world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem after the US and China. Compared to 733 start-ups in 2016-17, the Centre has recognised more than 14,000 in 2021-22, as per the Survey. Consequently, India’s total number of recognised start-ups have crossed 61,400.

The Survey also noted that in mid-January this year, the country harboured 83 unicorns commanding a total valuation of $277.77 billion. Significantly, most of the unicorns hail from the services segment, which contributes to more than half of the country’s GDP and includes education.

As the belief goes, adversity can be the best teacher. In the educational sphere, pandemic related lockdowns and restrictions have acted as a catalyst in driving exponential change and make digital education and online classes a global phenomenon almost overnight. As a result, digital education is on the fast track to being mainstreamed in most geographies globally. Moreover, Industry analysts believe many pandemic-linked changes are here to stay since their benefits are apparent.

Nonetheless, simply taking education online will not bridge the demand-supply gap in talent that has been a problem for Indian industry. Despite the nation producing the world’s largest number of graduates, the shortage of talent stands in double digits. One of the main causes of the talent mismatch is the huge disparity between college curricula and the expectations of various industries. Accordingly, the educational system needs to be revised for ensuring a greater emphasis on skills training and curricula that is aligned with the requirements of Indian industry.

Pivoting from Job-seeking Graduates to Entrepreneurs

Meanwhile, the Central Government has taken cognisance of the shortfalls in specific skills. Keeping this in mind, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recommended that artificial intelligence and other contemporary subjects be introduced at the appropriate juncture to boost students’ knowledge in these topics.

However, the academic goal of producing graduates has led to a notable difference in employers and employees. Therefore, rather than merely preparing students to take on various jobs, the Central Government has made its intentions clear of driving a more ambitious agenda – ensuring that India’s youth transition from being jobseekers to becoming employment providers.

Whereas the Honourable Prime Minister has made this vision clear earlier, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union Minister of Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, reiterated this vision during a public address at an Education summit. The Minister mentioned that the nation’s vocational and skilling system should be made aspirational. With India’s 530 million youth representing its future, they need to be more knowledgeable to enhance their economic productivity and aspire to become employers for creating an entrepreneurial economy.

Keeping these aspects in mind, the Centre has been introducing various schemes to support start-ups and has even created a dedicated ministry for new businesses. Initiatives to boost start-ups and encourage entrepreneurship include SAMRIDH Scheme, Start-up India Seed Fund, Start-up Leadership Programme, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, ATAL Innovation Mission and eBiz Portal, to name a few.

Simultaneously, entrepreneurship education should be accelerated and made an integral part of the academic system to motivate the youth to explore new entrepreneurship ventures and not focus only on jobs. Worldwide, entrepreneurship is acknowledged as a way of boosting economic growth. Here, unlike other countries, India enjoys the advantage of its demographic dividend. While 51% of the population is under 25 years, 62% fall between the working age group of 15 and 59 years.

Fortunately, NEP 2020 provides some support to entrepreneurship education since it has options for multi-disciplinary education, reimagining vocational training, faculty development and more. To foster and augment an entrepreneurial ecosystem, avenues for entrepreneurship education are vital. In addition, various initiatives such as Skill India, Start-up India and Make in India are all capable of driving an entrepreneurial wave.

In themselves, though, these initiatives may fall short in meeting the ultimate goal of making India a hub of global entrepreneurial activities. To make this vision a reality, diverse initiatives across the country – be it academic, public or private – all need to work in unison for the common cause of creating a pan-India entrepreneurial ecosystem.

By promoting relevant entrepreneurship curricula in schools and colleges, a new age of tech-savvy entrepreneurs can be nurtured. These youth will then be relatively more future-ready and willing to take calibrated risks while being better prepared for the world of innovations and disruptions.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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