Young & Made in Kerala
The ubiquitous Malayalee has been the target of many humorous anecdotes. But the joke about Neil Armstrong bumping into a Malayalee on the moon, and the tale about drinking tea in a Malayalee- run tea shop in Africa do have an underlying darkness. Implicit in them was the fact that the hardworking Malayalee was unable to find a suitable outlet for his creative and entrepreneurial talent in his own land.
Winds of Entrepreneurship: Today, fresh winds are blowing across Kerala. There is a wave of entrepreneurship sweeping through the state, encouraged by the government and its industrial & investment agencies like Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation. The ‘Gulf’ option may still be attractive, but there is a new generation of young Keralites who are keen to tap the many opportunities that the state has to offer.
Kerala was never been seen as a land where the entrepreneurial spirit burned bright. However, in their book, India’s Tryst With Destiny: Debunking Myths that Undermine Progress and Addressing New Challenges, well known economists, Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya point out that Kerala has never lacked the entrepreneurial spirit. After all, it was Kerala that had forged strong trading ties with the Arabs and the western world. Perhaps, what we are witnessing among the youth is the revival of that ancient entrepreneurial spirit!
The determination of the young and tech-savvy Keralite to chart his own destiny has been encouraged and backed by the government. Incubation centres, StartUp Village, technology innovation zones, public/private participation – these have now become buzz words among Kerala’s youth. The impetus has been a slew of youth-friendly entrepreneurial policies announced by the state. For example, the government recently announced that students undertaking entrepreneurial activities in government approved incubators would get 20 percent attendance and four percent grace marks in their exam. This decision won universal acclaim and appreciation. Industry leaders like Sharad Sharma, ex-Yahoo India R&D CEO, have been quoted as saying that Kerala’s bottoms-up model would have multiplier effects across the country.
Broad-Based Entrepreneurial Base: Kerala is not just focusing on high technology entrepreneurship. There are also attempts to tap the vast potential of agri-business in the state and to create more business and self-employment in the rural sector. The government’s Kerala State Self Entrepreneur Development Mission is a step in this direction. Ten educated unemployed youngsters in each panchayat across the state will be provided entrepreneurial training and soft loans of up to Rs 20 lakh to start an enterprise. The target is to create 50,000 entrepreneurs in a time frame of four years.
The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Kerala’s attempt to nurture a new generation of job creators includes developing a vibrant ecosystem. For example, the government is providing built-up space of one lakh square feet in the Startup Village. The common infrastructure facilities give innovators and technology geeks the backup to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Organisations like KSIDC provide much needed finance for start ups. The government has also committed to an initial investment of Rs 100 crore for the public-private model Technology Innovation Zone to be set up in about 10 acres of land in Kochi. The Zone will house incubators in areas like data analytics, animation and gaming, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
Two decades back, the Kerala dream was a job in the Middle East. But today the focus has shifted. Today, the young in Kerala ideates and creates to become a job provider!