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Grooming First-Generation Entrepreneurs in Northeast

The North East Entrepreneurship Development Programme (NEEDP) launched by the North Eastern Council (NEC) is a laudable initiative of grooming entrepreneurs in the region on a big scale.

Grooming First-Generation Entrepreneurs in Northeast

Sentinel Digital Desk

The notion that entrepreneurs are made, not born, implies that entrepreneurship development programmes can play a crucial role in strengthening existing entrepreneurship and motivating more people to turn their ideas into thriving businesses. The North East Entrepreneurship Development Programme (NEEDP) launched by the North Eastern Council (NEC) is a laudable initiative of grooming entrepreneurs in the region on a big scale. A boost to connectivity and infrastructure in the region has created new opportunities for entrepreneurship, but mobilizing the required finance remains a key challenge for entrepreneurs. The programme seeks to identify and empower 270 promising entrepreneurs from all states in the region with well-laid incubation and pre-incubation programmes. The number is significant and successful implementation of the programme will create new hopes for first-generation entrepreneurs in the region. The NEC's collaboration with B-School Incubator IIM Calcutta Innovation Park is expected to create the required ecosystem for zeroing on the best entrepreneurship or start-up ideas for grooming during pre-incubation. NEC says that the Pre-Incubation programme aims at grooming 150 idea/prototype stage startups towards enabling them to structure an initial business plan with all the key components of a viable and sustainable venture. The provision for a prototype grant of Rs 1 lakh each, with an additional Rs 4 lakh for top 25 performers by the end of the pre-incubation programme, is laudable but facilitates other participants who fail to make it to the top 25 for hassle-free access to funding will be critical to help them stay motivated to take risks for implementing their business ideas. The programme is aimed at consolidating the startups' knowledge of the business nuances towards helping 120 startups have proof that their products or concepts will fulfil customers' requirements or early revenue commercialize/scale up their ventures. There is a provision for awarding these startups Rs 3 lakh each as a commercialization grant, with an additional Rs 7 lakh for the top 20 performers at the end of the incubation programme which will be an added attraction. Lessons learnt from previous entrepreneurship development programmes tailor-made for the northeast region can be useful identify the key challenges in scaling up small business success to become a thriving business and cater to a larger market. The credit-deposit ratio of scheduled commercial banks in the Northeast being much below the stipulated benchmark of 60% fixed by the Reserve Bank of India is a key reason for the slow pace of entrepreneurship development in the region due to poor access of the first-generation entrepreneurs to the formal credit market. While access to funds is critical for a first-generation entrepreneur for scaling up the business, identifying the market and actual requirements of customers is often not easy and involves the risk of failure not once but multiple times. The States' Startup Ranking 2021 report released by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade shows an improvement of Assam's rank from the category of "Emerging Startup Ecosystems" in 2019 to a "Leaders" category state is a pointer to entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem taking shape in the state. A positive mindset for first-generation entrepreneurs is essential to take advantage of the improved ecosystem. The report also highlights the improvement in Startup improvement in other states in the region which will be an added advantage for the NEC to make NEEDP a successful initiative. Northeast had 98% international boundaries informing the youth of the region about the potential markets of their products and services in neighbouring countries as well as countries far away can ignite their dreams to scale up the business. Imparting training on financial literacy, various relevant trade and commerce laws, export-import facilitation and regulations will go a long way in creating a positive mindset and raise confidence for the expansion of their business. Identifying an untapped niche market is the first step of a successful entrepreneurial venture for an innovative business idea to become a successful business. Leveraging digital technology can help young entrepreneurs better understand the business value chain of the niche markets and also easily connect to their potential customers to know about their requirements. For home-based entrepreneurs, digital business platforms have created an enabling environment for easily reaching out to customers and transacting the entire business in the case of digital products. With 47% of startups in India being headed by women, the NEEDP brings huge opportunities for women entrepreneurs to take advantage of the programme and shoulder equal responsibility for creating employment avenues for the youth of the region. Many women entrepreneurs of the region have already scripted success stories as first-generation entrepreneurs and it is hoped that the NEC initiative will help groom more such women to come up with innovative business ideas. Banks and other financial institutions, various government departments, and trade and commerce bodies in the region extending a helping hand to the first-generation entrepreneurs are essential to make the entrepreneurship development programmes successful.

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