Lest we forget, there have been earlier periods of great entrepreneurial activity in human history. In that sense, the excitement in all things entrepreneurship that we are witnessing now in the early 21st century is not entirely new. The human race has been there, done that!
However, there are three elements associated with todays era of entrepreneurship that make it quite distinctive:
Daring to dream and build: while entrepreneurs in every era share that special quality of dreaming big and working hard to make it happen, there has arguably never been a better time (yet) to be an entrepre neur. The successes of companies that fuse needed services with vanguard technology platforms are a daily inspiration to all. India alone has spawned remarkable successes such as Flipkart, Paytm, Ola, Oyo, Makemytrip to name a few.
The world is ablaze with new challenges and new technologies to solve them. Barriers to entry and the finances needed to build prototypes are at historical lows thanks to ubiquitous knowledge sharing, packaged solutions and platforms as a service. We have tree-free paper, meat from plants, energy from air, precision medicine and its barely the beginning of remarkable changes we can anticipate in the years ahead.
Encouraging entrepreneurship: for us, as a nation, entrepreneurship is clearly in the air. We are witnessing remarkable investments being made and support provided to aspiring entrepreneurs by the Centre and Niti Aayog, all state governments, educational institutions (even schools) as well as growing numbers of angels, venture investors, crowdfunding channels and a variety of financial players.
Incubators and accelerators are being launched, even in smaller cities, and co-working spaces along the global model are popping up in major centres. This exciting form of institutionalised collaboration among key stakeholders to willfully create an entrepreneurship ecosystem at scale is both new and welcome. A surge in the sheer number of entrepreneurs and the range of startups across sectors can rightfully be expected.
Entrepreneurialism: the third descriptor is in some ways the largest and most influential source of differentiation. This is the subtler but much larger idea of the value being placed today on inculcating entrepreneurialism - "the spirit or state of acting in an entrepreneurial manner". This need for entrepreneurial thinking and leadership is strong in all sectors of the economy from corporations, multinationals, NGOs and even the government.
Everyone is looking for graduates who can work in a deeply interconnected world and can cope with rapid change in a volatile business environment in which seemingly distant global events affect company strategies and policies. This requires analytical and cognitive capabilities of a new order as well as deep action learning to prepare them for decision making under uncertainty. All these skills map perfectly with leading like an entrepreneur and are increasing the importance accorded to such experience.
Facing an onslaught of disruption led by previously unimagined, radical new technologies - artificial intelligence and virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, UAVs, sensors and Internet of Things driven by cloud computing, mobility, machine learning, predictive analytics - industry after industry has changed irreversibly.
In an analogous fashion, entire industry sectors need to become future ready. Today, it is all about business platforms which are a combination of technology, information and service assets and collaborative ecosystems as another layer of complexity beyond strategic physical assets and efficient supply chains.
As a consequence, business schools are laying great emphasis on integrating entrepreneurship into both BBA and MBA programmes. Systematic training to equip students and the opportunity to engage in the entire entrepreneurship cycle, from ideation to commercialisation while still in school, is the big trend in management education in India today.
This is the beginning of a trend to inculcate innovativeness and entrepreneurial thinking across a wide swathe of students and career paths.
This broad embrace and active support of entrepreneurialism can potentially become the biggest benefit of this exciting era of entrepreneurship. What is new is that entrepreneurs of today can not only "dare to dream" but they can also "dare to prepare" for success in both their ventures and life.
(The writer is Director of School of Extended Education and Professional Development (SEEPD) and School of Management and Entrepreneurship (SME) at Shiv Nadar University)