In terms of expectations from the current administration and the growing Indian economy, livelihood creation for the youth remains among the top three concerns. The buzzword, unsurprisingly, has been entrepreneurship. Several programmes of the government now focus on providing anyone with the ability to innovate and scale their ideas, an opportunity to do so. Initiatives such as ‘Start-up India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Invest India’, all focus in some way or the other on job-creation.
Woven into these efforts are also incentives to invite not just investment from the Indian diaspora but also their skills and transfer of technology. Responding to these incentives and a rapidly growing aspirational Indian market, there has a discernible trend of Indian origin youth from all over the world coming back to either set up for-profit businesses or social enterprises.
It then becomes imperative to ask whether this is a significant trend or a response to occurrences such as tough visa systems in destination countries or slowing down of the global economy? In other words, are Indians coming back with their technical know-how and moolah because they are left with fewer options or if this a conscious choice? Are they responding to the markets they can exploit and the opportunities that the Indian economy provides? And how easy or difficult has it been for them? Research has shown that in order to make full use of the benefits of these returning entrepreneurs, we need policies that encourage this return and ensure integration into our markets.
While data on return migration are sparse and difficult to access, thereby making analysis difficult, FICCI in association with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has carried out a pan-India research project over the period of one year to understand the incentives and challenges for returnee entrepreneurs in India. By comparing the challenges faced by returnee entrepreneurs to those faced by local entrepreneurs, the project also aimed to understand if navigating the entrepreneurship ecosystem is more challenging if one is in some ways an ‘outsider’.
The results have been revealing. While attempts towards digitization are being appreciated across the board, the implementation of the ‘ease of doing business’ at the local level remains challenging. There continues to be some ambiguity in governing rules and regulations in local bodies and institutions that serve as the first point of contact for many of these entrepreneurs. A strong need for creation of processes along with capacity building at the local level has been expressed by many. Skill development efforts are also needed at different levels especially for the mid-level managers as well as those described as ‘semi-skilled’.
A lot of high-skilled entrepreneurs with specialized degrees come back to India and find they have the ‘first-mover advantage’ benefiting the Indian economy and society in the process. However, many have also failed and made the choice to go back as there continue to be barriers in setting up shop in India. While much progress has been made in terms of making India more attractive and indeed friendlier to entrepreneurs, much more is left to be done especially at the local levels.