By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Can every nation build its entrepreneurial ecosystem like Silicon valley? Can your organization spawn its own version of a startup hub?
From 2010 to this year venture capitalists invested $168bn in firms in the Bay Area which accounts for almost a third of the total investments in America. Three of the world’s five most valuable companies are in the Silicon Valley: Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Facebook. They are valued at $2.5 trillion. Silicon Valley hosts 57 unicorns—private startups valued at more than $1bn—including household names like Airbnb and Uber.
Silicon Valley has its unique DNA
The Valley is just a melting pot for infrastructure, funding, diverse talent and an environment that celebrates risk takers. The presence of Stanford University is a vital element of the Valley’s DNA. The Stanford Business School’s alumni ranges from founders of some of the biggest and most innovative companies of the world, to Venture Capitalists, Leaders in Government, Media, Research and everything in between. You can find everyone from a designer to a product manager in the neighborhood.
The Mentors Are Skill Builders
But the biggest secret sauce of the Valley is the network of successful entrepreneurs who give back to the start-ups. The culture of spending time helping a startup find capital to working space has been a hallmark of the successful entrepreneurs. They teach at Stanford. They interact with students and invite academics to challenge their business models. The cafes, bars and meeting spaces are buzzing with conversations where ideas are taking shape.
The case of Shiwani
Shiwani is 20 years old and is a dreamer. She comes from a small town in the outskirts of Karnal. Her father is a carpenter and mother is a tailor. She younger sister is a diploma student and their youngest sibling is in the 4th standard in the local school. Shiwani calls herself a Medha alumni. She was like any other student studying for her Bachelors Degree in Commerce when her Professor told her about the Bootcamp on Soft Skills being run by Medha, an NGO that works towards building employability in the youth. What made her sign up for the class with Medha, I ask Shiwani.
“I was very unsure of myself and lacked the confidence to speak before others.” She answers confidently. Medha organized Placement Chaupals for the students. Shiwani now works for the Varitra Foundation and says that she owes her confidence to the time Medha volunteers spent in grooming her.
Chris Turrillo, an alumnus of Chicago Booth has been working with his friend Byomkesh to expand the footprint of Medha. In January 2011 they moved to Lucknow. They boast of 8000 alumni who now work with almost 500 employers. Their team of 80 works with students from almost 60 educational systems.
Three Stage Model
Medha works in the first stage to build the self-confidence of students. This is done by helping them build their sift skills like public speaking, working in teams, negotiating and influencing others. These are all vital skills that every employer looks for. The next phase is where Medha builds the digital literacy among the students. In the final stage, the Medha volunteers coach the students on how to appear for job interviews, how to write a resume and also help them find internships.
They run a program called Rubaru (meaning face-to-face) in which they take 25-30 students to cities like Agra, Delhi, and Mumbai to meet potential employers. In the trips to Delhi the students met hiring managers from Microsoft. In the Mumbai trip, the students met senior executives of Unilever and BankAm.
I am running a fundraiser for Medha to make it possible for 20 girls like Shiwani to get opportunities to meet employers. Here is the link <click this>
What are the soft skills that employers value? <read this>
The ATM Example
Technology is creating new business models. It is also creating opportunities for jobs which stress working and collaborating in teams, being able to build networks to get things done. And the creativity to reinvent oneself time and time again.
People often quote the ATM example to say that when ATMs came up, the number of tellers employed by banks increased. From 1970 to 2010, the number of bank tellers in the U.S. increased from a little under 300,000 to around 600,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers cited by the public policy think tank American Enterprise Institute. The conclusion being pushed is that we do not need to worry, there will be plenty of job opportunities even as robots take away so many jobs. This is a dangerous myth to fall for.
The reality is that JPMorgan Chase, which boasts a network of more than 16,300 ATMs and 5,300 branches across the country, saw its teller transactions decline 25% between 2014 and 2016. Customers used ATMs for 90% of withdrawals and 60% of deposits, though they still exclusively cashed checks with tellers.
When self-driving cars become mainstream, they will take away the jobs of drivers (for the most part) and will create jobs for designers, expert coders, creative artists etc. All these jobs will need people with deep skills. They will need domain experts, people with deep digital skills and plenty of soft skills. Without that the demographic dividend will be a time bomb.
What Medha is doing needs to be replicated at scale. We need to see more Shiwanis who inspire others to chase their dreams.