The Indian economy is thriving despite umpteen challenges. It is among the fastest growing economies in the world and has already become the sixth largest economy. The picture may not be very rosy in rural areas. But in urban metros, there is a startup phenomenon that is booming and blossoming.
Twenty something boys and girls from country’s top tech and business colleges are coming out with new concepts, finding angel investors, taking the concept to its logical conclusion of final products and making their millions and billions.
This is something that is changing the entire business landscape in the country. To make it big in life, making money and prospering, taking not just the families of the startup brains along, but also many people who get jobs in such startups is no longer a dream. Thousands and thousands of boys and girls are doing it, making money, succeeding and launching more startups.
The best thing is that these young entrepreneurs don’t need to come from a business family with a hundred or two hundred years of business background. You just need to have a good idea and tech support to take the idea along.
We are seeing young and bright minds make this happen. While Uber, the car pooling aggregator may be the biggest start up in the US that was launched by two young geeks, there are many others that have been conceived, planned, executed by as Indians as young as 17 or 18 years old. Such stories of success are not merely limited to Bangalore or Hyderabad. Such successful, first generation entrepreneurs are found in large numbers in Noida, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kochi, Chennai and almost everywhere in the country.
They are launching apps and other solutions impacting almost every sphere of life. Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra, Ola, PayTM and umpteen other similar startups were first a concept that got the support of investors and things fell in line pretty fast.
Now, extensive support from government organizations is available on national and state level. Start-up incubators have been set up by large organizations, state and central governments to make things easy for first generation entrepreneurs. At such start-up incubators, you come with a concept and a roadmap as to how you plan to take it forward. Here you get the infrastructure, investment, backend support and everything that an entrepreneur needs to take things forward.
While the startup culture seems to be catching up across the country, Muslims seems to have been left behind. While it will not be fair to say that Muslims have been completely excluded from it, the presence of Muslim youth has been miniscule.
Many Muslims may blame this on lack of support. Muslims in India have often blamed their deprivation on successive governments. While there is truth into it and there are apparently many cases of discriminations and denial, the community and its leadership cannot skirt the blame.
There is no denying that Muslims are socially and economically backward. This backwardness makes it all the more challenging for the youth from the community to cough up necessary resources to set up business ventures and get investment and venture support.
A recent Gallup survey says, “…growing minority of Muslim Indians are more economically disadvantaged and dissatisfied than Indians of other religious groups. Muslims are more likely than the Indian population overall to live below the poverty line, 31% compared with 26%, according to the National Council of Applied Economic Research in India. Gallup data show that the country's Muslims (51%) are less likely than Hindus (63%) or others (66%) to be satisfied with their standard of living. Similarly, Muslims (65%) are more likely than Hindus (53%) and others (51%) to say their standard of living is staying the same or getting worse”.
While this Gallup survey and other past surveys including the Sachar Committee report are largely true and indicative of the deep-rooted malaise in the society, we see many young entrepreneurs from other communities coming from very deprived or poor background making it big. PayTM founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, is among many people coming from very disadvantaged family backgrounds who have achieved massive success at a very young age. The son of a schoolteacher in UP, it was his talent and persistence that not just completely transformed him but also made him one of the foremost entrepreneurs in the country.
I haven’t come across any meaningful effort by Muslim leadership in the country working in this important field. While the so called Muslim leadership harps on the issue of Muslims deprivation in the country, it fails to even think about improving the lives of Muslim youth through such initiatives that can have long lasting impact on the community and its future.
There are a couple of Muslim success stories here, though they are very few and far between. The best-known example is iD, a ready-to-cook packaged food start-up founded in 2005 by IIM Bangalore alumnus, PC Musthafa and his associates, Shamsudeen TK, Abdul Nazer, Jafar TK and Noushad TA. iD creates idly and dosa batter in the ready-to-cook segment. Another success story is of Navaj Sharief, the founder of Ammi’s Biryani in Bangalore. Ammi’s Biryani has more than 30 outlets spread across Bangalore and Chennai.
There is also Syed Mohammed Beary, CMD, Beary’s Group. Syed Mohammed Beary launched a real estate consultancy in 1981. Within three decades, Beary’s Group has grown into a massive organization, providing solutions for everything, from design, development, construction, management, coordination to marketing and advisory services.
Jazeel Badur Ferry, Co-founder of EventifierJazeel is a young entrepreneur for whom success came very early in his career. The 20 something who holds a computer science degree from Mangalore won praise for his concept at The Startup Centre hackathon. Later he and his friends came up with the idea of Eventifier. Eventifier’s incubation at The Startup Centre hackathon helped it grow pretty fast. It was among the seven most interesting social media startups at the Web Summit, Ireland, and won funding of $5,00,000 by Accel Partners and Kae Capital.
While there are some success stories from within the community, they can be counted on fingers. A concerted effort must be made to create entrepreneurship popular among the community. Schools are the best places to teach the kids entrepreneurship and help them think beyond the normal job options.
Muslim leadership will apparently not find it suitable to waste its precious time and energy on this seemingly ‘useless’ suggestion. For them their pet projects will continue to remain important.
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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.