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random explorations of entrepreneurship & business

So long, farewell to you and you and you...

Posted by: Krishna Kumar in On the Website

Tagged in: Untagged 

This is  my last post on this blog. It is time for me to move on.

You will any day now be holding the 32nd issue of DARE in your hands. It took more than a year of work for us to get the first issue out. So, in total, that is almost 45 months for me with the concept of a platform for encouraging and showcasing entrepreneurship. That is a long time for me to be associated with any single project. In short, it is time for me to move on, to other challenges.
I will continue to be associated with the area of entrepreneurship, starting off a new business within CyberMedia of consultancy around entrepreneurship. Immediately on my agenda is a long-term project of working with several business incubators in the country, to improve their performance and output. I will also be indulging in my other passion - online technology and communities; leading the rollout of a new generation web platform for CyberMedia's web properties.

The last 45 months have been quite eventful by any standards. We saw the global economy at the pinnacle, and we witnessed the steep fall and are now watching the resurgence of a new dawn. We saw entrepreneurship go from being a fringe topic to becoming mainstream in almost every discussion. And we saw India taking centre stage amongst the comity of nations in more issues than one. I have enjoyed every minute of this topsy-turvy journey and have enjoyed the conversations I have had with each one of you in person, through these pages, at my blog and on social networks.

I do hope that this journey together was as interesting and fruitful to you as it was to me. I will cherish the friendship and close association I built with many amongst you and will look forward to continuing them even as our roles in life change. I will continue to be available on Twitter and LinkedIn amongst other places under my usual handle - kkumarkg.

Till we meet again...

Every time there is an India - Pakistan standoff, my mind goes back to that evening in Dubai.

This was many years back, much before 9/11 and 26/11. I was on a visit to Dubai and and my return flight was at midnight. Having finished the mandatory sight seeing and having checked out of my hotel room, I sat down on a road side bench to watch the Dubai traffic whizz by.

Some time passed and the Sun was beginning to set, when I heard some one ask me in Hindi - "Are you ok?" Turning around, I saw a complete stranger, who I thought was an Indian, looking concernedly at me. "Oh! I am fine" I said, clearly not wanting to talk to a stranger... "You are looking tired. Did you come for a job interview? Did you not get the job? Do you need any help"? The sincerity and concern in his voice made me pay attention this time. "I came for a meeting and now I am killing time, as my flight is much later", I opened up.

"I have been watching you for a while and was concerned. So, I waited to get off duty to talk to you" he confessed. Turns out that he was a delivery boy at the Subway in front of which I was sitting.  "Where in India are you from"?, I asked, warming up to him. "I am from Pakistan" came the matter of fact reply. Sensing the confusion in my eyes, he went on to explain - "Out here, everyone sees Indians and Pakistanis as one. And we also tend to be together and to look out for each other. Its only when India and Pakistan are playing cricket that we are on opposite sides. Otherwise we are one, We share our joys and sorrows".

"Out here", he said, "we look out for each other, because no one else will".

And there we sat for a few minutes, before he went his way and I mine, silently enjoying each others company, and the warmth of belonging.  

As we went our different ways, neither asked the other for a name. We did not need to. On that roadside, both of us shared a kinship which cannot be described. The warm feeling that comes from knowing that there was some one in this far away land who cares for you just cannot be described.

Back home we would most likely be baying for each others blood. But on that foreign land, he was all concern for my troubles, going out of his way to reach out and help. A Pakistani reaching out to help, only because I was an Indian!

So, every time there is an India-Pakistan stand off, my mind goes back to that evening and the roadside garden seat in far away Dubai; I see a concerned Pakistani stranger enquiring about an Indian's well being. I remember his words that day, that Indians and Pakistanis look out for each other in foreign lands, because no one else will. And every time, I wish that it were true, not just in foreign lands alone.

I know that it is too early, but I dream that that day will come.

And till then, in foreign lands, we Indians and Pakistanis will always be looking out for each other, we will be there for each other, as kin and brothers do, because no one else will.

How many entrepreneurs are there in India?

200 millions. 

How come?

Strangely that is a question that has not exercised many brains. I asked this question recently to a lot of people, and the answers I got ranged from well thought out answers like fifty thousand all the way to the adventurous one crore (10 millions). Lots of Googling, Binging and Yahooing later, I still did not have a fix on how many entrepreneurs there are in this vast country of ours.

So, this is an attempt to estimate that number. In the absence of any previous estimates, this is at best a wild guess. So, I will explain my derivation in detail. Any alternate views you have is more than welcome and will help fine tune my guess.

First a definition. Who is an entrepreneur? For the purposes of this estimate, we will define an entrepreneur as anyone who at any point in his or her life has started or owned a business. And an assumption. One entrepreneur can start more than one business and one business can be started by more than one entrepreneur coming together. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume that both of these negate each other out. 

About the only official figure we have is the MSME (ministry for micro, small and medium enterprises) statement first made sometime in 2007 that there are 13 million registered msme's in the country.

My feel is that for every small and micro business that has registered with the government, there are atleast 15 that have not registered. These include businesses running in small villages, your local vegetable vendor, the local taxi business owner and so on. So the total number of small medium and micro entrepreneurs in the country would be (13 + 195), approximately  200 millions. (the rounding off is because of the approximations I am making)

That brings us to the big businesses. The registrar of companies could give numbers on the number of companies registered. Here, one large group typically register many companies for tax and other reasons. So, that number is not a good indicator in our case. So, I am going to make another guesstimate here. I am guessing that only 5% of all entrepreneurs own/run large businesses. That is 95% of all businesses are small medium or micro. Therefore, the number of large business entrepreneurs in the country is (200/95x 5) = 10 millions, slightly lower than the number of registered msme's.

Adding up all these, my estimate of the total number of entrepreneurs in India is in the range of 2o0 millions. Out of a population of 1.2 billions, this is 18 % of the population. Not too bad, but not too good either. 25% would have been more like it, given that the bulk of the 18% are one man shows.


One of my meetings recently was with a young lady, who had just graduated from the arts stream of one of Delhi's premier colleges. And amongst the many things we discussed was of course the chances that graduates from her class would choose the path of entrepreneurship.

What are your classmates likely to do in life, I asked. The answer was something of a surprise -according to this young lady, her peers would end up in one of three choices - modeling, masters or marriage. 

Data shows that less than 20 % of entrepreneurs in this country are women. A number of reasons - cultural, historical and genetic have been touted for this small number.

If what I heard that day is true for most colleges around the country, then thsi ratio is not going to change significantly any time soon.

Further, many businesses started by women tend to be small and based out of home.

Gita Dang puts down the lack of business networking and peer support mechanisms as among the key reasons why many businesses started by women do not scale. And empirical evidence seems to validate the networking part of this, with most social networks like Twitter and facebook  having more female members than male!

Perhaps, there is a need for a social network exclusively for women to help build up woman entrepreneurship in this country


This year, some where close to six million paid visitors will visit that monument of love, the Taj Mahal. About a kilometer away from the entrance to the Taj, they will queue up for their entry tickets. Entry to the Taj costs Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs. 750 for foreigners and you get a fairly good entry ticket, one of the best for a monument in India.

Now, the entry fee is not a single item. Out of the twenty rupees, 10 goes to the Archeological Survey of India  (ASI) and 10 is toll by the Agra municipality. Similarly, out of the 750 paid by foreigners, 250 goes to the ASI and 500 goes to the municipality (which gives them a bottle of mineral water and a pair of shoe covers for free). And the beautifully printed Entry ticket for the Taj mahal is very much like a picture post card ( and that is what gave me this idea).

The idea is like this. Convert that entry ticket into a picture post card and set up a special Taj Mahal post office with its own stamp and cancellation seal that is not available elsewhere.

The reverse of the ticket becomes the place to write the address and a message. It will also carry the special Taj Mahal stamp which is available no where else.

Once you enter the Taj and the stub from the ticket has been torn off, the rest of it becomes the post card, a memento that is posted from within the Taj complex to a near one - an incredible reminder of a visit to the monument of love!

The post office could place letter boxes colour coded by destination just inside the entrance gates of the Taj where visitors could deposit these postcards. Think of it, a special letter posted from within the Taj complex  itself to tell someone about your visit to the monument!

Now, the Postal department should do a deal similar to what the Agra Municipality has done and add a charge of Rs 10 per domestic ticket and Rs 100 per international ticket for collecting and delivering this mail.

So, for 6 million paying visitors, out of which 20 % are foreigners, the postal department could net a cool Rs 168 million (Rs. 16.8 crores) every year! And for all you know, people may end up buying extra post cards (at Rs 10 and Rs 100 respectively) as they may want to send more post cards from within the Taj!

Of course the postal department would have to treat these as priority mail and ensure that they are delivered. After all, they will be charging better than premium rates for this service.

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