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Youth Entrepreneurship: The Ultimate Key To Self Reliance

Introduction:

In Jewish society, parents are considered to teach their children to become thieves if they fail to engross in a trade by the age of 13. So also in the west, a child ought to go his own way as he reaches 18 years and the parents cease their obligations (perhaps legally) towards their children as they graduate from schools. In our society, a person seldom stands on his own feet, even at the age of 30 years or after university studies. You see not only the son asking money from his father for his wife’s sandals, but you also see some couples still begging their parents to pay fees for their 5 children. Heaven knows how many such youths and families are there in our societies who still depend on their parents and/or others for their livelihood. We need food, shelter and clothes, and other secondary needs including health, education, transportation, appliances, taxes, services, entertainment, and so on. For which ‘˜I’ as an individual and ‘˜we’ as community depend mostly on others for all these needs. And we are becoming dependants and liabilities.

Whereas, depending ourselves to be self-sufficient of all these needs is called Self Reliance.

Self Reliance redefined :

The concept of Self Reliance was conceived in December, 1823, when [Ralph Waldo] Emerson was twenty and had been keeping his journal for four years, and he recorded a perception stimulated by Archimedes’ famous dictum, ‘Give me a place to stand on and I will move the earth.’ From a philosophical standpoint, a place to stand, outside the self, where we can observe with an objective eye, is a powerful fulcrum in the world of thought. The significance for Emerson of this new stance was reflected in the journal entries which followed. The journal Wide World 12 is entitled ‘A Place to Stand‘ (in the Greek) and contains the following powerful affirmation’”’Who is he that shall control me? Why may not I act & speak & think with entire freedom? What am I to the universe, or, the Universe, what is it to me? Who hath forged the chains of Wrong & Right, of Opinion and Custom? And must I wear them? Is society my anointed King? Or is there any mightier community or any man or more than man, whose slave I am?’

In his essay of Self Reliance, Emerson defined the term as ‘Having the ability and courage to listen to yourself, and act yourself, rather than letting other people, things or events decide what you should be, do or have.’

Chuck Gallozzi defined’”’It is a strong belief that you are capable of successfully dealing with challenges life throws at you, taking your guidance from yourself, rather than from other people or other things.’

In his book Freedom is not Free, Shiv Khera says Self Reliance is ‘To take charge of your own life and be in control of your destiny.’ He strongly appeals the readers to ‘Empower yourself and stop being a victim immediately, accept the responsibility to succeed.’

Simply put, Self Reliance means dependence, confidence, and trust’”on one’s own. It connotes self-sufficient, self-contentment, self-determination and sure in oneself.

This sounds contradictory to team building and social life. Nevertheless, we need to understand Self Reliance as an individual and as a nation.

Man is a social animal. However, being an individual and being a member of the group is different. The condition of each individual determines the condition of the society. Whereas the society may fail because of an individual, chances are more for the society to be successful because of a person. Therefore, the success of the individual is vital for the success of the society as a whole. One’s well-off at the cost of the other is a crime. My richness while my brothers and neighbors are in want is not success for me. Covetousness in comparison with others is a great sin. Today, the world is in great crisis because of the differences. We have class, elite groups, the haves and the have-nots. And the gap is widening day by day. Self reliance is NOT ‘at the cost of, or not in comparison with’ OTHERS. In fact, there is no ‘others’ in Self reliance.

Self reliance does not indicate only on wealth; but the integrity which is a complete and wholesome life. I was once discussing on ‘what it takes to live a comfortable life’ with one of my friends. Although we need balance diet, a cozy house, and comfortable dresses for occasions, the idea of 5 Star hotel, bungalows, fancy dresses, latest cars, etc demean Self-reliance. It is not the extravagant, imitating and borrowed lifestyle. Whatever may be the situation, the confidence of an individual; and the contentment of the nation in any set environment; is self-reliance.

Why Self Reliance? After all, why are we so restless? What is pricking you? Can’t we go on just as we have been going on? Let us see why we need to think on this not-so-comfortable topic.

80% of what we need/use come from outside:

Think about the Food you eat and drink, Cloths that covers your body from head to toe, materials you use to build your Shelter, Appliances you use daily at home, vehicles that carry you around, medicines that will save your life, equipments and gadgets that runs your office, . . . think of the things that you need in life, and rethink where they come from. They do not fall from heaven, but somebody is there somewhere, working hard so that you can eat and live.

There is 3:1 Demand’“Supply ratio:

Whereas we need three, there is only one available. And the available ones are taken by some lucky few or by goondas. Two out of every three went un-availed. While these people are fighting for availability, the price continues to go up. You see your daily Rice @ 1500/- per bag, Dal @ 70/- per kg, Potato @ 30/- and Tomato @ 50/- per kg, Local Egg @ 10/- per piece, and it is expected to go even higher. On top of it, most of the suppliers are non-locals.

90% of the youths today are jobless:

It has been estimated by the International Labor Office (ILO) that about 88.2 million young people between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed (Global, 2006). Even as President Obama is threatened by the recent cut-down in the corporate employment, we can recall back the Assam Police recruitment drive in 2004, where 14 people were recorded death during the chaos of giving out the application forms. This is the global scenario of employment, while the local scenario is even worse. @ 90% of our youths in the state find no jobs in their names.

We live depending on others today:

If the Government is kind enough to grant some schemes like the giant MGNREGS and some others, we are happy. Otherwise, we look for Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA) registration to receive from others. How many self-sustaining Organizations are here? Can’t we think of a project sponsored by our own community? Can we sponsor a developmental program or service from our own pocket?

We are becoming slaves’”slaves of others, money, power; and above all, slaves of sin. Because, we are empty, we live begging; we need but we don’t have. Living on the mercies of others is called slavery.

Lessons from the History:

One of the main causes of wars in the history of humankind, including French Revolution was the ever-growing demand of rural employment. It was the sheer press of human beings, all needing food, shelter, clothing and work to earn, in societies not well equipped to meet those demands.

It was the growing mismatch between people and resources. In the 18th Century when the population in Europe and elsewhere was doubled in every 25 years, Britain’s population increased geometrically, from 7 million to 14 million over the next quarter century, and to 28, to 56, to 112 million in a century.

During that time, there was this curious and learned English curate named Thomas Robert Malthus, who in 1798 committed his thoughts to paper in a work which has made him world-famous. In his essay, Malthus forecast ‘there would be an ever greater gap between the people’s food demands and the land’s capacity to meet them.’

There was a great panic by then thinking what will happen in the next 50 years. However, Malthus’ prediction was escaped by two main developments’”Agriculture revolution, and Industrial revolution. New invention, new manufacturing techniques, new forms of transport, and new capital proved Malthus’ prediction wrong.

Much closer to Malthus’ model, India’s population also doubled and redoubled in the 19th century. Furthermore, because the Indian State had been unable to resist Britain’s East India Company military, their subjects could do little when British machine-made textiles’”not only cheaper but of better quality than native cloth’”poured into the country, driving out traditional domestic producers in the process. (India imported a mere 1 mill yards of cotton fabrics in 1814, but the figure had risen to 51 mill yards by 1830 and to a staggering 995 million yards by 1870). The awful result, according to one calculation, was that whereas the British and Indian people had roughly similar per capita levels of industrialization at the onset of the Industrial Revolution (1750), India’s level was only one-hundredth of the United Kingdom’s by 1900.

Development and changes will not cease, and it will be more and more challenging. But it is for the people to prepare and take the challenges and stand on our own feet. We must be self reliant. Else, we are becoming more and more slaves of others. Today, Manipur as a whole, and Tribals as particular, are left far behind.

Why do we depend on others? We have learned from the history and realize that we need to stand on our own feet. But what is stopping us? It has been known to humanities for centuries, but why are we still struggling? And if other countries could prove Malthus’ prediction wrong, why is it true to us even today? What ails us from being Self-reliant? Why do we depend on others?

It is knowledge. We are in lack of knowledge. Education is the key factor. A Chinese proverb says ‘ignorance leads to the graveyard.’ Absence of education leads to foolishness, to failure, to joblessness, to poverty, to greediness and corruption, to frustration, to rebellion, to disease, to doom’”this is the chronology of the unwise. We depend on others, because we are in lack of knowledge. We may have Land, Machines, Opportunities, Infrastructure and all kinds of Resources; but if we don’t have people and the knowledge to manage them, all are useless.

We need people, people who are self reliant, who believe in themselves, who have faith and trust in oneself. And this is found in the essence of Entrepreneurship. We need enterprising people who, not only stand on their own feet, but also can help others to stand.

A country or a community remains underdeveloped not because of the lack of resources, but because of inadequacy of the supply of highly motivated manpower including entrepreneurs. This can be seen in our country itself. While some States in India are developed economically and industrially, there are several States, including ours, which are yet to develop industrially and economically. Obviously, the developed States have more entrepreneurs.

Dynamics of Youth Entrepreneurship:

George W. Bush once confessed to the US Congress, ‘I am threatened by the inadequate state of education of the youngsters today.’ As the president of the most powerful country in the world, his threat is no more the nuclear war, or the Middle East, but he is threatened by the un-productive youth who lack knowledge and so cannot stand on their own feet. On the other hand, Dr APJ Kalam, in his book Wings of Fire declares that ‘Youth is the most powerful force on the earth, above the earth and beneath the earth.’ Youths are indeed the most dynamic agent for change and development. They can build or destroy. Whether they are for positive or for negative depends on the personalities of the individual.

Youths are a significantly valid target population for development programs, as this large percentage, over 1.8 billion worldwide (Global, 2006), has strong potential to effect change in communities worldwide. Because youth comprise more than half of the global population, they present a prime target for community development programs, as there is great opportunity to change the pattern of a community by breaking the cycle of poverty at its roots.

In the developing world, an inhibiting dilemma for youth is that they often start working before they develop skills valuable to their employers, trapping them in a cycle of low-level employment and lack of access to additional educational opportunities. As given above by the ILO, about 88.2 million young people between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed. There are around 11.5 million students at various stages of higher education in about 415 universities and 23,675 colleges in India (AIU Annual Report, 2008). Whereas millions are passing out from these colleges and universities every year, recruiting agencies like UPSC, SSC, RRB, and other public sector departments meagerly manage to offer 30 to 35 thousand openings in a year. One of the major challenges facing Governments today is the reduction of youth unemployment. However, at this time, youth do not have the job-relevant education needed to grasp these opportunities. Typically, youth are only able to obtain jobs that are low-paid, unstable, and lacking benefits and advancement potential (Global, 2006). They are more often than not, recognized as social parasites, and liabilities to the parents and community.

Entrepreneurship and Youth :

When employment is cut down upto 60%, due to the advent of Computer & IT, and partly due to the increment of retirement age by a couple of years, Entrepreneurship comes to the rescue. It is no more a policy for the Government to provide jobs in its departments/offices. Instead, Governments offer ample opportunities and encourage taking up entrepreneurship and micro-enterprises. Whether you like it or not, entrepreneurship is becoming the ultimate alternative for employment and for survival.

Youth entrepreneurship is a fairly new yet growing field in the world of development programs. Entrepreneurship has many definitions; however, the following definition, compiled by Ulrich Schoof, is intended to embrace the wider benefits of entrepreneurship and does not limit the concept to simply starting a business.

‘Entrepreneurship is the recognition of an opportunity to create value, and the process of acting on this opportunity, whether or not it involves the formation of a new entity.’While concepts such as ‘innovation’ and ‘risk taking’ are usually associated with entrepreneurship, they are not necessary to define the term’ (Schoof, 2006). There are several key elements of importance in this definition. The first is that the young entrepreneur recognizes an opportunity to either add value to an existing process, or develop a new process that has intrinsic value.

The youth acts on this idea, making their dream a reality. The definition notes that there does not need to be a new entity created, but rather only entrepreneurial activity. This allows the definition to focus on the person as defining entrepreneurship rather than the business itself.

Additionally, when considering youth entrepreneurship, it is important to understand the various types of relevant entrepreneurship. Two are highlighted here as the most common types utilized and made available to youth. The first is economic entrepreneurship, which entails creation of enterprise for the private sector. It is characterized by wealth creation and the generation of profits. The second type is social entrepreneurship, which is increasingly common in the world of business. While it is like economic entrepreneurship in that profits are created, it is distinct because these profits are a means to an end, contributing directly to a social cause. In both the types, Youth Business International (YBI) in a survey conducted in 2008, found that 30 percent of youth between 16-30 years have the potential to become entrepreneurs.

Challenges for Youth Entrepreneurs:

Youth entrepreneurship would be virtually impossible without the existence of motivational factors for youth. There are two types of motivation affecting the occurrence of youth entrepreneurship: necessity and opportunity. For the majority of youth in developing countries, entrepreneurial activity is driven by the economic necessity to provide income for themselves and their families. Opportunity motivates individuals who have alternative options for employment, but choose to be self-employed. Youth attempting entrepreneurial activity have specific needs divergent from the general population. For example, youth do not often have collateral for a loan, making it difficult to obtain financing from an official institution. There are many barriers to youth entrepreneurship such as lack of entrepreneurial education, business support, regulatory framework conditions, social acceptance, and access to financing. With all these challenges, it demands supports from the community, especially the attention of Social leaders. Any program is not only logistics, resources, and personnel: It is also social investment. Gobeli quotes an African proverb, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child.’ This well-known expression has great meaning to youth entrepreneurship, as it reminds authorities to utilize the immense resources of the community at their fingertips. Gobeli also states that ‘communities cannot long survive if their young people fail to thrive and young people will fail without the support of their community.’ There is a mutually beneficial relationship that must exist between youth and their community. Young adults also need a variety of relationships in order to develop holistically. They need their parents, peers, community leaders, role models, inspiration and personal support. The more relationships that they are exposed to, the more opportunities a young person has to learn about quality living. ‘It is never the activity of rascals that destroys the society, but always the inactivity of the good people.’

Towards Entrepreneurship:

Becoming an entrepreneur is a real challenge. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and focus. Before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship you have to make sure you are ready. You may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Even as Entrepreneurship is comparatively a new trend for our society, many have tried; many are becoming successful while others give up before attaining success. Due to its involvement of high risk, entrepreneurship is often discouraged by many.

To become an entrepreneur you need to possess the three P’s’¦ a clear and positive Perception of yourself and your offering, Passion for what you do and the difference you can make, and Perseverance for the time it takes to build your business (which our people specially lack in). They are the essential ingredients for success. One piece of advice to becoming an entrepreneur is to never stop reading. Whatever industry you are in you need to constantly be on top of what is happening. Staying ahead of the curve is about having a massive pipeline of information, organizing it and making decisions to move faster than your competition. Your entrepreneurial instincts are fueled by information. The fact that you are reading this article is your one step towards Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs’”the fastest growing area of our economy; what makes these strange people, risk takers and wealth generators tick? Why do entrepreneurs take risks, endure pain, fatigue, and embarrassment? What makes them run? Is it money, fame, power or fun?

None of the above! Entrepreneurs might want and enjoy those rewards but what drives them and what distinguishes them from an overachieving employee or salesperson is the desire to create. That’s it. They have a passion to create and innovate. Are you an entrepreneur? Do you pass the test? Many overachievers are not entrepreneurs. Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, JRD Tata and GD Birla were entrepreneurs so are Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Ambanis, Bajajs, Ashok Soota Narayanan Murthy, Sunil Mittal and Subroto Bagchi. They had dreams to create new horizons for humanity. A vision, inspiration and most importantly the belief that, ‘I can do that’, is the defining image of an entrepreneur. Against all odds, they trusted on themselves. Instead of depending on others, they have faith and confidence on their own, stood on their own feet and demonstrate Self Reliance sending out the message that Self Reliance is manifested in Entrepreneurship. ‘There is a cost of standing on your feet, and there is a cost of living on your knees. Guess which one is more expensive.’ Decide accordingly today, for your future. My vision for our people is that ‘all the youth will find something to do in life. They will practice entrepreneurship in whatever field they choose to venture and through it, will demonstrate Self Reliance.’ We have started . . . scantily, . . . we have started drinking our own juice and watching our own videos.

But, ten years . . . ,  okay twenty years from now on, we need to see our people ‘“ eating biscuits from our own factories, wearing jackets from our own cloth-house, building materials from our own industries, driving cars of our own made, taking medicines from our pharmaceutics, . . . . using everything in our own brand. We need to see more Tatas, more Ambanis, more and more Bill Gates. So that we will not only stand on our own feet, but also be brave enough to sponsor more projects ourselves and help those who are in need.

Is it too much a dream? Nonetheless, let us begin to strive.

*The article is written by Wungramthan Shongzan.

*The writer is Director, Professional Training Institute (PTI), Ukhrul and can be reached via shongzan@yahoo.com

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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