I truly believe that teaching basic business skills and supporting entrepreneurialism can change the course of a family, village, city and country. I live, breathe and witness it daily in the United Kingdom, working in amongst its fertile and innovative business community.
This year I’ve also spent time with technology legends in Silicon Valley, young entrepreneurs in rural Zambia and now I’m on my way to New Delhi.
My first visit to India. And the first trip my Prime Minster, Theresa May, is making outside of the EU since taking the helm at 10 Downing Street. Different roles, different backgrounds but one common goal. We are all here to evolve and nurture the already fruitful commercial partnership between our two countries.
As part of the business delegation and a speaker at the India-UK Tech Summit being inaugurated by Prime Ministers May and Modi, I am looking forward to sharing lessons and ideas from my journey. From start up to scale up a few times over, I started my working life flipping burgers and cleaning floors before moving into finance, floating a company on the London Stock Exchange and now building an innovative software company as co-founder of EnterpriseJungle.
Our business is all about people. HR Tech. Talent. Call it what you will but knowing where to find the right people is at the heart of not just my journey - but every journey – including this visit. I’m here to share my experience with people keen to leverage the world of technology and business to solve problems and celebrate the symbiosis between our two countries. You learn from me; I learn from you.
I’ve worked in call centres, bridal shops and bars before my life in finance and serial entrepreneurship took shape. I understand the journey: Starting with nothing…. and building something. With no safety net, no savings and a good idea. A dream and a vision. And turning it into a reality with determination and graft.
I did that with little guidance. I sought out advice wherever I could but there were no social networks, online resources or incubators when I started my first job. I had to rely on people I already knew, books and the occasional speech I was fortunate to listen into.
In today’s digital world, where people increasingly have access to mobile phones or a computer, finding the right advice, inspiration and insight is often one click away. When I conceived my first business over ten years ago, I didn’t have the option to search and reach out to the 380 million users now on LinkedIn. And Twitter was in its infancy: I hadn’t even heard of it. A platform where you can send a question to almost anyone in the world and have a shot at getting a quick reply? Incredible!
So what pearls of wisdom can I offer? What business advice from my journey is relevant, wherever you are, whatever stage of your journey you are at and whatever access you may or may not have to resources? How can business catalyse India’s strong growth and address its development challenges?
Surely social enterprises are one way to make India’s spectacular growth story work better for its poorer citizens? To date, India’s rapidly growing economy hasn’t alleviated the challenges of extreme poverty facing nearly half the country’s population living below the $1.25 per day poverty line.
Variable infrastructure, health and education challenges and resource limitations: This is where entrepreneurs can thrive. Finding opportunity and solving problems. Resourceful startups are a key way to positively impact the lives of citizen and generate paying jobs.
Thankfully, resourcefulness is one of the defining traits of successful entrepreneurs and something India has in droves. I’ve been overwhelmed reading about dazzling microfinance initiatives such as Janalakshmi. And companies such as Project Mudra, one of last year’s Tech Rocketship Award winners, who are working to make braille accessible to all visually impaired people. I can’t wait to judge this year’s competition next week.
I have also come to realise that innovation and entrepreneurship is borderless and we all speak a common language. Wherever we come from, it’s always the same: how can we solve a practical problem? The UK has a rich ecosystem of established entrepreneurs and businesses all here to share their experience and despite treading a different path to many people I will meet this week, we are all the same. Adventurers, dreamers and doers.
That’s something I celebrate about new initiatives – whether they be a social enterprise, a small business, a tech summit or an international trade relationship. These are the seeds from which tomorrow’s vibrant forests will grow.
There’s a proverb I am fond of quoting: From tiny acorns grow mighty oak trees. I’m excited to be part of planting and nurturing new seeds in India this week. I’ll be taking some of those seeds back into my home and business too, because I can learn from you. And most importantly, I can’t wait to come back and see the seeds emerging from the soil, eventually growing into trees, standing tall as a result of our paths crossing and our countries coming closer together. Trade as a tool for progress. Innovation as a tool for development. And entrepreneurship at the heart of both.
- By Emma Sinclair MBE, Serial Entrepreneur, Ex M&A, Now Techie. Newspaper & TV contributor, IPO'er, Former Parking Geek
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