The world may fear another economic slowdown with growth rates everywhere falling. However, Sramana Mitra, an Indian-born writer, strategy consultant and entrepreneur, is optimistic about fighting the crisis. She talks of her mission to create millions of entrepreneurs through her project "1M/1M" and the growth strategy that will best suit India. Here are excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Tell us something about your project 'One Million by One Million'...
"One Million by One Million" is a global initiative that aims to nurture a million entrepreneurs to reach a million dollars each in annual revenue and beyond by 2020, thereby creating a trillion dollars in global GDP and ten million jobs.
Are you satisfied with the progress of the project?
I am continuously amazed by the reach of where "1M/1M" is taking us. We hear from entrepreneurs from New Zealand to South Africa to Iceland. Of course, the U.S. and India are our two top geographies.
India's economic growth rate for this fiscal year has dropped below 8 percent. What growth strategy would you suggest to India at this juncture?
One that is driven by entrepreneurship. I wrote a book called "Vision India 2020" articulating a full vision of this decade. I would love to see that implemented. It consists of 45 billion dollar business ideas, including those in infrastructure, energy, water desalination, rural development, education, financial services, etc. all of which need to be attended to but with an entrepreneurial framework. Some of it requires public-private partnerships but what I see in India is helter-skelter development. In "Vision India 2020", I proposed a more systematic development.
The Indian government had earlier decided to allow 51 percent Foreign Direct Investment in retail sector but has put it on hold following protest from opposition parties. What do you make of the fiasco?
I think India should let Wal-Mart in ASAP. It will fix the horrendous supply chain, employ millions of people, and inject much-needed scale to the retail sector. Wal-Mart is America's largest employer and it understands logistics and operations at a fundamental level. Indians would learn a lot if they bring companies like Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. into the industry.
Do you think the government's inability to push through economic reforms is the reason for slow growth rate in the country?
Yes, to an extent. Democracy is not a very efficient system. China is moving faster because of a more centralized system that doesn't require the approval of a democratic process. The U.S. has the same problem as India - nothing is getting done here either these days. This decade will be painful on many levels, unless grassroots, bottoms-up entrepreneur-led development leads the way. So at the minimum, policy should try to empower the entrepreneurs, so that we can succeed as nations despite the dysfunctions of government.
The fear of another economic slowdown and the Eurozone debt crisis has put investors at bay. What would you do as an entrepreneur at this kind of situation?
Bootstrap. In "1M/1M", we have a very heavy emphasis on bootstrapping. We believe, Entrepreneurship = (Customers + Revenues + Profits). Financing is optional. Investors are optional.
What advice would you give to young and upcoming entrepreneurs?
Join "1M/1M". Learn the process, and get going ASAP. There is no other way to learn entrepreneurship other than doing. At the same time, you don't need to reinvent the wheels. We have a very efficient way of shepherding you through the process with a methodology, so that you don't repeat the perfectly avoidable mistakes. Take advantage of the program.