"If opportunity doesnt knock, build a door."
While the news about the IT sector has been good, in that they are hiring
again, the point to consider is the job creation is not large enough as there
are more people, if you take into account the layoffs in the last 2two years,
less hiring last year, and the number of students graduating this year. This is
not just for the IT sector alone but for the entire engineering and technology
sector. So what do we do?
Well, we cant sit on our collective butts and whine. Neither can we blame
othersthe government, the unscrupulous bankers, financial regulators, CEOs,
etc. So what do we do? We can learn a lesson from a small group of illiterate
women in a village in Andhra Pradesh. Remember the spate of farmer suicides
because of failed crops due to drought and inability to repay the money lenders?
Well, they left families behind, especially illiterate wives. These women
inherited the debt, poverty, sorrow and hungry families which included young
children. These women decided to face the problem head onfeed their families,
repay the debt and get back the farm land they lost.
They decided to deal with hunger first. Feed ourselves first, and then sell
the rest. They planted traditional varieties of crops that consumed little or no
water and which grew the whole year around as opposed to cash crops or Bt crops.
They were able to harvest enough grains to feed themselves instead of waiting to
sell it to the government while their families went hungry. While this took care
of hunger, it didnt help them repay their debt and they realized they needed a
skill and start their own business. Being illiterate, single parents who worked
all day, going to school was not an option. They requested a local NGO to teach
them video journalism! They learnt it and sold footage to TV channels! They used
the money they made to repay the debt and recover their lands. In a single year,
they went from illiterate, landless, starving women to landed, working video
journalists who ran a small rural bank. Why am I narrating this story? We need
to do this in the tech sector too. We need to become tech entrepreneurs and not
wait around for someone to hire us or the government to help us.
Look around you and the potential to be a tech entrepreneur or t-entrepreneur
is enormous. Here are four steps on how you can become a t-entrepreneur:
Identify a need or a product: Know your market and survey it if you have to.
There is always a need for a lower or better quality product or service in your
locality as you are a customer of a wide range of products and services. If you
find a product or service less than satisfactory and know how you can improve
upon it, do it. It could also be a new product or product maker. Identify it. It
could be solar heaters, websites for local businesses, e-waste recycling,
equipment rentals, new security systems, etc. Check the list of websites below
for ideas and procedures on how to make the product.
Start and advertise: Once you have identified the need, set up your
companyeither alone or with a group of trustworthy friends. You could run a
home based business before you set up an office. Make the product and market it
in your community. It isnt enough to depend on word of mouth. Advertise in your
local cable TV channels about your services or in your city website.
Watch and network: Keep an eye on the projects advertised by the government,
especially in the energy and power sector. Local governments and state
governments are willing to not only provide loans but also buy your product,
namely power if you can produce it. Some of your NRI college alumni might be
willing to invest in your company if you can show them you deliver and make sure
your financial reasoning is sound. So do your networking and let others know
what you are doing.
Think global, start local: Dream big but start small. Remember, all global
companies of today started as a local enterprise. If you make a profit in the
first few years itself, save most of the money for the hard times. It is not
sensible to go on a spending spree but try to reinvest a portion of your profits
(10-30%) to either diversify your product range or increase your market reach.
In the last two years, Ive noticed several students who have just given up.
Many are just sitting at home watching cricket or hitting the cinemas with their
other unemployed friends. Some have completed their ME (they went for their
masters when the recession began) and feel hopeless now. You dont have to be
this way. Not all of us can be inventors but most of us can be entrepreneurs. If
none of the ideas in the websites below interest you (there are many more on the
Net), contact your university and see if any of the final year projects fulfill
a local need and are economically viable. It could be a parking lot design, home
security systems through cell phones, gadgets or processes that economize petrol
usage in automobiles, low cost garbage recycling, etc. The ideas are endless.
So, dont sit around waving your degrees at your familys faces or studying for
another exam so you can get into another masters course because you are unable
to get a job in todays market. Think of the illiterate village women in Andhra.
You can achieve even more as you are educated and have access to the Net. Awaken
the entrepreneur in you and your unemployed friends. Become a t-entrepreneur of
either products or services. Solve the problem or the need by creating your own
product or service. Go Green. Go Glocal. Become your own master!
The author is the founder-moderator of the IndianWISE e-group