If you have spent any amount of time in Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya, India, you will have noticed that when it comes to job opportunities, everyone is after a government job. They pay well, they offer a steady income and much needed security for families. Whilst this is all well and good, I often feel concerned about the lack of entrepreneurs in the state. I would often wonder: why are there so few business people? Surely the combination of the many well educated, talented people in the state, coupled with its rich natural resources would lead to greater development by now? Why is the population not taking economic development into their own hands? The reasons for this are perhaps a discussion for another day, but the point is, there are just too few entrepreneurs in Meghalaya.
But that is changing.
A few days ago I had the privilege to attend the Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship (MIE, Govt. of Meghalaya) and the IEF Entrepreneurship Foundation’s “Master Classes” for young budding/existing entrepreneurs in the state. These classes are geared towards helping entrepreneurs meet challenges that lead to survival success in the early years of their venture. In the words of IEF:
“Entrepreneurs need “hands-on” guidance. Critical inputs from practitioners at critical times can save a start up from folding in. Entrepreneurs do not have time to attend long duration university courses. They need practical inputs and mentoring. Therefore, a Master Class can deliver professional help followed by mentoring and networking access.”
The words of Mr. Sohliya of MIE in the introductory session stood out to me. What he said to us was, (and I paraphrase) “This is not about freebies or dishing out money. We are about creating capacity. About helping you in the form of services, knowledge, networking and capacity building. It is about providing you the needed skills and competencies to make a success of your venture. We want you to grow, to learn from others and network with entrepreneurs across the state.” What followed was a two days’ session with Smti. Bhairavi Jani (just google her, she’s famous) on the vision, mission and motivation of an enterprise. We were forced to think through critical foundational elements of business like, “Why are you doing what you do?”, “What is your core value?”, “How are your values reflected in business?”, “Do we love what we do, or are we driven by our fears?”.
I can honestly say that I have come out learning a lot from those two days, which by the way, was only the first session of about 15 more to follow over the next year and a half. Yes, that’s right, they are not just leaving it at that, they are committing to walk this journey with the entrepreneurs of Meghalaya. In this state with its vast amount of untapped resources, both in population and natural resources, it is immensely satisfying to see these young entrepreneurs of my generation rising to the occasion.
By Jonathan van Aswegen,
a son-in-law of Meghalaya