As an 18-year-old, Ritesh dropped out of college to focus on his startup. Amongst many challenges he faced, from deciding to drop out, to living away from his parents in a city nearly 12,000 kms away from his, he had to make tough choices early on. His courage and determination to start up and become a successful entrepreneur were unshaken, and I remember, every time I would meet him, he would be budding with some new idea to scale up his hospitality startup super fast. Soon after realising that he needed more funding, he also realised that investors doubted him for his age. They doubted him for the challenging decision he took of dropping out, and was made to face hardships in proving himself.
I remember going through a similar journey myself, starting out when I was 17. Walking into plush corporate offices and institutions, and being told that I was just a kid who they did not want to entertain or could not trust was not an end to my turbulent start. I was made fun of and told that my business idea was too naive. I remember a CEO of a reputed mobile company questioning my intentions as he believed that at 18, all that an Indian teenager with a business idea like mine wanted was to get rich quick.
India’s demography puts us in a brilliant spot. With over 60 per cent population falling in the bracket of youth, it gives us immense opportunity to follow our dreams and quite literally, reform the democracy with our ideas and passion. But ironically, this is the very demography that does not have a support systems in place to allow them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams. The lack of will to invest in young people, and being constantly told to follow safe career options, cripple the desire of young people to become enterprise leaders. As a young entrepreneur, you will hardly find people ready to invest in your idea or your vision, or give you any credibility for your work and efforts. Constructive criticism is one thing, discouraging is another, and many a times, discouragement was what I had to go through for the first four years of my journey as a young entrepreneur.
While Silicon Valley has a support system, and respect for entrepreneurs who follow their passion, the Indian enterprise ecosystem leaves very little or no space for a young person to pursue their entrepreneurial venture full time with support. There is immense family pressure to take up conventional careers and stay in the safer circle.
The need of the hour is to create better ecosystem for young people in India, allow more government backing and create stronger, more innovative incubation centers, which help the entrepreneur scale up, sustain and create great businesses that power our economy. Moreover, there is an immediate need for the society to embrace failure and treat it like an experience that was enriching in many ways. We need to be told to take risks, fail, learn, get ourselves back up and try again.
Ritesh had to struggle for a few years but his courage sailed him through. His startup is now a funded company, and he just became the first Indian to win the Thiel Fellowship of $1,00,000. We need better systems in place to make the journey as beautiful for every teenage entrepreneur.