Nurturing young entrepreneurs | Sunday Observer

Nurturing young entrepreneurs

20 September, 2020

“The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth” is a quote by the late former President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy.

Realising the importance of this salient fact, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Vistas of Prosperity’ has made a rewarding pledge to the capable youth of the country to be entrepreneurs. The President has reiterated that we need self-made prosperity for youth rather than depending on state patronage. He that the creation of jobs must be exercised without always seeking employment from the Government.

The manifesto describes the moves to be taken to set up counselling centres, identify and expand market opportunities, and the support of modern technological applications to develop innovative business.

More importantly, in chapter four, in the section, ‘Harnessing the Power of Youth’ the President pledges to establish a national youth fund to overcome the investment issues, possibly the biggest drawback in the process of making young entrepreneurs. A simple loan scheme will be introduced under this fund to provide the financial assistance for youth entrepreneurs.

Nurturing youth entrepreneurship is greatly beneficial for society, the economy, and the growth of a nation. Besides, self-development of youth is a tremendous strength to the society at large. The need of the hour is to create as many employments as possible to combat the current economic crisis caused by the global recession due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Development of youth entrepreneurship by bringing in youth for self-employment of any sort may also solve many prevailing social issues. The authorities should realise that if proper attention is extended, the country can make advancement in terms of overall development and progress through the currently available educated youth population in Sri Lanka.

While the significance of entrepreneurship is widely recognised and supported by any government throughout the world, it is never too early or too late to start nurturing this important aspect.

There are various methods and approaches available to the government to encourage and promote entrepreneurship. Specifically, those graduating from universities year after year have probably the best potential to be the future entrepreneurs as most of them can acquire the business knowledge and business discipline faster than others.

National level reality program

In a positive move since the establishment of the new Government, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, in collaboration with a renowned media organisation in Sri Lanka has initiated a worthy act to promote, educate, and reward youth entrepreneurship through a national level competitive reality program.

This effort will encourage millions of young viewers throughout the country and provide much more value than the prizes offered to winners. Therefore, credit must be bestowed on the young Minister Namal Rajapaksa. In this writer’s opinion, based on over four decades of private-sector exposure, the government authorities must encourage other media institutions also to introduce similar types of proactive programs. Academics and some experts technically categorise entrepreneurship into segments such as economic, public, social, imitative, fabian and, also entrepreneurship. Studies were conducted on youth entrepreneurship based on behaviour, attitude, function, industry, and other relevant areas.

Innovative entrepreneurship is described as thinking out of the box and creating innovate methods, processes, and new opportunities. During the recent lockdown period, the country has witnessed many Sri Lankan youngsters emerge as innovators of various Covid-19 related equipment, methods, and processes. They can be attracted to the business arena as entrepreneurs in this category. Innovative entrepreneurs are constant thinkers who possess a sense of opportunities for the introduction of new ideas, new technologies, and new markets. This type of youth, if identified through a proper process, can be of remarkable assistance to the economy in the future.

It is observed that most entrepreneurs in developing countries, including Sri Lanka, are falling into the category of ‘Imitative or Adoptive Entrepreneurship’. They merely use successful innovations introduced by others. Though seemingly easy, an entrepreneur has to endure many challenges, possibly more than a newly innovated business. This is because he or she has to match the existing innovation in many ways to be successful.

Often, imitative entrepreneurs follow the methods, technologies, and even the business process of existing successful organisations. These entrepreneurs can be immensely helpful to a developing economy such as Sri Lanka with their contribution to the growth of entrepreneurial culture. Besides, by adopting the technology and methods already proven, they can also generate employment avenues for the youth.

Some entrepreneurs enter the stream with a conservative or orthodox outlook in business. In theory, they are called ‘Drone Entrepreneurs’. They prefer to follow traditional styles and methods to be in business and are reluctant to take business risks. These businessmen refuse to adapt to changes and always feel comfortable to conform to old fashioned technologies and methods. Mostly the entrepreneurs who inherit businesses fall into this category.

Development programs

However, through a tempting promotional program, the authorities should make a conscious effort to drag them into more productive operations.

Many factors prevail on youth entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. The government should seriously consider aspects such as attitude, knowledge, leadership qualities, skills, and more, when they create development programs.

Also, they have to take into account, factors such as type of businesses available for youth, the best technology that should be adopted, the geography, the scale of business and gender.

The growth of the private sector is an important factor in relation to the creation of jobs in the country. As President Rajapaksa emphatically suggests the youth must be encouraged to engage in job creation rather than job seeking. There are many reasons for drawing back youth from entering the business arena. Socio-cultural influence where parents insist that a child must have the education to find employment comfortably to either start or support the family economically is one such reason that discourage youth.

Another hurdle for young entrepreneurs is the inadequate or lack of financial assistance for funding and the guidance required at the beginning. Issues such as finding start-up capital and running expenditure for a new business should be addressed by the authorities. Despite numerous financing schemes spoken of by both state-owned and private financial institutions, the ground reality is that obtaining a loan facility is a daunting task.However, as a consolation to the issue, the President recently instructed to follow simpler rules and easier procedures to encourage small and medium business loans. The Government must take prompt and proactive measures to give the confidence to promote youth entrepreneurship opportunities. In addition, the authorities must concentrate more on formulating and implementing a policy framework to assist the effort.

Impact on social and economic progress

The Sri Lankan education system is geared to prepare a student to obtain qualifications and seek employment based on academic knowledge. The system does not focus on equipping and training them on leadership. Building awareness of entrepreneurship and training those on the subject from the higher grades in schools should be on the cards to support the task of nurturing young entrepreneurs.

In this writer’s opinion, while the science stream students are persuaded to be engineers, doctors, and scientists, the arts and commerce stream students are not being trained to focus on a clear path.

As a result, most commerce stream students aspire to be in management and, art students invariably look for government jobs.

Youth entrepreneurship has a tremendous impact on the social and economic progress of the country. Therefore, the Government, in collaboration with the private sector must creatively provide opportunities to budding entrepreneurs.

This task calls for multi-pronged strategies for implementation with the involvement of Government, industry, political and educational sectors equally.