Issues

Encouraging Entrepreneurship & Innovation among Indian Muslims

By Saad Ashraf

India is at the cusp of an unprecedented entrepreneurial revolution. Innovation and entrepreneurship are the buzz words in social and business circles. Several platforms like NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) have been created by government and non-governmental agencies to promote and support budding entrepreneurs.

Not many in our community are aware of these opportunities or have access to such platforms. This might be due to lack of information, lack of confidence, lack of direction, or simply because our community doesn’t have an entrepreneurial culture.

Muslims have had a good share of conventional businesses such as brass in Moradabad leather in Kanpur, carpets in Mirzapur and lock-making in Aligarh, but not enough is done to encourage the new-age technology-driven businesses based on innovative ideas. The very basic understanding of being innovative seems to be missing. Innovators are not born, they are made. It is a shift of mindset. Shift from complaining about problems to finding their solutions. And this shift is achieved by having the right environment around fresh and young minds. Creating the right culture is crucial.  

Interestingly, the Muslim community has no dearth of financial resources, professional experience or youth. Still we find ourselves at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. What actually lacks is a systematic approach and passion to break the status quo at mass level. A lot can be learnt from communities like Sikhs and Parsis if we consider the immediate past. Communities can become self-reliant and economically stable by adopting an entrepreneurial culture, thus contributing much more substantially towards the nation’s development.

Things do not change overnight. If our community wants to bear fruit tomorrow, seeds need to be sown today. Here are a few measures that look inevitable for Muslim community to leapfrog the socio-economic development.

At individual/family level
- Create an environment around young minds that instils the sense of being responsible for society and its challenges. Sense of being the owner of the good or bad and that it is ‘ME’ who needs to act, not others
- Encourage kids to find solutions to problems. Be it social or technical. If there are problems, there are solutions too--- find them
- Innovation is not rocket science. Finding solutions to common problems is innovation and putting them to financial benefit is entrepreneurship
- Our educational system is designed to create good employees, not good employers. Let kids know the difference. How an employer contributes to the community and nation building. How are jobs created by new businesses and how does that matter for the country.  
- Above all, business was our beloved Prophet’s Sunnah. Encourage kids to learn about historic contributions made by Muslims to the world

At community level
- Resourceful people should come forward with a mission to promote and support entrepreneurship
- Create platforms to combine ideas, mentorship and investment
- Create incubation centres where new ideas can grow and transform into commercial businesses under guidance of industry experts/ mentors
- Conduct workshops for students to introduce the idea of innovation and entrepreneurship and how it helps in building a self-reliant society
- Recognise and award those who despite all odds have made their mark. This will be a great motivator for others
In line with the above a start has been made in Delhi in the form of NIEDA (Entrepreneurship and Innovation Society).  It is an independent society that aims to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among Muslim youth. The society’s mission is to promote and support entrepreneurship at the grassroots level and create employers of tomorrow. The society invites bright minds with new ideas, mentors who have been through the rough roads and would now like to coach and investors who are looking to invest in start-ups.
You can register to be part of this society, drop a mail at ashraf.saad1981@gmail.com or fill details here: http://goo.gl/forms/mdlpJbyswg.
Saad Ashraf, a Delhi-based mechanical engineer, studied at Jamia Millia Islamia and works for a multinational engineering consultancy firm. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2015 on page no. 2

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