Entrepreneurship empowers: Power of Jugaad! Sweden India Innovation Day By SIBC and India Unlimited

Congratulations to the efforts of SIBC and India Unlimited for their hard work, vision and dedication to the cause of India-Sweden partnership.

So what happens when you bring together bright young minds from two cultures, two very different cultures, India and Sweden?

This creates churn and what emerges is an innovative dish, unique, to say the least, peppered with the best of both, and delectable, with the right tempering of compassion, understanding, and assimilation.

What a day! 70 different voices from industry, academia, politics and startups told their stories just as they were…each narrating their own journey of struggle and success. A pattern was discernible through the variability. The need to challenge and change and not bow and accept what was around; the will to innovate, to make a difference, for what one felt passionate about; the resilience to last out despite the naysayers; bravely facing impossible impediments along the way, one at a time. These are the journeys that were shared with us, stories that are changing our world, one entrepreneur at a time. Today the power of the entrepreneur is being realised in many parts of the world and across many domains.

So how will entrepreneurship define the future of India, and how can Sweden partner on this journey of transformation?

First, entrepreneurship is the key to innovation. So how can we incubate to innovate, seek local solutions on the ground? How can entrepreneurship be central to our education system where individual understanding and resolving practical problems override a mass examination approach? The solution to our problems of climate change, renewable energy, circular economy lies within the anganwadis, schools, colleges if we can make our children ‘think, design and do’ independently. The solutions that will emerge for particular challenges will be a product of the ‘culture and context and common sense’ that they each bring on board.

Second, entrepreneurship gives each the opportunity to ‘do something’ rather than shift the liability to another, especially the government to rectify that which needs to be addressed around us. It transforms the mindset of ‘our problems, their responsibility’ to ‘our problem, our solution’.

Third, when you have a nation spawning entrepreneurs you know that people are pursuing a path of their heart and they will not let go till they make a difference on the ground. A ‘do or die’ spirit infuses the work, each day.

Fourth, entrepreneurship teaches failure, an important lesson of life. A typical entrepreneur tries and fails, tries and fails again and then at some point in this arduous journey meets with success due to sheer perseverance of the practice of starting again.

Imagine a nation with young minds who are persevering, innovating, problem-solving AND learning to cope with failure.

So what do I wish to see as part of the next Sweden India Innovation Day?

The talk by the Indian Ambassador highlighted innovation at the grassroots, for and by the masses. Those that shared the dais are stars in their own right, but now is the time to share the limelight with the lesser-known voices of local, brilliant minds from tier 2 and 3 cities and our villages, narrating their arduous yet inspiring journey of innovating as a result of dire necessity.

So next year I would love to see a scholarship for at least one star. A young woman would be my choice, who presents in her native language on what may be her maiden flight. This is much needed to fire the imagination of our youth, especially our girls…for them to inspire the others back home to face the odds, start on a journey, innovate, and get recognition for being different…. the quirky one who was always ‘wasting her time tinkering with waste’ maybe. This may be a valuable addition to the inspiring panel of women entrepreneurs who shone with competence, compassion, and commitment through their startup stories.

I look forward next year to joint presentations, joint products, joint efforts by entrepreneurs and innovators from India and Sweden. Academia, incubators within industries, corporate social responsibility mandates have a critical role to play in this.

Top of my list is a desire to see stories of ‘a better India’, innovation addressing our physical environment. To make space for spatial planners, landscape architects, heritage professionals, nature enthusiasts alongside the Fintech, IT, AI, sustainable food scientists. Tying the preventive, curative and progress together, I wait to see initiatives that make a difference to the physical environment of India to address problems of water, engage people and rekindle environmental literacy that awakens traditional knowledge related to nature. I wish to see the innovation that unlocks the potential of our cities to once again be safe, clean, livable, viable and smart.

What are the three things the ‘solutionaries’ bought to Stockholm and what are a few they take with them?

The reuse, recycle of material and space and the design innovation associated with this rhythm is a great learning living in Sweden.

The ethos of reusing the same space for different occasions is a superbly managed business here. The many squares dress up and dress down depending on the occasion and serve as vibrant places for a city that sees some very grey days in the winter. Kungstradgarden is a favourite example. A space with a maypole, music and temporary railings, planks, ice and cafes boxes becomes a winter ice skating rink, an oasis of merriment on a cold, dark winter day. The same is converted into a colourful food and handicraft fiesta for an India, Thailand or Japan day.

The same ethos is infused in reuse of clothes, rescuing fruit for smoothies and a general management of aspirations. Lagom, a favourite Swedish word resonating balance and limiting needs is a central feature in the use and reuse of resources.

This coming decade we all need to work together, focussing our energies upon our environment, calling upon our inner wisdom to bring about the change in the habitat around us, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we occupy whether it’s the blogger, journalist, storyteller, lawyer, fin-tech, Med-tech, AI or IT expert avatar in each of us.

At the Smart City, Smart village Innovation Hackathon, why did e-baadi win? …maybe that it had people at its core. The Indian kabaadi community is studied by management institutions all over the world for their resilience, their approach, their age old, organised process and contribution to collecting, sorting and recycling waste.

So let’s make a change with the great minds of India and Sweden mixing the right amounts of diversity, colour and taste of India with the patience, moderation and sustainability of Sweden to create that unique flavour that lasts a lifetime.