Innovation in India

The Financial Times came out with a great piece on the limitations of India’s entrepreneurial development (via @eugenialeee).  A director quoted mentions that in India, the risk-taking required for right-brain thinking is simply not part of the culture. He says that parents are the ultimate source of this limitation, since they question their children and do not want to allow kids the potential to have to struggle.

I don’t think this is specific to India by any means, though I’m sure those types of parental objections are seen frequently in Indian families. In fact, I’m pretty sure almost every parent has had a similar conversation with their kids around picking a college major or job.  You certainly don’t want to see your kids end up unemployed if everything fails. They need a safe fallback, and often the fallback is so good that the risky opportunity never gets tried at all.

So what leads someone to break out of that protective parental risk aversion bubble?

Part of it, I think, is clearly due to some form of ‘comfort’ — it’s very hard to think about entrepreneurship when you have pressing commitments like kids, overdue bills and loans, and so on.


But the other part is self-confidence. When I meet brilliant people who are afraid of failure, it’s because they always think through the worst situtation possible. They engage in affective forecasting, and overestimate how much the negative state they’d feel after a failed venture would bring them down. They think of reputation effects, of wasted time, of not being able to get married and live the suburban dream life.

This ultimately comes down to things you learn as a young child. When you tried to do something new and experimented, and failed or messed something up, what did your parents say to you? Did they scold you and tell you not to take the phone apart again? Or did they help you figure out how to put it back together correctly next time?

That kind of childhood encouragement is what ultimately fosters an entrepreneurial culture.


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