Friday, April 1, 2011

Opportunities for the next wave of Indian Entrepreneurs to help the country combat climate change

Well, I wrote this piece of essay four months back for some very impressive sounding foundation(IFC). They promised to declare the results in January. I had thought that this piece of writing will surely find a way to my blog whether I get awarded or not.
Somehow, the results got delayed and they asked for further two months - giving 31st March,2011 as the new deadline for the results. Patiently and hopefully, I waited only to find that on the given date they extend the result deadline to 30th April !?!?
So, I think its not possible for me to keep my humble effort of writing something to myself any more.
And here its below. Hope you enjoy it!

India's economic scenario has changed a lot since Independence. From the days just after Independence when there were only a few companies and the buzz of Socialism all around to the late-80s when the situation had improved only a bit - with a monopoly market dominated by family businesses to the present date, when the consumer has no allegiance to the brand names and demands maximum value for his money and the market looks with great optimism towards entrepreneurs and welcomes them eagerly. It has all changed drastically.

Moving from a slow paced, laggard economy to a robust economy, removing trade barriers and opening the market for outside firms, the market scene has brought about a huge change in the investors mindset. They now view entrepreneur projects as the next Cool thing. The Indian financial stage has developed immense respect for the breed of 'entrepreneurs' after it witnessed stupendous successes of many of them who made a name for themselves without having any family support. People like Sunil Mittal, Dhirubhai Ambani,Narayan Murthi are to name a few, the leaders of this change. The bureaucrats in the higher rungs of the ladder who used to mock at the entrepreneurial skills and create hurdles via the infamous 'inspector and license raj' are themselves now spear-heading the mission in encouraging such entrepreneurs to take up ambitious projects with government backing. Entrepreneurs have revolutionized the business platform with their innovative services and excellent understanding of the consumer's mindset. Who could have thought of the path-breaking concept of free e-mail access (Hotmail) or for that matter climbed up the ladder as fast as Dhirubhai and Narayan Murthy did? The fresh outlook the entrepreneurs brought with themselves freed the market from the clutches of family run businesses and allowed for better deliverance of services.
Now as the entire world including India faces a serious challenge in the form of climate change, therein lies in a great unexplored opportunity to tap.

So far, there haven't been many serious efforts from the business houses to build a niche product that caters specially to climate change and win over the hearts of environmentalists. Although there have been many international summits contemplating Earth's future and the possible actions to avert such a catastrophe, there hasn't been any initiative from the industry (do not count the efforts on cutting down carbon-imprints) that could take on this challenge head-on. As far as India is concerned, the public perception is passive. Through some NGOs and media campaigns, the masses in all big and small towns have the idea of such a lurking danger to the world's existence. But they haven't been provided with specific inputs regarding what actions or activities they can do to contribute their bit towards environment protection. This looks like one great untapped market with immense potential which so far no firm has focused on.

I believe it won't be very long before any smart firm will roll out a product to tap this field. 'The first mover' effect will be on full display here. The scope here is immense and it will take a different, out-of-the-box approach to break into this market. And this in all probability is within the reach of an Indian entrepreneur.

There are a lot of opportunities present in this segment which a smart entrepreneur with keen business acumen can capitalize upon. For example, the prime opportunity lies in the Automobile Segment. Today the key issue of pollution - ozone layer depletion is being attributed to vehicular pollution or vehicles polluting due to energy consuming fuels like Petrol, Diesel. A big solution to this problem can be unveiling of a non-traditional source of energy that can be easily used in vehicles. While there has been a lot of high and ambitious talk on water or hydrogen being used as a fuel, but as of today little progress has been made in this regard. But, nonetheless, that is the direction in which a proper efficient solution will be attained. Some big car companies have brought electric cars into the market but it hasn't taken the market by the storm but surely got fairly good reviews. Also, in the pipeline are cars that would run on Solar Energy. The ideal scenario will be a proper balance between a customer's expectations and energy saving ability. Another development that is taking place is the ongoing research on feasibility of Ethanol being used as a fuel. India has been one of the largest producers of Sugar in the world and so it can easily produce large quantities of Ethanol from sugar-cane. A successful adaptation of ethanol as a vehicular fuel will definitely revolutionize the market and attract a large demand because of comparatively less pricing if ethanol than other traditional fuels. Also, it will reduce fuel consumption and reduce the carbon imprint, pollution and help in combating climate change while bringing hosts of other benefits. This is one area where an entrepreneur can surely climb up the ladder of success pretty fast.

Indian population still primarily lives in villages using traditional and unhygienic methods for cooking. Gas-consumption for cooking is limited to urban, semi-urban areas. A meticulously planned strategy to effectively commercialize a different, energy saving method for cooking will surely catch lots of attention and will be a big hit among the majorly housewives  dominated market. The Indian Govt. had carried out campaigns in the past advocating use of bio-gas, cooking gas from cow dung but it was limited to rural areas and that too only in certain parts of the country. It also started giving concessions to people opting for installing solar cookers but their performance of was not as per expectations. Lessons can be learned from these failed campaigns to design a product that will be able to capitalize on the present factors.

Similarly such innovative products can be rolled out for electronic appliances with their least/minimum consumption of electricity or use of some other power being their USP. Such a brilliant idea will surely be an instant hit in the electricity-scarce country.

With the commendable economic growth our country is having, the open markets, the past entrepreneurial success stories and optimist sentiment present in the economy gives us every indication that the time is ripe for a next wave of entrepreneurial innovation that will target the climate change after sweeping the software, telecom, super-store and garment industry. They now have the proper backing of the government and no autocratic rules in place to stem their rise and they can probably outwit everybody else by bringing out an excellent product to which every environmentalist will swear his loyalty to.