Celebrating the success stories of India’s most innovative and resilient MSMEs and start-ups, ET NOW, India’s leading English Business News Channel, hosted the 10th Season of Leaders of Tomorrow Awards in Mumbai today. Marking a decade in empowering the transformation of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem, Leaders of Tomorrow Awards Season 10, themed, Empowering India’s Next Decade of Entrepreneurship was engaged with the purpose to enable entrepreneurs to adopt new-age business models to future-proof their businesses in this dynamic ecosystem.
An annual national event dedicated to uncovering and recognizing the most promising entrepreneurs, Leaders of Tomorrow Awards this year, showcased upcoming and enterprising small businesses across 23 categories, shortlisted through an exhaustive pan-India screening process and duly evaluated by an esteemed panel of jury. The selection process involved benchmarking across a range of quantitative and qualitative parameters such as Business Model, Risk management strategy, Impact & Reach, Promoter Background and Technology Impact & Disruption.
A melting pot of Enterprising Visionaries, Start-up Gurus, Business Icons, Domain Experts, Next-Gen Entrepreneurs and Disruptors, the event witnessed a distinguished line-up of speakers including Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship of Maharashtra, V. Vaidyanathan, MD & CEO, IDFC First Bank, Raymond, Ritesh Agarwal, CEO, OYO Rooms, legendary cricketer & start-up entrepreneur Yuvraj Singh, Prashant Pitti, Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip, Shraddha Kapoor, Actor & Emerging Investor among others.
Delivering the welcome address, MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network said, “For over a decade, Leaders of Tomorrow, India’s largest entrepreneurship platform has enabled and empowered the spirit of Indian SMEs, MSMEs and start-ups. While we all are taking pride in the vast Human Resource that is available to India, we also plan to create the right leadership that can ease us into a promising tomorrow. The will to win and the vision to spot new opportunities are not going to be inbuilt in all. We have to ingrain them into the minds and characters of those with the potential to lead. The winners of ET NOW Leaders of Tomorrow will be that exclusive community that is ever ready to charter a new course with clarity and capability.”
Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship of Maharashtra appreciated ET NOW for organising such a stellar award show. “I am glad to be a part of such a beautiful event that boasts of such great minds, who have been big contributors in the betterment of Mumbai and the country. I have also been a businessman, so I understand the need for skill in the sector. The percentage of skilled workers in India is very low when compared to other developed countries. When Shri Narendra Modiji became the Prime Minister in 2014 for the first time, he started the skill department anticipating the future. He believes that we have honest entrepreneurs who work hard, but if not skilled property, they stand to fail”, he said.
He further requested top industrialists and businessmen present at the event to join hands with the government and help upskill people at its incubation centres. “Corporates need skilled people, and we have skilling centres in Maharashtra. We invite large corporates to participate and patronise them. You can play a role in upskilling people at our centres too. These can be huge incubators of talent. We have the space, and we can open ITIs with you if you desire. The government will keep working but we cannot be a hundred percent effective unless we work together. This will birth leaders of tomorrow.”
V. Vaidyanathan, MD & CEO of IDFC FIRST Bank, spoke about the challenges small and medium entrepreneurs face in doing business, especially when it comes to the lending sector. “The finance sector is huge in our country, especially the lending market which is worth Rs 140 lakh crore. Of this, medium and small enterprises account for only Rs 8.7 lakh crore. They operate out of equity, which is an inefficient way of doing business. To help these small enterprises, we must come up with an improved tax structure with rebates, just like our tax slabs. This will help them save more, attract talent, and fight the disadvantage of being in smaller cities.
He added that entrepreneurs can only become leaders of tomorrow if they adapt to the digital wave, and listed the government initiatives that have played a huge role in ushering in digitisation for SMEs. “Our government has done a lot in helping digitise the economy. With Jandhan and Aadhaar, it opened 4 million bank accounts for people below the pyramid in India in a year. Smartphones are enabling quick commerce. Then there is AI and ML, which is making a dramatic step function jump. Let’s not forget credit bureaus, UPI, and ONDC. These ecosystem changes must be adopted by small entrepreneurs if they want to be part of the success story. It has been forecasted that the extent of consumer credit will increase to a cumulative 4.5 trillion dollars by 2030. SMEs will have a significant role in coming up with such a power in the next few years. This momentum will take the country and economy ahead.”
Ritesh Agarwal, CEO of OYO Rooms, was candid about how he started his journey with nothing but an ability to think big. “When I started a few years back, travel had become big, and people were looking at building hotels as a viable mode of business. However, I thought it would be a better option to invest in existing hotels and convert them into a brand. Naivete is critical when you build a business. Then comes the ability to think big, which I learnt from my contemporaries every early in my career. The SMEs of today may be the unicorns of tomorrow. So, thinking big is important.”
He also stressed on some factors that budding entrepreneurs must keep in mind. “Entrepreneurs need to first figure out the sector they want to be in. You must pursue a sector that has less competition. Building a right team is necessary and you need partners for yourself. People who believe in you as a partner and not just as an employer. Then, education is critical. It can also be gained on the field too, but what is important is how you are accessing it. Be in a sector that allows you to take some time and then shine. What you need is perseverance. Take OYO for example. Today, travel is growing in an unprecedented way and we are affordable. But when Covid hit, our business suffered a 70% drop overnight. Had we given up, we would not have boasted of a positive EBIDTA today. In the end, companies must make money and anyone telling you otherwise is wrong. An entrepreneur’s job is not just to deliver earnings, but also value addition for shareholders. As entrepreneurs, you must be optimistic that next year, we will see profitable unicorns.”