EWC India is led by The Global Education & Leadership Foundation (tGELF), a global host of the Entrepreneurship World Cup since its inception. We spoke with Arnav Sahni, its director of partnerships and project manager of EWC India, on how serving as a global host of the competition has proven to be a catalyst for change in the country by increasing knowledge pathways, fostering cross border collaboration and by way of its support for a vibrant ecosystem for the best emerging solutions and entrepreneurs across the globe.
This article is part of a series highlighting EWC national organizers around the world.
ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY'S STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
GEN: Tell us about the startup ecosystem in your country. What are its main characteristics? If you could change one thing to make it better, what would it be? Who are the stars of your country’s ecosystem?
Arnav Sahni: India has about 50,000 startups as of 2018, and over 9,000 of these startups are technology led startups. 1,300 new tech startups were born in 2019 alone implying that there are 2-3 tech startups born every day. While India is considered to be the third largest startup ecosystem and has grown at a tremendous rate over the past few years, the ecosystem still lacks resources. Although India has 19 unicorns till date, to propel the ecosystem to new heights, key stakeholders need to collaborate to address information asymmetries and bridge the gap from ideation to venture incorporation.
India is an extremely diverse country with 22 official languages, at least 190 colloquial dialects and a population of over 1.3 billion. The plethora of cultures, languages and ethnicities tends to limit an entrepreneur’s understanding of consumers and market trends to certain regions. At tGELF, we believe that startups should not exist in silos rather should be active stakeholders in a broader economy. Ultimately, we are looking for the next unicorns such as Byjus, Swiggy and Zomato, as well as social enterprises such as Barefoot College and Milaap, in the Indian ecosystem. Supporting a pan-Indian startup ecosystem is of paramount importance, and the community being created by tGELF and EWC is a step in the right direction!
ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
GEN: Tell us about your organization. What does it do to support entrepreneurs and/or grow your startup ecosystem?
Arnav Sahni: The Global Education & Leadership Foundation (tGELF) was officially inaugurated in 2008 by the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. It is a non-profit with a mission to identify and nurture leadership skills in ethical, altruistic leaders and entrepreneurs who are committed to improving the state of the world. Through our numerous projects, we have collectively impacted the lives of over 500 million people and raised over $6.38 billion for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
We have undertaken several initiatives that empower young entrepreneurs in India and the world by creating an ecosystem to accelerate promising & sustainable entrepreneurial ventures. One example of this is Shuruaat Bus — a physical bus that travelled to 14 cities. Along the journey, we hosted workshops and collected pitches from thousands of entrepreneurs. Other programs include the LIFE Challenge, a university-level social entrepreneurship competition and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017, a coordinated effort with NITI Aayog and the US State Department. Additionally, we coordinate with the Indian government to develop entrepreneurship curricula for school students and nation-wide competitions.
ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP WORLD CUP
GEN: When did you decide to get involved in the Entrepreneurship World Cup and why?
Arnav Sahni: As one of the Global Hosts, tGELF has been a part of the EWC journey since its inception, supporting a vibrant ecosystem for the best emerging solutions and entrepreneurs across the globe by increasing knowledge pathways and fostering cross border collaboration.
GEN: How does EWC support the other work that your organization does?
Arnav Sahni: In 2019, 57% of the newly minted unicorns were outside of Silicon Valley. We hope to accelerate this trend and through the EWC ecosystem, take startups found in areas such as India and give them a global platform to excel. Imagine a startup from Ahmedabad (an emerging startup ecosystem from the Indian state of Gujarat), getting connected to tech solutions in Germany. These are the types of stories we hope to arise from the EWC ecosystem.
GEN: What do you hope to achieve with EWC 2020?
Arnav Sahni: Of the 102,938 participants last year, 31% of the startups were from India — with six Indian startups consisting of the 100 global finalists! It was a pleasure to host the EWC National Finals last year. We launched eight regional competitions and introduced audience voting, coaching, an events app and other gamification features to our National Finals which we brought to the Global Finals.
This year we are deepening our efforts with NITI Aayog, policy think tank of the Govt. of India and engaging with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITY) Startup Hub to activate multiple stakeholders from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The Entrepreneurship World Cup will embolden tGELF’s efforts to uplift socially conscious entrepreneurs in India and bolster their global aspirations. As EWC goes fully virtual this year, we hope to take advantage of more participants and intend to experiment with engaging and unique event formats. Stay tuned!