Entrepreneurship: A Pandemic Success Story
It has never been easier to start a company. It has never been harder to build one.
Entrepreneurship, officially defined as “setting up a business, and taking on financial risks in the hope of profit,” has become so mainstream since the onset of the pandemic that it needs no explanation. But it wasn’t just another word that people were forced to learn (unlike “quarantine” and “pandemic”). As the countries went into complete lockdowns and economies began suffering the repercussions of people staying at home, life came to a standstill. Many companies had to stay closed for months, others struggled to adapt to the “work from home” culture, and millions of people lost their sources of livelihood. Yet, in a grim situation like that, the number of startups opening across the world saw a surge like never before.
The question that arose here is, “How did an unstable economy, aided by a volatile market, become a breeding ground for so many startups?” Well, the answer is in the innovation, adaptability, and sheer talent of the entrepreneurs who decided to take a risk in the uncertain circumstances caused by the pandemic.
While industries like tourism, hospitality, travel, and retail, which majorly functioned well in the pre-covid scenario and depended on people going out for revenue generation suffered miserably, many other sectors including ed-tech, med-tech, agri-tech, and social media saw unprecedented growth. As the world shifted to a lifestyle where a major chunk of time was spent online, people’s needs and preferences led to newer demands. The awareness about existing possibilities for smooth functioning of life despite cities being completely shut down led to people quickly accommodating this new wave of change!
The increasing demands of “staying-at-home” users, who had to adjust their lifestyles to the prevailing conditions, led to myriad new opportunities in the market, and the quickest players to fill in the gaping holes in demand versus supply were existing and new startups. Small scaled businesses meant easy pivoting from the core services/products to in-demand services/products, and hence, the pandemic became a harbinger of opportunities. Further, the resilience shown by startups to accelerate their business via utilizing the digital boom in the best way possible brought them to the front and got them both recognition and appreciation. Changing routines integrated the lives of consumers with high-tech solutions, and startups took full advantage of this consequence of the pandemic. Most importantly, a good entrepreneur is one who, by definition, solves user problems efficiently and makes a business out of them. And with a problem as big as a global pandemic, the entrepreneur community was bound to take lead!
Some people who were laid off due to the pandemic decided to open new businesses to sustain themselves, and others saw an opportunity to utilize the free time on their hands to use their creativity and generate a source of income; it felt like entrepreneurship was in the air (pun intended!). Moreover, the pandemic served as a brutal reminder of the unpredictability of life and burst the bubble of stability in the lives of many affected people. Thus, leading to a tectonic shift in people’s point of view towards pursuing their passions and taking more risks instead of sticking to the conventional paths.
We have 63 Indian unicorns (not the fictional animal; startups valued at $1 Billion or more) to date. And the astonishing fact is that 35 out of these became unicorns in the period of 2020–2021. This would lead anyone into believing that now is the Golden Period for starting up and that funding for startups is not a big issue anymore. There is no denying the fact that a huge amount of money has been invested by VCs in startups across the globe. India is no different, in fact almost every day, there is news of one Indian startup or another conducting successful funding rounds and receiving a lot of money to scale up. The point to be noted in this scenario is that most startups who have made big money in the past year have been around for much longer than the new startups which have been established in the middle of the pandemic! So, the boom in niche sectors might be apparent but it is not as easy to venture into these sectors as a new startup. The market is already saturated because of companies that were started years ago and who have seen exponential growth thanks to the pandemic. For instance, the ed-tech industry is being led by big-wigs like Byju’s and Unacademy, and the smaller existing startups are either being acquired or running out of business.
Hence, the above-mentioned quote makes perfect sense. With the increase in acceptance towards entrepreneurship as a career, dynamically changing demands of users adapting to the aftermath of the global pandemic, and readily available guidance to budding entrepreneurs, starting up might have become easier but the scaling up and sustenance of the same startup have become hard.