With the millennials coming into the organizations, getting into start-ups or starting organizations based on an idea has become very common in the world. Many youngsters are pursuing their ideas with enterprise development. The start-ups are giving wings to them to fly turning their dreams into reality. With the job market not doing particularly well in India, there are a whole bunch of people joining the start-up organizations, either due to the supply being higher than demand for engineers or to experience the thrill and tenacity of growing a start-up.
India having sharpened itself as the IT hub for the world and having been put on the global map for the number of youngsters who enter into the IT and digital fields, naturally IT and communication has become one of the most sought after areas for start-ups to emerge. About two decades back, the self-help groups and cooperatives which encouraged women to start their own sustainable enterprises have resulted in many start-ups in the small and medium scale industries sector.
In the recent past, the social cause issues have also received a boost through the social media and digital forums. There are many small NGOs which have begun to work on advocacy. Further, the processes and systems for a start-up and the funds that are available are becoming simpler and easier to access in India. This has given high impetus for the start-ups to thrive in India. The new Government and its policy to promote entrepreneurship has added the boost. Capitalising on all these boosters, educational institutes right from 11th grade of school year have introduced entrepreneurship course and also added social entrepreneurship to promote the development sector education. There are forums that have been formed like CWE (Catalyst for women entrepreneurship) and other forums, which are doing a yeomen service in educating, supporting and helping entrepreneurs.
While a lot has been researched and said about entrepreneurship from financial, economics, governance perspectives, not much has been written and spoken from the sociological perspective. It is a very important dimension to understand the impact of start-up culture on the society and its evolving fabric. In the following paragraphs I have attempted to articulate on those dimensions. The key dimensions of cultural fabric which I term as CORDS (Convergence and connectivity, Openness to ideas, Relationship and Risk, Development and education and Sensitivity) have been taken as the basis on which the implication of this emerging paradigm has been discussed.
Convergence and Connectivity
The world has shrunk on one side but it has expanded tremendously on the other side. Start-up culture has brought in convergence and connectivity based on passion, drive and willingness to tread the unknown path. Popular to the myth that we are going away from each other, the digital and social media platforms has converged large group of people with similar thoughts, pursuits and feelings with a speed that is unknown earlier. The ability to reach out an idea to the rest of the world is making many start-up see visibility too soon. On one end this makes less work more publicity thrive leading to instant gratification increasing amongst youngsters. On the other, it also pushes accountability to sustain the thought and idea and reach it to spaces where support is available. The society today stands on the convergence of purpose and ideas to a large extent in the start-up paradigm. The higher the clarity of purpose the higher is the possibility of start-ups to succeed and sustain. Connecting organizational vision and making it the personal vision of the employees has moved to employees seeking to connect the organizational vision to their personal vision. Therefore the need to articulate, identify and formulate personal and organizational vision has come to the forefront in people’s lives.
Openness and innovation
Innovation has made the world a space for constant exploration and this has brought awareness of possibilities and alternatives as a way of life. Improvements and re-engineering have been almost erased out of the phase of earth and it’s a culture of innovation. The need to think away from stereotypes in every sphere has ushered in a restless and impatient lot in the society. While new knowledge and creativity has risen at a speed that is very new, it also causes a consuming society that has no time to actually evaluate the true value and implication of the innovation. The need for innovation has risen above common good and safety which is shaking the social fabric of a balanced world. The moving away from time tested ways and processes are also seen as innovation. Many of the societal fabrics that helped people and process to stay and work together are also questioned and changed in start-up culture more for the sake of change than for its intrinsic value.
Relationship and Risk
Relationship processes are redefined and reformulated in the start-up culture. The friends and social circle and the emotional connect surrounding them is based on the passion and value of the idea. The social media connects have taken away the necessity of face to face meetings and ushered in an ‘alone yet connected’ paradigm that the society is grappling with. The age old systems and institutions that governed the relationship processes like marriage, family, community are questioned by the people who are taking the start-up way. The need to find partners who will understand and be able to handle the risk is making them not commit to long term relationships.
The start-ups requires high ability to take risk and walk into many untrodden paths and carve a space for existence for themselves. Increasingly, many employees who are above middle age and many youngsters who are straight from college are embarking on this journey. Those who have seen it all in corporate and have made their money want to embark on newer pastures on their own. This calls for daring to embark on a long-time dream they would be holding within themselves. Those who are following them as partners usually emerge from long-time relationships from workspace. The youngsters are starting life on a shaky ground of uncertainty and willing to risk for a few years to live their dream before deciding on the path of employment. There are two sects in society which has formed – those willing to dare and risk which makes them push the boundary and those in the middle who are risk averse and stay in the comfort zone. These two sects have always existed but, the composition has changed now which is causing new start-up relationships to emerge.
The combination of risk and relationship has left behind phobia of commitment in youngsters and wanting to get out of long term marriages amongst the elders. People with start-ups perceive even a small emotional instability in marriage and family as blocks to pursue their dreams and prefer to be on their own. Non-committal and need based relationships are defining the fabric of society.
Development and education
Education and the value of academics is getting redefined to a large extent in the start-up culture. The need to prove competence and capability is much higher than showcase merit cards and degrees. The learning curve is accelerated and survival depends on the capacity to learn and apply. The quick, need based learning with output as a focus has taken over deeper, research based studies that have long term perspectives. The logical technical learning has over ridden the behavioural understanding and insights. The start-up culture demands employability and instant productivity which makes the learning short term and quick fix. There is high stress experienced by the people due to learn – prove – grow existence day in and day out. The market is merciless with the demand for constant productivity and a speed that is shrinking the timelines and over heads. This makes people be in constant search for those learning that will help them better their skills. With learning and financial resources being minimal in start-ups, the onus to learn and develop is more on the employee than the organization. This has redefined personal budget and spending patterns.
The start-ups are netted through friends and people trusting each other which makes sensitivity to each other a critical aspect. To a large extent the organizations stand on person based culture unlike a long term organization which is process based. The sensitivity can either sustain or destroy the organizational cultural fabric very easily.
The increasing work of the psychologists and psychiatrists, therapists and counselling centres are good indicators of the changing societal sensitivity frameworks and its implications.
The Start-up culture in its unconscious builds a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective. This is because it is the founders who have an idea and a bunch of people who come trusting that idea or with no other choice of work. This makes a highly self-centred and self-protective lot who are constantly evaluating the path and their movement in the path. The start-ups also lives on borrowed money from the investors till they find their own ground. Therefore, the life is not built on the culture of savings like earlier, but it is built on earn and live for the day. This has totally redefined the boundaries and extremities within the society. One who sees every human issue and human interface as a drain on their limited resource, to another end of the spectrum where they see their own existence being useful for others in the society. There is another interesting feature in the society where the sensitivity for macro level issues are increasing in leaps and bounds while there is apathy and indifference within the family structure. For example, floods, tsunami and mass killings draw high sensitivity and support from a person than a sick, invalid parent or spouse at home. Start-ups with limited number of people have converged in empathy during crisis times. These changing perspectives of sensitivity has lessened the value of sensitive actions and increased the value of communication and advocacy part of sensitivity.
The start-up paradigm will be seen as being in conflict with the existing earlier paradigm when there is resistance to change. But if it is viewed as an evolving newer way of life and if there is willingness to redefine all the known perspectives, organizational and societal processes, it will cease to be threatening. A deeper articulation and engagement of the sociologists and psychologists to perceive the newer connects of the CORDS are critical and essential. Initiating a good amount of self-enquiry, redefining the society with higher empathy and sensitivity and moving into a universal good-will for society at large can make the culture in the start-ups more meaningful and their processes less stressful.
About the Author
Prathibhashree Dr. Kalpana Sampath is a person of many talents. She is an entrepreneur, a social worker, coach, actor and film producer. She is the Director – Arpitha Associates Pvt Ltd and EFIL Educational Services Pvt Ltd. Kalpana has been working as a coach, trainer, and development artiste for nearly 3 decades helping individuals and organizations focus on excellence through clarifying their vision and values. Her work has spanned to a large section of society from involvement with corporate organizations to her work with children exploring life education. Having a flair for writing and research, she has also contributed many articles and books in the area of learning and development. Being an artist, script writer and an actor, she is also involved in projects that connects social issues to theater, movies, music and dance.