Mahatma Gandhi was a self-described philosophical anarchist. What that means is that he believed the state lacks moral legitimacy while not supporting violence to eliminate it. In his vision of India, he saw a country without an underlying government. He once said, “Ideally the non-violent state would be an ordered anarchy.”, and did not believe in hierarchy. His idea of true swaraj was one where every person is a ruler of himself or herself, and that the state does not enforce laws upon people.
Based on these ideas, there exists a school of thought called “Gandhian Economics”. It was developed by J.C. Kumarappa, an Indian economist and a close associate of Gandhi. The idea of enterprise given by this school of thought is Ashram, which typically means commune. The concept is, an enterprise is described as a group of people seeks to produce their own food, clothing and means of living, while promoting a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, personal and spiritual development and working for wider social development. There were three principles required to be followed to establish such kind of system:-
- Plain living – which means cutting down your wants and being self reliant.
- Small scale and local oriented production so that livelihoods can be created everywhere.
- Individual or group of individuals is free not only to make a decent living through an economic enterprise but also can accumulate wealth but that should be used for maximizing social welfare.
These set of ideas are popularly termed as startups or social enterprises these days, and this I believe is very important for true independence of India. Today, people in general, look for stability and many of the good minds end up joining big corporations to have stability in their career. This results into increase in the size of corporations ensuring less competition in the market and it ultimately leads to exploitation of consumers. Moreover, these corporations are so specialist in functions, that they force individuals to do a same job for a long period of time and which I personally feel is very boring.
I wish to share my own experience that firmed my belief. As part of fellowship I got a chance to work in a social enterprise called, Grassroutes Journeys Pvt. Ltd, which is a startup. Some other terms you might also hear include – ‘Social Business’ and ‘Social Venture’. The team comprises the bunch of passionate individuals seeking to create additional livelihoods in rural India through promotion of rural tourism. This in turn will also reduce the out migration from village towards industrial hubs. Some secondary outcomes of the process includes women empowerment, youth skilling, preservation of local art and culture, sensitisation of urban Indians towards their country counterparts and so on. Thus, every social enterprise will have what is called a “Change Theory” – the ideal trajectory which their work is to take up to bring positive change in society. Grassroutes has its eye set clearly on its own and every effort of the institution is always to strengthen these links and mobilise resources like money, man power and knowledge to achieving this.
Grassroutes focuses on tapping retail tourists through various events as well as tieing up with corporates and educational institutions. The team structure is fairly flat. People are completely free to express their views, allowed to work from home and pursue individual passions outside work. The vibe of the office is quite amiable, which is very unlike in normal corporate setup. Free communication allows people to learn from each other on daily basis, which makes the work process nurturing. As people are left free from all formalities, it makes them work together and design creative solutions. This atmosphere is apt for good innovations.
In India, growth of such initiatives is very important to make people economically and socially forward. As I see, lot of people are not happy with their jobs, they should take initiative and try to themselves from cobwebs of security. Government do have a huge role to play in this, as it is not possible to give jobs in government sector, it should finance good ideas to stimulate the culture of innovation in the country. Though government legislated many schemes, especially the current union government under the ‘Make In India’ banner has introduced a lot of start-up friendly improvements/innovations. But their implementation still poses challenges and we have to wait for time to let them stabilise and created true impact.
In conclusion though, I would like to say it takes a courage and little rationale to realize any dream into reality. But the opportunities are gallore and “Ease Of Business” has definitely improved in recent times, helping Indians to not shy away from being entrepreneurial.
*Featured image by Vishal Narula, 2017 Cohort India Fellow who worked with Grassroutes from one of their villages.