Millennial aspirations are shaping the world of startups

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Over the past decade, India has become one of the largest startup ecosystems in the world. A NASSCOM report estimates that India has more than 9,000 tech startups alone, and that the startups in the country have created as many as 60,000 direct jobs and up to 180,000 indirect jobs. This startup ecosystem is driven largely by millennials, who are both creators and consumers of the products and services on offer. It is, therefore, important to understand the motivations and aspirations of this demographic, as they will drive both demand and supply of our industries in the years ahead.

Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials grew up in a country that was undergoing economic, industrial and sociocultural liberalization – an era, in short, of new ideas and worldly outlooks. Unsurprisingly, it is a generation that has an almost innate drive to push boundaries in their personal and professional lives. A large percentage of them would presumably be married and having children by now. Comprising almost a third of the country’s population and blessed with post-liberalization sensibilities, they are fueling India’s consumption growth more strongly than any of the previous generations.

As consumers and as professionals, millennials are drawn to companies whose business models and operations are intrinsically linked to social impact. A recent report on millennials suggested that 62 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for products that are eco-friendly or which support a cause. The importance that millennials give to social and environmental impact is contributing to the emergence of new business models, investments and entrepreneurship. This change is easier to manage for startups than it is for bigger, established corporations. The size of startups, and the fact that they are still relatively new entrants into the market, enable them to align their employees, operations, products and services with any new direction the business may decide to take.
A fast-growing group of social tech entrepreneurs – again, mostly millennials – has emerged in recent years, using technology and digital transformation to build business models that are economically viable and socially impactful. These startups offer scalable, technology-based solutions for some of India’s long-standing issues in areas such as healthcare, water supply, education, clean energy, agriculture, and education. There’s also a strong focus on developing solutions in spaces such as e-commerce, financial services, entertainment, social networking, and gaming – solutions that hold relevance for large swathes of both urban and rural consumers.

Being a tech-savvy generation, millennials are better equipped than their predecessors to leverage technology for developing truly pathbreaking products and services. And having witnessed the mobile internet revolution and its impact on people, they know that being habituated to an app or a technology can create a perceived “need” for it amongst users. They are leveraging this insight to identify different aspects of daily life that can be made easier with technology interventions. Technology should not intrude, but seamlessly integrate with our lives; millennials probably understand this better than anyone.

It’s a strength that serves them well as entrepreneurs and, if they are on the lookout for a job, drives them to seek out one where technology is ingrained in the work culture. Startups looking to attract millennial talent and millennial consumers are cognizant of this fact and are making conscious efforts to market themselves so as to demonstrate that they are meeting two of the fundamental millennial requirements – using technology and creating products that deliver great experiences.

Startups and millennials need each other. We are in the middle of an era where each is serving the interest of the other using the most relevant currency of our times – innovation.

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