It is an exciting time to be in Mizoram. If you are looking for a place brimming with talent and potential, risk takers and “first followers”, as well as institutional and community support, you have just described Mizoram. Understanding that if provided with the right guidance and opportunity Mizos can be propelled to reach great heights, the State Government is taking a concerted effort to build and support the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Mizoram. One of the ways in which they are doing this is by creating platforms for both aspiring and established entrepreneurs.
Mizoram Kailawn 2017, Mizoram’s first ever business plan competition and entrepreneurship summit, was one such platform Mizoram Kailawn is a multi-stakeholder initiative under the New Economic Development Policy (NEDP) implemented by Mizoram State Entrepreneurship Development Monitoring Committee (MEDMOC), a nodal body of the Government of Mizoram, and executed by knowledge partner Indian Institute of Management Calcutta Innovation Park (IIMCIP), with local partner Mizoram Consultancy Group (MZCG).
The primary objective of Mizoram Kailawn is to create a state-wide societal culture that accepts and appreciates entrepreneurs, making it easier for promising potential entrepreneurs to gain institutional support, community recognition and encouragement from family in their journey towards entrepreneurial success. Mizoram Kailawn 2017 launched the call for business plan idea proposals in July 2017.
Following the launch, a team of MEDMOC Master Trainers and MzCG personnel travelled to each district in Mizoram to conduct outreach and awareness programmes aimed at encouraging folks to apply. Close to 300 applications were submitted – a remarkable turn out for a state thought to be in the nascent stages of entrepreneurship development. The hunger and drive of the Mizos was tangible. Forty finalists were shortlisted and invited to take part in the four-day residential Boot Camp, which took place at Mizoram University. The business plans and ideas spanned various sectors from agriculture to construction, skill building to handicrafts, and tourism to recycling to name a few.
Not only was there great diversity of ideas, but also finalists represented seven of the eight districts of Mizoram, ranged in age and background, and a third of the finalists were women. During the four-day intensive training, experts and mentors from IIMCIP and MEDMOC led workshop sessions to refine and hone finalists’ business plan proposals and presentation skills. Finalists were challenged to scrutinise every aspect of their business plans. Mentors worked diligently and took great care to provide constructive feedback to all finalists. In addition to the IIMCIP team, mentors included Abhijit Bhaumik (consultant), Suman Mukhopadhyay (Director, Banglanatak.com), Devasis Gupta (consultant, mentor), Vikram Duggal (investor, advisor), and Viresh Oberoi (advisor). At the start of the Boot Camp, finalists raised concerns about sharing their business ideas with the group. However, once they started sessions and interacted with each other that seemed to be a distant memory.
The finalists, or Kailawners as they affectionately call themselves, quickly stepped up to support each other wherever needed. They critiqued each other’s plans, evaluated financials where needed, assisted with translations, and lent their expertise when possible. When the Kailawners were not busy in sessions or developing their business plans, they could be heard discussing solutions to spur the growth of Mizoram and capitalise on the gifts bestowed to our state. Beyond providing assistance with the business plans and presentations, the Kailawners made connections and plans to support each other on various endeavours, and continue to do so to this day. A new network was born. From the 40 finalists, 20 were selected to proceed on to the semi-final round, from which another 10 were shortlisted for the final round.
Judges for the semi-finals and finals rounds included mentors and experts from IIMCIP, MEDMOC, and local Mizo entrepreneurs. In addition to the IIMCIP team, mentors and evaluators for the semi-final and finals rounds included Neichute Doulo (Entrepreneurs Associates and Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 Awardee), Vipul Kumar (Country Director, Ennovent), Chandrakant Komaragiri (Senior Manager, Ennovent), Lalrinzuala (UNDP Project Coordinator, MEDMOC Expert Member), David Lalmuanpuia Fanai (F Hrangvela Industries, local entrepreneur) Dr Franklin Marina (Abigail Homestore, local entrepreneur) and B Lalrinkima (TATA Trusts Mizoram).
Mizoram Kailawn 2017 culminated with the first ever Entrepreneurship Summit in Mizoram. The Summit was graced by Lal Thanhawla, Chief Minister of Mizoram as Chief Guest; Lalsawta, Honourable Minister of Planning and Programme Implementation and Finance as Guest of Honour; and Lalmalsawma, Chief Secretary as Chairman. Attendees included government officials, local entrepreneurs and business people, college and university students and professors. The summit included a keynote address by Hasina Kharbhih, Impulse NGO Network and Ashoka Fellow, and panel discussions on Emerging Entrepreneurship Opportunities in Mizoram and Creating a Supportive Ecosystem for Entrepreneurship Development.
The winners of the Mizoram Kailawn 2017 Business Plan Competition were declared and celebrated at the Summit. Mizoram Kailawn 2017 was successful in its objective of making inroads to creating an ecosystem to support entrepreneurship development in the State. As a result of Mizoram Kailawn, entrepreneurs have been connected to potential investors and mentors to help them advance to the next stage of their business. Additionally, entrepreneurs are now connected with institutional support by means of MEDMOC as well as the Mizoram University Incubation Centre.
Following a successful initiative in 2017, Mizoram Kailawn 2018 was launched on 3 April,2018 by Lalsawta, Minister of Planning and Programme Implementation and Finance. The ecosystem and network to support aspiring entrepreneurs is growing, and as such, supporting partners for Mizoram Kailawn now includes Mizoram University Incubation Centre, North East Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi), Science and Technology Parks of India (STPI), and TATA Trusts. Mizoram Kailawn 2018 holds the promise of another exciting journey to discover more bright minds keen on making a positive impact to their community. With such platforms as Mizoram Kailawn, a new generation of role models and change makers will be provided a voice.
(Views expressed in this article are of Zorammawii Ralte, Managing Partner,Mizoram Consultancy Group)