By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANSlife) US-educated lawyer-turned-social entrepreneur, Hekani Jakhalu Kense, states, “The strength of our region is special. Today the world is talking of tech entrepreneurs, the forte of Northeast India is ‘creative’ entrepreneurs.” Recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, she is the founder and Chair of YouthNet. In an interview with IANSlife, Jakhalu talks about what it takes entrepreneurship in the region, connecting young leaders and more.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. How did you come to be a social entrepreneur?
Jakhalu: I am a lawyer by profession and was very passionate about what I was doing. While I was practicing in New Delhi in around 2005-6, the retail sectors were opening up and I would see a lot of youngsters from the Northeast migrate to the Capital and NCR for work. This new trend disturbed me. I chose to do a study to understand the youth of the area, their working conditions, aspirations, and future prospects. A lot of issues were unearthed. So, I decided to quit my job and start YouthNet, an organisation in Nagaland to address the issues of employment.
Q. What is the concept behind “Young Leaders Connect”?
Jakhalu: YouthNet started doing well, and people from different parts of the Northeast wanted me to start a similar platform in their states. Technically, I was not ready for it, but I thought it’s necessary to do something. We decided to create one common platform to bring together the entire Northeast region at least once a year. Realising that apart from being in one geographically position there was actually nothing much that binds us together as one. In the year 2011, I got in touch with former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia who was the face of our region to come on board and we decided to launch “Young Leaders Connect” as an annual conclave where we would have young leaders and achievers together and deliberate on how we progress as a team.
Q. What was the last big achievement celebrated through “Young Leaders Connect”?
Jakhalu: Getting together young leaders and achievers from all Northeastern states as a team is itself a big achievement. But one of our main initiatives is also the North-East Entrepreneurship Fellowship where we have about top twenty entrepreneurs for a year program. We have amazing young entrepreneurs who have come together to share, learn, strengthen, collaborate and grow. These young fellows are our hope and our future.
Q. What should the region do to take ahead entrepreneurship?
Jakhalu: The talent and energy of our entrepreneurs are unmatchable. But it’s frustrating to see how our governments are not being able to move at the same speed. Unless the ecosystem is in place there is only so much our entrepreneurs can grow and up-scale. The government still plays a very important role and therefore the various state governments need to start re-looking at the development and economic growth from youth and entrepreneurship perspective and frame policies and make interventions, accordingly.
Q. How have you seen the Northeast entrepreneurship industry growth in recent years?
Jakhalu: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, GOI has been aggressively pushing for the growth of entrepreneurship through various schemes like “Made in India”, “Start-up India” and “Stand-up India”, “Digital India” etc. These are fantastic concepts and programmes which our entrepreneurs are also trying their best to take advantage of. Definitely there is a rise of entrepreneurs in the last couple of years and a mindset change of looking at the private sector and entrepreneurship as a viable option beyond government jobs. But like I mentioned earlier, there is only so much we can grow if respective state governments don’t understand the pulse of the youth and implement it, this energy will turn into frustration.
Q. How do you see the area as a global market?
Jakhalu: The strength of our region is special. Though today the world is talking of tech entrepreneurs, the forte of Northeast India is ‘creative ‘ entrepreneurs because of our rich natural resources and cultural heritage. Our products ranging from agro, food, handloom, handicraft and tourism can be leveraged as unique and much sought after in the market. It has immense potential to grow, but because there is no such systematic approach to market, we are still struggling to make it big.
Q. What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur based out of there?
Jakhalu: Entrepreneurship is still a new concept here. Apart from it lacking an ecosystem, for example, connectivity, financial access, electricity, and policies etc, there is so much our entrepreneurs have to learn. We need to build capacities as well. Our organization tries our best to carry out various entrepreneurship development programs and masterclasses, etc.
Q. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” by Steve Jobs. Your comments?
Jakhalu: Northeast is a totally community-centered region. We are still very dependent on the government. Our parents and elders are still hell-bent on their children getting a government job for security, stability, and status. This is the first barrier that we have to cross in convincing our youth to venture into the private sector and entrepreneurship; we have to inspire them to follow their passion, create wealth and create jobs for others as well.
YLC 7th Edition has been curated by Leaders Connect and YouthNet and will be held on the 2nd of November here.
(N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)