Their numbers are overwhelming-as it always was. Their importance is ever increasing-as it has always been. The surprise was the spirit. While interacting with entrepreneurs from what is called the SME (small and medium enterprises) sector-courtesy the first BT-YES Bank SME study and awards-we didn't get a feeling that we are living through one of the worst-ever global economic crises.
It's not as if SMEs are too insignificant to be shaken by the global economic turbulence. They account for 45 per cent of India's industrial production, employ 42 per cent of the workforce and produce 40 per cent of its exports-the last one being the worst hit by the global recession.
Yet, if the SME entrepreneur sounds unputdownable-if not outright upbeat-it's because of the raw entrepreneurial energy that is so unique to them. Their nimbleness, agility and higher risk appetite is helping them make the most of the downturn. Many among the 30 SMEs that made it to the final round of our selection are acquiring companies around the world and are set to double and treble their turnovers in the next two to three years. Get a taste of their infectious enthusiasm between as you read on.
Actually, the divide isn't between small and big businesses-it is between smart and non-smart businesses. A smart business, however small, will grow big and outlive several downturns. One such smart entrepreneur is on our this cover issue. Uday Kotak's journey from bill discounting in 1984 to creator of a financial conglomerate with a market value of close to Rs 20,000 crore is one example of running a smart business.
That he carved out a space for himself in a market dominated by some of the biggest Indian and foreign financial institutions proves that a smart entrepreneur can spot and exploit opportunities in any market. It's another matter, though, that the next few years will test Kotak's ability to transform himself from being a hands-on leader into a broad strategist and let the institution he created thrive and grow out of his shadows. Several first-generation entrepreneurs find this difficult to implement.
One good example-though in a different context-is Nandan Nilekani. N.R. Narayana Murthy's article tells us why Nandan was always keen on working for the country, even as far back as in 1989. You don't have to own a business to do what entrepreneurs do. Zubair Ahmed of GSK India proves this. And, for a most unique business initiative hot from the God's Own Country, look no further.