Recently I've been watching 'Dragons Den' again on TV, a reality show where small and up start entrepreneurs are given the chance to present their business plans to rich investors and raise capital to expand their venture. It reminds me of my MBA days when we used to present academic business plans to our jury and get trashed and grilled on what we thought was a well thought out plan.
I was wondering, and I doubt that we have something like this in Pakistan. We have been very proactive in copying the 'american idol' and 'indian dance divas' which has brought forth a lot of hidden singers / actors and dancers and that might have helped a few fortunate individuals to embark onto a career and support their families but it hardly goes on to help improve lives beyond one family in the short term. Also, not that I am against performing arts (in fact I'm quick a fan), I do think it is important to attract talent towards other fields as well because in the arts and talent industry only a small percentage becomes successful. That's just the nature of the field, most artists only become legends after years and years of consistent hard unpaid work and that doesn't help raise their families or school their children but a small hot-dog stand stand can give you cash starting from the first day. I use the example of a hot-dog stand because given the unemployed numbers in Pakistan, many would even value being able to just do that if they could just raise a little bit of start-up cash and many mobile food shops turn out to become big cafe's in a few years, so there is a good possibility to get bigger with a small business like that.
The good thing about something like Dragons Den is that it closes the gap between the 'good ideas not so wealthy people have' and the 'capital and experience big investors have' . When an individual gets approved for investment by 'dragons' in this show, he/she is able to start up a business which will usually be scalable across cities or the entire country and that not only makes a living for the entreprenuer but also for all the people employed in the value chain. It bridges the gap of not only capital but also experience, training and mentorship because when a 'dragon' (investor) invests in one of these business ideas, they also hold a stake of the company and agree to provide hands-on guidance to the budding entrepreneur. At times two or more investors join in which brings more capital and experience to the table.
I have followed a few success stories of 'Dragons Den' which have led backyard businesses to reach out across borders! This is indeed very encouraging and perhaps one of the best ways to create jobs in the current post recessionary environment.
Economic Development cannot take place without the flow of cash from the rich to the struggling and the transfer of skills and knowledge to a greater deprived population. If we start Dragons Den in Pakistan, I can imagine philanthropic business tycoons like Razzaq Dawood and Syed Babar Ali also finding a structured channel for boosting social capital and growth for Pakistan in the shorter and longer term, because its not every day that you can build something like LUMS.