Mineral wealth and the challenges to entrepreneurs

The world is changing and so is India. Entrenched big businesses are facing acute challenges in the hands of extremely small and isolated players and an interesting ecosystem is evolving where entrepreneurs are no longer afraid of venturing out big, something that only very few highly motivated and extremely passionate individual entrepreneurs could do in the past years.    The bullish entrepreneurship and expansion of big businesses are opening up markets beyond the national shores and globalization trends are paving way for extremely adventurous and innovative ventures by both very small and very big players without much distinction. Access to capital and creative financial markets have reduced the risk and access to capital. Companies like the Rs 2000 crore VV Minerals provide a challenge to the startups to set up companies like Apples and Teslas by creating new products with the replenishable natural resources available in plenty in the country.

India is following the global trends thanks to a strong base created already by pioneering entrepreneurs and large presence of big businesses spanning a  range of industries.   The current government’s impetus on ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start up India’ are also helping to attract new players while helping the existing ones in myriad ways. Overseas investments have also started flowing seamlessly over the last two decades thanks to the liberalization of economy kickstarted in 1994. The rise of Information technology has invested us with a new language system and new behavior traits. Postmodern thinking, low attention span, transparency, a celebration of entrepreneurship to name a few

The ideal scenario for India would be to build an ecosystem in which the big and small coalesce and build the nation.  It’s important to develop a system that will help the big corporations and the startups fuel each other. This can be done if we have a clear understanding of a typical businessman vis a vis an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are driven by passion and creativity, they are high on openness and may not be ‘the nose in the grinding wheel, hardworking or deep-research’ variety like the businessmen. Entrepreneurs may be great at disruption but not very good at running organizations. Those who run large businesses may not possess the same openness and creativity as entrepreneurs and their thinking may not be free-form but structured yet they are good at running organizations.

How do we bring both these forces to enmesh and help create a society that thrives? I would isolate two developments that we may have to address in this regard- equating bigness and dominance with exploitation and gravitation to lightweight issues, which is so much part of the Attention Deficit Economy.

To illustrate this, I would like to talk about my own organization – V V Mineral, one of India’s well-known mining companies in a niche area of mining, namely replenishable Beach minerals. Our journey started in 1989 when India was in an abysmal 21st position in the field of mineral mining. Today with 5 wet plants and 6 dry plants in mining areas we have taken India to the 5th spot on a global level. We believe in a lot of myths, prime among them is that “India may live in the villages” but remember that only one-third of the population  lives along the 7600 km of unbroken coastline from Digha to Dwaraka and yet they provide two-thirds of the economic prosperity of the country.

28 years back we took our discipline, commitment, and expertise in running modest rice mills and applied it on the mining sector which has made us a Rs.2000 crore diversified company with interests in Textiles, Chemicals, Media, Food & Agro etc. It was a slow growth but a hard-earned one, considering the labyrinth of regulations and challenges we had to go through.

Mining is not for boys, it’s a man’s game. Real life may not make news as much as  lifestyle. Why would anyone want to know that the fancy cell phone, they use, may not exist but for the minerals that the beach provides? And that the probability of TESLA starting its car production in India is very high because of the mineral wealth we have on the shores. With the world moving to factoring environmental costs we would see the demand for hybrid vehicles and rechargeable batteries which means India can emerge as a pivot for futuristic technologies.  An understanding of how to mine replenish-able minerals can bring in prosperity to the country. This would demand a broader vision on the part of all players including the activist organizations and media.  A vision that  recognizes the fact that  every day, the sea washes up on the beaches of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa valuable deposits of rare earth  minerals like   mgarnet, ilmenite, leucoxene, rutile, sillimanite, zircon and monazite that have been carried to the sea from the  mountain ranges by natural erosion through sun, wind, and rain.  These are the minerals which we access from V V Minerals rather than non-replenishable minerals which very large scale mining firms deal with. This distinction needs to be understood clearly in order to protect the environment rather than debilitating it by opposing mining activities.

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