“Over the last 60 years, Nagas have begun to think that government job is the best job in the world, and changing that is no joke” – Neichute Doulo

Neichute Doulo
Neichute Doulo, Founder & CEO, The Entrepreneurs Associates (tEA)

During the period spanning from 1995 to 2006, entrepreneurship bore a stigma, remembered Neichute Doulo, the CEO & Founder of the Entrepreneurs Associates (tEA), a veteran in shaping mindsets for over two decades in Nagaland and beyond. Mentioning that discussing business was once considered ‘a shame’, Doulo recounted how tEA’s grassroots campaigns in schools, churches, and beyond changed this perception, rendering entrepreneurship ‘doable’.

Doulo and his organization successfully demonstrated independence from reliance on government jobs, subsidies, grants, or donations. Despite the relatively easy accessibility of foreign funds through Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) when tEA was established, Doulo opted against it. Even government funding, though offered generously as early as 2003-04, was declined by tEA.

First founded in 2000 as a nonprofit namely ‘Entrepreneurs Associates -EA’, with the vision to transform society through entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial drive, ‘The Entrepreneurs Associate (tEA)’ now encompasses a Cooperate and Social Enterprises. tEA started functioning as early as in 1992 and was launched in 2000 along with like-minded friends who constituted the first Core group/members of tEA.

“We instead went door-to-door to raise funds to prove that the Entrepreneurs Associates can survive without government funds,” said Doulo, adding that it was his initial step to promote entrepreneurship.

Recalling tEA’s initial government support in 2008 for capacity building training and a significant cash award in 2010 for developing entrepreneurship, Doulo stressed, “We still don’t have FCRA and still don’t work with the government extensively for we are dependent on our internal resources.”

EA’s initiatives extend to providing training and mentorship to street vendors, self-employed youths, and women, including basic business skills and digital transaction training for microenterprises. However, Doulo underscores the prerequisite of ‘thorough motivation’ among those seeking assistance from tEA.

“Whoever comes to tEA should be motivated. We interview them to see how motivated they are. We are happy to support them with microloans from banks and other financial institutes if they are sufficiently motivated,” Doulo told Mokokchung Times.

However, Doulo emphasized the pervasive influence within Naga society where entrepreneurship is not actively encouraged. He viewed that society has been “thoroughly brainwashed in believing that government job is the only secure job,” and, therefore, changing mindset has been his greatest challenge and continues to be so.

“Changing mindset is an ongoing process. Over the last 60 years Nagas have begun to think that government jobs are the best job in the world and changing that is no joke. Our world view is so limited that we think that success is having 2-3 cars, 2-3 buildings and sending children to schools and colleges but there is a much bigger option than that,” said Doulo.

He contended that some among us possess the potential to create 10,000 to 20,000 jobs. Instead of seeking Rs 10,000 to 20,000 crores in government subsidies from Delhi, Doulo viewed that Nagas should aim to contribute Rs 200 crore and Rs 500 crore through entrepreneurial endeavors.

“But we have not seen any Naga like that nor do we have imagination or ambition. This lack of awareness and ambition in business continues to be the biggest bottleneck to change our world view. We are committed to be government officers,” he said, adding, “We need smart people taking up business.”

tEA collaborates with other NGOs, providing motivational talks, mentorship, and assisting in product sales. Presently, tEA operates offices across Nagaland and has expanded into Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Nevertheless, challenges persist.

“Educated and smart people are mostly interested in government jobs. Entrepreneurship is still seen as an option for failure,” Doulo lamented.  ”Our education system is solely focused only on creating employees and has nothing to teach about employers.”

Amidst the challenge, he believes that their relentless efforts have made entrepreneurship appear “fashionable” in contemporary society. He acknowledged that the state government began supporting entrepreneurship initiatives by 2010, declaring 2010-11 as the year of entrepreneurs.

“By 2010-12, several organizations began to form under the banner of entrepreneurship, and even some NGOs started discussing it. The perception of entrepreneurship has shifted due to our persistent efforts. Additionally, enabling the government to recognize the importance of entrepreneurship marks a significant success,” Doulo added.

However, he lamented that Naga business figures still rely on government support instead of tapping into market resources. “The market has greater resources than the government,” he remarked, emphasizing the need for increased reading in business and economics among the Nagas.

As an International Ashoka Fellow and recipient of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award, Doulo credited his introduction to “social entrepreneurship” through the Ashoka Fellowship for his decision to devote himself full-time to tEA after resigning as an economics lecturer. Winning the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award broadened his perspective on entrepreneurship and social impact, facilitating engagements with policymakers at regional, national, and global levels.

Regarding EA’s efforts to export products beyond the state, Doulo admitted they are striving, but he is yet to come across an established product chain with national export potential. “We are very far from selling products worldwide. We don’t have an ecosystem. We are caught between supply and volume. We don’t have supply; we don’t have volume which the market demands,” he said.

Looking ahead, tEA’s ambition to export products beyond Nagaland demonstrates their commitment to further economic growth and sustainability. While challenges persist, Doulo’s dedication and vision for entrepreneurship continue to inspire positive change, laying the foundation for a brighter future for Nagaland and its people.

Mokokchung Times

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