Reuben Abraham, Partner and Head of Urbanization at the IDFC Foundation in Mumbai, was joined by Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson, Guy Rigby, and former Swedish Minister for International Development, Gunilla Carlsson, to discuss his paper Learning by Doing: What Makes Entrepreneurship Thrive?

In his paper Reuben presents lessons learned and findings from over six years’ experience combining research and practice to engineer entrepreneurial solutions to pressing socio-economic problems.

Key areas of discussion addressed the different types of entrepreneurs and made specific reference to those who are entrepreneurs by choice and those who are entrepreneurs by necessity. Much of the discussion that followed addressed how integrating necessity entrepreneurs into the growth economy can best be made. Reuben highlighted as key strong, but narrow, governance and oversight which allows for a more stable and long-term calculation of risk and reward. In practice this includes considerations such as the level of corruption and the strength of the rule of law in a given society.

Secondly, the paper considers the specific barriers to entrepreneurship including regulatory and government policies that inhibit, rather than promote growth. Other barriers revolved around access to essential resources; access to finance, markets, knowledge and networks and finally access to talent.

Reuben’s last major theme was the central importance of ‘political entrepreneurs’, that disrupt existing political equilibrium and provide an environment where ‘different rules apply’. This creates conditions where citizens are able to experiment, where failure attaches less stigma and where creativity can thrive.  Reuben stated that as much as institutions matter to creating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, political leadership mattered more, as visionary leaders have the practical ability to implement new rules. Rueben contrasted chief ministers of individual Indian states, but also provided global examples of leadership in countries such as China and Botswana.


About the Speakers

Reuben Abraham is Partner and Head of Urbanization at the IDFC Foundation. He is also a non-resident scholar at the Urbanization Project at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Previously, he was a member of the faculty and executive director of the Centre for Emerging Markets Solutions (CEMS) at the Indian School of Business, where he remains on the Next Generation Leaders Board. Reuben founded CEMS to research, develop and commercialise market-based solutions to pressing urban problems across the following verticals: finance, education, health, housing, and energy.  He serves on a number of advisory boards including TED Fellows, the Soros Economic Development Fund and India’s Centre for Civil Society  In 2012, Reuben was named to Wired’s “Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world.”

Guy Rigby is an experienced chartered accountant, entrepreneur and an advisor to the Centre for Entrepreneurs. A natural and driven enthusiast, he built and sold his own accountancy firm, as well as pursuing other commercial interests. He has been a director and part owner of a number of different companies, including businesses in the IT, property, defence, manufacturing and retail sectors. In an unusually varied career, he has been the senior partner of two accountancy firms, a finance director, sales and marketing director and an adviser and mentor to many entrepreneurial businesses and their owners. Guy’s book From Vision to Exit - The Entrepreneur's Guide to Buying and Selling a Business has received significant critical acclaim.

Jeffrey Gedmin is President and CEO of the Legatum Institute in London. Prior to joining the Legatum Institute in 2011, Gedmin served from 2007 to 2011 as President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where he oversaw the company's strategy and broadcast operations in 22 countries. Before that he served for five years as Director of the Aspen Institute Berlin. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His articles on foreign policy, media, culture and economics have appeared in a range of newspapers and magazines.

The Global Fellows programme aims to formalise relationships with accomplished scholars outside of the Legatum Institute.