I've just come back from a two-week holiday in India. I read Aravind Adiga's brilliant novel The White Tiger while I was out there. It's the rags to riches story of a Delhi-based entrepreneur. But this is no fairytale. His success depends on taking the gritty, bloody, corrupt or dishonest path at pretty much every junction. The novel suggests this is the only way to make it to the top, if you start out at the bottom. It pokes uncomfortably at many of the misconceptions we tend to have about the exciting new entrepreneurial scene in India, and highlights a lot of corruption and unfairness going on behind closed doors - and a crushing number of barriers to those of lower 'castes'.
Reading the book, and being able to see small examples of its truth, made me really take a step back and think about the state of entrepreneurialism in the UK. It made me feel a totally refreshed sense of appreciation for how incredibly lucky we are as people doing business here. Sure, we might grumble. But starting up and running a business in the UK is actually pretty great. And it's well, well worth a shot if you're not doing it already. Here are a few reasons why:
1. We don't have to bribe anyone to be able to run our businesses in peace. Not the police, not politicians, not bigger businesses.
2. We can make things happen for ourselves, regardless of our social-economic background. It doesn't matter whether you grew up in a council estate or a country mansion - you can still start up an incredible business, and people will respect you for that no matter what.
3. We have charities and social enterprises like The Prince's Trust and the Bright Ideas Trust to help out those without access to finance from elsewhere. Everything can be within our reach here if we're willing to work hard enough for it.
4. We have access to more than 600,000 grant schemes to help us on our way. (Find out more about how to win a grant or search for small business grants.)
5. We understand that the traditional model of education isn't for everyone. So the government offers traineeships and vocational qualifications and apprenticeships to help us get the skills we need to run our businesses.
6. We have a thriving entrepreneurial community who are always ready to help each other out, rather than step over each other in a scramble to the top. The Smarta community is a prime example of how willing business owners are to help each other.
7. We have amazing access to free business resources - whether that's books from your local library, market research reports from the British Library's Business & IP Centre, your local Business Link centre, or Smarta itself - there is always free resource there for you.
8. We can trade with almost any country on the planet we like, and the government's UK Trade & Investment department will be there to help us every step of the way. And we don't have to bribe them for assistance!
9. We can outsource like crazy to slash costs. Even though the pound is struggling, it's still stronger than the vast majority of currencies out there. That means we can outsource all our boring functions or IT or development work or phone-answering systems to countries where labour is much cheaper.
10. Our legal system is very reliable compared to the rest of the world's. It's not perfect, obviously, but if a dodgy business partner or supplier screws you over, you can do something about it, and usually get your money back. Read this case study to see what we mean.