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The “Startup India” campaign of the Government of India recognizes entrepreneurship as an increasingly important strategy to fuel productivity growth and wealth creation in India. Given this initative, this chapter examines the content and drivers of entrepreneurial activity at the bottom of the administrative pyramid – over 500 districts in India. The analysis employs comprehensive data on new firm creation in the formal sector across all these districts from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA)-21 database.

First, using the World Bank’s Data on Entrepreneurship, this chapter confirms that India ranks third in number of new firms created. The same data shows that new firm creation has gone up dramatically in India since 2014. While the number of new firms in the formal sector grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 3.8 per cent from 2006-2014, the growth rate from 2014 to 2018 has been 12.2 per cent. As a result, from about 70,000 new firms created in 2014, the number has grown by about 80 per cent to about 1,24,000 new firms in 2018.

Second, reflecting India’s new economic structure, i.e. comparative advantage in the Services sector, new firm creation in services is significantly higher than that in manufacturing, infrastructure or agriculture.

Third, grassroots entrepreneurship is not just driven by necessity as a 10 percent increase in registration of new firms in a district yields a 1.8 percent increase in GDDP. Thus, entrepreneurship at the bottom of the administrative pyramid – a district – has a significant impact on wealth creation at the grassroot level. This impact of entrepreneurial activity on GDDP is maximal for the manufacturing and services sectors.

Fourth, birth of new firms is very heterogeneous across Indian districts and across sectors. Moreover, it is dispersed across India and is not restricted to just a few cities. Fifth, literacy and education in the district foster local entrepreneurship significantly. For instance, the eastern part of India has the lowest literacy rate of about 59.6 per cent according to the census of 2011. This is also the region in which new firm formation is the lowest.

In fact, the impact of literacy on entrepreneurship is most pronounced when it is above 70 per cent. Sixth, the level of local education and the quality of physical infrastructure in the district influence new firm creation significantly. Finally, policies that enable ease of doing business and flexible labour regulation enable new firm creation, especially in the manufacturing sector. As the manufacturing sector has the greatest potential to create jobs for our youth, enhancing ease of doing business and implementing flexible labour laws can create the maximum jobs in districts and thereby in the states. Literacy, education and physical infrastructure are the other policy levers that district and state administrations must focus on foster entrepreneurship and thereby job creation and wealth creation.