The world is in the middle of a pandemic which comes once in 100 years, and which none of us has previously experienced. No country was prepared for this and we are in a state of uncertainty.
Businesses now know the true meaning of the word “disrupted”. There is plenty of discussion and literature about the sort of economic recovery and the shape of the Indian economy in the post-COVID-19 scenario.
As the Canadian economist, JK Galbraith once observed, “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable”, I believe, any economic forecast in such unpredictable times will invite scepticism
Post-COVID-19 scenario and its relevance to entrepreneurs
The fact of the matter is that we are in a state of war. However, unlike the real war, there won’t be a permanent loss of wealth and we will not lose the entire economies to COVID-19.
We can be hopeful that this war won’t last long. There is no doubt that Indian businesses, specifically the startups who anyway operate on less cash flow, are facing a tough time. We see a lot of them winding up and closing businesses by the day. However, this is just one side of the story. A lot of Indian entrepreneurs are also seeing this as an opportunity which can be commercially monetised.
The post-COVID-19 market is going to be different. Entrepreneurship and innovation will have to be encouraged like never before. To achieve that end, there are several issues which a startup attorney can resolve and ease for the entrepreneurs.
How can startup attorneys help entrepreneurs?
1. Law and technology are the two sides of the same coin:
Startup attorneys need to recognise the changing and dynamic nature of the post-COVID-19 market and develop a broader vision of our world, which is often limited only to law.
We need to step out of the boundaries we have created for ourselves and advise entrepreneurs on areas like blockchain and crypto, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, emerging technologies, Internet of Things, gaming, fintech, edutech etc, in the light of the existing law of the land. Our goal should be to ease the legal limitations, by smart interpretation of the law.
Law and technology is an area which not many lawyers in India are exposed to. Every attorney advising the new age, post-COVID-19, technology-driven entrepreneurs and innovators, should ensure that they have an in-depth understanding of the law and technology.
2. Lawyers as mentors:
While most Attorneys are trained to advise, we do not engage much with the entrepreneur in order to mentor them. However, a seasoned startup lawyer, who has dealt with multiple business scenarios and challenges, can be a very effective mentor. Their experience can be of great advantage to an entrepreneur who is particularly new to the ecosystem.
3. Lawyers can help with their network:
Startup lawyers have a rich network of people and companies in the ecosystem. We work with and are associated with entrepreneurs, investors, incubation centers, accelerators, co-working spaces etc.
Entrepreneurs find it difficult to get access to these networks. It takes a lot of time to build a network. A startup attorney could work on connecting the entrepreneurs with the right kind of people from their network, which will further simplify things for the Innovators.
There are not many lawyers who specialise in startup transactions. Technically, all the laws which apply to big corporates apply to startups as well, however, the dynamics of operations in a startup is very different.
Good law firms, who understand the startup ecosystem are unfortunately very expensive and an entrepreneur who has just started cannot afford these firms and their expertise.
If all startup law firms adapt to a low billing model which makes proficient advisory affordable, it could be a big step to encourage entrepreneurship in India.
5. Build awareness:
Our independent research has shown that technology students who aspire to be entrepreneurs do not have an understanding of crucial aspects of law and taxation.
To encourage an overall understanding of entrepreneurship, this training is crucial. Law firms can tie-up with universities in India and impart training and skill development sessions to budding entrepreneurs.
6. Support to the real “hustlers”:
In our ecosystem startups which have managed to raise funding, automatically receive validation. They manage to enter the glamorous world of entrepreneurship where everything and everyone is accessible.
If we want to stimulate entrepreneurship in India, we need to recognise entrepreneurs who have, despite hardships, not given up. We need to celebrate the non-funded startups equally.
We have witnessed a very impressive growth rate of entrepreneurs when startup attorneys look beyond the purview of law and handhold founders in their journey.
To sum it up, the future is not going to be easy. Every single person who is a part of the ecosystem has to develop a stronger peripheral vision and anticipate what the future has for us.
We will all have to derive a new work strategy to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs, as we have substantial research to show that businesses that make a future-focused investment come out stronger. All of us have to contribute to the future of businesses as innovation and enterprise have the potential to substantially support our economy.
As lawyers, we should focus on the future, anticipate the future market and customer needs and also harness the winds of change as we open doors to new ideas and business models.