Who is the South Asian entrepreneur?

Global Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Brian Brault talks about the latest trends in entrepreneurship in South Asia

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) connects bold businessmen from all around the world: over 12,000 members from 54 countries who have made a minimum annual turnover of $1 million, the one requirement to become a member of EO. Global Chairman of EO Brian Brault says it brings together people who have been in business for a while and have certain experiences to learn from each other and grow: a support group of sorts.

Now, he’s on a journey through the South Asian region, where EO has 20 chapters. Brault paid a brief two-day visit to Sri Lanka, EO’s second latest addition since August this year, to meet some of the South Asian entrepreneurs.

Within EO, entrepreneurs in South Asia are much younger than the global average of 43 years old. In Sri Lanka, it’s currently around 33. In fact, last year’s SLASSCOM study found that 75% of all Sri Lankan entrepreneurs are between 20 and 35 years old. That is one of the reasons why Brault wants to make organisation more welcoming to entrepreneurs under 30. “Millennials have an amazing outlook on life.” He believes it is a great opportunity for more experienced members to mentor their younger counterparts and help them navigate the early stages of starting a business.

An EY survey suggests that family businesses employ 57% of employees in listed companies in South Asia. According to Brault, it’s no different within the organisation. Many of their South Asian members are part of multi-generational family businesses, ranging from second to third and fourth generations. In Sri Lanka, this trend is slowly changing towards self-made businesses. “I’ve met some amazing people here who are first-generation entrepreneurs,“ he says. “Some of them come from a long tradition of a family business, but decided to start their own.”

Social businesses have become a global trend, and another big focus of EO this year. In September, EO partnered with the UN and encouraged their members to focus on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Brault believes people with an entrepreneurial spirit are also the ones who can solve the world’s biggest problems. The Learning Chairman of EO Sri Lanka, Nikhil Hirdaramani, who is engaged in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, adds that trends are already changing. “With news about global warming and the floods we are facing, there is a lot more awareness.”