Skip to main content

Challenges of creating an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Forum

It was in 2019 when I was invited to give a talk in the NEXUS Latin American Global Conference in Quito, Equador that I first started to think and articulate the need for a global platform for Indigenous Entrepreneurs. Social Entrepreneurs have their task cut-out with several challenges such as the prevailing political economy, deep seated cultural and societal misgivings, modern market organization and lack of adequately oriented manpower that can align its aspirations to the sector and ones' own personal challenges. The circus of Social Entrepreneurship that has defined the contours of the sector in terms of scale and technology fixation, has added to the challenge. These have been largely driven by the funding and multi-lateral agency priorities.  Someone hailing from an Indigenous Community has to encounter additional challenges that have to do with deep seated biases in bureaucracy, academia and financial institutions often shaped by the Colonial legacy, market demands and world view in direct conflict with the world view of the community and its priorities apart from the community's own inhibitions in dealing with the outside world. 

In the Indian context, the Indigenous community definition itself takes a nuanced presentation. Who is Indigenous and who is Settler is a detailing based on how far in history one wants to demarcate for consideration. The civilizational India's timeline, traded for political and academic advantages at various times.  Apart from the timeline that sometimes is contended and controversial, the diverse views and narrations from multiple view points creates a different pressure as well. Every community that was once a victim, on ascending the social ladder also wants a story of a victor and every community that was once  a victor also needs currency of victimhood  to negotiate in the prevailing political space. At some level, everyone in India is indigenous, but, the term needs to be applied with care. I avoid the colonial terms of ''tribal'' and  recently political ''jan jati'' in preference for Adivasi as my own choice of term. Ádi means from antique time and vasi means someone who resides in a place, vas is a regular term applied as a suffix to indicate someone who lives in a particular place. It also is a category that refuses to be christined into the Hindu social rubrics through the suffix of jati, which implies that this is one of the several jatis in the Indian social hierarchy. This is nearest to the Indigenous community tag that is preferred by many native communities across the world today as a politically sensitive way of labelling the community. 

Many of the conditions that I heard in Ecuador made me reflect on the conditions of the adivasi communities that I have encountered in India. Thanks to a series of dialogues with my colleague Rev Sara Wolcott, in Ecuador and subsequently through a forest fire induced blackout in California, we ended up putting together a concept note that detailed out a need to have a global indigenous entrepreneurs network. The primary idea centered on the need to have