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Indian entrepreneurs grossly stressed, shows study

The study showed that stress due to financial cash flows, fear of failure and disagreements with partners or family members are the top stressors, irrespective of their age and years in business. Majority of the respondents (40%) were in the 40-50...

, ET Bureau|
Nov 21, 2019, 08.59 PM IST
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The study also noted that entrepreneurs are more likely to use personal coping strategies like sports or join entrepreneurial peer groups to manage their stress and maintain their mental health and well-being rather than access professional help.
MUMBAI: Nearly 8% of younger entrepreneurs and 6% of older entrepreneurs who are in family-owned businesses have had suicidal thoughts, according to the findings of a study on entrepreneurial well- being by ASCENT Foundation and Mariwala Health Initiative. Majority of the study participants said they experienced anxiety, confusion, irritability and frustration sometimes during their entrepreneurial journey.

The study, which received response from 186 entrepreneurs (of family run businesses and new age entrepreneurs) from the ASCENT cohort, between the age group of 20 to 60 years, showed that stress due to financial cash flows, fear of failure and disagreements with partners or family members are the top stressors, irrespective of their age and years in business. Majority of the respondents (40%) were in the 40-50 years age group, while 34% were in the 30-40 years age group.

“Every person faces some form of stress or the other. The key is how to cope with it or reach out for help,” said Harsh Mariwala, chairman, Marico. “The pressures of living have increased now because of urbanisation, absence of joint family set-ups, tighter deadlines, highly competitive environment, and a far more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world leading to its own set of problems,” said Mariwala, highlighting the need for mental health interventions in the entrepreneur space.

The study by ASCENT showed nearly 47% of the entrepreneurs who are less than 15 years in business, experience stress due to their sense of responsibility towards employees, while 35% of the entrepreneurs with more than 15 years in business, experience stress due to their sense of responsibility towards employees. Building the next line of leadership is also a stressor with 33% of entrepreneurs with more than 15 years in business and 41% of those with less than 15 years describing it as a stressor, the study showed.

ASCENT is a not-for-profit expression of Harsh Mariwala and his passion to identify high potential, growth-ready entrepreneurs. Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) is a funding agency for innovative mental health initiatives, with a particular focus on making mental health accessible to marginalized persons and communities.

According to the study, of the younger entrepreneurs (20-40 years): 64% of those who manage their own business or with partners and 42% of those in a family business feel worry about financial cash flows. Fear of failure and disagreements regarding the vision with partners or family members is similar for those who have their own business/work with partners and those in a family business.

The study highlights that among older entrepreneurs (41-60 years): 53% of those who manage their own business or with partners, and 47% of those in a family business, worry about financial cash flows. 46% of those who manage their own business or with partners, and 50% of those in a family business experience stress due to fear of failure.

The study showed that the top five manifestations of stress included feelings of anxiety, frustration, feeling confused, experiencing generalized stress/tension and feeling angry.

“There has to be much more awareness about stress and that it can happen to anyone and also that it has to be addressed. More people need to realise that it is ok to talk to others and seek help,” said Mariwala.

The study showed that frustration is the predominant feeling experienced by entrepreneurs in family-owned businesses, with younger (63%) or older entrepreneurs (44%) experiencing it. Anxiety is the dominant feeling experienced by those who run their own business (or with partners) with 55% of younger entrepreneurs and 44% of older entrepreneurs experiencing it.

The study also noted that entrepreneurs are more likely to use personal coping strategies like sports or join entrepreneurial peer groups to manage their stress and maintain their mental health and well-being rather than access professional help. The top four coping mechanisms mentioned by participants included exercising, accessing peer groups, sharing with friends and family and taking up a hobby.

“Everyone has to develop their own coping mechanism be it sports, exercise, sharing with friends, etc,” said Mariwala.

But besides developing their own coping mechanism, entrepreneurs must follow very high standards of governance and compliance, felt Mariwala. “Be very focussed, get good quality talent, select a good team, and find stress busters,” he said, adding that governance plays a very important role in how one runs the company. “Don’t take short cuts. It can hit you and put you back by several years,” is Mariwala’s word of advice for young entrepreneurs.

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