Startup eSeries: A Classroom for Entrepreneurs - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Startup eSeries: A Classroom for Entrepreneurs

Feb 28, 2015


Most entrepreneurs are created by default. One half of them emerge from a bad economy, lack of employment or fatigued by the 9-5 grind. The other half start out because that's the only thing they know - they have an idea, they are committed to it, they are driven, conscientious, almost bordering on the neurotic in pursuit of their vision. Moreover, they already have a pulse on the market, they have an innate "entrepreneurial instinct" and risk-taking runs in their DNA.

But increasingly there is a third brand of entrepreneurs emerging, who are studying entrepreneurship, and not just entering it on impulse. They are getting their feet wet before they swim in the deep end. And equipping them in this journey are institutions who have created structured courses to give them insights on the several processes of entrepreneurship.

While most academics believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is an innate one, they do realize that even the best of ideas need harnessing and strategies need working on before they are ready for real-world business. And that's the basic role that facilitators of entrepreneurship play. They help students hold on to the good ideas and show them ways to take them forward - sometimes by example, sometimes by practice and sometimes by providing guidance through mentorship.

Tricia Granata in The Washington Post article, Can you really teach entrepreneurship? says, "Many young people naturally have an entrepreneurial spirit, and many of them have great ideas, but what they don't have are the technical skills... We can teach them things to make sure that innate entrepreneurial spirit doesn't get wasted."

Radha Iyer
Radha Iyer, faculty at the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research in Mumbai, has similar views on teaching entrepreneurship. Radha started teaching the subject with the single aim of making a difference in the careers of students who wish to become entrepreneurs. Armed with ideas from a program she participated in, at the National Entrepreneurship Network, and aided with plenty of research, she has become the go-to person for students gearing up to become entrepreneurs.

In my conversation with her, we debated about the inherent dichotomies in teaching an organic subject like entrepreneurship, and if the entrepreneurial spirit could, in fact, be inculcated. Here's what transpired...

Q. With several courses emerging on the subject of entrepreneurship and with a fair amount of pedagogy in this area in recent years, what factors do you keep in mind while designing a curriculum for entrepreneurship?

A. An important component of the curriculum in entrepreneurship is about the difference between management and entrepreneurship, these are two very different subjects. We also highlight the types of entrepreneurs, discuss the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India, showcase entrepreneurial traits through case studies, and work on idea generation, opportunity evaluation, business models and business plans with students.

Q. The general belief is that entrepreneurship is largely an instinctual trait; people who are born with a sense of adventure, passion, risk-taking automatically gravitate toward it. But can the entrepreneurial spirit actually be learned through a discipline?

A. In my class, I encourage participants to think that entrepreneurship can be a learned behaviour and can be inculcated. Opportunity identification may at times be an instinctive trait, but that too can be learned with observation, reading and scanning the environment.

Q. In this uncertain and saturated space, where entrepreneurs, ideas and new products are emerging every minute, what are the main factors an entrepreneur should keep in mind before they start a venture?

A. An entrepreneur should be able to find a certain area of customer dissatisfaction in the existing market because of which customers will buy a certain product or service. One must also create a product or service that not only enables the entrepreneur to enter one segment, but many more. Being in a sunrise industry is beneficial. The ability of an entrepreneur to identify trends in the economy is an added asset.

Q. Many ideas for new ventures are born and they start out with a lot of initial excitement but soon fizzle out and die. Is there any way an entrepreneur can test the weight of his idea?

A. There are many ways an entrepreneur can test his idea. One is by prototyping the product, even a computerized version works to get responses from probable customers. Another is by engaging customers in building the product and then tweaking it based on customer feedback.

Q. Is entrepreneurship just a new-age buzz word or is it actually supported by an ecosystem that allows it to thrive, especially in the case of India?

A. The entrepreneurial mood in India is very upbeat and the ecosystem is also vibrant with business accelerators, organization-funded accelerators, business incubators, angels and early stage investors who are interested in promising entrepreneurial ventures. Also, a number of people want to try their hand at new ideas. The presence of various websites, entrepreneurship cells on campuses and government funding for setting up incubators has also helped. Media support has given an additional boost to entrepreneurship.

Q. While entrepreneurship is glamourized nowadays, little is known about its flipside and how many entrepreneurs are still groping in the dark. What are the main issues entrepreneurs are struggling with?

A. Young entrepreneurs, who are successful early, often lose their childhood. Solo entrepreneurs tend to have too much work pressure. And then, not all entrepreneurs are always successful. Continuing in ventures that have limitations is also a big cause of concern for many.

Q. What according to you are the main problem areas for startups in the country and how can entrepreneurs tackle them?

Often ideas are successful, but entrepreneurs are unable to grow them. They also have a problem getting funding in the early stages. But to avoid such issues, one can start something small, be focused in a specific area and find an appropriate mentor for guidance and support.

An entrepreneur also needs to keep learning from the challenges faced. Creating campus companies has also been useful in building successful entrepreneurs.

Q. How do you foresee the future of new-age businesses like e-tailing and service-oriented websites? Which companies have stood out in this space according to you?

India has seen many successes in this space like RedBus, InMobi, Ola and SnapDeal to name a few of them.

Overall, new business will see some successes and some failures. Acquisitions will also happen, which will result in some entrepreneurs exiting quickly with a good valuation.

Q. How do you see entrepreneurship evolve in the coming years? Any tips for those exploring this option?

In a democratic society entrepreneurship will continue to thrive. With most B-Schools now offering a deferred placement process for those opting for entrepreneurship, students can exercise this opportunity more easily now.

But to survive entrepreneurship, they must have persistence, a moderate risk-taking ability and a tolerance for ambiguity.


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6 Responses to "Startup eSeries: A Classroom for Entrepreneurs"

Sadanand Joshi

06 Mar, 2015

Salute to Dr.Thakkar who at 90 keep spirit of posting his comment. His comment is very useful as your interview. I second the opinion that sometime your education becomes hurdle in becoming entrepreneur. IN last ten years % of salaried person has done better than that of small entrepreneurs. At Present I have reached to conclusion that If you have something to scale very big then its worth to give try otherwise its better to be with some big company where your core talent have more scope to grow with scales. Also Entrepreneur must focus and make special efforts to develop his core skills otherwise in managing business on all fronts he looses his identity.

Deepak Kumar Maheshwari

04 Mar, 2015

I read Dr.Thakkar's observations which are quite valid to a large extent. Our country has been divided on various lines and it has not been easy for everyone to start a business, Also, our large population, too many people fighting for the resources make life difficult for the aspiring entrepreneurs.But, it seems that environment is changing. One more thing, I saw that if higher is your education, lesser is your chance of starting a business. It's simple, one who has no option, has all options open. Our education restricts our chances of starting a business, generally 90% of those with higher education would be happy to seek a job appropriate to their qualification. Look around, most business , irrespective of the size, are started and owned by not very highly educated people, they are mostly simple graduates. In my own case, despite being a Chartered accountant, I had to leave my entrepreneurial dreams mid-way which I started in the middle of my career and had to again take employment route. But my nephew, a simple B.Com has successfully established an export business with no family support. And, his age is same today at which I became unsuccessful. I analysed, he had nothing to loose, but I could not afford to loose because by that time, I also had my family to support.

dr r m thakkar

02 Mar, 2015

I am now 90+ and I am enjoying reading your articles. I started in 1960 and with the help of my wife we established a successful buisness In all what I read there is a lack of understanding in fundamentals.The first thing is the classisfuaction of business entrepreneurs. In my experience,people from a rich family background or political connections have an easy go at entreprenership. The problem is for those who do not have any of the rwo mwntionwed above..For them it is an extremeply hards task. The conditions in this country are not ideal in the sense that corruptions is soentrenched that for an educated person with high sendse of moral values it is95% failure guranteed mainly beccause thebeurocratic and giovernment officials having a field day hoe to kill an enytrreneor. In my opinion,from my experience if there is any country to learn from is Germany. Its educaion system and I found a diploma holder from a buisness school in Hamburg gets more commensense and grasp of buisness than any MBA. The second is the banking system. If you look at thegeman banking ssyetem , atake any small and medium enterpirse the bank is almost a partner. Try to establish a buisness connestion with a small or medim size german firm you will eventually find yourseld talking to a big german corporation who was in control of this buisness since the begining or a bank who sup[potred it. May be some time we can discuss this personally as I am now on way to the otherworld as Belong to our group which is not immortal. regardss Please disregard spelng mistakes as I am not very skilled on computer and I am unable to use a spell check on your programme.

Like (1)


02 Mar, 2015

Hi Ritika, In the present Budget the govt has earmarked 1000 Crores for a plan called SETU (Self Employment and Talent Utisation) which will serve a platform for first time entrepreneurs in the technology space. Guess the present economic wave will open several new opportunities. Regards


01 Mar, 2015

The seed has to be there ,fertiliser alone won't grow the crop.


28 Feb, 2015

Very beautiful interaction. Madam told truthful information in present situation. She indicate certain lacking area. Once we full fill this then our country develop in every area. Important points 1. Skill development 2. Steel will. Question & Answer is very logic, practical and truth deliver. Today most of the area hide much, it never develop further. Truth only make Empower. This interaction sure touch the sense, heart, Mind and Spirit. Thank you.


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