Whether entrepreneurship can be “taught” or is an inherent skill is an age-old debate. While the jury is perhaps not yet out on the issue, several leading Management Institutes across the world have felt the need to include ‘Entrepreneurship’ as an academic discipline, either as part of their generic MBA program or as a full fledged course by itself. The past decade has seen feverish activity in the Indian startup space, stirring immense interest in business academicians and researchers. Today, B-schools are deliberating over rise of Entrepreneurship as an academic discipline.
Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in India
Traditionally, businesses in India are run by families from select communities. These communities trace their linkage to business as an occupation inherited through family traditions and lineage. These have resulted in family businesses which typically pass from one generation to the next. Societal, economic and behavioral changes over the past few decades have witnessed the rapid emergence of a confident and aspirational generation willing and able to take risks. For many members of this new milieu, entrepreneurship is a natural outlet to express and achieve their aspirations.
Government at Central and State level, industry bodies, academic institutes and philanthropic initiatives have recognized the need to support and encourage entrepreneurship. They foresaw that enthusiasm and talent in itself may be insufficient to ensure a successful startup. More so, since a majority of new ventures in India are initiatives of youngsters with limited experience and financial resources.
The resultant eco-system is playing a key role in nurturing and accelerating startups, and offering a plethora of services. These include –
a) Startup incubators and accelerators (e.g. NASSCOM 10,000 start-ups, NSCREL –IIMB, Microsoft and Google Accelerators etc.)
b) Government cash and non-cash subsidies and initiatives such as Startup India Action Plan
c) Venture and Angel equity, from seed capital to mezzanine and growth funding
d) Business consulting, product testing and market research services
e) Support services such as taxation and legal advice etc.
Though the eco-system is evolving and has some distance to compete with global peers, there is no denying the crucible role it has played in seeding and launching the startup revolution in India.
Educational institutes as catalysts and mentors
Several reputed and dynamic educational institutions in India are contributing their support and guidance to startups. Besides Business Schools, Engineering, Hotel Management and Information Technology colleges have robust programs to support entrepreneurial initiatives. Leveraging the vast pool of expert faculty and the financial resources and managerial and networking abilities of their illustrious alumni, they play catalyst and mentoring roles to aspiring entrepreneurs. From startup cells and clubs to full-fledged incubation centers, they have myriad avenues to spur the spirit of entrepreneurship. Some of the well known initiatives include NS Raghavan Centre at IIM Bangalore and Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (SINE) led technology business incubator at IIT Mumbai.
Entrepreneurship as an Academic discipline
The rapid rise of entrepreneurship as a phenomenon has given even more reasons than before for B-schools to develop cutting edge entrepreneurial education in India. It calls for a structured, comprehensive subject on the topic to be integrated into the curriculum. Though targeted at future business owners, it is useful to all management students, as it equips them with primary skills like independent thinking, risk-taking and problem–solving which are integral to business management. As organizations become more intrapreneurial, delayered and lean, individuals at executive and mid-level management levels are expected to display superior traits of advocacy and ownership. Hence, inclusion of a course on entrepreneurship augurs well for all stakeholders of a management institution.
Areas of focus which must be dealt with great detail in the curriculum include, but are not restricted to include:
• Creativity, innovation and design thinking
• Prototyping, proof of concept and test marketing
• Business plan writing
• Capital raising and budgeting
• Managing growth
• Building organization and culture
• Business strategy and vision
To ensure a good blend of conceptual learning and practice, the module must include participation in B-plan competitions, elevator pitches, interactions across diverse entrepreneurs and physical prototyping of products.
Another key element is hand-holding and mentorship. The availability of a dedicated faculty or industry mentor who is passionate about the business idea, is willing to devote time to nurture it, and as a constant sounding board is critical. This ensures qualitative output, both in terms of developing entrepreneurial talent as well as in enabling good ideas to get commercialized.
Educational institutes have the potential for being a nursery for potential business idea and for playing the dual role of catalyst and facilitator. As social stigma and resistance is rapidly eroding, more and more youngsters are hopping on to the start-up bandwagon, indicating perhaps time is ripe for entrepreneurship to be an integral academic discipline.
The author Prof. Vijay Rego is a Knowledge Management Professional with expertise in Marketing & Entrepreneurship at S. P. Mandali’s Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool), Bengaluru.
(Views expressed are personal)
[This article has been reproduced with permission from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool)]