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Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

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By Pranav Hebbar:

One of the best things about my work is that I get to meet some awesome entrepreneurs on a daily basis. I teach at an entrepreneurship school and what’s interesting about meeting these people is that none of them share a similar background. One is a recent college graduate, another a middle-aged professional who quit a highly lucrative MNC job to pursue his dreams, and there goes a young man who is determined to create employment opportunities for the people of his town. They are all diverse, and an undying passion is the only thing that’s common among them.


Working out from a tier-II city, Hubballi in Karnataka, I am amazed at the number of startup enthusiasts I meet. The last time I checked, there were about 100 startups here and that’s an impressive number for this place. This makes me wonder – like any other discipline, if we teach entrepreneurship as well, will it create more entrepreneurs who are well advised and equipped to manage the storm of start-ups? One might even say – how can you teach people to be entrepreneurs, it’s like teaching fish to swim? Is that even possible?

But let us look at the larger picture. Most of these people are not from business families. They are from the typical middle-class families where parents usually want their children to be either doctors or engineers or to get an MBA degree (to be on a safer side) and a job in an MNC; basically to have a settled and secured life. Does this sound familiar? Families play a significant role in the way many of us think, behave and act, and this is undisputable. Then why don’t Indian families encourage entrepreneurs? Why is there so much aversion?

One of the questions I always ask the entrepreneurs I meet is, “What does your family feel about this?” and some of the responses are as follows-

“They want me to quit and pursue something worthwhile.”
“Initially they were not happy about this, but now, they see it brings some revenue and I am happy, so they are okay with it”.

There are also a few who say that their parents supported their decision right from the start.

However, if we look at this as a continuum, at one end we will find families pushing towards traditional career choices and at the other end, youngsters being pulled towards very comfortable career options.

Five major reasons that families and youngsters often quote are:
1. It is too risky
2. There is no guarantee that this idea would work
3. It is not my cup of tea / not equipped
4. No one from my family are in business
5. Fear of failure

These apprehensions are very real. But can something be done to break the resistance and promote youth entrepreneurship? I believe that we fear what we do not understand and assume that it is too risky. We are reluctant to take the road less travelled. However, with a lot of research being conducted in the area of entrepreneurship and every success and failure being documented, it becomes easier to learn from others’ mistakes and right moves.

As Phanindra Sama, co-founder of redBus puts it- “Entrepreneurship programs will help budding entrepreneurs to learn from others’ mistakes and it will also be a place to meet co-founders. More than anything, it will help bring the failure rates down.”

For any business to survive, the founders need to evaluate the customer need, gauge a competitors’ move, negotiate with stakeholders, attract investors, be able to do mid-course corrections and above all, persevere for their purpose. So, if we want to make / build entrepreneurs through education, then we have got to teach them all of the above. I guess by documenting and studying what other entrepreneurs have been through, we avoid reinventing the wheel. Fewer failures builds confidence and that can take a startup a long way in the battle of survival.

Surprisingly there are very few full time entrepreneurship programs in India and I am proud that ours is one among them. The program, resources, network and access to mentors together will create the required ecosystem for entrepreneurs to ideate, test and prototype their ideas, and not just survive but thrive!

I strongly believe that it is time for us to think beyond the traditional career options (not that they are bad, it is just that there are too many people doing the same work) and get uncomfortable trying new things. What we really need is a paradigm shift in the way we think about success and careers. With our PM calling for Make in India, I believe (and hope) that entrepreneurs will Make India Happen! Let’s celebrate entrepreneurs!

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  1. ItsJustMe

    I used to consult for Startups in Banglore before I moved to USA for doing the same thing in Silicon valley. I agree with most of the things author has written. I however feel that in India most startups follow thesame business model of tapping India’s ever growing strata of people with access to internet and provide some kind of service to them. Very few of them will have a really new product or prototype of product. Ofthese few people with a new product (or prototype), about half of them will be looking to launch a smartphone application which gets lost in the crowded marketplace that is the App market be it iphone or Android, faces unprecedented competition from international developers. In contrast, in USA the startups usually comes with not only an idea of a new product (or service), but the product is actually new and they do proper market research and feasibility study (or get it done professionally) before they decide to take the idea forward. Its not a spur of the moment idea that suddenly without any reason became his/her/their passion in life. They think like businessmen, before even launching the initial product, they have a great insights about their product’s lifecycle, the possible upgrades of the product (in great detail, some even have an upgraded prototype). They realize that entrepreneurship is not only about starting a new business but also sustaining it and forming an organization around it from which people expect great products and employees expect great salaries. I hope that the new enterpreuners in India will evolve into slightly more professional mode of operation. But as of now, the quantity is great, but the quality, by any international standard, is not up to the mark.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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