Article

Entrepreneurial Education in India

Entrepreneurial Education in India

Introduction

It is an established fact through research that entrepreneurship can be taught. However, the various programs and initiatives have not really taken off as expected. Programs by EDI, Nirma University, KJ Somaiya and others, though good programs in their own merit, did not have the desired impact. Even the recently added PG in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, promoted by AICTE has fallen short.

Based on the experience of the incubators, it is known that Indian entrepreneurs lack the basic soft and hard skills necessary for starting and running a business. The learning cycle is proving to be too long by which time the funding is already spent, and the entrepreneur becomes wiser but poor. This needs to change if we wish to realize the dream of Developed India, as start-ups and businesses would play a significant role in that journey.

Entrepreneurship can only be learnt by doing. Everything practical must be learned through implementation in real time scenario. This can’t be achieved through the typical case study-based learning like an MBA program. Such case studies can only inspire the students but can’t really teach them anything as entrepreneurship is highly contextual. What would work can only be discovered through a series of experiments, trying a few new things, and understanding the results.

Proposed Solution

We need an undergraduate program which would address the skill gap while providing an incubation space and opportunity for the students to launch their start-ups and do the necessary experiments. This UG program needs to be very flexible in terms of content as the students need to gain not just the basics of entrepreneurship but also the necessary domain knowledge, whether it is waste management, education, or tourism. There should be core courses covering 30% of credits. Another 30% are dedicated to behavioural competencies. The remaining 40% are for any specific chosen domain skills. This is a great opportunity to create collaboration and synergy among the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) as envisaged by National Education Policy 2020. Technical institutions can send students to attend classes at the humanities or arts colleges and vice versa.

Imagine a student wanting to set up a chain of bakeries or eateries. He needs to undergo courses in baking, hotel management as well as finance and accounting, HR management along with the core courses of entrepreneurship. Similar situation exists for students interested in building fashion brands, handicrafts, or tourism services. Unless this synergy and flexibility is built into the system by the institutions through proactive collaboration, the student can’t be expected to become successful on completion of the program. A UG program designed in this way would help the students learn all the necessary skills essential for launching and managing their venture.

This program also takes a similar approach of a PhD program. Just the way a scholar studies the existing literature and comes up with a gap, the entrepreneur must also identify a gap which he can fill in the market. This can happen only by studying the chosen field of business systematically and coming up with a clear gap in the customer expectations and current offerings. This study must happen under a guide so that the whole curriculum, course selection and gap identification happen in a systematic, step by step manner.

By the end of the first year, the student is expected to complete some of the basic courses, domain related courses and identify the market gap which can be explored as a business idea. In the second year, based on the gap identified further courses are suggested by the guide. The student also starts working on the initial steps of ideation and developing a minimum viable product. He would have also attained the legal age to operate a business.

In the second year, the start-up gets incorporated and incubated in the campus incubator. The courses become practical, and the student starts implementing a series of well-designed experiments, as advised by the guide and mentors. There will be a panel of functional experts and industry experts who would be available for discussion and mentoring the students. 

The course workload would be minimal during the third year and the student would be able to focus on building the start-up and testing its viability. During the third year, a series of pitching events would be arranged where the students would get a chance to pitch their ideas to angel investors for funding. If the start-up gets seed funding, it is considered equivalent to graduation. The student submits a project report, essentially a compilation of different artifacts generated during the learning process and is granted the degree.

Based on the level of maturity of the idea and implementation, the start-up may be incubated for some more time as necessary in the institutional incubator. The student can also continue in a PG program where advanced topics like team building, financial planning and other enablers are taught. However, if the start-up is incubated, the PG student would be taken in as Entrepreneur-in-residence with a small stipend so that he does not have to worry about his survival, a typical barrier to many entrepreneurs.

All the necessary provisions and flexibility are incorporated in NEP 2020. It is up to the universities and HEI to adapt and innovate as necessary along with exploring the opportunities for collaboration.

About the Author

Flt.Lt. Sridhar Chakravarthi is an experienced organizational change coach and consultant with over 30 years of leadership experience in various industries. He believes in the possibility of exponential growth for individuals, start-ups, and mature organizations. He empowers them to achieve exponential growth by bringing agility into their mindset, processes, and behaviours. He is an authorized training partner for Enterprise Agility University, runs his company “Coach for Change” and lives in Bengaluru, India.