Early interventions for promoting entrepreneurship and student start-ups

Strategies for encouraging youngsters to take up entrepreneurship are implementable at two levels namely,

  1. Building desirable attitudes amongst students by family and school.
  2. External ecosystem whose stakeholders are business entities, government and the academic institutions.

Entrepreneurial mind-set is acquired from the family at a very early stage. Youngsters from business families pick up an attitude and even skills from a very young age and later they either join their family businesses or else start on their own. One significant fact about such youngsters is that they do not possess risk aversion.

Right from the time of early education, children develop certain attitudes and behaviours which stay with them all through their lives. For example, risk taking, thinking innovatively and venturing into unknown, ability to develop passion, ability to communicate effectively and get along with varied types of people. There is a need to have an education system at the school level which encourages them to think and feel to be perceptive and analytical and develop original thinking.

The reason why I am focusing on the attitude part as a significant constituent of the strategy for entrepreneurship is because entrepreneurship is about being perceptive and analytical enough to take cues from the society and identify an opportunity. It is about picking up an unserved need or an unsolved problem and creating a solution. It is also about creating trust in others and building relationships and networks and subsequently leveraging on those connections through mutual learning, sharing of ideas and resources. Entrepreneurship is also about being optimistic, experimenting with new and unknown and being full of energy. Ideas which solve a real problem and benefit people/consumers can always raise money. We have seen that in good number of success stories both Indian and others.

The second level is the ecosystem which comprises of business entities, government and academic institutions. I would start with academic institutions. Setting up incubators not just in Business schools or engineering colleges but in all streams of courses may it be liberal arts or commerce etc. is essential. We have to change our mind-sets from thinking that only MBA or engineering students would look out for setting up businesses. Secondly, Incubators will help only if the courses are taught in   a manner that students are encouraged to apply what they learn or learn by doing. Students should be allowed exposure to the world of business through industry academia connect. Industry and Academics should not work in silos, there should be a collaboration between the two. That way we will also get over the problem of the industry not being able to find  the relevant skills in the freshers. The skill gap can be overcome in this manner.

Start-up India has a student mentorship program which is part of Canada India acceleration program which would enable collaborations between Canadian and Indian Institutions. Start-up India must include mentorship and incubation for aspiring student entrepreneurs and begin tie ups with educational institutions. This will facilitate an easy transition of a student into an entrepreneur. I would also say that banks who are so eager to sell so many loans to the retail customers should support the incubators in the academic institutions and run mentoring programs and later finance the entrepreneurial ventures.

Students possess energy, problem solving capability, analytical skills, new innovative ideas and many other qualities such as working hard and perseverance and social skills etc. However, what they lack is experience. If they find a mentor who can apprise them about how things are organized and how they have been working so far by sharing their experiences, I think students will be better equipped to take their decisions. The mentor can widen their perspective and offer them more pointers so that their decision making is balanced and practical.

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