Entrepreneurship is a serious career choice for several young people - many students have the aspiration to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Vijay Shekhar Sharma. They dream of starting up and becoming successful like a Paytm or Flipkart or Oyo or Ola.
Moreover, with technologies like robotics, machine learning, smart-bots and artificial intelligence, several million jobs will no longer exist. And this is not a faraway future. These technologies are in play now, and already transforming several industries. Think of manufacturing industries which use robotics instead of traditional human-led manufacturing. Or when was the last time you called up a call centre to check your bank balance?
But despite the interest and aspiration, most students just do not start up a business because they fear that they don’t know how to run a business. Teaching students the basics of business in schools will encourage more youth to become entrepreneur-job creators. And our country needs lakhs of job creators, else we will have a severe social problem on hand.
But it is not just about starting a business. A holistic understanding of what it takes to build a business will give students an advantage in their life - whether they start their own business or take up a job or even start an NGO.
It will therefore be useful to have a foundational programme in schools to help students understand the basics of building a business.
The current education system was designed largely to create employees. And parents and students used to evaluate education institutions on how well the students from those institutes got placed. As jobs vanish, the parameters on which education institutions get evaluated will change to assessing how well students are prepared for life in general, and professional life in particular. And entrepreneurship and self-employment will be a key area of career choices for students going forward. It will be therefore important for education institutions to build a strong foundation for teaching students about business and entrepreneurship.
There are several ways in which we can make learning about entrepreneurship and business exciting for students. Apart from a structured curriculum designed around case studies that students can relate to and are interested in, there are a number of initiatives that can help make students more business aware.
How do we do it
• Business Plan competitions
• Guest lectures from entrepreneurs – inspiration and awareness and role models
• Managing ‘business’ projects in schools
• Alumni angel investor networks in colleges
Alumni Angel Investor Groups in schools
While several students would like to consider entrepreneurship, many after completing their academic journeys, one key challenge they would face is lack of initial capital to start up.
Encouraging alumni of your schools to collectively co-invest in startups by other alumni of your school is a powerful way of helping aspiring entrepreneurs find the initial capital to startup. Eg. if a team of two young alumni need Rs.10 lakh to startup their venture, after due evaluation by an independent and professional body, the money can be raised by 20 alumni coinvesting Rs. 50,000 each. And that too can be done in two instalments, thus making it possible to test the progress and mitigate risks.
Existing angel groups and investors typically invest in startups raising upwards of Rs.2 -3 crore as their members do not usually want to write smaller cheques. As a result, startups that could do with between Rs.10 lakh to Rs.1 crore funding, find it difficult to get investor attention from the currently active investor circles. Smallticket co-investments by new alumni will make it possible to provide capital for a startup by your students or alumni that seek lower amounts of capital than what is provided by existing angel investor groups, but are not able to get it from existing forums.
In India, Harvard Angels – India and BITS Spark Angels (BITS Pilani alumni’s alumni angel group) are excellent examples of alumni angel networks. While BITS Spark Angels looks at investing in startups founded by current students or alumni from that institution, Harvard Angels – India is open to investing in any high potential startup.
Much like most business schools and engineering colleges have entrepreneurship cells, it will be great if each of these institutions also have an alumni angel network. Closed-knit forums like these have the potential to significantly increase the entrepreneurial activity in the country
Emergence of newer angel groups is excellent news for the startup eco-system in India. We need to be able to provide capital to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs so that they can create strong businesses that can create more jobs.
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